Saturday, April 13, 2013

Its Just Moody

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

A photo report on the Just Super STOL and John K Moody flying a vintage ultralight at Sun N Fun 2013.

When a Belite UltraCub grows up, it wants to be a Just Aircraft Super STOL.

And John K Moody is just awesome.  So are his ultralight aircraft.

Just Super STOL at Sun N Fun 2013

Just Super STOL at Sun N Fun 2013

Just Super STOL at Sun N Fun 2013

John K Moody, Father of Ultralights

John K Moody prepares his ultralight

Moody gets in

Moody takes the field

Moody airborne

Liftoff for John K Moody

Life is good, flying an ultralight

Over the trees at Sun N Fun

John K Moody flies away

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Best Altimeter for General Aviation, ever!!

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

Every once in a while, I've had the opportunity to work on something that has turned out to be an industry game changer.  Giving a nod to my background in computer forensics, one recent game changer that I've been privileged to be a part of is the CRU / WiebeTech "Ditto" product, which sucks information from hard drives in a forensically sound manner.  In fact, it can do it from halfway around the planet.  It does other really cool stuff too, like support stealth mode, but I won't talk about that here.  :-O

My 30 year background in electronics, combined with my aviation passion, has allowed me to create a product which is simple to understand, and is very useful in multiple ways, and is affordable, and will be used by the owner, providing years of "why didn't someone do this before" moments as it provides valuable flight information.

It does many really cool things:

For instance, it displays Standard Indicated Altitude, which is received from a temperature compensated solid state pressure sensor circuit built inside the unit.  This is the altimeter function you've come to know and expect.  It works from 0 to 20K feet, no issues.  You set the local altimeter pressure, it gives you the altitude.

The screen looks like this:

Indicated Altitude
Indicated Altitude on Altimeter from Belite Aircraft

There are two indicator lights on the left (only one is used in this model).  There are three switches in the unit.  In order to set the local pressure just touch the left or the right switch.  The pressure setting will move up and down.

If you touch the center switch, the unit will skip forward to the next mode, which is one of its coolest features:

*  DENSITY altitude.  The unit will supply the calculated density altitude, based on cockpit temperature.  This feature is alone worth its weight in gold.  I no longer guess or calculate the DA, I just touch a button and it reports it to me.  You don't have to input the local pressure setting for this to work correctly; in fact the local pressure setting is irrelevant to the Density Altitude calculation.  Density altitude looks like this:

density altitude
Density Altitude calculation on Belite digital altimeter.
Density altitude, by convention, is always shown rounded to the nearest 100 feet.

By clicking the mode switch again (and again), you can move through several more display modes.  They include:

Current system voltage
Current absolute pressure in inches or in Pascals
Current system voltage alarm level
Current display system -- English or Metric
Temperature, in Fahrenheit or Celsius
VFR Cruising alarm enable

Displaying the current system voltage is straightforward.  I've got a screen shot showing an example:

Display the voltage
The unit shown was attached a nine volt battery.  It will work fine with anything between 8 and 14 volts, so attaching to any conventional 12/14v system is fine.

One of the screens lets you select a system voltage alarm level:

Display the voltage alarm

So for my 9 volt battery, I set this to 8.6 volts.  For a 12 volt system, I would probably set it to about 12.5 volts -- it would never go off unless the alternator failed.  It flashes a battery symbol in the lower left corner of the display when the voltage is low.

I like the temperature display, because I think the design of the display icon is kind of cute.  Here it is:

Belite digital altimeter showing temperature in fahrenheit.
As mentioned, there are several other screens which the unit will display.  While stepping through the screens, you can always switch back to indicated altitude by holding the center mode switch down for about 2 seconds.

And if you hold the same button down for about six seconds, the unit will turn off.  Touching any button brings it back to life.

While on the home (indicated altitude screen) if you push the mode button down, it will turn on a soft internal backlight.  The backlight may also be attached to an external dimmer, compatible with 0 to 12 volts.

