The folding wing system with one rotation axis was another critical point where optimized composite materials and finishes made the final design possible. “The part that enables the rotation is fixed on composite structures that are glued on the fuselage,” the engineer says. “A specific distribution of the fibers of the fuselage enabled us to better distribute the stresses of the rotating part.”

All major components of the AKOYA are produced by aeronautical manufacturers in France, Italy, Germany and Austria. All the finishing for coverings is done by hand, making each AKOYA a customized aircraft.

In Herzberger’s opinion, there’s still work to be done by the composites industry to improve materials and prepreg resins. For future aircraft designs he dreams of, he says he’d like to see more solutions for the interfaces between composite and metallic parts. Innovations that would enable future generations of lightweight, high-performance planes could come from either side of the Atlantic, as he believes that the composite market in the U.S. and in Europe are comparable.

Niche plane, niche market

“Our customers are private individuals who wish to make inconceivable trips to places that are hard to reach,” says Herzberger, a top level gliding competitor who has flown since he was 16 years old and logged more than 1,500 hours of flight time. “They enjoy the performance, the style and the design of the AKOYA.” Thanks to its folding wings, owners can park the skiplane inside their garage. But that is not what this amphibious aircraft is designed for. ”With such a versatile aircraft, you can go fishing in Alaska’s most remote places. People can take off from the airfield close to their home in, let’s say, Georgia and land on the private beach of their waterfront villa in the Bahamas, and then travel back to Georgia in about 3–4 hours versus 13 hours with a commercial airline and multimodal transportation means,” he says.

Produced in a limited series, the AKOYA will be available in the U.S. next year. The AKOYA reaches speeds of 155 mph and can travel a minimum of 1,000 miles before refueling. The amphibious aircraft fulfills the S-LSA regulation (CS-LSA in Europe). At a price of $400,000, the AKOYA multi-access plane comes fully equipped, including maintenance and customized training in Chambery-Savoie, France, to obtain the license and to pilot AKOYA on water and snow.