Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Belite FAQs

FAQs for Belite Aircraft and for FAR Part 103 operations. Please send me emails with other questions you’d like answered: james AT beliteaircraft.com

1) What kind of tires does the Superlite use? A: We’re using a 5.00 x 5 tires with tubes. They should be underinflated a little because they are the primary landing shock absorber.

2) What do they weigh? A: The 5.00 x 5 tires and tubes weigh about 15 pounds for a set of two. That’s four pounds more than are standard lighter 5 inch tires.

3) I see that your demo aircraft don’t have any shock absorbers (EG Bungees) on the main gear. Why not? Can I add bungees? A: The stiff gear are about 3.5 pounds lighter than the bungee gear, including the bungees. You can add the bungee gear to most configurations, we have both types in stock.

4) What kinds of engines are you using? A: We’ve currently tested 3 types and are happy with them. We base our satisfaction on actual flight and ground testing. We like the MZ-34 from www.compactradialengines.com and also the MZ-201 from the same company. They are smooth running. The MZ-34 produces 30HP and weighs about 44 pounds with exhaust. The MZ-201 produces 45HP and weighs about 62 pounds with exhaust. We also just tested the Hirth F23 50HP engine which weighs about 78 pounds with exhaust.

5) Are you testing other engines? A: Yes. We’ll be testing several more engines in 2010.

6) Can I use the bigger engines on a part 103 ultralight aircraft? A: Yes, subject to meeting weight and cruise speed requirements, and also being satisfied with fuel consumption. FAR Part 103 aircraft must weigh less than 254 pounds (278 pounds if equipped with a ballistic parachute, because a separate reweighing of the chute system is NOT required, regardless of its weight) [float equipped aircraft have even more generous weight limits]. Cruise speed must not exceed 62mph in level flight. If the engine is too powerful, a ground adjustable prop and/or in combination with a throttle stop is acceptable for meeting these requirements, per Advisory Circular 103.7.

7) How did you keep the speed of the airplane down when using the big 50HP Hirth engine? A: We used a ground installed throttle stop. If operated as a homebuilt experimental, you can get the full benefit of the 50 ponies, subject to the yellow and redline of the airplane.

8) How about operating the Superlite on floats? A: We’ve never done it, we live in Kansas and we don’t know what a lake would like if it wasn’t covered with whitecaps. HOWEVER, it will work fine with the Hirth 50HP, assuming that you use two floats that are light enough to meet part 103 (30 pounds each). The full power of the Hirth will yank the little seabird off the water.

9) What’s the difference between a Superlite and a Belite ‘254’? A: The Superlite uses carbon fiber aggressively in the cockpit to reduce weight. Also, the fuselage rear is not covered with fabric, to save weight. I can’t feel any flying difference. Otherwise, same fuselage and same carbon fiber wing as a ‘254’. The ‘254’ can’t accept the Hirth engine, it would weigh too much. The Superlite uses our bigger flaperons, so the wing area is a little larger. The Superlite uses the Hirth engine.

10) What’s the difference between a Trike and a Superlite or ‘254’? The Trike has tricycle gear and
uses a boom aluminum fuselage. The cabin is steel and unchanged from the other models. The nose gear is also a steel shaft to a very nice nose wheel design. The trike is heavier; to use a 45HP engine, you have to have the lighter carbon fiber wings to meet part 103 weight requirements.

11) What’s the difference between Carbon Fiber and Aluminum/wood wings? A: Aerodynamically, there is no difference. The CF wing uses CF ribs and spars. The traditional wing is aluminum spars and wood ribs. The CF wing is lighter, which is necessary for some configurations to be legal. Cost wise, we charge $5000 for the CF upgrade.

12) What legal pilot requirement is required to fly a Part 103 airplane, such as the Belite? A: there is none. You do not need any type of license whatsoever. A blind 12 year old may legally fly our airplane. (You, however, may be charged with child endangerment and manslaughter and imprisoned after the 12 year old’s untimely demise.)

13) What legal medical requirement is required to fly a Part 103 airplane, such as the Belite? A: There is none whatsoever. You do not need any type of medical. If you have a lapsed medical, that is irrelevant and you may legally fly the Belite. If you have a lost a medical, that is irrelevant and you may legally fly the Belite. If you have been denied a medical, that is irrelevant and you may legally fly the Belite.

14) What prior experience is required to fly a Part 103 airplane, such as the Belite? A: There is none whatsoever. There is no currency requirement. There is no biannual requirement. Whether you are in biannual or not is irrelevant.

15) OK, I think I get it. Anyone can fly a Belite, correct? A: Legally, anyone can do it. HOWEVER, You should be capable of safely flying the Belite before you fly it.
16) What level of training do you recommend prior to flying a Belite? A: We recommend recent tailwheel proficiency in a similar aircraft, such as a Cub or Kitfox. If flying our Trike, recent experience and proficiency in a Cessna 150 would be helpful.

17) Why do some models have a covered fuselage, while others have an open frame, reminiscent of an ‘Airbike’? A: I like the open framework, and I can’t personally feel any difference on the flying qualities. Also, the open frame requires substantially less work to finish. It’s also lighter, which was absolutely imperative on our ‘Superlite’ model.