Another really interesting function for the average General Aviation pilot is the VFR cruising alarm.  This alarm, when enabled, will flash the LED with a bright Red blink pattern when your altitude varies more than 100 feet from a VFR cruising altitude.  For instance, if you are flying at 5500 feet, and the alarm is enabled, and you stray downwards to 5399 feet, the alarm will alert you.

The unit is so sensitive and accurate, you may place it at your feet and read the altitude, then move it to over your head, and read the change in altitude.  There is a little single digit inaccuracy, but you will note a change in between 6 and 10 feet.  Also, the unit is very fast -- it updates information many times per second.

Here's some basic technical information.

1.  This unit weighs 50 grams, about 1.5 ounces.

2.  This unit consumes about 1 milliamp of power.  That is one-thousandth of an amp.  (Assuming the backlight is NOT turned on.)

3.  The external dimmer line is compatible with any voltage from 0 to 12V.  Must supply up to 40ma of power for the backlight.

4.  The unit will fit in any standard round 2.25" instrument hole.

5.  You may remove the metal faceplate and directly mount the unit in any flat panel (must drill appropriate holes and cutouts to accommodate.)

6.  Power supply must be between 8 and 14 volts.

7.  Indicated altitude is shown in increments of one foot.  Internal Analog to Digital converter has less resolution but is "dithered" to increase resolution.

8.  The unit is upgradeable via firmware downloads.

9.  It will display any altitude between 0 and 20,000 feet.

10.  The VFR cruising alarm margin is +/- 100 feet.

11.  As the unit is 'experimental', it may be used in any experimental airplane or ultralight airplane.  With manufacture support, it could be used in Light Sport Aircraft.

12.  When purchased in our enclosure version, it may be used in any aircraft.

You can order it from our online store, or from Aircraft Spruce, or from any of our international distributor partners.  Pricing is $249.95 (US), or $299.95 in an enclosure with battery.

Absolute Pressure in Pascals.

In summary, my competitive sales guide would read like this:

1)  Lightest industry weight -- 50 grams
2)  Smallest size -- very thin, fits standard panel 2.25" hole
3)  Lowest power consumption -- 1 milliamp
4)  Highest resolution -- 1 foot displayed
5)  Useful range -- 0 to 20,000 feet
6)  Safety paramount -- provides Density Altitude
7)  Cool additional features:  -- voltage alarm, VFR cruising alarm, more
8)  Great value -- $249.95
9)  Also available in an enclosure for use in any airplane

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ultralight Aircraft Floats Intro Price $1950 for kit

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

** We are temporarily offering float kits for ultralight aircraft for $1950.   Pricing rises on May 16.**

Several weeks ago, I posted some limited information and pictures of our upcoming Belite amphibious floats, made from Aluminum.

I chose not to make this a product announcement at Sun N Fun.  We just weren't ready, and we had lots of other juicy stuff:  updates to our UltraCub, and lots of new instrument capabilities.

But I still thought it would be a wise idea to bring our float handiwork to Sun N Fun, put a price on them and see what happened.

Well, the first day of Sun N Fun is over, and we just officially sold our first float kit.  Wow!  A man walked up, indicated he'd been searching high and low for a great float option for his AirBike, and he found ours.  He said it made the trip from California to Sun N Fun worth it.  He left a deposit for the floats and is looking forward to the receipt of the float kit, which was promised for June.

In straight or amphibious configuration, the floats are rated for a gross aircraft weight of 620 pounds.  As a result, they are ideal for ultralight aircraft (and fat ultralight aircraft, and light experimentals) of all kinds.

Until May 15, they may be ordered for $1950 for a set of 2 straight floats in kit form.  Rivets and fittings and glue not included.  The amphibious version is available for $2950.  I will post some updated pictures of them tomorrow.  On May 16, the price rises.  How high?  I haven't determined yet.  We will formally announce this product at OshKosh, so this is our pre-intro sale.

You are required to provide a $500 or $750 deposit to reserve your float kit.  All skins come predrilled.

