My Mother has a Blog! And Russian Mennonites build an Ultralight Airplane! In 1907!

Some of you know that my background is small town Mennonite (Hillsboro, KS), and a few of know that my mother is Katie Funk Wiebe, a retired but still prolific Mennonite author.  Mom writes her own blog, Second Thoughts, and I like to think that I got a good measure of her writing DNA.  I think the book count she’s authored currently stands around 20ish.  And she’s not done yet!

While having lunch with her a couple of days ago, she let me look through an excellent book on Mennonites, and was kinda stunned to see a 1907 photograph of some Russian Mennonites, standing next to a Wright-esque airplane (glider) they had constructed.  I have copied only a fuzzy photo, and leave it to you to surf to other websites which contain old historical information on this impressive Mennonite / Aviation accomplishment.

Imagine you are in Russia, 105 years ago, and you see this:

Wow.  !!

It seems this is the HUP airplane project at Chortitza, with HUP standing for Hildebrand, Unruh, and Plenert.

Excerpting from an online article, found at

…Launching a glider on the flat Russian steppes was as great a feat as designing and building one. The youths solved this by fitting HUP with skis to slide on grass and using two horses for launching power. A powerful stallion provided initial horsepower to overcome inertia and was then cut loose.  An exceptionally fast mare continued at a dead gallop towing the machine sufficiently high into the air to glide blissfully around until speed loss and lift forced the pilot to land.
…The HUP Project at The boys’ efforts didn’t always meet with approval in an agriculturally-oriented community with strict religious standards where the “man with wings” philosophy also predominated. Nonetheless, their efforts invariably drew a crowd. Sometimes the young gliders capitalized on this by charging admission and occasionally an adult donated to the project.
…By 1907 the men, aged 17 to 20, felt they had sufficient experience, knowledge and finances to try building a real plane. They abandoned the glider and set to work designing and building HUP II. They planned and built the four<ylinder aircooled="" alexandrovsk.="" and="" by="" chortitza="" constructed="" factory,="" from="" fuselage="" germany.
The cost was so high that they couldn’t afford wheels and once again had to rely on

You can read one of articles here.

Fuel Sender Installation in Plastic Tank

Here’s a quick way to get a fuel sender into any ultralight aircraft.  We’ve done this with aluminum tanks, by welding a ‘platform’ onto the tank for the fuel sender, but it’s quick and easy with an inexpensive 5 gallon tank from Walmart.

Here’s how.  Start with a fuel sender, which you can purchase from us or from Aircraft Spruce, which looks like this:

Fuel Sender

The fuel sender has three connections:  power, ground (+12v), and fuel sender output (provides 0 to 5v to fuel gauge.)

Of course, you’ll need a fuel gauge.  Many different companies sell them.  Ours features brilliant adjustable daylight readable LEDs, and minimal power consumption, and absolute lowest weight (less than one ounce).  It looks like this:

fuel gauge from Belite

and it fits in any standard 2 1/4 inch instrument hole.  All you need to do is attach ground, power, and attach the input to the fuel sender.  (Use a 1 amp fuse when running power to the fuel gauge and the fuel sender.)

We also use a classic red 5 gallon tank from Walmart, and we drill a hole in the top for the fuel sender.  (We also drill a hole for the fuel line ‘bobber’ to feed through.)  The tank must be vented, and the ‘slop’ around the fuel line hole provides this venting.

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How to assemble a truss structure rear fuselage on an Ultralight Aircraft

Assembly of a rear truss structure aluminum fuselage for a
Belite Ultralight Aircraft
It’s easy to assembly a rear fuselage for a Belite ultralight airplane!
Your kit should have the following items in it:
A)    Pre-riveted frames, constructed from 2024T3 aluminum, 7/8” x ½” x .063”.
B)     Longerons, with tabs already attached.  Also constructed from 2024T3 aluminum.
C)     Rear post, with pre-welded rudder hinge point.
D)    Gussets.  Gussets are made from either .032 or .040 aluminum, 2024T3 or 6061T6.
E)     Truss pieces, constructed from 2024T3 aluminum.
F)      Rivets – commercial grade.  If you are interested in using aircraft grade rivets, we encourage you to purchase them directly from Aircraft Spruce, or the supplier of your choice.  We do not supply them.
G)    Top skin aluminum, pre-routed.
Here is the pictures of the parts:
Section Frames, Six of them, A through F.
The frames are ‘A’ through ‘F’ as shown on the blueprings.  Each is riveted together.  All are easy to identify by comparison to the blueprints, with one exception:  One of these frames has a dimension of 19 by 19 1/8”.  Don’t confuse the vertical dimension with the horizontal dimension on this one frame; look carefully at your blueprints.
Longerons with gussets.

Awesome video on Belite Aircraft

Dan Johnson posted a very informative news interview of me, with several great flying clips of various Belite ultralight aircraft.  He filmed most of it at Sun N Fun a couple of weeks ago.

If you have any interest in any ultralight aircraft, including our Belite, you have to watch this video.!  Please!

Click here to see the video.

He’s got some clips of all the Belite configurations, including taildragger, tricycle gear, and even our plane on floats.  He also has a lot of information on our one of a kind ultralight demonstrator, the WoW plane. 

Proof Testing an aluminum fuselage

This is my third post today!  I’ve already posted on CG calculations in a tricycle gear ultralight aircraft (such as our Belite), also on a Chinese ultralight aircraft which was built for less than $400.  Please rummage around my block and look at all the posts.