18) Why is powdercoating an option in our kits? A: The builder of our kits has 2 choices: painting or powdercoating. If the builder wants us to powdercoat it, we will do that. Powdercoating looks fantastic, and there are dozens of colors available. It is also slightly heavier than painting. If the builder wants to paint the fuselage and metal components, that is easily done using an enamel spray paint. It’s also a lot cheaper than powdercoating. It’s more prone to chipping than powdercoating. It’s helpful to ‘bake’ a paint job in the sun for a week so that the enamel paint truly hardens. This will help resist chipping. Corrosion can appear under powdercoating and be difficult to spot; it’s easier to see corrosion with paint. This all boils down to builders choice with good reasons to go either way.

19) Is the airplane available with 2 seats? A: No, that is not allowed under Part 103.

20) Why does the Trike have an aluminum tail boom fuselage, whereas the ‘254’ and the Superlite have a steel fuselage? A: The 254 and the Superlite are taildraggers, and the steel fuselage is ideal for handling the landing bounce loads. The aluminum tail boom on the Trike is easier to build, but is not capable of being configured for a taildragger without extensive work. That doesn’t mean we won’t do it someday, but not now.

21) I’m uncomfortable using ‘push-pull’ cables for control surfaces. What has Belite done to make them safer? A: 1) We’ve demonstrated flying the Belite with one flaperon unattached to a cable. It was easy to control. 2) The elevator on the ‘254’ and the Superlite use a conventional push pull aluminum tube, not a cable. 3) The elevator on the Trike uses dual Push-Pull cables, so redundancy is designed in. 4) As for rudder push-pull cables, see the next FAQ….

22) Has the rudder control system been improved? A: Yes! All of our models use dual push-pull cables to the rudder, instead of loose 7x7 cables in nylon sleeves as was used in older ultralights. As a result, the rudder action is crisper, and the system can better tolerate the failure of a cable.

23) Can you install a BRS parachute in a Belite? A: Yes! Our Superlite has this feature as standard. We use a BRS softpack. The FAA allows 24 pounds for the system. The system weighs less, so this is a net plus. The parachute costs around $3,000.

24) Why is the firewall made out of Carbon Fiber? A: The mold we made for the firewall allows a very light, very stiff firewall. It looks sharp too.

25) Do you count the weight of the battery in the total weight of your airplane? A: No. We use a quick disconnect connector, so the engine may be started with the electric starter and then the battery is removed from the aircraft before flight. The connector we use is from the RC aircraft industry, and works extremely well.

26) Are doors available? A: Yes.

27) Why are your airplanes so expensive, for instance, compared to a used Taylorcraft or a used Ultralight? My uncle has a ‘puddlejumper froggie’ with an old Rotax 277, and he says he bought it for $2,500 last year. When he is able to get it started, he says it flies great, especially after the white smoke cloud clears! A: Our aircraft are built by skilled workers who are paid a decent wage with real benefits. For cost conscious customers, we offer kits starting at little more than $8,000. Everything in them costs money. We do not cut corners: we use aircraft steel, 6061T6 aluminum, we have parts machined, we weld, we cover with Dacron, we make sure everything works. We even try to ensure that our aircraft designs look like aircraft, not like ultralights or low cost, built cheap concoctions. Our engines are modern designs from good companies. The engine vendors, like us, demand to be paid a fair price for a good product. Used aircraft can present outstanding aviation bargains, but require more maintenance and paperwork of allkinds than our ultralight aircraft. Certainly, if you want a used ultralight, buy it. Or if you want a used classic aircraft and are willing to take on the maintenance and paperwork burden, buy it as well.

28) Why are your airplanes so inexpensive, for instance, compared to new LSAs? A: Our aircraft do not require ASTM or FAA certification, so we save considerable expense. I am very pleased that someone recently told me: “Your aircraft fill the vision of what Light Sport was supposed to be: inexpensive affordable flying.”

29) Why is the base 254 model priced at $25,000? A: It’s a fair price for a hand built aircraft, complete with tubular welded 4130 steel fuselage and hand finished Dacron wing.

30) Why is the trike model priced at $3,000 higher than the base model? A: The additional fabrication and parts required for the installation of the nose gear.

31) Why is the Superlite priced at $42,000? A: It has several significant options: 1) Add BRS parachute ($3K + installation costs) 2) Add big 50HP F23 engine from Hirth 3) Add Carbon Fiber Wings 4) Add Carbon Fiber cockpit interior 5) Add Lithium Polymer battery for starting 6) Add dual EGT / CHT instrumentation 7) Add dual kill switches [OK, no big deal] 8) Add big tires & tubes

32) Why are your aircraft all painted grey? A: That’s a primer coat of Stewart Ekofill. It is a UV protectant. Additional paint colors are at the option of the new owner. (We don’t paint them; paint adds weight.)

33) What covering system do we use? A: Stewart Systems and Dacron fabric.

34) How long before you ship a kit, after I give you an order: A: currently 3 months.

35) How long before you ship a plane, after I give you an order: A: currently 6 weeks or less.

36) What does it cost to ship a kit to Europe? A: $800 for shipping and $500 for crating. Delivery is by boat. Shipping time is about 6 weeks.

37) What does it cost to ship to Australia? A: $1400 for shipping and $500 for crating.

38) Can I avoid shipping and crating charges by picking up in Wichita? A: Yes. However, you will have to pay sales tax.

39) What does the Trike weigh without an engine? A: The Trike weighs 200 pounds with aluminum / wood wings; it weighs 186 pounds with carbon fiber wings and carbon fiber cockpit. This does not include: Engine, Engine Mount, Propeller, Cowl. This leaves an allowance of either 54 pounds or 68 pounds. This means either MZ-34 or MZ-201 will work great.

Please send me emails with other questions you’d like answered: james AT beliteaircraft.com

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