Upgrades to Ultralight Aircraft, Actually

I arrived in Oshkosh earlier this evening.  After a nice ribeye steak, it’s back to the house and (finally) time to start updating you on the many, many things that have happened at Belite over the last few weeks.

Starting with our demonstrator aircraft, which we call Burgundy II.  This airplane is a four color artistic beauty:  metallic burgundy with brass color, along with white and black trim.

It was awesome at Sun N Fun.  It is more awesome at Airventure, as we’ve improved it, again.

  • Still with a reliable four stroke 45HP engine.
  • Carbon Fiber winglets.
  • New metal cowling.
  • Best ever instrument panel, custom cut in metal.
  • Dual ignition:  magneto / electronic.
  • Improved firewall.
  • Improved horizontal stabilizer.
  • Attention to detail throughout.
  • New fuel tank — clear plastic.  Easy fuel level visibility + fuel probe.

New look on the flaperons with improved trailing edge treatment.

The pictures are proof.  Let’s start by looking at the instrument panel.  We have, from Left to right:  Dual ignition switches, Tiny Tach (inset into panel), oil pressure from engine, fuel gauge, G meter, dual EGT, Turn Coordinator, Angle of Attack indicator, Airspeed, VSI/AGL, Digital Altimeter, and voltmeter.  With the exception of the oil pressure and the voltmeter, all of these instruments are from Belite.  Including the newly announced Angle of Attack (AOA).  Isn’t this what you want in your panel?

New instrument panel.

New instrument panel.

Now let’s look at the wing improvements.  The following photo shows the carbon fiber winglets, (new option — $500 for a pair) along with a one-off detailing on the flaperon utilizing a very thing aluminum trailing edge reinforcement.  It looks extra sharp.  This is how you want your airplane to look.

Winglet and flaperon on Belite aircraft.

Winglet and flaperon on Belite aircraft.

Let’s take a quick look at the dual ignition switches:  one is to the magneto; the other is to an electronic ignition system.  My Belite is now more advanced than the vast majority of general aviation aircraft.  🙂  Your ultralight airplane can have dual ignition as well.

Dual Ignition (electronic + magneto)

Dual Ignition (electronic + magneto)

The new metal cowling is easy to build, and is constructed from CNC cut pieces of flat aluminum, which are riveted together, forming a very nice three dimensional shape.  This cowling is held in place by three nut-serts on each side and is rock-rigid in its attachment to the airplane.  It is far better than our fiberglass cowl (now discontinued).  The new aluminum cowl holds the windshield in place, decreases airframe drag, and allows builders to custom add flat aluminum to the sides to match their engine.  Builders are also encouraged to add a foam plug to the front, in order to finish the cowl look, should they desire.  (We haven’t done that yet, but will.)

Burgundy Ultracub with cowling attached.

Burgundy Ultracub with cowling attached.

(The cowling hadn’t been completely painted when the above picture was taken.)

The winglets are CNC cut from carbon fiber, and are offered as a new add-on kit ($500) which screws onto the wingtips.  Removable for flight, we don’t count their weight in the final weight of the aircraft, but it’s not a lot.  I attached them with stainless steel screws (but I should have used titanium screws to avoid long term corrosion issues.)

Winglet on Belite ultralight airplane.

Winglet on Belite ultralight airplane.

The tip ribs on the horizontal stab / elevator were inwardly warped, due to fabric tension.  We glued on some foam blocks, sanded them perfectly, and over-covered with brass oracal trim.  It ended up looking fantastic.  If you had an ultralight airplane, you’d want the tail to look like this:

Beautiful detail on horizontal stabilizer and elevator.

Beautiful detail on horizontal stabilizer and elevator.

I flew the plane several times.  I am pleased to report that our aircraft has improved again — the impact of the cowl on aerodynamics is most pleasing, and the look on the ground raises our reputation and quality to a new level.

Gene and Christian attach turtledeck.

Gene and Christian attach turtledeck.

In anticipation of your many questions, here’s some Q&A:

1.  What does it weigh?  The minimum flying weight for this aircraft is calculated as follows:

  • Base weight:  276.80 pounds, measured July 21, 2013.  Many items to be removed or added.
  • Add:  Fuel tank with probe.  1.75 pounds.
  • Remove:  1 quart of oil.   -1.87 pounds  (not actually done, engine has two quarts but will run on one.)
  • Add:  Hand toss parachute, 9.1 pounds as installed (24 pound allowance by FAR 103)
  • Remove:  Windshield, 4.0 pounds (not actually done, but could be as windshield is screw – removable and not necessary for flight)
  • Remove:  Panel, 1.2 pounds (not actually done, but could be as we frequently fly our planes without any panels whatsoever)
  • Swap:  Fuel tank platform swapped for lighter design, saved -0.88 pounds
  • Remove:  Excess steel tubing on elevator post:  -0.28 pounds
  • Add:  flaperon trim, +0.70 pounds
  • Add:  secondary electronic ignition, estimated at 1.50 pounds
  • Add:  additional firewall piece, +0.25 pounds
  • Remove:  magneto; -4.50 pounds, estimated (No, we didn’t actually do this.  You are welcome to do this when you buy the aircraft.)
  • Final minimum flying weight:  277.38 pounds (vs. FAR 103 maximum of 278 with parachute).

