Saturday, June 11, 2011

New Value in Part 103 Ultralight Aircraft from Belite!

About six weeks, Kathy and I put out a survey to our email list base.  We asked our potential customers many questions, mostly about our pricing strategies for our kits and our finished aircraft.  We received well over 200 responses, and the compiled statistics were loud and clear:  While many factors are important in the purchase of an airplane, the predominant problem slowing people from making a purchase decision is pricing.  Our kits always cost too much.
Kathy and I heard you loud and clear!  We are cutting the price of our kits.

In order to cut costs, we had to make investments in capital equipment.  Fortunately, we recently acquired a new 4 axis CNC machine and a new 3 axis CNC router.  These allowed us to re-engineer many of our parts to take advantage of lower cost, in house production.  Also, eliminating welding time was a substantial part of the puzzle in reducing costs.  In order to eliminate welding time, we had to re-engineer the flaperons and many of the moving parts.

As a result, the new price of a Belite kit is $8000.  (!)  This is a full featured kit, with lots of stuff included.  And if you want to save even more, read all the way to the bottom of this post, and I'll explain how to save another $1200.

While reducing the price, we've also added substantial value.

Here's the scoop:

1) Numerous moving parts (linkages, bellcranks, etc.) which used to be made out of welded steel are now made on our new CNC machine, out of billet aluminum.  As a result, our finished airplanes now look more professional.

2) The pricing includes a fully welded 4130 steel fuselage.

3)  The pricing does not include crating ($700) or shipping.  We've now had shipping quotes all over the US, so we are pretty good at guessing the cost of shipping.  Shipping should run about $1000 to far away destinations (LA, for instance).    So the cost of the kit, including crating and shipping, is now about $9700, fully featured and delivered to your garage.

4)  We've been working on the manual.  While not perfect, it has improved considerably.  Also, the manual and documentation package is now available separately for purchase.  ($80 -- includes manual, some blueprints, lots of stuff.)

5)  We've also now prepared pricing for subgroups.  I'll make posts over the next few days digging into some of these subgroups, but I'm posting a lot of information on each group lower in this post.  Read on...

6)  Flaperons and tail feathers are now much easier to build -- having been redesigned to use inexpensive wooden ribs (cut on our brand new CNC ShopBot).  (Versus our older welded or aluminum / bonded flaperons.)  And weight is slightly reduced!

7)  A very small amount of welding is required on the landing gear.

8)  The tricycle gear kit is now available as a separate option.  It is a comprehensive conversion kit which includes everything necessary to convert a tail dragger to a trike gear plane.  It also has a lower price.  ($400).   A small amount of welding is required.  Includes machined parts for the nose gear assembly.

9)  Here's a rundown on subgroup prices:

  Rudder Kit -- $80 -- includes 4130 steel vertical spar with tack welded hinge points and tack welded tabs; wooden ribs.  Finish welding required:  <1 hour.  Assembles on flat table.  First ship of this new Rudder Kit is end of July.  Original steel rudder is also still available, fully welded.  ($120).

  Horizontal Stabilizer Kit -- $100 -- Includes 4130 steel horizontal spar with tack welded hinge points; wooden ribs.  Assembles on flat table.  First ship of this new Elevator Kit is end of July.  Original steel horizontal stabilizer is also still available, fully welded.  ($200).

  Elevator Kit -- $100 -- Includes 4130 steel horizontal spar with tack welded hinge points; wooden ribs.  Assembles on flat table.  First ship of this new Elevator Kit is end of July.  Original steel elevator is also still available, fully welded.  ($200).

  Tail Feather Hardware Kit -- $70 -- includes bolts, nuts, cable, tangs, stops, thimbles, sleeves and more.

  Fuselage -- $4000 -- a completely welded 4130 steel fuselage.  This is really the ideal fuselage for anyone wanting to build an ultralight single seat aircraft.  Taildragger configuration.  Powdercoating is available as an option.  ($800).  We don't recommend powdercoating:  it can hide rust.  It's a better idea to blow oil into the fuselage, and paint the outside with a high quality enamel paint.  (Clean it with ScotchBrite first.)

