Tuesday, January 4, 2011

UK and Ultralights

Interested in a British legal SSDR ultralight aircraft?  You can sign up here for our upcoming formal product announcements.

But before the formal product announcement comes out, I wanted to talk to you, my loyal blog readers, about a substantial upcoming addition to Belite's aircraft lineup.  It incorporates a significant design change, resulting in lower takeoff and landing speeds, along with increased climb performance.

It looks like this:

What's different about this Belite?  It has lower weight, and a bigger wing.

Why did we do it?  Because we want to sell our Ultralight Aircraft in England.

England has a different set of ultralight rules -- and an ultralight over there is called a "Single Seat DeRegulated" aircraft - SSDR, for short.

I've been watching and studying the SSDR market for a long time.  The rules aren't the same; they're substantially tougher than US FAR Part 103!   While stall speed isn't a critical factor, wing loading is a very critical factor.  SSDR requirements requires wing loading to be 10 kilograms per square meter of wing area (empty aircraft weight).  Converting this into proper English units (which the English didn't use), we end up with an empty wing loading requirement of 2.048 pounds per square foot.

You can read the SSDR rules here.

Our conventional Belite aircraft are way too heavy to meet the wing loading requirement.  All of the other technical requirements are easy to meet:

Empty Weight must not exceed 115kg
Max gross weight 300kg, 330kg if it's water based.
Wing loading must be lower than 10kg sq/m (that's the tough requirement)
Stall speed less than 35kts CAS

There are some registration and insurance requirements, but they are simply on the onus of the owner to do.

Our basic Belite 254 has a weight of about 240 pounds and a wing area of about 100SF.  This wing loading of 2.4 pounds per square foot (remember, that's empty wing loading) just doesn't cut it in the British ultralight market, as defined by SSDR regulations.

What to do?

Two answers come to mind, and I've already mentioned them:

1.  Cut weight of the aircraft.
2.  Increase wing area of the aircraft.

And we have accomplished both of these.

The weight of the aircraft can be reduced by use of Carbon Fiber.  If you've looked around our website, you'll see lots of posts on how to build ultralight aircraft and FAR Part 103 aircraft with carbon fiber.  Now we're doing it to be legal, strong and state of the art for UK SSDR.

We will announce more details in the near future.

The airplane pictured at the top of this post had its first flight today.  In perfect crisp winter weather, with almost no wind, it flew off the ground and climbed at a good clip.  To stay warm, I was bundled like the small brother boy from "A Christmas Story".  [if you've seen the movie, you understand.  If you haven't seen the movie, I had a lot of layers on.]

Here I am, floating in for landing.  (With an aircraft weight of less than 240 pounds, and a nice big strong wing, landings are soft and easy.)

Here's my instrument panel.  Note the lack of instruments:  (We'll add an airspeed and CHT later.)  I commonly fly our ultralight aircraft just by feel. 

I took my Nikon D300 with me on the flight and shot some pictures from the air.  I'm taking one in the picture below.  (My able assistant Gene shot all ground based shots with his Nikon D5000.  We're Nikon fans.)

Below is a front on picture of the new Belite.  Note that the outside wing panels aren't clipped short.  (The only way you can tell that is to compare to other Belite photos from elsewhere on the blog, (or our Belite corporate website), and look carefully at the distance between the wingtips and the next closest rib.)

The photo below is not a trick photo.  I'm just having fun. I'm making a sharp turn to the left, and it looks like I'm nose down.  One of the fun things I practiced whilst testing this airplane was going around the traffic pattern, making very sharp and short turns at the corners.  The very low wing loading made such turns dramatically tight.

And here is a view from the office, looking down at a Kansas winter day.  The sky was such a beautiful blue, but the ground is just dried out brown.

Another view down, showing the left wing and our home field.  We love our home field.

Interested in a British legal SSDR ultralight aircraft?  You can sign up here for our upcoming formal product announcements.

Technical Hints:  Our final UK legal SSDR weight will be about 221 pounds.  Our fuselage is 4130 Chromaloy steel.  And our wings use carbon fiber.

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