In The Works: CMC Leopard Six

 - July 11, 2008, 6:28 AM

Nailing down financing continues to be the focus of the Leopard Six project at Chichester-Miles Consultants in England. “The main point is getting investing,” Ian Chichester-Miles told AIN. “But it is not so much a matter of finding investors, but rather of finding investment packages that will make sense profit-wise. Not all business plans are equally attractive.” He estimated that CMC would need about $100 million to fund the project. Announced last March, the Leopard Six is a larger version of the four-seat Leopard that CMC has been developing since the early 1980s.

The investment climate for general aviation programs has not changed significantly, Chichester-Miles said. The increase in interest in general aviation in the aftermath of September 11 is balanced by the adverse effects of the current economic situation and general uncertainty, he believes. “On balance, the financial situation is not too far off neutral,” he said, adding that he feels the situation won’t improve until the authorities make firm decisions on security requirements for general aviation airplanes.

Meanwhile, CMC late last year began subcontract work on the Warrior (Aero-Marine) Centaur, a high-wing, piston-powered amphibian single, for which enough funding to build a prototype became available in September. CMC had done preliminary structural studies for Warrior (Aero-Marine) several years ago. According to James Labouchere, president, CMC’s CAA-approved design facility is ideal for the engineering work needed on the Centaur. The fuselage for the non-conforming prototype is under assembly at CMC while Maine Composites of Augusta, Maine, is building the wing. “Later this year we expect to join the airframe, wing and subassemblies, and maybe make the first flight by the end of the year,” said Labouchere. He declined to speculate on when Part 23 certification could be achieved.

The key to the potential success of the Centaur lies in its patented trimaran-type hull design. Tests of a scale model showed that the design can handle short, steep waves more than 80 percent larger than those tolerated by equivalent seaplanes. To increase damage tolerance, the primary structure of the composite airframe is inset from a secondary shell. A low stub wing below the high main wing incorporates floats at its tips and uses ground-effect to help achieve a low takeoff speed. The main wing folds aft along the fuselage to permit docking in most boat marinas. A jet-ski-like auxiliary motor in the tail will provide power and directional control for maneuvering in tight quarters with the main engine shut down.

With its planned 350-hp Textron Lycoming TIO-540-J2B turbocharged engine, the Centaur is expected to achieve a cruise speed of 127 kt at its mtow of 4,000 lb and at 5,000 ft msl. Max fuel is 780 lb; max payload (amphibious) is 1,213 lb; and max range with full fuel, a 45-min reserve and 600 lb of payload is 1,389 nm. The company’s Web site is www.centaurseaplane.com.