An amphibious airplane is one of the most versatile traveling machines ever invented — it can take off and land on runways or on water, providing a range of options for explorers in any part of the world. Claude Dornier, a contemporary of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, founded the Dornier aircraft company in Germany in 1914 and built the first all-metal flying boat. Now the company is making progress on its latest project — the Seastar, an all-new amphibian design.

Last August, Dornier Seawings, based near Munich, rolled out the first new Seastar for public view. It’s powered by two back-to-back PT6A-135A turboprop engines by Pratt & Whitney Canada, driving MT five-blade composite propellers. The engines’ home on top of the airframe, instead of hung below the wings, protects them from salty sea spray, and the in-line configuration simplifies operation for the pilot.

The airframe is built from modern all-composite materials that are immune to corrosion. The air-conditioned cabin, stretching 13 feet long by 4.5 feet wide, can accommodate up to 12 passengers. The cockpit features integrated Primus Epic instruments by Honeywell. A hydro-thruster in the stern makes it easier to steer on the water. The Seastar cruises at 330 kph for up to 1,655 km.

First flight of the new Seastar is scheduled for early 2019, with first deliveries in the first half of 2020. Dornier is working with partners in Jiangsu Province, China, where it expects to complete some of the manufacturing and sales. The airplane sells for US$7.2 million (RM28.6 million).

Dornier Seawings