Saturday, March 13, 2010

Need input on the Trike

The Trike demonstrator has not flown since we returned from Sebring. It sustained some very minor damage as we were loading it into the truck for the return home; the Superlite was a higher priority for us to work on after we got back. Also, the move into our new workshop location had consumed four weeks of our energy.

Based on the number of inquiries on the Trike, I know people want it and it's important to get this new plane up and running.

So here's my comments, and I want your feedback:

1) We redesigned the fuselage on the Trike to use an aluminum tail boom. You can see the black powdercoated tailboom in the photo above. It looks cool. It was supposed to save weight and reduce production complexity. It doesn't really save any weight, and the additional welding complexity on the tail feathers and rear landing (now main) landing gear largely offset welding savings on the rear fuselage. Should we use the original steel welded fuselage? Or stick with the aluminum boom?

2) The main gear of the Trike were designed from the ground up to use fiberglass rods. Although strong, this involved creating a couple more weldments that require fabrication. It would be easier to use an 'A' frame rear main gear similar to, if not identical, to our existing gear on the taildragger models, and forget the fiberglass rods. In other words, changing the gear design will save some money, and make this plane more affordable.

3) The nose gear works great; but we've discovered that the strength of the aluminum on the gear is a little marginal. Nothing really to discuss here; we're rebuilding the nose gear with some stronger aluminum.

4) The ground clearance is a little high, making taxiing tips slightly more likely.

5) I think many people want this with a bigger engine (think MZ-201 with 45HP) and light wings (think carbon fiber) so that it's weight legal in part 103. This would be an option, but would cost $$.

I have to make decisions on all of these over the next two weeks.

What do you think?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Flight Review of Belite

This post was updated on June 30, 2010:

For a direct link to the Flight Review mentioned below in this post, click here:


Has anyone flight reviewed a Belite?

Why YES! Someone came to Wichita and and performed an independent and thorough review of the Belite. We expect to see an article published in April, hopefully in time for distribution at Sun N Fun. Last week, Scott Severen came to our airport and took the bird through its paces. I was nervous, anxious, excited. What would happen?

Scott has a long history in the aircraft (and especially the ultralight) market, having been a principal at Airbike and TEAM aircraft. He knows his stuff. I met him at Sebring back in January, and we'd hoped to have him fly the aircraft at that time. Since that didn't work out, he came up to Wichita from his home near Dallas. He's writing the article at the request of one of our industry periodicals.

I helped Scott with a long preflight briefing -- we covered just about every nut and bolt on the airframe, along with discussions of speeds, stall technique, flying characteristics and more.

And then he took off.

Does a Belite really sound like that?

It was odd to watch our Belite fly overhead, without me in it.

I saw Scott do things with the airplane I am not (yet) capable of doing. I was amazed.

I'm looking forward to reading his entire experience and review in the article.

In the course of the day, we shot hundreds of photos. The best will be in the magazine article, but a few are in this blog.

Scott flew the Superlite, with a Hirth F23 engine. The aircraft was equipped with big tires, brakes, minimal instrumentation, carbon fiber wings, composite tail wheel spring, carbon fiber firewall, carbon fiber floorboard, carbon fiber seatback and bottom, 5 gallon spun aluminum fuel tank (beautiful), wood instrument panel (minimal, but beautiful), UV treated ceconite wings, naked tail, full 4130 black powdercoated chromalloy fuselage (safety), BRS full frame parachute (safety), electric start, dual ignition, and full wrapover windshield. The engine was spinning a 60 x 36 prop, and it ran smoothly. For a battery, I was using a 1.5 pound Lipo battery, with a quick disconnect battery plug. The engine was throttle stopped at about 75% power, which I've verified is capable of producing the fastest possible cruise in a part 103 aircraft.

Here's some things I'm hoping Scott talks about:

1) flight characteristics
2) takeoff and climb performance
3) glide rate
4) landing and runway control
5) slips
6) fun factor
7) transition requirements
8) world's best turn and bank indicator (that would be the breeze on your face) :-)
9) trim
10) stalls, both power on and power off

Scott, come on back and fly the Trike!!

Speaking of the Trike, tomorrow I'll be publishing some comments on the Trike program and where we are at.