Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Joy Of Flight - $10 / hour in an ultralight airplane

Please note: James' blog has moved to a Wordpress site. To access it, please visit http://jameswiebe.wordpress.com/. All posts have been transferred to the new site, and all new posts will only be accessible via Wordpress. Thank you for your interest!

Confession of flight:  I fly ultralights. 

I have a video at the end of this brief post which shows a flying experience from earlier this week.  You need to watch this video, but first, you need to hear how strongly I feel about ultralight aircraft and the experience of creating and flying them.

Belite Ultralight Aircraft

When I am in my ultralight airplane, I climb rapidly to high altitudes.  This is just the same as 'real airplanes'.  In fact, it is better, because I have a better point of view. 

I burn less than 2.5 gallons per hour, and I use auto gas.  My operational cost is about $10 per hour for flight.

I do not apologize for my aircraft's performance, because it leaves the ground as fast as many certified aircraft.  In fact, it is better than many certified aircraft.

I repair my own airplane.  When I see something that needs attention, I fix it.  I do not take it to a mechanic, because I have educated myself on just about every component in my airplane.

I practice takeoffs and landings, because I want to be able to land in short places.  And I do.  I've landed in 100 and 1/2 feet  (100.5 feet).  Someday, I'll do better than that.  But I didn't have enough practice a year ago when I did that.

I cruise at 58 mph.  This is more than fast enough for everything I do.  In fact, it is too fast and I will throttle back to about 50 mph.  I achieve this on 28HP.  My airplane is well streamlined, and I am still working on ways to make it fly more efficiently.

I can fit my airplane in small garages, because my wings fold in 2 minutes.  Really, they do.

My airplane was an award winner at Sun N Fun.  A variety of our planes have won a major award every one of the last 3 years.

I'm constantly innovating.  I keep finding ways to improve the experience of ultralight flight.  I share these with others who have similar interests.  I share them with my customers, and I share them with my aircraft.

I use my airplane to help others fly.  So far, I've helped two people with significant physical disabilities.  I hope to help more.

The Federal Aviation Administration does not view my airplane as a real airplane.  This is helpful, because it means I do not need a pilots license.  I just need to know how to fly.  I also do not need a medical, and I also am not allowed to register my airplane.  I have no desire to register my airplane.

I have practiced many things in my airplane.  I know what to do if the wing stalls.  (Push the stick forward, duh).  I know what to do if the engine quits.  (Keep the airplane flying, aim for a landing spot, try to solve the engine problem, if time permits.  If all else fails, pull the parachute handle.)

I taught myself how to fly a taildragger in my airplane.  I am now a very good taildragger pilot.  I enjoy taildraggers more than tricycle gear airplanes, and I never thought I'd be able to say that, or understand it.  But I do.

I have surrounded myself with good airplane people, who have like minds.  I receive great expert advice from Doug, the friendly A&P in the next hangar, who also builds components for helicopters.  I receive advice from  Neal and to his son, both of whom are aeronautical engineers.  My customers give me feedback.  On the business side, my wife is wonderful and balances my dreaming with great financial management.  She helps cover airplanes with dacron, too.

I want you to watch a video that I made yesterday, from the cockpit of a Belite Ultralight.  It's raw and it is jerky, and I spend a lot of time focusing on the instruments, yet it shows the joy of simply circling above fields.  I hope you find it enjoyable, and I hope it helps you dream.  Please enjoy the video.

Here it is.

Rear Fuselage Final Assembly

Please note: James' blog has moved to a Wordpress site. To access it, please visit http://jameswiebe.wordpress.com/. All posts have been transferred to the new site, and all new posts will only be accessible via Wordpress. Thank you for your interest!

Rear Fuselage Final Assembly
By James Wiebe, Belite Aircraft

After the rear aluminum fuselage has been attached to the aluminum cabin, several important details remain.  They include:

a)  Vertical Stabilizer Attachment
b)  Horizontal Stabilizer Attachment
c)  Elevator push pull tube Attachment
d)  Gas Tank Compartment Assembly

Each is fairly easy to do.  Let's get to work.


