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The Merlin Lite Is an Ultralight Motorglider Floatplane You Can Afford

In 2021, Merlin Lite lit up cyberspace after I wrote about the new entry’s introduction at Midwest LSA Expo in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. So many tens of thousands of you wanted to read about this intriguing aircraft that I worried the website could crash.

103 Merlin Lite


A few other airplanes have drawn large numbers of readers but Chip Erwin creations seem to do that with regularity. Most companies I write about struggle to come up with something new each year when we greet each other at airshows.

Contrarily, Chip is so bubbling with new ideas and excitement about them that he can barely talk fast enough to get all the words out of his mind. He’s always an exciting interview and a new video below offers another.

Why a…Ultralight-Motorglider-Floatplane?

Following is what Chip has to say about his new creation. This is not identical to what’s in the video, so you want to read the following plus catch the video to learn more. Then, go to his website where you can read Chip’s cleverly-phrased blog, see many pictures and drawings, plus find more information about his products.

Merlin Floatplane long wings

Merlin Lite with the motorglider option exhibits long, slender wings and features highly-effective Fowler flaps. Both can aid floatplane operation.


What appears next gives you the flavor of Chip’s writing style.

“We designed the new long-wing Merlin Lite to meet the FAA motorglider definition. This is huge and not many pilots know what it means for them. A glider pilot needs no medical. Furthermore, unlike general aviation or the LSA class of aircraft, a pilot can fly gliders after losing their medical. And all it takes then is a logbook endorsement to fly a self-launching motor-glider. And that is what the Merlin Lite with the long wing qualifies as.

“The Merlin Lite is actually a pretty good motor-glider. The 16-1 glide ratio is nothing special in the world of gliders but it does not cost $300k either. The sink rate of around 350 FPM means you can maintain altitude or even climb in mild thermal conditions. With a feathering prop performance will be even better.


“The Merlin Lite is a blast to fly. Anything that can take-off and land in under 150 feet is just plane fun to fly. 600 FPM climb rate works fine. And the power setting for cruise is incredibly low at about 30% power. No need for ANR or even any headset.

Polini Thor 250 engine“The new and very modern Polini 303DS engine is gaining my trust. It has worked flawlessly. But with the glide ratio of the Merlin Lite and the low landing speed and big tires an off-airport landing is not likely to be an issue. Still, I like to have confidence in my power system and I am beginning to think that this engine is a lot more reliable than our 1980s engines.

“Our new electric power system will be perfect for this aircraft. Our target of one-hour flight endurance is likely to be exceeded and with only a 9 Kwh battery pack. The electric-powered Merlin Lite will really make an excellent motor-glider. No re-start issues.

Merlin Floatplane low front qtr“Soon we will be flying the Merlin Lite on our 750 straight floats. Expect to see some really nice video of those flights. Flying any seaplane is about the best flying there is. Imagine flying an electric-powered seaplane! Quiet, slow, smooth, perfect at low altitudes.

“For those wanting a bit more speed we will still offer the original wings. That version is also a hoot to fly.

Merlin Floatplane aft high“Part 103 ultralights must meet quite strict weight and speed requirements. 27 mile per hour stall, 63 mile per hour top speed, and 254 pounds empty, or 278 pounds empty with a whole airframe rescue parachute. Of course, every manufacturer of ultralights offers a model that meets those parameters. But no one buys it. Every customer adds some options. Of course, the Merlin Lite complies with Part 103. We have proven it. Just choose your options to meet your flying preferences. Call me for advice. We will make the perfect aircraft custom for you.”

That’s what Chip thinks. What do you think?

How Affordable?

With its special attributes — from qualifying as a Part 103 Ultralight, and therefore, needing no medical certificate, or even a pilot license for that matter …to a floatplane, one that still qualifies as a Part 103 …and as a motorglider with long, slender wings that offer a great glide and slow water operations (easier on the airframe) — you should not expect this is the lowest-cost Part 103 ultralight you could buy. Nonetheless, I consider Merlin Lite floatplane motorglider to be quite a value. Let’s sum it up.

Merlin Lite front qtrA ready-to-fly Merlin Lite landplane lists for a confirmed price of $34,000 in fall of 2023. By itself, for an all-metal aircraft of these features, that seems an exceptional value.

For the long wings, add $5,000 so now $39,000 RTF. For assembled, painted floats with all installation hardware for Merlin Lite, add $7,600.


Now we’re at $46,600, so even with freight and other delivery expenses you should have a full aircraft as seen in nearby images for less than $50,000. As we head into 2024, I’d call that a bargain for a Part 103 floatplane motorglider.

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