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.

Continue reading

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:

Continue reading

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.