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DZ1Floatplane History

In 1992 during the spring I was approached by Roger Day to help him construct a new type of float plane based on using an inflatable dingy. When I got to Rogers facility in Kemah, Texas, he had already constructed a welded stainless steel chassis and was preparing to bolt it to the dingy. This was to be a joint venture between Sunrise Ultralights and Roger Day in the construction and completion of the floatplane. The idea to marriage a full winged ultralight airframe to this Avon inflatable dingy was a novel idea. Others had already produced dingy planes using the trike weight shift approach and had made successful operational aircraft. But they had some inherent flying problems aerodynamically using a dingy cause from excessive drag. But the DZ1 did not exhibit any of these problems.

The DZ1 had some great flying characteristics not realized in aircraft built over the years that made flying off water a little more bearable. One such reason is this plane is unsinkable. In one of the test flights that Roger had performed accidentally he launched the plane off the water in an unexpected take off and climbed it directly into a stall about 100 feet off the water. The float plane then nosed over and went directly nose down into the drink diving head first and disappeared below the surface. Roger was clearly shaken but still strapped into the seat of the plane. But still under full throttle nosed up out of the water dumping all the water in the dingy out the back and started picking up speed for takeoff. Coming out of the sudden shock Roger shut the ignition down and brought the plane to a halt. Inspection of the float plane showed no visual damage and the video was reviewed by some NASA Engineers and were totally amazed by the incident.

The above drawings illustrate the 3 views of the design. These drawings were made in 1992 when Kim Zorzi was operating under the name of Sunrise Ultralight. Many details of the aircrafts design were lost when Kim underwent a divorce from his ex wife in 1993.

These pictures are really all that remains from the project.

DZ1 was conceived to be a single seat type of plane but later proved it could fly two grown adults. Powered by a Rotax 582 engine and a 3:1 drive produced the needed 65 HP to get the floatplane off the water in the shortest distance. A Kevlar prop was also used in order to take the punishment of water splash.

The wings were a stretched version of the regular Spitfire 2 wing structure and were fully sleeved for strength. All tubes were given an anodized coating to protect it from the corrosive salt water environment.

Top view of Avon dingy with wings attached and tail boom

In the seat area, only one center mounted control stick was used. But the rudder pedals were designed to be operated by two adults. So this used the double Teleflex control system to operate the rudder as also used on the Spitfire designs. A third cable was used to control a water rudder that was later installed off the keel of the dingy. You may also notice the boom tube attached to the rear of the boat which held the tail section in place. The tail feathers were bent aluminum tubing and covered with ceconite. After priming and painting, the surfaces turned out to be very slick and smooth. Both the rudder and the elevators were sized up a bit larger in order to have a better response on the water.

This picture was taken in front of Rogerís workshop in Kemah as it was the first time the wings had been attached to the airframe. The wing attached to the root area by sliding the leading and trailing edges over a machined stainless steel tube welded onto the cockpit structure. This type of mounting had never been tried elsewhere and proved to work very well. Wings were outfitted with three quarter span ailerons. Sponsons were added to the outer part of the wings to stabilize the wings in the water. The Rotax 582 engine was hung upside down and rubber mounted off the stainless cage area. The radiators were also mounted below the engine for maximum cooling efficiency.

This picture of the tail feathers shows much more detail of the tubing configurations used and also shows the larger rudder for better performance on the water. Dual cables were used for the rudder and also for the elevator as also copied from the Spitfire design. The four inch boom tube was also drilled to mount the tail feathers as was used in previous designs.

Above is a picture of it being assembled and prepared for a day at the lake. Notice the landing gear that was also welded together out of 1 Ĺ inch stainless steel so as the plane could be driven to the water. The front wheel was steer able so it made it very easy to drive around on dry ground. As you can see a enclosed trailer was purchased and modified in order to carry the DZ1 FLOATPLANE.

The DZ1 floatplane was flown around Kemah, Texas for quite awhile accumulating the forty hours required by the FAA for new aircraft. It proved it self to be a very airworthy aircraft and much video was produced on days when the seas was very rough and very calm. This aircraft could make take off and landings on 3 foot swells. There is not any other floatplanes that I know of that can be capable of doing this without going to the larger commercial types.

Picture of Roger Day sitting in his Dingy Plane on Clear Lake

Imagine a craft like this could be used for a hot shot service to deliver parts to the off shore oil platforms being capable of landing and taking off in the rough seas. Many tourist resorts would have loved this design for giving sight seeing flights or intro flights for it could be flown right off the beach not needing a runway. Delivering goods or medical supplies to unincorporated areas in South America or Africa where the rivers and lakes are the only place to land and take off. The ideas are endless considering the uses for this floatplane.

So why did this floatplane never make it to the market place? What price would you pay to have a floatplane of this type? Americans just are not use to paying a high price for rag and tube design aircraft. The cost of this baby was well into the 50k market place and nobody wanted to pay that so the plane was mothballed for many years. Now is the end to another very good prototype design that spanned a distance of nearly fifteen years. Many improvements could have been made as with the addition of the 100 hp 912 Rotax engine that would have greatly improved the performance.

In 2007 the floatplane was purchased by an inexperienced individual who after flying it for several hours crashed. It was investigated to be pilot error. The floatplane was completely destroyed. Since Roger had suffered some serious medical issues with his sight, repairs could not be made.

Donít look for any specification sheets for they were never written. There was not any Assembly Manuals or Pilots Operational Manuals ever written. Roger was a very kind hearted man and a genius with stainless steel and basically forged this design from off the top of his head. I only helped him make his dream a reality by overseeing that all the work was done to acceptable engineering standards and materials. Roger invested a lot of time and money into this DZ1 PROJECT. No investors could be found to further the production after the prototype had proved its worth. This was a sad ending to a great piece of aviation history.


Pictures taken after it was destroyed and recovered from Lake Conroe.

Hopefully some video may be presented along with this material to show the plane in flight.

Kim Zorzi
April 20, 2011


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