Case Studies

Air-Traffic Controller, Aircraft Engineer and Commercial Pilot Mark Miller spent 13 years building an award-winning Miller M1 Superchamp two-seater Bush Plane, designed to access New Zealand's backcountry for hunting and fishing.

Mark's aspiration was to build his own aircraft without relying on kits or pre-made plans. He aimed for a bespoke and highly functional aircraft that would allow him to access the backcountry of New Zealand. With his trade background and industry connections, he knew he could create the aircraft to the highest standard and at a significantly lower cost compared to market alternatives.

Mark engaged Roadrunner in 2014 to assist with the long-term experimental aircraft build. Having previously worked at Ohakea in the Manawatu, he chose Roadrunner based on their reputation as competent engineers.

Mark would come up with engineering concepts and drawings and then provide them to the team at Roadrunner. The team would turn them into a CAD programme, cut the components and Mark would fabricate them at home.

"I went to see Helene one day with a concept drawing with some dimensions on it and within half an hour she'd turned it into a CAD drawing, ready for watercutting. I gave her the material and a day or two later I had the component in my hand, it was just amazing."

"It saved me hours and hours of fabrication, particularly of small components. For example, the wing has 72 individual wing rib attach brackets and they were all watercut, all I had to do was de-burr them, bend them, drill two holes and fit them, so that process probably saved 100 working hours" recalls Mark.

Utilising the Omax 80160 to cut flat material, Mark went on to bend, paint and fit this material to the aircraft. "The cost benefit ratio is massive compared to a fixed machine like a CNC being set up. I'm always looking for the most effective way to do something and this [using the waterjet] ticked all the boxes" he said.

"Roadrunner assisted with the fabrication of various components right throughout the aircraft. I'm talking about everything from landing gear components, wing attach components and wing structure. You name it, everything has had some sort of waterjet cutting done."

"There's a few engineers that could achieve the same level of accuracy with hand tools but the waterjet, is absolutely incredible it just blows me away with what they can do."

The plane, stored at the bush plane mecca of Omaka in Marlborough, has been flying for four years now and the 160hp Lycoming Aero engine's done more than 200 hours. Mark uses the utility aircraft about once a week for sightseeing with family, fishing and hunting. It's capable of landing and taking off in 50 - 100m airstrips with modifications for a shorter landing planned.

"In 2023 the plane won the Sport Aircraft Association NZ best New Zealand designed and built aircraft and the grand champion prize for best New Zealand constructed aircraft, so Roadrunner's input to that was quite significant" Mark recalls proudly.

In the same year, the plane also achieved third in the short take-off and landing competition at the bush champs at Omaka Aerodrome - against aircraft that are estimated to be worth four times as much.

The collaboration between Mark Miller and Roadrunner in building the Miller M1 Superchamp Bush Plane demonstrates the effectiveness of utilising innovative techniques such as the OMAX 80160 for bespoke projects. Working together with Roadrunner, Mark was able to fulfil his dream of building his own aircraft.

  1. Mark Miller M1 Superchamp Bush Plane in Progress
  2. Mark Miller inside the M1 Superchamp Bush Plane
  3. Inside the M1 Superchamp Bush Plane
  4. M1 Superchamp Bush Plane designed for Backcountry hunting

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