Feathercraft Aironaut

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Jake
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Feathercraft Aironaut

Post by Jake »

I’ve learned that Doug Simpson, owner of now defunct Feathercraft has a couple of gently used Aironauts available. Based on my criteria for portability, light weight, durability and paddle-ability I had narrowed my choices to the Innova Safari 330 and Twist 2/1 but at just 20 pounds and reputed to paddle with the efficiency of a hard shell, the Aironaut has my renewed interest. However it seems that more than one Aironaut suffered seam failure and it appears that this might be the boat’s Achilles heel. Or the problem might have been limited to just a few early examples. Does anyone out there know anything about this? On the other hand, I’m now thinking that Gumotex/Innova is the way to go; they’ve been successfully making inflatables for a long time. Feathercraft came up with an elegant design but, perhaps, without the ability to execute it properly.

Jeremiah
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Re: Feathercraft Aironaut

Post by Jeremiah »

Hi Jake,

That Aironaut continues to haunt your dreams! It's interesting that Doug still has some Aironauts to sell. How did you find this out? I wonder if he has other gently used kayaks to sell. I also heard of some seam failures in the Aironaut but I would love to know the numbers sold compared to the number of Aironauts with issues. Also, if this problem surfaced how repairable is it. This is not a definitive answer to your question but I thought that if the Aironaut (single) was not a successful design (performance, reliability) then they would not have created the Aironaut double kayak ( short lived because Feathercraft closed their shop).

My one question to Doug would be about ease of repair if a blowout occurred. Otherwise you might want to stay with Innova in your search for an inflatable.

Jake
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Re: Feathercraft Aironaut

Post by Jake »

Hello Jeremiah,

I got in touch with Doug Simpson to replace a cracked bow rib. I had effected a repair with cyanoacrylate (aka super glue) but because the Kurrent might soon be going on to a new owner, the right thing was to simply replace the damaged rib with a new one. Anyway, I mentioned the Aironaut and how much I admired it’s design. In his reply, Doug said that he still had three Aironauts, one new boat ($2500cdn) and two “slightly” used models ($1500 cdn). Going through the archives, I came across a post from an Aironaut owner who experienced two seam failures in two different Aironauts. As these blown seams are not repairable, the damage is catastrophic, thus rendering the boat useless. This is troublesome and gives me pause in considering the purchase of one of Doug’s Aironauts.

Jeremiah
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Re: Feathercraft Aironaut

Post by Jeremiah »

A catastrophic, unrepairable seem failure would scare anyone from buying a kayak, no matter how nice it might be, and Feathercraft always made just beautiful kayaks to stir your desires. One of those used Aironauts would be tempting but I don't blame you for being hesitant. Feathercraft's welding technique was supposed to be much stronger than glueing but maybe the blown seem issue was more a result of the complicated process of making an Aironaut, as mentioned in a previous post. Still, I'd like to know numbers, as in how many of these kayaks failed to numbers sold. I suppose people would consider this topic beating that dead horse but there will always be thosed used Aironauts around to stir the emotions.

Jake
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Re: Feathercraft Aironaut

Post by Jake »

I emailed Doug and told him of my concerns about the blown seam incidents. The thought did cross my mind that this might have been a reason for FC discontinuing production of the Aironaut sometime before they actually ceased production entirely. I think that Doug is a straight-up guy and will likely be candid in his reply.

Jeremiah
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Re: Feathercraft Aironaut

Post by Jeremiah »

Good of you to contact Doug with your concerns. I hope you will post his reply. It's not just the Aironaut subject but I'd love to hear anything from him. If he wrote a book about the history of Feathercraft I'd consider it a must read!

onsafari
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Re: Feathercraft Aironaut

Post by onsafari »

It's certainly a lot of money to blow if indeed it is an inherent problem. I thought though that the guy with the seam failures linked it to, if not user error, then overreliance on the PRVs to do their purging work while the boats were in full sun. To achieve the low weight, feathercraft went with a thinner fabric than the industry standard (let's use Grabner as the exemplar as their boats run the same pressures). 420 denier to Grabner's 990 (converted from their quoted 1,100 decitex) on the hull and just 210 on the top and sides. The aironaut is urethane as opposed to Grabner's rubber so I'm not sure if that's truly apples with apples, but even if urethane is a bit stronger than rubber (and I'm not sure it is) you'd have to say that 4.5 psi in a 420 denier tube is going to need more careful handling than 4.5 psi in a 990 denier tube - Grabner, who interestingly don't use PRVs at all, say that the pressure doubles very quickly in the sun and that while their boats can withstand 9 psi for a short period it's better for durability to reduce the pressure.

