Kit-Cats PowerCat 40 — By Capt. Bill Pike
— September 2005
Buy this speedy power cat complete or finish her yourself.
“Would that all boat tests were thus,” I marveled to myself as the Comp Air 7 Turboprop swung a pirouette in front of me and then stopped on the tarmac of Flightline’s terminal on the private side of Tallahassee’s Regional Airport. The Air 7 was a beaut, alright—a kit-type airplane of the sort typically sold to do-it-yourselfers with the assurance of professional assistance during completion from the manufacturer. Morning sunshine glinted on the plane’s white, flawlessly finished fuselage. And her extended-nose, turboprop-style profile, fixed landing gear, and wing struts proclaimed her origins: Aerocomp, an outfit in Merritt Island, Florida. After a moment, a door swung open and out stepped a stocky guy in blue jeans, tennis shoes, and a T-shirt emblazoned with an Aerocomp jet chasing a wild-eyed Osama bin Laden.
“We got some planes in Iraq,” the guy explained when he caught me eyeing the shirt, “...reconnaissance.”
His name was Ron Lueck, and he’d just flown north to Florida’s capital to fly me back south to Aerocomp headquarters so I could appraise the company’s latest project: fiberglass power cats fabricated and sold in much the same way as the company’s fiberglass airplanes, either finished or in various stages of completion. Lueck tossed my gear into the Air 7’s cargo bay, ushered me into the copilot’s seat, and handed me a set of headphones. Within minutes, I was on my way to sea trial the newly launched Kit-Cats PowerCat 40.
It turned out that the short, one-hour hop served as a groovy intro to the construction methods and materials used to create the PowerCat, primarily because Aerocomp employs virtually the same technology to create boats as it does to create airplanes. While dealing with radio traffic and maintaining a sweet little cruise speed of 212 knots at 10,000 feet, Lueck filled me in on the details.
Aerocomp/Kit-Cats’ laminates are composed using laminating methodologies developed by Lueck himself, as well as Aerocomp president Stephen Young. While specifics are proprietary, generalities include the use of multiaxial E-glass and vinylester resins; structural members cored with a polypropylene honeycomb material called NidaCore for maximum impact resistance, light weight, and strength; a blister- and weather-resistant finish on parts featuring a pricey isophthalic/orthophthalic blended gelcoat; and windows of the flush-fit variety so popular with mainstream boatbuilders these days.
“You can do some fun stuff with an airplane like this,” Lueck noted (rather ominously, it seemed) as we swooped toward our airstrip. Then, without further notice, he whomped us into a barrel-roll of such compact and revolutionary radicalism that I darn-near blasted the windshield with breakfast. “Ha...ha...ha,” he hooted when we finally leveled out and began our descent, “are you okay, Bill?” I nodded wanly. Pilots are a wild bunch, I told myself. But then, so are boaters.
Our PowerCat was beached on a nearby ribbon of sand and Young was waiting on the foredeck. With his assistance, I easily came aboard with my test gear using a fold-down swim ladder on the foredeck’s leading edge. In two shakes, I’d installed a FloScan fuel-flow monitor on one of our two Suzuki DF 140s, attached its leads to a battery (battery banks and two piggybacked Honda 2-kW gensets were housed in lockers at the transom), and settled into the helm seat on the flying bridge.
This article originally appeared in the October 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.