I made some changes to the aluminum fuselage tricycle gear design, then immediately proof tested them.  I think the results are very impressive.  You can see for yourself in the pictures.  I always enjoy seeing pictures of lightweight structures which hold many times their own weight.

Here are the three tests I made:

1.  Elevator @ 62 mph @ maximum deflection @ 150% of load calculation.  Calculation was made with flat plate area of elevator at coefficient of lift of 1 of the elevator.  According to airfoil theory, this represents maximum force when a flat plate is used as lifting surface.  (This includes many aircraft of many designs, including our ‘prewelded steel elevator’ option on our Belite ultralight aircraft.)

2.  Rudder @ 62 mph @ maximum deflection @ 150% of load calculation.

3.  Twisting effect of rudder on fuselage, @ 62 mph @ maximum deflection @ 150% of load calculation.

Let’s look at the pictures.  First of all, the elevator deflection test:

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Calculating Center of Gravity in a Tricycle Gear Ultralight Aircraft

A few days ago, I posted information on how to calculate the Center of Gravity in a Belite taildragger ultralight airplane.  Today, I provide an update for tricycle gear aircraft.

You should review my original post, here.  After you review it, consider the following example for a tricycle gear plane.

Note that the nose wheel has a NEGATIVE arm, as it’s distance is negative from the firewall.  All other arms are positive.  Remember to weigh the aircraft with an empty fuel tank; add the fuel and the pilot weight as shown in the equations as below.

Center of Gravity, Tricycle gear ultralight aircraft calculations:

DESCRIPTION, WEIGHT (in lbs.), ARM (in inches), MOMENT (lbs x inches)
Front nose wheel, 70, -5, -350.
Main wheels, 180, 49, 8820.
Pilot, 200, 39, 7800.
Fuel, 30, 56.6, 1695.

Total weight is 480.
Total moment is 17965 (-350+8820+7800+1695)

ARM of the aircraft is 17965 / 480 = 37.42″

This aircraft is in the CG range. 

REMEMBER, you must measure the actual ARMs of your ultralight airplane using a plumb bob from the firewall, and the aircraft must be level.  (This may be a little easier to do in a tricycle gear plane, as the plane is mostly level to begin with.)

I hope you find this useful, no matter what kind of aircraft you fly.

What is the world’s lightest aircraft?

I’m asking:  what is the world’s lightest airplane?

I’m not asking what is the world’s smallest:  that honor may be held by this airplane, the Bumble Bee II.  Read about it on Wikipedia.

The Bumble Bee II is definitely not light, weighing in at 396 pounds.  Any Belite is lighter than that.

But Guinness points to an aircraft called the Wee Bee as the world’s lightest.  (I find the name Wee Bee very interesting!)

You can read about it here, and they claim it had an empty weight of 210 pounds.   It looks fairly fatal, because the pilot rides on top, face first.  Any accident is going to be a killer:

The 1949 Popular Science article this photo is taken from is a must read.

And it’s a Wee Bee.  Just can’t get over that.

A Belite can be built with a weight of 210 pounds.  But Belites are definitely not the lightest planes in the world:  what about the Easy Riser, of John K Moody fame?  It weighed a little more than half what our planes weigh.

And also, what about various Human Powered Aircraft?  These have been around quite awhile. Here’s a pic of one, in flight:

Human Powered Gossamer Condor, in flight

So I’m really asking:  what is the world’s lightest, gasoline or electric, human carrying airplane with an enclosed cockpit?

Here are the rules:

1)  Must be gasoline or electric.  (Disqualified Human Powered, which weigh less than 100 pounds…)

2)  Must have an enclosed cockpit.  (Disqualifies the WeeBee)

3)  Must be fairly conventional:  wings, engine, tail, or canard.  (Disqualifieds weird stuff, like balloons.)

Brand New Simonini Engine for sale!

The spring cleaning sale at Belite continues….

At Belite, we officially support a couple of different 2 stroke engines:  Hirth (German) and Compact Radial Engines (Canadian).  Another type of engine that we took a look at a long time ago was Simonini (Italian).   I decided not to support this engine type in the Belite.  I believe they are very popular for some other markets (for instance, Powered Para Gliders…).

So I am offeirng a brand new Simonini engine for sale.  I *think* it is a Simonini Mini 3, which you can read about here.  After I purchased it, we never started it up.  (Simoni makes several different engine models which look similar).

I’m offering it without reserve.  It will be a really great deal for someone.  I see that Simonini is offering this engine at the new price of $4144.

Starting bid is $25.  This engine will be posted for sale on eBay.

Simoni Engine for sale
Simonini Air Filter

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Calculating Center of Gravity in a Belite Ultralight Aircraft

It’s easy to calculate the Center of Gravity in a Belite Ultralight Aircraft!

*** NOTE:  This post is for taildraggers.  I have posted an additional blog entry on how to calculate CG in a tricycle gear airplane.  After reading this taildragger post, you can read the additional post on calculations for a tricycle gear plane HERE. ***

1.  Ensure that the aircraft has everything on board that should be in place for finding the empty weight and CG.  Using a level, put a support under the tailwheel and make sure that the plane is level front to back and side to side.  You’ll need to lift the tailwheel off the floor by somewhere around 20 inches.  The lower door line may be used as a level line.  Here’s what a level Belite looks like:

Belite Ultralight Airplane, Level, Side View

2.  With the aircraft level and all fixed equipment installed, record the scale readings and weights.  The fuel tank should be empty.

Right Wheel = ____________ Pounds
  Left Wheel = ____________ Pounds
     Tailwheel = ____________ Pounds

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