2.  How fast will it cruise?  A:  about 61 mph, although it may be a little faster now with the improved cowl.  (FAA maximum full power cruise is 55 KIAS / 62 mph).  If your aircraft is too fast, you are required by FAR 103 to throttle stop the engine.

3.  What is the gross weight and useful load?  A:  550 pounds / 272 pounds, respectively.

4.  Is it for sale?  A: This may be the finest new U.S. legal ultralight for sale on the planet.  It is priced at just $35K FOB Wichita (or Airventure!)

5.  What kind of engine is installed?  A: 1/2VW 45HP bored / stroked engine, constructed from a brand new cut case and nickasil cylinders.  Hand propped, starts easily.  Consumes about 1.75 GPH at low cruise.

6.  What other features does it have?  A: aluminum ribs, spring gear, independent disc brakes, angle of attack indicator, storage compartments, folding removable seat, four point harness, titanium axles, composite tail spring, foldable wings, steerable rear wheel.

7.  Could anything be done to reduce weight further?

Yes.  The wing and lift struts could be upgraded to carbon fiber, saving up to 15 pounds.

8.  Where can you go in an airplane like this?

Well, you’ve read this far, so let me show you a nice field I recently flew into.  Look at the length of the grass:

Nice runway.

Nice runway.

And look at how beautiful the strip is:

A nice place to take a Belite.

A nice place to take a Belite.

This is the kind of place a Belite can fly into.

Gust Kiss Land

Rippling gusts played with the newly forming leaves in the trees.  The moving air went across the short strands of wheat in the nearby fields, like waves over a tossed pond surface.

Checking the local weather, even with gusts to 26mph, I had to do it.

Takeoff.

Extraordinary beauty.

Dusk approaches, takeoff, strut view.

Everywhere I look, I see the sea of wheat.  I see the wind rippling through it.  I see the shadows.  I see the green.

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Updated Ultralight Aircraft from Belite: Need to know details

Sun N Fun 2013 demonstrator
Ultralight aircraft in metallic burgundy with accent copper
Q:         What is a Belite UltraCubTM?
A:        The Belite UltraCub is a predominantly aluminum ultralight airplane manufactured in kit and Ready To Fly form by Belite Aircraft.  It is available in several different configurations, with variations of instrumentation, landinggear, assembly materials and engines.  All configurations evoke the classic look of a Piper J3 Cub, hence the name, UltraCub.  Some of the key characteristics include:
  • Removable rear turtledeck; the plane may be flown either way.
  • Legal under FAR 103 (responsibility lies on the owner / operator)
  • Precision CNC cut aluminum parts in cabin and throughout assembly
  • Folding wings (must remove turtledeck)
  • Large wing area and flaperon area designed for low speed flight.
  • Enormous windshield and sunroof
  • Multiple storage compartments
Belite Ultracub
UltraCub flies away

Belite Aluminum Ultralight Aircraft Cabin Construction, #4

I hope you had an awesome Christmas!

Shortly before Christmas, I had an amazing two hour flight in the Burgundy UltraCub.  I flew out into the flint hills again, and made a video of most of the flight.  I took lots of photos of sights along the way, including wind turbines near Beaumont, KS, and a friend’s house out in the flint hills as well.  I’ll be posting an edited copy of that video soon; along with some of those photos.

When I returned to home base after that flight, the plane still had over a gallon of gas in the tank, and I’ve now accumulated 7.9 hours in the Burgundy UltraCub to date.  I thoroughly enjoy the look and sound of the 1/2VW engine.

We will install a brand new cabin in the Burgundy UltraCub over the next 8 weeks, so that when it goes to Florida for Sun N Fun, it will be absolutely up to date with our current design.  (The original cabin was hand built without the benefit of CNC placement of drill holes; lots of stuff didn’t line up well; and some of the features in the final cabin design were missing; PLUS it had extra tubing and weight where some dimensions were screwed up…)  So stay tuned on that…

***

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Wild Mustang Horses in Kansas Flint Hills

Quickly stated:

The shop gang installed the removable fairing on the back of the UltraCub, which made it look like a baby cub.  I was eager to fly it.

I flew the UltraCub from home base out to the Flint Hills (which are east of Wichita), where I took high res pictures of Wild Mustang horses, then returned home.  It was a 90 minute flight; and I used 2.5 gallons gasoline.  I returned with 90+ minutes fuel reserve at home base (slightly more than half tank remaining).  Fuel consumption:  1.67 gallons per hour.  Estimated fuel economy:  about 34 mpg.

Gentle Readers, the horse pictures are eye-popping, and you have to go to our belite flickr account to see them all.

Here’s the link to the Wild Mustang horse photos on Flickr.  I have a couple of selected photos from the flight below.  The remainder of the wild horse photos (and there awesome photos of the horses) are on flickr.