Vliegmasjien is no more


A decades-long project to develop a bush plane suited to the African continent has come to an end with the liquidation auction of the one and only Vliegmasjien C-Wolf prototype.

Auction company Michael James Organisation auctioned the aircraft, engine, spares and other items held by Vliegmasjien Gold PTY Ltd at Baragwanath Airfield on 17 November 2022. Listed in the auction notice was the airframe, five-blade propeller and ADEPT 360 engine, as well as various tools such as a dust extractor, drill press, overhead CNC router, industrial heater, compressor, forklift, generator etc.

The Vliegmasjien workshop and office at Baragwanath was also auctioned, including a 12 metre container, Wendy house office, chairs, tables, fridges and other furniture.

Andre Labuschagne, Marketing Consultant for Vliegmasjien, told defenceWeb that it was very sad that the aircraft was auctioned, but the project was sucking up a lot of money, yet little progress was being made. “It had to stop somewhere,” he said.

The Vliegmasjien was envisioned in several variants, namely the C-Wolf bush plane, military M-Wolf, and unmanned U-Wolf. The aircraft was conceptualised by Wolfgang Vormbaum, owner of Vormbaum Engineering, some thirty years ago when he envisaged a rugged bush plane that he could use to go travelling with his family and luggage. The C-Wolf was meant to be a double cab SUV for the skies, or an Aerial Utility Vehicle (AUV), that would be more capable and cost effective than competitors like the Cessna Caravan.

The C-Wolf, in mockup form, was first unveiled to the public at the September 2012 edition of the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition at Air Force Base Waterkloof in Pretoria, where it generated a significant amount of interest. The prototype manufacturing process began in January 2011, with the maiden flight initially scheduled for a couple of years later. Low rate production would have been from one to ten a year.

The C-Wolf featured a high wing, T-tail pusher propeller layout with canards and pontoons. By having canards and small wings attaching the pontoons, the aircraft’s T-tail could be made relatively small while the pontoons/wings were designed to generate ground effect at low altitude, further boosting take-off and landing performance. Empty weight was in the region of around 900 kg, with estimated maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of around 1 700 kilogrammes. Between six and eight people could fit into the cabin.

The airframe was designed for damage tolerance and consequently featured Kevlar fuselage components, with much of the airframe made out of composites such as glass fibre, carbon and Kevlar – even the landing gear had glass fibre suspension blades.

The aircraft was to be powered by a 3.2 litre V6 turbocharged Adept 320T engine, delivering 320 horsepower, and burning automotive fuel to bring down operating costs. The engine was to drive a five-bladed propeller manufactured by MT Propeller in Germany and designed specifically for use with the Adept engine and the C-Wolf airframe. Vliegmasjien was the first customer for the locally developed Adept 320T engine.

The project was entirely self-funded, and the vast majority of the airframe was locally designed and built, with relatively few imported components. Local entities like the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Sport Plane Builders assisted with some of the design and manufacturing.