  Machined Parts -- Y Strut Attach -- $85 each -- In perhaps one of the best bargains in CNC machining, we are offering our new Y Strut Attach part for $85.  This is a solid aluminum part which allows attachment of the two lift struts to the fuselage in one single part, and allows the wing to fold backwards. A long time ago, the Kitfox Lite used a welded steel fitting here; we'd been using a different inferior scheme entirely.  This is the best of all!  This would be a worthy upgrade to any older Kitfox Lite -- you might need to change out the lift struts at the same time.

  Machined Parts -- Control Stick Column Control Assembly -- $250 -- this is available as a welded part (steel) or CNC machined.  It is a very complex part -- the most complex fabricated part in the entire airplane.  I have hopes of reducing the price of this part, but don't see how yet.  So it is $250.

  Machined Parts -- Rudder Pedal -- $40 each -- We designed and are now making rudder pedals out of CNC cut billet aluminum.  Of course, you need two.  They look awesome -- the old steel welded ones just don't look nearly as sharp.  These could be used on many different ultralight aircraft and experimental aircraft too.  Here's some important fine print:  in order to cut costs, we leave them tabbed to the bulk billet.  You cut them out, deburr them, and drill out the pivot hole.  If we did that, we'd have to double the cost.

  Machined Parts -- Brake Pedal -- $30 each -- The story is the same as the rudder pedal.  These are heel brake pedals.  You have to do a little work to make them pretty.

  Machined Parts -- Flaperon Idler Bellcrank -- $40.  Beautiful aluminum part replaces older steel welded assembly.   Comes as two pieces:  5 minutes of TIG welding required to finish.  You will have to finish drill and debur it too.

  Machined Parts -- Elevator Reverser Link -- $35.  Another beautiful aluminum part, replacing an older welded steel part.  You will have to finish drill and debur it. 

  Machined Parts -- Control Stick Pivot -- $40.  This is the part that goes inside the control assembly.  You will have to finish drill and debur it. 

  There are many other machined parts in our wing kits, but the above ones are available separately.  Continuing on...

  Flight Control Kit -- $300.  This includes 37 different line items of miscellaneous nuts, bolts, pins, cables, tubing, etc.  Basically, all hardware required to make the flight controls operational.

  Panel, Seat and Floor Kit -- $30.  This includes 4 pieces of plywood, for the seat bottom, back, and floorboard.  Also includes a classic plywood panel with precut holes for 2 1/4 inch instruments.  All pieces are precision cut on our CNC router.

  Fuel System Kit -- $50.  OUR KIT NO LONGER INCLUDES A FUEL TANK.  This includes a fuel filter, fuel line, an fuel on/off switch.  We recommend a 5 gallon $10 Walmart plastic tank, OR you can buy a nice spun aluminum tank from many different online vendors for about $150. 

  Wing Kit -- $1000.  This is a comprehensive wing kit.  It includes:  (4) Aluminum spars, (4) CNC machined lift strut attachment points, (4) CNC machined jury strut attachment points, (2) push-pull cables, 30 feet of preformed trailing edge aluminum, (14) wooden ribs (CNC Cut!), (36) false ribs (CNC Cut!), aluminum False Rib spar, and about 20 more line items of nuts, bolts, and stuff.  This covers two wings.  For those wanting more aluminum in their wing, Extra Cost Options include:  Aluminum rib upgrade for 10 ribs -- $200.  Also, for those wanting a carbon fiber spar, that option costs $2200 (swap).

  Flaperon Kit -- $400 for two flaperons, includes CNC machined mounting arms and all hardware.  NOW with easy wooden rib assembly.  I'll cover this completely in a post sometime soon.  Older Aluminum Bonded Flaperons still available -- $1000 for two with all hardware included.

  Lift Strut Kit -- $200 for all materials for both wings.  Includes 4 lift struts, rod end bearings, nuts, bolts, jury strut material.  Main struts are 1" diameter aluminum tubing.

