Saturday, April 17, 2010

Belite Receives Sun N Fun Grand Champion Ultralight Award

The Belite Superlite, dressed in Belite's new Dragon paint scheme, was given the honor of "Grand Champion Ultralight" at the 2010 Sun N Fun airshow. The picture shows James Wiebe, CEO of Belite Aircraft, receiving the award from Sun N Fun official Leonard Kress. The Superlite's new featherweight panel was noted as being a key feature that caught the judge's eyes.

Sun N Fun is an annual aircraft fly-in and airshow, in its 36th year. Attendance in years past has been about 160,000 people, with 4,500 planes flying into the event. The event is busy with aircraft 'movements', logging 40,000 to 50,000 movements in a typical year.

Pictures of the Superlite may be found here .

More pictures may be found here .

And a very nice takeoff video of the personal flying dragon may be found here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Featherweight Avionics

Gene and I have made several panels for a variety of our aircraft. They were a mixture of basic instruments: airspeed indicators, altimeter, engine gauges, inclinometers. Basic stuff.

I'd run into a few problems with instruments breaking; also a few problems with inaccuracies. I was tired of weight. I started to think about ways to improve that panel. My 30 years of experience in electronics kept nagging me: I just had to develop some good, inexpensive, state of the art instruments.

A lot of very good companies produce fantastic, expensive stuff. Almost all of the direction of the industry has been towards more integration and more expense.

Why not break that trend?

Why not design basic electronic instruments that replace old fashioned steam stuff, that cost less, that works better, that weigh about a dozen grams, not a dozen ounces or even one or two pounds, and that more quickly alerts (using bright LEDS) to marginal conditions such as low fuel or redline speed? How about instruments with no dials to twist?

Well, that's what I did.

We introduced 10 new instruments to the market. I won't pick at the details of each here (see our avionics page for details). I'll just mention the key points of one of them.

Let's talk about our Turn Rate Indicator:

1) It truly has a solid state gyro in it, and it's incredibly sensitive.

2) It's designed to show a standard rate turn. And several other turn rates.

3) It uses different colored LEDS to quickly show when a turn has begun.

4) The LEDs are bright, easily observed in a bright cockpit.

5) You can see them with sunglasses on, even polarized sunglasses (unlike many LCD screens.)

6) And unlike mechanical gyros, it's inexpensive (about $150).

7) And also unlike mechanical gyros, you can buy it in a tiny box (3 x 2 x 1 inch) which you can velcro to any panel. It runs off an enclosed 9v battery for about 14 hours.

8) Or you can buy it with a standard 2 1/4 inch cutout bezel.

9) Or you can buy it with an even smaller 1.75 inch square bezel.

This is how we approached the design of each of our instruments: Lots of installation and use options, bright LEDs, simple operation, really low costs. Great for experimental, homebuilt, patch flying, ultralights, and perhaps a few other markets as well. (Helicopters? Yes. Gliders? Absolutely.)

My daughter Jennifer prepared a great video demonstrating the Turn Rate Indicator. You can see the video here. If that doesn't work, go to belite's channel on youtube and you'll find several more of our avionic and flying videos.

Even though the concepts are simple, the electronic technology has been a tough at times to tackle. In order to protect the work that has been done, we recently filed 9 patent applications on our technology. As a result, our designs are 'patent pending', which is a great thing as well.

The entire instrument panel pictured at the beginning of this post weighs about 12 ounces. That includes the basic metal plate, and all of the instruments. This is one of the developments that continues to ensure that our aircraft are the best and that our avionics (and aircraft) customers have the easiest to use, lightest, least expensive and most comprehensive goodies in the cockpit.

I appreciate your feedback. I was given several great ideas for additions to this new product line at Sun N Fun -- we'll work on some of them and hopefully show even more avionics at Oshkosh. In the meantime, this is great new stuff.

Finally, these avionics are 'on sale' for this first week of their introduction. You can order them with discount code SUN10 on our webstore through the end of 2010 Sun N Fun, (april 18) and this will give you a 20% discount!

We are also intent on adding distributors, both here in the US and overseas. Interested? Let me know.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Details on the new Trike

Our four aircraft news announcements have been posted. Today, I'm going to add important details on the new redesigned Trike.

First of all, it's beautiful. Based on customer feedback, it's much nicer than our original Trike design. It's also less expensive. It's also more configurable --- you can easily convert it from Tricycle to Taildragger to Tricycle gear.... whatever you're feeling like.

We're bringing our Trike demo plane to Sun N Fun.

Here's the cost details for our demo plane:

Basic Taildragger model, Ready to Fly: $24995
Trike Package: $1500 (add to ANY kit or ANY RTF airplane)
Carbon Fiber Wings: $3100 (this is a reduced price, details in another post)
Engine Swap: $1600 (this swaps the MZ-34 for the MZ-201 45HP engine)
Propeller Swap: $600 (this swaps a Tennessee wood for a 3 blade composite)
Instrument Panel UPGRADE to NEW AVIONICS: $0

TOTAL $31795 as configured

A basic Trike starts at $26495, RTF. ($24995 + $1500 Trike Package)

OK, now you're probably wondering: what do you get in a Trike package??

Here's the answer:

-- front gear tube, prebent from 1 5/8 chromalloy steel
-- front gear brace, prewelded using chromalloy steel
-- left and right .190 prebent / machined aluminum gear arms
-- delrin nylon machined blocks (4 pieces)
-- bolts / nuts
-- front modifications to fuselage -- carrier tubes prewelded and brace patch prewelded;
-- main landing gear mods to fuselage -- horizontal and vertical
reinforcements to fuselage for new gear hardpoints
-- disc brake packages (2)
-- machined aluminum disc brake mounts (2)
-- disc brake cables
-- heel brake weldments

This means that you can change a Trike back to a Taildragger (you may have to make a new exhaust for this swap...)

We put carbon fiber wings on our demo plane, because the weight savings allowed us to use a bigger, heavier MZ-201 engine.

You'll notice in our flickr photos that the Trike also has our new instrument panel with our new Avionics that we designed!! This new panel weighs about 10 ounces with basic 4 instruments installed: EGT/CHT; Inclinometer; Air Speed; and AGL altimeter. The LED displays are brilliant and easy to see, even in direct daylight. The weight includes the metal panel, which is gorgeous, and the instruments.

The Trike is the first real ultralight that's also a real airplane.!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

On the eve of four announcements

It is Sunday evening; my wife and I have comfortably settled into our rental home in Lakeland Florida. Sun N Fun starts in two days. Tomorrow, we're sending out four news releases.

We're exhausted. Our staff and us have been working nearly around the clock for the last couple of weeks, trying to get everything ready and buttoned up for the show.

Most of my time has been spent on the development of a suite of avionics -- you'll be able to read about them soon enough. I've already concluded that once you fly with our new air speed indicator, you'll never use any other air speed indicator again. Ours is designed from the ground up for slow experimentals and ultralights. But it's just one of ten or so new avionics we're introducing, and it is by no means the coolest. Enough said on the avionics, or I'll spill the beans prematurely.

I asked for feedback on the Trike several weeks ago. You responded; and we completely redesigned it. Take a look at the pictures which have been posted on flickr
and you'll see that the Trike is now identical to our conventional taildragger model. And you can switch back and forth easily!

The Trike pictured is powered by a MZ202 engine with 45 horsepower. It uses carbon fiber wings, and tips the scales at about 250 pounds. Amazing.!

That's all for now.

See you at Sun N Fun in two days!