Sunday, July 10, 2011

An Aluminum Dream

(There is news far below of a new aluminum version of our plane.  Read down...)


I've had a dream.  In it, I'm able to take a simple board, lay it across my chest, and in a few steps I am flying.  Somehow, I lay on the board, and it generates enough lift to take me above trees, mountains, streams, and beautiful things.

I do not understand how this can be.  I am not Jetman, but I know that it is real, and in my dream, I am gliding down over a descending landscape.

I am able to breeze by trees, houses, birds, and under a clear, blue sky, I am able to select a landing spot.  In my dream, I land just a few minutes after I take off.  Sometimes, I have a passenger nearby (I do not understand this either.)  But mostly, I am free, and I simply fly.

I feel the joy, and I am determined to share it with others.  I see that as a role given to me:  to spread the joy and the ability to fly above and observe above and be above.  To be above.  To fly.


Two days ago, I was down in Tulsa, Oklahoma, making some simple wiring fixes to a plane we'd delivered to a new Belite owner.  The airstrip was overkill long at 1320 feet; there were horses on either side, and the hangar was in the back yard of the house.  Ironically, a windsock was 3/4ths of the way down the strip, and it was positioned nearly in the middle of the runway.  I asked the owner if I could once again fly the plane that was formerly mine, and he said, of course, 'yes'. 

Once around the pattern, a low approach. 

Another time around the pattern.  A hot day.  But 300 feet above the ground, things were comfortable in the open cockpit.

A second time around with a lineup to final approach.  A good breeze out of the east.  A crossing landing on the runway, drifting from left side to right side, making advantage of the crosswind.

Landing.  Barely disturbed the grass blades -- a combination of luck, maybe some skill, some springy gear, and some big fat tires.

Out of the plane.  My wife took my picture, as did one of the new owners.  The other owner showed up late, I started the engine just so he could see it easily start.


He called me earlier today, and I answered.  I am in West Virginia, getting ready to deliver a series of talks on computer forensics at Marshall University.  He wanted to know how to adjust the tension on the throttle lever; and I gave him some quick advice.  He'd flown the bird, rechristened 'Queen Lady', and he was tiring of readjusting power continuously.  Surely, an understandable aggravation.  But he'd flown around for 30 minutes, and I was pleased for him.


Two planes sold in 24 hours -- that's news.  One heading to California, the other to Missouri.  We cut the prices on some of our planes in order to reduce inventory, and in order to prepare a way for a new aluminum variant.


I've always been in love with technology.  I enjoyed putting carbon fiber spars on ultralights -- I thought the strength / weight thing was simply amazing.  I ignored the economics -- figured people would pay.  A few did.  Not many.


Kathy and I put out a pricing survey on our planes.  It seems these are the most important things to many of our potential customers:

a)  They like our plane.
b)  They want to fly.
c)  They want to afford our plane.
d)  They may weigh a little too much -- but they still want to fly.  Do we have a plane that will accommodate them?


Belite has been in development of an aluminum fuselage of our plane.  An original prototoype was built, and we did a series of tests on it: 

a)  Engine mount strength
b)  Pilot seat strength
c)  Airframe strength -- taxiing  (super hard jolts while going up and down the runway without shocks).

Engine Mount Strength -- over 400 pounds of steel.  Ken needs to smile.

Pilot Seat test -- 819 pounds of steel and sand
Well, I broke the plane while doing initial taxi and flight test.

So we redesigned the cabin area, and a bunch of the round tubing was replaced with square tubing -- much stronger.  It ended up looking like this:

Closeup of square aluminum tubing

So here's a photo of an aluminum airplane.  Notice the heavy cockpit structure, also the monocoque aluminum skin on the sides, (carrying landing loads).  The landing gear is chromaloy steel, and the engine mount is also chromaloy steel.  The aerodynamics are largely undisturbed from our sweet flying, original 254.

Aluminum Fuselage Ultralight Airplane from Belite Aircraft


Pricing to be announced at Oshkosh on these models:

a)  Aluminum Belite 254 taildragger with 28HP engine.  Weighs about 210 pounds.  UK SSDR compatible as well!
b)  Aluminum Belite 254 Trike with 28HP engine.  Weighs about 220 pounds.  UK SSDR compatible as well!
c)  taildragger with 45HP engine.  Weighs less than 254 pounds.  Phenomenal takeoff performance.
d)  same thing in Trike.
e)  deluxe taildragger with 50HP engine, carbon fiber, 'chute, every option we make. 
f)   deluxe trike with 50HP engine.

And yes, we're still working in the 4 stroke engine.  And the aluminum kit version.


Many of our potential customers are concerned about their weight in relationship to our planes.  These new aluminum planes solve that problem. 

The 45HP engine, in combination with the lightweight aluminum fuselage, provides the ability to lift a lot of load!  We can now handle pilot loads up to 275 pounds in the taildragger configuration.  With really great performance!


The aluminum fuselage airplane pictured above has already been presold to a customer.


We have two more fuselages already started.  We will have at least one aluminum ultralight at Oshkosh.   Please come see us.