BY JACK COX
Reprinted with permission from
Sport Aviation - February 1996
During Sun 'n Fun '95 a floatplane cruised into the Lake Parker approach pattern and prepared to land. With all the water in and around Florida, a seaplane is hardly a sight that gets a second look ... they're about as common as seagulls and pelicans in the Sunshine State. This one did, however.
As it drew near enough to be heard, it was quickly obvious that something unusual was approaching. The airplane was about the size of a Cessna and of a similar configuration, but it certainly didn't sound like one. The thing was buzzing like an angry hornet! After landing on the wheels of its amphibious floats, it taxied to a parking spot in the homebuilt display area and was immediately surrounded by curious EAAers, all of whom asked the same inevitable question: "What is it?"
"It's the Comp Monster... and the sound you heard was a 4-cylinder, 2-stroke Hirth F30 we're currently using for power," answered the pilot. "It's all composite and it's so big that everyone who came in while we were building it wanted to know what kind of 'composite monster' it was, so it became the "Comp Monster. I certainly hope we're not stuck with that name, but I'm afraid we are."
The pilot turned out to be a familiar face in EAA circles. He was Ron Lueck, who with his now deceased father, Art, and brother, Rob, developed the sleek, all-composite Freedom Master FM-2 amphibian (subsequently renamed the Air Shark) in the mid 1980's, with Ron making the first flight on April 5, 1985 at the Merritt Island airport. On April 14, 1988 Ron set a new three kilometer world's speed record for Class C-3.B light amphibians in Air Shark N204FM. His 4-way average of 201.05 MPH stands unbroken to this day. More recently, Ron and Steve Young, both of Merritt Island, FL, founded a new company named Aerocomp, Inc. to develop a line of composite straight and amphibious floats that are marketed under the name "Superfloat." Steve, who is the company president, is a New York native and was formerly a contractor and real estate developer, as well as in the boat building business. He is a Commercial, multi-engine rated pilot and also a helicopter pilot. A significant number of their Superfloats are purchased by owners of Kitfoxes, Avid Flyers, Merlin's and other lightweight kitplanes, so Steve and Ron decided to get into that market with a design of their own... but with a difference.
"Everyone wants a 4-place airplane," Ron says, "so we decided to come up with a design that would sell for about the same price as those 2-place jobs, but would be a four seater and of composite construction. Here in Florida, we have to be very conscious of salt water corrosion, so we feel that composites are the only way to go for watercraft, and the way we designed our airplane, it goes together even faster than the little 2-placers. We believe a reasonably competent builder can put a Comp Monster together in about 350 hours, plus whatever time is spent doing the interior and painting it."
In the design of the Comp Monster... and, yes, they are stuck with the name... Ron and Steve have added new dimension to the term "convertible." To begin with, they wanted the airframe to be as simple as possible in order to keep the price down and to keep the fabrication time, both theirs at the factory and the customer's, to an absolute minimum. That meant keeping the systems to the bare necessities, even eliminating flaps. To keep takeoff, stall and landing speeds low without them, they simply went with a big wing: 35 feet long and with an area of 212 sq. ft. With that kind of lift potential, and without a requirement for going very fast, they could have a low powered, economical version and, with larger engines, progressively heavier haulers. By choosing a purely conventional high wing configuration, they could offer such options as tricycle and taildragger landing gears, skis, straight floats and amphibious floats. And by building in enough structure to handle engines from 100 to 250 horsepower, seating for up to six would be feasible. The Comp Monster would be nothing if not "convertible!"
When it landed at Sun 'n Fun '95, the Comp Monster was 102 days old.
