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Saturday
Feb262011

Nice! Very Appropriately Named 'Seastar' From Dornier Seaplane

(click pic to enlarge) The Seastar, from Dornier Seaplane Company, at Oshkosh 2010

 I got several pictures like the one above of the Dornier Seaplane Company's 'Seastar' at Oshkosh 2010. It was a hard airplane to miss since it's pretty large and rather unusual. Well, unusual since we don't see very many new production seaplanes these days. But, there was a time when much of the really amazing stuff going on in the world of aviation was happening on the water. From the mid 20's to the mid 30's, all the aircraft speed records were set by seaplanes... really fast seaplanes! During the same time period, the large and comfortable commercial transport aircraft for overseas travel were elegant flying boats. And, the largest airplane in the world in 1929 was the Do X, built by: Dornier.

 The Dornier Seaplane Company has its roots in the amazing legacy of the Dornier flying boats, but it's interesting to note that DSC is actually an American corporation owned by the family of Conrado Dornier, heir to a three-generation family tradition of designing and building flying boats. You may already know that the Seastar has actually been around for a while now. The first flights were in the mid 80's and the design was certified in the early 90's, but it's only been recently that a commitment to producing the aircraft has been made.

 

(click pic to enlarge) Seastar amphibious flying boat in flight (photo: Dornier Seaplane)

 When I saw the airplane at Oshkosh, I thought, hmm, that's interesting... looks like fun. But I didn't really think thru all that this unique airplane has to offer. It's only been recently that it's struck me; wow, this Seastar is a really awesome idea! The vision that Conrado's father, Professor Claudius Dornier Jr. (son of the Dornier founder Claude Dornier) had for the Seastar was to use composite materials to alleviate the two big problems of seaplanes: corrosion and leakage. The result is an airplane with vastly superior reliability on the harsh environment of the sea.

 It's hard to believe, but it's not uncommon for hardcore operators of older aluminum seaplanes (mostly floatplanes) to spend the equivalent of their used aircraft's value each year on extensive overhaul work due to exposure to salty sea water. Composite seaplanes are likely to revolutionize they way operators are able to reduce long-term costs.

 

 (click pic to enlarge) Front view of the all composite Dornier Seastar

 It certainly appeared to me that the Seastar is extremely well thought out and constructed. It's one of those airplanes where a quick glance might only make you think it's unusual and you just move on. But the more you look at the way it's designed, and especially the more you understand what it's designed to do, the more this is a very impressive package. A package that has the ability to be very useful to a wide variety of operators - from private individuals to commercial operators (or even off shore oil rig operators) and potentially search & rescue, border patrol or humanitarian. And while this specific design has been in existence since the mid 80's, you'd never know it to look at it. It's a perfect fit for where we are today in aviation design, which really says something about how far ahead the design was when first conceived.

 The side sponsons are a really important part of that design. For one, they hold the fuel which keeps the CG really low. They are also large enough to provide all the lateral stability the Seastar needs when on the water. There aren't any wing-mounted floats to have to deal with. And, the sponsons are designed to be an important part of getting the airplane up and onto the step during takeoff, helping to reduce takeoff distances. At max takeoff weight, the airplane can clear a 35 foot obstacle in just 2,500 feet. Lastly, the sponsons also house the mains of the retractable landing gear. It's also good to know that if your needs for the Seastar would never require landing on terra firma, you can have the landing gear removed and the doors sealed in to increase the useful load a few hundred pounds.

 

(click pic to enlarge) Left side cabin door of the Seastar at Oshkosh 2010

(click pic to enlarge) The beautifully plush Seastar cabin (photo: Dornier Seaplane)

 As these pictures show, the Seastar isn't utilitarian when it comes to the interior... it's gorgeous on the inside! With a list price somewhere in the $6 million range, I guess you should expect a fabulous interior, but big ticket prices don't always guarantee great comfort on airplanes that function with this much utility. The Seastar really stands alone these days when it comes to offering so much varied capability. With the two centerline mounted Pratt & Whitney PT6A-135A's making 650 shp (flat rated) you can cruise along at max of 180 knots with your heart set on either water or land for your destination. And it has the ability to offer up a plush executive interior for 6 passengers (with fully enclosed lav), or can be set up to haul up to 12 passengers in a commuter configuration.

 

(click pic to enlarge) Yep, this is Seastar living! (photo: Dornier Seaplane)

 There's no doubt that it takes the right kind of customer to need what the Seastar has to offer, but given that they have about a 50 airplane production backlog, it looks like the right people are stepping up to the plate. The first production delivery is expected in 2012 out of a new manufacturing facility in the works just outside of Montreal, Canada.

 I think it's great for aviation that a high tech flying boat is available in the marketplace... and it's pretty cool that it's coming from the heart, soul, and legacy of Dornier.

 

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Reader Comments (5)

This is easier and surely gives comfort to internet users. Thanks for sharing. Post like this offers great benefit. Thank you!offshore jobs

November 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteroffshore jobs

What a master piece of beauty! I want one! Take my money!

February 20, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersly fox

excellent article and pictures for a complete novice like me, looking for his first seaplane.
already us several Dornier 328's in cargo business so a pleasing find.

March 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMr. PALMER

It is end of 2015. They are still not on the market. What happened?

October 9, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterseaplane guy

...just read today that production will begin shortly. Evidently the German government cut funding putting the project on ice. Good news today. My dad works for dornier.

March 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLake Constance

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