I have a soft spot for aircraft that operate from water - floatplanes, seaplanes, flying boats. So my attention was caught by a release from Quasar Aerospace Industries
saying it had formed a joint venture with Australia's Tigerfish Aviation
to develop that company's Retractable Amphibious Pontoon Technology (RAPT) - retractable floats designed to be fitted, or retrofitted, to almost any aircraft, avoiding the full drag penalty of fixed floatsPhotos: Tigerfish Aviation
Based in Norwood, South Australia, Tigerfish has been working on the RAPT concept since the late 1990s, doing design studies and small-scale wind tunnel and water channel tests. It has studied potential applications ranging from the Gippsland GA8 to the C-130 Hercules, and flew a radio-control scale-model Cessna Caravan in 2007 to demonstrate the retracting-float principle.Video: Tigerfish Aviation
The Quasar deal looks like a breakthrough. The two companies have formed a company - Tigerfish Aviation USA, 70% owned by Quasar - to oversee development and certification of the RATP. Quasar says four engineering firms, one German and three US, have received a request for proposals to do the work, which it estimates will cost $5 million. A Dornier 228NG twin-turboprop has been selected as the proof-of-concept aircraft for the program.
Who is Quasar? That's a little difficult to say. CEO Dean Bradley, who described himself to me as a "deal junkie", says Quasar is intended to be the holding company for a wide range of aviation interests. The company already owns a flight school in Florida, Atlantic Aviation, and says it has other subsidiaries working on a four-seat trainer, a very-light jet and a new piston aero-engine - but these ventures are still shrouded in confidentiality.
Quasar announced in November it had arranged $350 million in funding to finance its ambitious acquition plans. That deal has still to close, but Bradley says the $5 million is in place to fund the Tigerfish program.
Meanwhile, my colleague Bill Sweetman reminds me that the concept of a retractable float is not new, and points me to the unfortunate Blackburn B20
, a flying boat with a deployable hull, which first flew in 1940 - and crashed on its first high-speed run, possibly because of aileron failure caused by flutter. I wish Tigerfish better luck.Via Wikipedia