"My partner and I started the design of the airplane, we built it, tested it and flew it to Sun 'n Fun in 102 days. It was a lot of work. We drank a lot of coffee and didn't sleep much, but we're here... and what you see is just what the customer will get. This airplane is just as it came out of the molds, with absolutely no finishing. The fuselage comes in halves, split down the middle with the horizontal and vertical stabilizers molded in. All the structural components in the fuselage are molded in, so you take the two halves and glue them together, put the seats, the instrument panel, control system and other ancillary stuff in and it's done. For the wings, we build the spar, the drag spar, the premolded ribs and skins, and the builder just puts all the pieces together. We also premold all the tail surfaces and the builder puts those together. The engine mount comes prewelded and the firewall is already built into the fuselage halves, so the engine is simply bolted on, plumbed and wired. The cowling is a molded part, also, so it is simply attached to the airplane. We weren't going to show the airplane until we were 100% tooled up and ready for production, and we already are because we sold some kits before coming here to Sun 'n Fun. The Comp Monster is done and we're ready to go, and that includes the floats. We manufacture Superfloats that range in size from 800 to 3,000 pounds displacement, both straight and amphibious versions. The amphibs use Matco wheels and hydraulic brakes for the mains and Matco tailwheels at the rear of the floats. It's a four wheel system and is retractable by means of a hand operated cable system. It's very simple and works easily and reliably."
Again, all that was at Sun 'n Fun last April. Three and a half months later, the Comp Monster came sailing into Oshkosh for the 1995 EAA Convention, but this time it wasn't buzzing. This time it sounded like a typical lightplane, -- and it was also sporting a fancy new paint job, with red trim on the right side and blue on the left. True to their concept of convertibility, Ron and Steve had spent the three month period between Sun 'n Fun and Oshkosh pulling out the 2-stroke Hirth and installing a 180 hp Lycoming and Sensenich 76x60 fixed prop, installing upholstery in the cabin and applying a polyurethane paint job. The engine was originally a carbureted O-360 Lycoming out of a Cessna Cardinal, but they installed a Bendix fuel injection system to make it an IO-360 -- which ate up still more of the time they had to get ready for Oshkosh '95... and operate a business on a day-to-day basis. The one thing they finally ran out of time on was building and installing larger displacement amphib floats to accommodate the additional weight of the Comp Monster with its larger and heavier engine installation. As a result they had to fly the airplane to Wisconsin with the same small floats they had on the bird at Sun 'n Fun. That prevented them from demonstrating the airplane on Lake Winnebago as they had hoped to do, but they made it, nevertheless.
With the 180 hp Lyc and amphibious floats, the Comp Monster has an empty weight of 1,620 pounds and a useful load of 730 pounds. It tops out around 123 mph and cruises at 113. Ron says that, solo, the rate of climb is about 1,200 fpm, and between 800 and 900 fpm fully loaded. Stall is at 45 mph.
With so many choices of engines and landing gear configurations, plus the fact that Aerocomp will sell the airframe in separate fuselage and wing packages, the buyer of a Comp Monster will have a lot of decisions to make. The airframe alone, minus engine and prop, starts at $19,500, but complete packages including engine and prop are available. Currently the choices are the Comp Monster 110, with the 110 hp Hirth 2-stroke engine; the Comp Monster 125, with the 125 hp Continental IO-240; the Comp Monster 145, with a 145 hp Franklin; and the Comp Monster 180, with a zero timed 180 hp Lycoming. All the packages include straight (not amphibious) floats and some instrumentation. Prices currently range from $34,900 for the Hirth model to $46,900 for the model with the rebuilt 180 hp Lycoming. For complete information contact: Aerocomp, Inc., 2335 Newfound Harbor Drive, Merritt Island, FL 32952, phone/fax: 407/453-6641.
As you are reading this, Aerocomp is building two new Comp Monsters, which will be on display at Sun 'n Fun in April. One is a six-seater powered with a new 220 hp Franklin and will be taildragger. The other will be a four-seater powered by a 145 hp Franklin and will have a tricycle gear. Both, of course, can also be fitted with either straight of amphibious floats. Look for them at Lakeland.
[Aerocomp, Inc. note: Please refer to current Aerocomp informational materials, or contact the factory directly, for up-to-date pricing, and other information. Prices and specifications quoted in this article are subject to change.]
Feb 1996 -- SPORT
AVIATION Magazine Comp Monster Report (reprinted with
Pilot Flight Report (General Aviation News & Flyer) - Feb 1996
April 1996 - Kitplane Magazine Flight Report
"10-Day Wonder" Comp Monster Build/Fly Report
Comp Monster Construction/Assembly Sample Photos
Comp Monster Kit, Engine, and Panel Photos
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