Rich Hulina reports on Air Muskoka's elegant Nomad
Aztec rides on Edo 4930s and seats a pilot plus five passengers and their gear.
With an 1,800-pound useful load, there isn't much the Nomad can't carry. The
aircraft is powered by two Lycoming IO-540s producing 250 hp at 2,575 rpm. The
recommended TBO is 2,000 hours. Everyone is trying to achieve better performance
with their seaplanes, and Gronfors is dramatically improving the Nomad's takeoff
performance with new propellers designed by Hartzell. The expected 30% increase
in static thrust should have the aircraft jumping onto the step.
Aztec models C and up or having serial number 2,505
or higher can be converted to floats. Air Muskoka completely removes
the landing gear to save 150 pounds and make the aircraft a true floatplane.
Conversion takes approximately 1,000 person-hours and includes the addition
of a left-side pilot door to allow access to either side for docking.
An Aztec and a pair of Edo 4930s can be provided to Air Muskoka for
conversion; however, Dave doesn't encourage it, because unexpected surprises
may be found inside an aircraft that add more cost to the process. Typically,
US$100,000 will cover the work, subject to a complete inspection.
nose and rear baggage compartments are accessible from the right side only.
They can carry a total of 300 pounds in a combined area of 41 cubic feet. The
standard rear baggage door measures approximately 30 inches by 32 inches and
tapers toward the top. An oversize aft cargo door can be installed-71.5 inches
at the bottom tapering toward the top and rear following the fuselage lines.
fixed boarding ladder is used to reach the rear baggage storage. To reduce drag,
Air Muskoka offers anoptional removable ladder kept in the baggage compartment
and used only when needed by attaching it tothe baggage door sill. A right-side
single-pole boarding step with two foot steps is also being designed.
There are two ways to enter the cabin. Either side
can be boarded; the left side has a single step similar to the landplane.
On both sides of the aircraft you can de-plane forward by using the
two stirrup steps and then stepping onto the floats. If the dock clearance
is too low, it's just as easy to walk over the aircraft as to crawl
under the wing.
Nomad offers a quiet, comfortable ride with plenty of leg room. All the seats
are removable to make the plane suitable as a cargo hauler. The interior is
8 feet 3 inches from the back wall of the baggage compartment to the back side
of the main spar in the cabin. An additional two feet are available by removing
the copilot seat. Eight-foot lumber sheets could fit inside; however, the Nomad
is most practically configured as a passenger and baggage hauler.
tanks located in both wings are a pleasure to fill-standing on a dock with no
ladder required. Standard tanks are 144 U.S. gallons, and long-range tanks have
a 192-U.S.-gallon capacity, giving a seven-hour range at 65% power.
The conversion includes the installation of vortex
generators by Micro Aerodynamics of Anacortes, Washington, to improve
low-speed control, lower the stall speed, eliminate Vmc and generally
stabilize the aircraft during landing approach.
There are no airworthiness directives that apply to
the Nomad conversion; a few can be found for the wheel-configured Aztec
that apply, but nothing major. The airframe is strong and easy to maintain.
Both engine and airframe parts are available and fairly cheap. Unlike
de Havilland products, parts do not have to be purchased from one specialized
parts company. Being over the floats, the engines are easy to work on
with the option of quick-release cowls.
On a 200-nm round trip, the Nomad would require 2.2
hours of fuel with 45-minutes reserve, giving a useful load of 1,450
pounds. A Beaver on the same trip would require 2.6 hours of fuel for
a useful load of 1,280 pounds. Aside from better overall economy, you
will arrive home 25 minutes earlier in the Nomad.
Although the Nomad is somewhat of a rarity, the comments
have been universally positive. Knobby Clark, former owner of Slate
Falls Airways in Sioux Lookout, Ontario, ran CF-ASK for about seven
years in the mid-'70s. "It was quiet, fast and hauled five people and
their gear very well. If it hadn't crashed on wheels, I'd still be operating
Alexander Landolt, of Landair in Whitehorse, owns
Nomad C-GFOB. He is also experienced on Cessnas, Beavers, Otters and
the Grumman Goose, but affirms that the Nomad is the most performing
floatplane he has ever flown. "Hauling a full Beaver load at 65% of
the mileage costs of a Beaver-those are the numbers that count!" His
Nomad has a loading capacity of almost 1,900 pounds. Landolt says that
the Nomad's takeoff run is longer than that of a Beaver, which is to
be expected for an airplane designed for hard-surface runways. Landair
operates its aircraft at 2,350 rpm, 23 inches, which delivers a 130
KIAS cruise speed and a fuel burn of 25 gallons per hour. It will cruise
even faster at higher power settings.
Russ Smith of Kenai Fjords Outfitters operates N14BP
in Homer, Alaska. Smith reports that their Nomad carries a good load
and comes up on the step with no problems. He has built a custom-made
slip from which only one person is needed to dock, unload and reload
Operators especially noted the Nomad's
exceptional water-handling characteristics. With large, dual water rudders
and one engine off, the aircraft turns in either direction with ease.
Propellers suffer little or no water damage, as they are located above
the floats. Both floats have compartments, but these are suitable only
for smaller items. Docking is straight forward, and the low wing is
not an inconvenience once you are used to it. The aircraft is easily
controlled in any wind situation.
Air Muskoka's Aztec Nomad is being offered for about
US$195,000, depending on options. It is delivered FAA Part 135 and Transport
Canada Part 703/4 ready. "We are not trying to compete against or replace
any other type of aircraft, but simply offer another attractive option
at a lower operating cost and purchase price," says Dave Gronfors. For
a detailed pilot report, contact Air Muskoka at www.aztecnomad.com.