Here's some pics:
Ultralight aircraft floats from Belite

Ultralight floats from Belite

Ultralight floats from Belite

Monday, April 8, 2013

Updated Ultralight Aircraft from Belite: Need to know details

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

Sun N Fun 2013 demonstrator
Ultralight aircraft in metallic burgundy with accent copper

Q:         What is a Belite UltraCubTM?
A:        The Belite UltraCub is a predominantly aluminum ultralight airplane manufactured in kit and Ready To Fly form by Belite Aircraft.  It is available in several different configurations, with variations of instrumentation, landinggear, assembly materials and engines.  All configurations evoke the classic look of a Piper J3 Cub, hence the name, UltraCub.  Some of the key characteristics include:
  • Removable rear turtledeck; the plane may be flown either way.
  • Legal under FAR 103 (responsibility lies on the owner / operator)
  • Precision CNC cut aluminum parts in cabin and throughout assembly
  • Folding wings (must remove turtledeck)
  • Large wing area and flaperon area designed for low speed flight.
  • Enormous windshield and sunroof
  • Multiple storage compartments
Belite Ultracub
UltraCub flies away

Q:         What standard features and benefits does the Ready To Fly UltraCub have?
A:         All configurations include:
  • CNC cut aluminum parts throughout the entire airplane.  We use a CNC computer automated bed router for sheet metal and a four axis CNC robot for billet aluminum pieces. 
  • Taildragger configuration.
  • Folding wings.  (must remove turtledeck).  Easily and quickly fold!
  • Standard basic instruments: inclinometer, EGT/CHT, airspeed, AGL altimeter.
  • 5” tires and wheels.
  • Rear turtledeck, fully covered.  (Higher end configurations also cover the rear of the fuselage.)
  • OracalTM vinyl covering, with your choice of single color.  Very beautiful finishes!
  • Rear steerable tailwheel with steel tail wheel spring. 
  • Aluminum fuselage – riveted construction utilizing mainly 2024T3 longerons; also 7075 and 6061T6 aluminum in critical areas.  Other alloys are also used.
  • Lightweight 6061T6 aluminum lift struts.
  • 4130 Chromaloy steel landing gear “A” frames
  • Polycarbonate windshield and sunroof
  • Enhanced wing area (40” x 144”)
  • Enhanced flaperons (12” x 120”), reduces stall speed and improves roll control.
  • Intermixed aileron / flap controls, providing standard stick (aileron) and standard flap (flap handle) control with 3 notches of flaps.
  • Multiple storage compartments under seat
  • 5 gallon plastic fuel tank.
Q:         What does a Ready to Fly UltraCub cost?
A:          $15,995 + $2.50/mile delivery charge (one way) to any US destination.  This configuration includes a 28HP Hirth 2 stroke engine.  Other configurations are also available with 4 stroke engines, carbon fiber options, and additional instrumentation.  If you want everything in our option list, the price can hit $40,000.   At that price, you should expect, and you will receive, a state of the art ultralight aircraft.

Final approach for UltraCub

Q:          What does an UltraCub Kit cost?
A:         $8,495 includes the TurtleDeck and everything firewall back except instruments, paint, rivets, glue and the fuel tank.  Stiff link main gear are included.  Popular options include our spring main gear and our disc brake assemblies.  It also doesn’t include a fuel tank, but we buy ours at Walmart for about $12, and you can too.

Q:          What type of construction is used in the fuselage?
A:         It is straightforward aluminum construction.  All of the cabin area and most of the gussets have pre-drilled holes, and the rear fuselage is pre-aligned, mostly pre-drilled and ready for you to start drilling and riveting.  All main cabin bulkhead formers and gussets are CNC cut and have many pre-drilled pilot holes as well.  The builder has to trim some of the cabin longerons and members, but as these lengths are short, and all formers are square, the resulting assembly process is easy and straightforward.  Aluminum may be cut with a carbide blade table saw, or a band saw, or a hack saw.

