Merlin Magic


When we last few the single-seat Merlin PSA, it featured a two-stroke Rotax engine and we enjoyed the heck out of it. It’s a nimble – yet solid – airplane that is easy to put down wherever you was it, and is fun to throw around the sky. That was two years ago – and Chip Erwin, importer of the Merlin kit, has not stood still. Aside from working on various electric airplane options and flirting with floats for the Merlin, he has continued to look for a four-stroke engine that matched the Merlin’s performance envelope – and he found it in the 60-horsepower HKS 700E.

A 60-horsepower HKS 700E powers this Merlin PSA.
A 60-horsepower HKS 700E powers this Merlin PSA.

We got a chance to fly the new engine in one of the recently completed customer planes in Lakeland this week, and can report that the engine – mated to a DUC Hélices three-blade prop – is a great package. It starts with a little bit of a shake, but smooths out immediately and continues being smooth throughout the flight regime. The airplane handles the same as it did with the two-stroke, with the same stall and slow flight characteristics. Acceleration seems better on the runway, with better climb rates off the deck. Little else appears to have changed about the airplane – which is a good thing, because it was a fun flier already. It’s just the kind of plane you want to fly on a nice summer evening, trying for ever shorter landings – or increasingly smooth touchdowns.

DUC Hélices prop on the Merlin PSA
DUC Hélices prop on the Merlin PSA

Erwin is happy with the HKS package on the airplane, and feels it is the right power plant for the machine – but talking with him after our quick flight, it was obvious that wheels are still turning in his head, and we will be excited to check in with him again to see what new version of this fun aircraft appear. Without a doubt, they will be interesting.

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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


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