The vertical stabilizer slips into the rear tube on the fuselage:

Vertical Stabilizer slipped into the fuselage
Note that the the vertical stabilizer is not parallel to the fuselage; although not shown on the blueprints, this is by design.  The front clearance should be about 2 1/2 to 2 3/4".

A hole is then drilled for a pin.  We use a AN3 pin (3/16" diameter) to slip the drilled home.

Hole drilled for AN3 pin.
The AN3 pin is then secured by a lock pin.  Since we did not have a pin of the correct length, we cut the AN3 bolt to the correct length (after insertion) and drilled it for a lock pin.

The front of the vertical stabilizer is attached to the fuselage using a couple lengths of 1" square aluminum tubing.

1" square tubes clamped in place

1" square tubes clamped in place
The 1" square tubes are riveted in place to the aluminum frame..  After riveting, the steel strap is drilled with a 3/16" hole and then the parts are secured with AN3 bolts, washers, and locknuts.  Do not use crushing torque on the locknuts.

AN3 bolts and nuts in place on vertical stabilizer


The horizontal stabilizer is attached to the steel straps.  The critical factor is the angle of incidence of the rear elevator; to determine this, first level the fuselage (using levels at the cabin) then make sure that you set the horizontal stabilizer at an angle of 3 degrees negative incidence.  This means that the leading edge is lower than the trailing edge.  If you are assembling a taildragger, this means that the rear of the fuselage will be off the ground by around 15 or 20 inches, so that the airplane is level as measured at the cabin.  The airplane must also be leveled if you are assembling a tricycle gear airplane.   This normally requires shimming the nose wheel up slightly.

Horizontal Stabilizer in place, front bolt position determined by angle of incidence.  Elevator also is attached and drooping.

Horizontal Stabilizer, front and rear bolt shown.

The attachment of the flying wires is covered elsewhere in this manual.  A bottom cross connector flying wire plate is made from two pieces of aluminum,


and is attached with AN3 bolt to the bottom aluminum plate.

Here's one more photo of the horizontal stabilizer, with the rear bolt attached.  Also note that the elevator has been test fitted using AN3 clevis pins.

Rear Elevator Bolt Detail.  Length of strap may be adjusted to set correct angle of incidence.   Elevator also attached.


The rear elevator push pull tube is either 0.750 of 0.875 inches in diameter, and is constructed of aluminum.  It is rough cut to length, so that a neutral stick, and a neutral reversing bellcrank, and the elevator position is neutral, all at the same time.  Here are pictures demonstrating all of these requirements:

Neutral stick position

Neutral reverser bellcrank with elevator push pull tube attached

Neutral Elevator, looking forward through fuselage
The push pull tube contains a machined and threaded insert at each end, which is held in place with 3M 2216 adhesive, and a single AN3 bolt, drilled through the insert.  When it is cut to the proper length, everything is neutral, as shown in the above photos.

A diagonal member is placed and riveted on the internal fuselage frame, with a nylon or poly plastic block clamped in place.  The proper diameter of the hole through the bearing block is 0.125" greater than the diameter of the push pull tube.  For instance, for a 0.75" push pull tube, drill a 7/8" hole.  After positioning for perfectly frictionless movement, the block is then held in place with a couple of AN3 bolts, washers, and locknuts.

Diagonal with bearing block


In order to construct the base of the gas tank compartment, a length of 7/8" by 1/2" angle aluminum is riveted to the rear of the fuselage cabin.  Then 3 cross members are riveted in place, followed by attachment of a aluminum sheet bottom.  Note that this compartment clears the top of the elevator push pull tube by about 1/2".  If it does not, the base level is too low and must be raised.

Angle aluminum across rear base of cabin and 3 cross members

Clearance from elevator push pull tube below gas tank compartment

Aluminum skin placed in position

Aluminum skin riveted in place