Cabin Assembly Detail
Q:         What type of construction is used in the wings?
A:         The wigs are build with aluminum spars and CNC cub Baltic birch ribs. Everything slips together and is locked in place with Gorilla glue.  Aluminum ribs are also available, as are carbon fiber spars.

Q:         What type of construction is used in the tail feathers?
A:         The purchaser may select between aerodynamic horizontal stabilizer/elevator or pre-welded stabilizer/elevator.  The pre-welded feathers simply need to be covered.  The aerodynamic feathers are easy to build and very straightforward, like a big model airplane wing.

Q:         How is the structure covered?
A:         We use generic Dacron, glued and shrunk to the underlying wing or fuselage structure, and riveted to the aluminum ribs.   We use Stewart Systems glue for most other fabric work, and we use Oracal vinyl (available in about 80 colors) for covering over the shrunk fabric.  Kit builders may use whatever system they are comfortable with.  We supply 30 yards of Dacron with each kit!

Q:         What does an UltraCub weigh?
A:         As built by Belite, with a reliable four stroke engine, and as described in this document, it weighs 278 pounds.  This is the maximum allowed by FAR Part 103.  (Our configuration includes a parachute which is deployed by hand, for which FAR Part 103 provides a 24 pound allowance.) The rear turtledeck is not included in this weighing, as it is removable for flight.  (The rear turtledeck weighs about 7 pounds).  Much lighter weights are possible by using two stroke engines.  We don’t weigh anything required for flight; if assembled like our Sun N Fun demonstrator, the airplane may be flown without the windshield, for instance.  We even made our instrument panel easily removable, and James has flown one of the UltraCubs without a main seat – he really did it, just to prove a point.

ultralight aircraft landing
Landing an UltraCub
Q:         I see that your configuration doesn’t include an engine cowl.  How could I add one?
A:         It is available as an option for $350.  We don’t weigh them as they are removable for flight.

Q:         What other options are available?
A:         There are all kinds of options.  Check our price list for full details; we’re even offering amphibious floats.  Carbon fiber, wheels, covering completeness, paint on the aluminum, type of engine, type of parachute, instruments…  Doors – really well designed doors.  Too much to discuss here.

ultralight airplane
Belite Aircraft are available with emergency parachute.

Q:          Are other instruments available?
A:         We are happy to install any instrument manufactured by Belite Electronics, including our Multi Function Display, our Turn Coordinators, fuel gauges, etc.  We do not install other instruments.  We recommend you have other installations (EG, radio) performed by your local instrument shop.

from Belite Electronics
MultiFunction Instrument from Belite Electronics

Q:          Does the four stroke engine have electric start?
A:          It is available.  It adds 10 pounds weight, and will work in high end configurations.

Q:         What power does the 1/2VW four stroke engine develop?
A:         James likes the 45HP variation with Nickasil cylinders.  He runs it with a 58 x 22 propeller, which derates it to about 38HP.  That makes it very much in line with the original Kitfox Lite, which had a 2 stroke engine of slightly less horsepower.  Fuel consumption hasn’t been nailed down to the last drop, but James is hoping to get it below 1.5 GPH in low cruise. 

1/2 VW Engine on Belite UltraCub

Q:         Who is the engine vendor?
A:          Scott Casler, Hummel Engines is our first choice for 1/2VW aircraft engines.  Scott makes a great engine and stands behind his work.

Q:         Will other 1/2VW four stroke engines work?
A:         Absolutely.  We recommend at least 37HP.  Great Plains is a good source for plans for a complete kit. See:  And as of this writing, their 1/2VW kit is under $3400.   Furthermore, an online build manual for 1/2VW engines may be found here: 

Q:         What about the motor mount for a Belite with the half V/W?
A:         We designed it, and it is pretty small and sweet.  It is welded out of 4130 steel.

Q:         What kind of gasoline does the engine use?
A:         91 Octane auto gas.  100LL will also work just fine, but like any other aircraft engine, pay attention to lead fouling in the spark plugs.
Sun N Fun 2013 Demonstrator aircraft
Happy Flying from James!