You could always change the PRVs for ones that start to purge earlier, although that might fatally compromise handling, or just be super diligent and always partially deflate the boat when you're out of the water.
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Jake
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Re: Feathercraft Aironaut

Post by Jake »

I did get a reply from Doug Simpson confirming that a couple of Aironaut owners experienced seam failures with their boats and these were unrepairable, thus my use of the term “catastrophic”. He advised that some air be released when the boat was out of the water in full sun. He didn’t mention the pressure relief valves that should have automatically released air when the pressure exceeded the Aeronaut’s 5psi maximum. Perhaps that kind of air pressure is just too much for conventional glued or welded seams except for boats using drop-stitch technology. That might be why Gumotex kayaks all seem specified for 3psi with the exception of their new Thaya. Without knowing how many Aironauts were sold, the report of a couple of seam failures is almost meaningless yet it can’t help but make one a bit uneasy about purchasing a new or used Aironaut, both of which Doug has in stock. The Aironaut’s very light weight is quite attractive but then I realize that such lightness is achieved by using 420 denier urethane coated nylon in the fabrication of the hull. The Gumotex Safari, on the other hand, is made with a 1200 denier Nitrilon coated polyester. My decision as to what inflatable I’ll be paddling on Tampa Bay next winter will require a bit more thought. By the way, I’ve noticed that there are a few photographs posted in the classified section of this forum of a lightly used Aironaut. A unique boat.

ChrisvonS
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Re: Feathercraft Aironaut for sale

Post by ChrisvonS »

If anyone's interested, just spotted a little-used Aironaut on ebay.uk
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm//264756597536

Not far from me and I'm looking for a new IK myself, but for the reasons given above, it's not the boat for me.
Setting aside the tippiness and decking, a long solo IK made from thin fabric needs high pressure not to fold in the middle, but the seams weren't up to it, even with full PRVs (I'm just repeating what's probably been said to remind myself not to buy it ;-)

btw, I was just looking at Grabners again this morning and noticed their very long IKs (bigger than Holidays) do have PRVs.
Perhaps it's down to larger volumes of air/larger surface areas potentially making pressures great enough to need protection.


Talking of FS, a mate in Scotland is selling my old Grabner Amigo for 400 quid. Solid as a brick and not a PRV to be seen!
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Jake
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Re: Feathercraft Aironaut

Post by Jake »

I’ve pretty much given up on the Aironaut (for this week, anyway). I treat my boats gently but, even so, the Aironaut’s 420 denier hull seems less durable than I’d be comfortable with. I’d also prefer an inflatable without a fixed deck, something that I could fall into and roll out of and though a deck might be a nice thing on a cool, rainy day, the inflatable will mostly be used in Gulf Coast waters in the winter months where such days are rare. The rest of the year I paddle hard shells in New Jersey waters though that, too, may soon change as I turn to a light weight, SOF folding kayak as my principle cockleshell.I recently talked with Lee Arbach @ The Boat People about Innova’s newest inflatables, the Rush 1 & 2. He seemed cautious about this new hybrid mix of drop stitch and standard inflatable construction and perhaps a bit dubious. But that’s the sort of guy Lee is and he doesn’t want to push something onto a customer that he himself has yet to become confident with. As he said, time will tell.

ChrisvonS
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Re: Feathercraft Aironaut

Post by ChrisvonS »

I see there are a couple of bids on the Airo. Good luck to them!

Yes I read Lee seemed ambivalent about the Rush but D/S isn't so new anymore, as millions of iSUPs prove.
And D/S (or anything) with Nitrilon appeals to me more than PVC, let alone bladders.
I noted Lee was oddly lukewarm about the Seawave too, one of the best Gumboats of all time (if you like that sort of thing).
The Rush 2 is no faster or lighter.

I do wonder how the flat floors of D/S IKs will work, slapping down on choppy seas, compared to curved I-beam hulls, although no IK cuts through the water like a marlin.
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