Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Aluminum CNC parts in Belite's Ultralight Aircraft


As I mentioned in the prior post, we are working hard to raise 'production values' of our aircraft out of the realm of old fashioned ultralights.

We've just added CNC aluminum parts as a standard part of our kit ultralight aircraft.  (You can buy our nearly complete kit aircraft, with a welded chromalloy steel fuselage, for $8000, which includes all of the parts pictured below, and much much more....). 

All of our aluminum parts are delivered straight from the CNC machine, still 'in tabs' (the part is still connected via tabs in the billet aluminum it was cut from).  You need to cut the parts out of the billet with a bandsaw and deburr them with a sander, or scotchbrite or a steel brush or a deburring machine.  You also need to drill final holes.  We do this to save machining time, and it allows us to sell these parts at ridiculously low prices.  

Here's pics of most of the parts, along with comparison weights:

Elevator Torque Reverser  -- $35

The elevator torque reverser weighs 3.6 ounces in steel and 4.7 ounces in aluminum.  The aluminum is a solid piece.

Flaperon Idler Bellcrank -- $40 
The flaperon bellcrank weighs 3.4 ounces in steel and 3.1 ounces in aluminum.  You receive it in two parts.  In addition to cutting, drilling and deburring the aluminum, you'll need to hit it with a few beads of TIG weld to guarantee the two parts will stay together.

Heel Brake -- $30 each.

The heel brakes weigh 2.6 ounces in steel and 3.0 ounces in aluminum.  You need two per airplane.  The brake cable attaches to the arm on the left side of the part.  Just flip it around and it is now a right brake.  Both sides of the part are CNC machined out to reduce weight.

Jury Strut attachment fitting -- $35   

There are four of these included with each wing kit.  Each is attached using six rivets to the aluminum spar.  The aluminum version weighs just 1.0 ounce!  We don't know what the original steel ones weigh, we haven't had any in a year or two.  We've always used aluminum.  They are sized to fit a 2.5" OD tube.  You can order them individually for just $35 each.

Big Honking Lift Strut Attachment Fitting -- $100 each
This is a Big Honking Lift Strut Attachment Fitting.  It weighs 6.5 ounces.  We haven't had the steel ones in an eternity, so I don't know what they weigh.  It attaches to the aluminum spar with a row of rivets down each side.  We are currently redesigning this part so that the rivet holes are pre-marked for drilling.  Our wing kits include 4 of these.  Designed to fit around a 2.5" OD spar.  If you are building a one-off ultralight aircraft, maybe you want a set of 4 as well.

Aluminum Pivot in Steel Control Stick Assembly -- Pivot is $35
 Unfortunately, the only aluminum pivot I had today was already installed in an airplane.  So I didn't get to weigh it.  It probably weighs about 3.0 ounces.  The steel version that it replaces weighs 2.4 ounces.

The above picture also shows an old fashioned control assembly (steel structure part).  We still are selling these fairly complex steel parts for $250 each, and one is included in our aircraft kits.  We have developed an aluminum version, but aren't ready to sell it yet.  FWIW, the steel version which we are still selling weighs 6.6 ounces.

Elevator Torque Reverser installed in aircraft.

Rudder Pedal -- $40
 Each of our kits contains two rudder pedals.  The old steel parts weighed 4.0 ounces, while the new aluminum ones are slightly heavier, at 5.8 ounces apiece.

Y Lift Strut Attachment
The old steel part weighed about a pound (very heavy), while the new aluminum part weighs just 6.5 ounces!

That concludes my aluminum CNC part roundup.

Monday, June 13, 2011

More on Belite's Ultralight Aircraft Kit Pricing

My musings on our new Belite Ultralight Aircraft pricing a couple of days ago might be a little complicated to understand.  Here's what it boils down to:

Kit price is now $8000.  Wing kit is $1000 for two complete wings. Fuselage is $4000.  Everything else is $3000.  Total -- $8000. 

This includes a fully welded 4130 steel fuselage, along with a large number of newly designed aluminum CNC machined parts.  We're moving away (rapidly) from yesterday's old-fashioned 'ultralight aircraft', by providing an easily built design which emulates a larger aircraft in just about every manner possible.   And now, with our large amount of aluminum parts, our planes have production values which match far more expensive airplanes.

If you can weld, the tack welded price is just $6800.  As a result, a little used engine scrounging will get you a great brand new flying airplane for less than $10K. 

I got an interesting call from a potential customer who wanted to know if they could adapt our wing design to an older ultralight design.  This was based on their observations of what they discovered by looking inside their wing.  Our wing design locks the ribs around the spars -- it makes perfect sense and is easy to assemble.