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.

Something else from Belite takes off…

Our Youtube videos have been viewed about 59,000 times in the last year, with over 100K minutes watched.  🙂

The reason why is great videos like these: (Click any to see them)

Flying the new Paradise City pattern at SnF 2013 (you got to see this, brand new video from last week)
Flint Hills flying in a Belite UltraCub with 4 stroke (2 hour walkabout in a Belite)
High Performance climbout in a Belite (STARTLING climbout)

there are many more.

Below is the the statistic chart from YouTube.

Thanks for watching.

Belite YouTube Video Views over the last year

Belite UltraCub Detail Photos (AKA Burgundy II)

Flew the Burgundy UltraCub II for the first time ever, yesterday.


Hit the power, plane got light and started flying too quickly.

Flew it with and without the turtledeck.

Looks just like a little cub.

Weighed it the morning before the flight:  278.8 pounds.  The legal max weight is 278.0, but we can remove a little and make it go under.  It includes a parachute, so FAR 103 says:  254 + 24 = 278 max weight.  Besides, we weighed it on two bathroom scales and mail scale.  At least the mail scale is accurate.  🙂

This is with the beefy, rumbly, reliable, good sounding, 4 stroke engine.

I have a cruise prop on, which is ridiculous.

Here’s the pics:

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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.

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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John K Moody: Father of Ultralights

One of the most enjoyable experiences at Sun N Fun 2012 was sharing some time with John K Moody, “the Father of Ultralights”.

We talked for a while about all kinds of things:  what day he made his first powered flight; how an article in Popular Science propelled him to fame; how he started to sell them; how he made money in ultralights; how the old 20/20 news piece destroyed (unfairly) the ultralight industry… Now he is pleased to attend Sun N Fun and exhibit a trio of old ultralights, including an “Easy Riser”.  It weighs only 120 pounds and flies beautifully on a Hirth engine of around 13 horsepower.

The Easy Riser used weight shift for pitch (climb/descend) control, and had a ‘rudder’ on each wingtip, controlled by a twist handle for each wrist.  The throttle for this bird had a mouth (YES, mouth!) mounted kill switch.  So if you wanted to kill the engine, just bite down.  John says he got shocked by this arrangement.

I took a bunch of photos of this amazing early ultralight.  Later in the day, John came by our booth and looked at a Belite ultralight aircraft.  Here’s photos of the ultralight aircraft ‘Easy Riser’, built by John K Moody:

Easy Riser Ultralight Aircraft
Easy Riser Ultralight Aircraft

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