  Landing Gear Kit -- $700.  Includes Left "A" frame, tack welded.  Includes Right "A" frame, tack welded.  Includes Straddle link, tack welded.  Includes left and right solid gear rods, tack welded.  Will require about 4 hours of competent TIG welding to finish, maybe less.  Also includes preformed steel rear landing gear spring.  Also includes 5x5 wheels, tubes, tires, and another 10 or so line items of nuts and bolts.  Options:  BRAKES are not included.  (You can buy Azusa brakes for less than $30 per side from Aircraft Spruce and they work well.)  MAIN GEAR springs are not included.  ($200 for a set of two, fully welded from us.  We also provide plans for you to make them at no charge with our kit.)

  Windshield Kit -- $130.  Includes a rough cut Lexan windshield, two more ribs for attaching to the cockpit top, and hardware.

  Fabric -- $110 for 20 yards.  You'll need to add tape, glue, primer, paint.... 

  Documentation Kit -- $70.  This includes a manual, wing blueprints (extended span), fuselage blueprints, flaperon alignment blueprint, rudder alignment blueprint, booklet (how to fly a Belite).  You can also order an optional CD of all of our engineering documents in .dwg format.  (The machined parts are also available in IGS format.)  We use SolidWorks.  With optional CD, the entire documentation kit is $200.

  So here's the fine print:  *** If it is not included in the above list, it is not included in the kit. ***  We know you'll need the following additional items, at a mininum:

Engine, Engine Mount, Lord Mounts, Propeller, Engine Throttle Control, linkage, nuts, bolts and hardware.  We are a Hirth dealer and recommend the F23 and F33 engines.   The engine mount for either engine is $300.  If you want a mount, you should order it with your kit.

Fuel Tank -- For the budget minded, we recommend a $10 tank from Walmart.

Cowling -- We sell our cowling for $350 + shipping.  Because they are very large to ship, if you want one, you should order it with your kit.  However, we regularly fly our planes without a cowling.

Firewall -- We no longer build or recommend carbon fiber firewalls.  We do recommend an aluminum 0.040" firewall, and we include a blueprint of it's dimensions in our documentation.  It is not included.  If you don't have a sheet of aluminum, it will set you back about $30.

Battery Box -- Aircraft Spruce sells a nice one for about $30.  Also, we don't include any electrical systems stuff.  No battery, no wiring, no fuses, no switches.  We don't provide that stuff.

Instrumentation -- We recommend you pick out what you want from our extensive line of Belite instruments.  Your aircraft kit comes with a wood panel ready to accept our standard 2 1/4" round instruments.  We don't include wiring, switches, or anything.  The minimum you need is an Airspeed Indicator and an EGT/CHT and an inclinometer (bubble).  We don't sell hour meters; Aircraft Spruce sells many different kinds and we've used some that work well (and many that don't.)

Glue, Paint, Primer... -- None of this is included.  Also, we don't include dacron tape, just the raw fabric.  We recommend Stewart Systems products.

AND FINALLY, if you made it all the way down here, and want to save a lot more money:  Order the kit with the fuselage 'tack welded'.  We'll knock another $1200 off the price of the kit.

Here's a scenario for how to get a complete airplane for less than $10K:

A)  Order the tack welded option:  $8000 - $1200 = $6800.
B)  Bring a trailer and pick it up in Wichita:  no shipping or crating, but you have to pay sales tax (about $500).
C)  Odds & Ends, including instrumentation, fuel tank, glue & paint:  $1000. 
D)  Nice used engine, with propeller:  $1500.  You fabricate the motor mount to fit it.

Total:  $9800, and you get a very nice airplane, brand new.  Do it with your child and help him/her learn!

I'm curious to hear your response,


P.S.  Caveat:  PRICING and SPECIFICATIONS are subject to change without notice.  While we've tried to provide a complete and comprehensive kit, we're always aware that we've probably forgotten something -- if it's not in the following list, it is not included.