Here’s the sharp new Solairus (yes, that’s the right spelling) from North Wing, the premiere American producer of weight-shift trike ultralights and Light-Sport Aircraft. Solairus easily qualifies as a Part 103 ultralight vehicle meaning no license is needed. The fresh design is a departure from the usual trike and the one we examine is powered with a four stroke engine with electric starting. You’ll want to watch the video to get all the details.
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North Wing — Solairus (Mini Pilot Report)
Here’s another in our growing series of mini pilot reports where you get some of the benefits of a full-length pilot report in a video format. This time it’s the new Solairus from North Wing. Any weight shift enthusiast could love it but for those of us who enjoy soaring flight, here’s a dream come true… even more so for those who don’t live near mountains or an airpark where they can tow you aloft.
Can a Minimal Aircraft Deliver Maximum Enjoyment …Affordably? Yes, North Wing Does It!
A Message of Thanks
on a Day of Thanksgiving
Does a “simple aircraft” seem a contradiction in modern aviation? Today, a mid-range LSA is commonly equipped with sophisticated digital avionics, autopilot, articulating fowler flaps, carbon airframes, powerful engines, numerous safety items and quite a bit more. Doesn’t everyone want those features?
Is is even possible to fly an aircraft without all these advanced devices and services? Who would want such a simple aircraft?
You might be surprised. Over the years I’ve come to believe that Part 103 ultralights (see a lengthy list of 103s) are selling at roughly the same rate as Light-Sport Aircraft (market stats). I frequently get pushback when making this statement but I believe part of the answer is that these aircraft don’t fly where larger, more powerful, faster, noisier aircraft fly. Most 103 aviators fly out of fields or airparks.
All-American and Affordable — North Wing Has an Expert History in Washington State
Let’s return to affordable aviation after two wonderful shows full of shiny new aircraft. Turbine engines and sleek composite fuselages interest plenty of pilots but then most of us come back to reality and start looking at aircraft we can afford.
Some can pay the invoice on a high-end aircraft to enjoy its capabilities. That’s terrific. Who knows… you might score their used aircraft for a large discount in a few years. For many, though, new is nice yet something much more modest will suffice if it gets them safely up and down to enjoy the view of their surroundings or simply practice a few touch and goes. Any way you can fly is a good way, I’d say.
I’ve been around recreational aviation a while. So has been North Wing, the company formed by Kamron Blevins. He started building wings for trikes 26 years ago in 1996.
The New Part 103 List — Current Draft List Shows MORE Producers …Surprised?
UPDATED (again!) 12/11/20: Still refining the list. —DJ
A great many of you read the article about the new Part 103 List. Your enthusiasm plus lots of comments reflect the strong interest generated by these lightest, most-affordable, and fun-to-fly aircraft.
With input from readers and through more research, I have increased the draft list to the one you see below, now 53 producers strong! Honestly… I expect even more.
Many readers were surprised by the number of producers of these aircraft that too many pilots thought were dead and buried by Light-Sport Aircraft and FAA’s requirement that previous two-seat ultralight trainers had to leave paid flight instruction and become private aircraft.
As the list shows — and as my plan to attempt counting the number of aircraft built every year proves — Part 103 Ultralight Vehicles are indeed alive and thriving.
Keep Helping, Please!
If these aircraft interest you, please review the list and tell me of any additional producers I did not include.
How To Account for Growing Part 103 Ultralight Sales? Here’s My Plan (But Please Help!)
Pilots around the world are aware of Part 103 Ultralights but many have a blurry view of the industry that produces these aircraft. Most are unaware how well this often-overlooked segment is doing in recent years, even during Covid 2020.
FAA refers to these lightweight flying machines as “ultralight vehicles,” a term that creative rulewriters adopted in the early 1980s to avoid heavy regulations typical for “aircraft.” This wording helped the young industry grow and develop. It worked so well the regulation has not been altered for decades.
Even ultralight enthusiasts in America and other countries may not be fully aware how popular ultralights have become in recent years. When Light-Sport Aircraft came on the scene in 2004 they knocked out the ultralight two-seater training fleet. Many believe ultralights never recovered.
How wrong they were, yet who can blame them because no one truly knows how many ultralights are being built and sold these days.
Staring At Goat — Wild Sky’s Brutus Off-Field, Outback Weight Shift Trike Light-Sport Aircraft
If you flew better than 9,000 hours solely to give trike instruction, you would tend to develop ideas about how an aircraft can better fit the type of flying lessons you want to give. That’s exactly what Wild Sky owner Denny Reed reports.
Denny has an enviable position to some. Imagine any fixed wing instructor saying, “I wish the aircraft would do some operations differently for my teaching. I can’t find one that exactly matches what I seek, so, you know what? I’ll just design what I want.”
Yeah, sure. Most of us never have that chance. Instead, we learn to adapt to the aircraft. As an example, what if you wanted the throttle in a different place, or any number of possible changes.
In a long career that has included talking to CFIs from around the world, I have never met a fixed wing flight instructor who set about making the airplane he truly wanted.
Try and Fly TriFly — Kolb’s Wonderful Single Seat Light Aircraft Goes Both Ways
Some pilots are wary of taildraggers. This is hardly surprising since only tricycle-gear aircraft have been used in primary flight instruction dating back into the 1970s. Most pilot have no experience with taildraggers but nearly all have heard of the dreaded ground-loop tendency such gear configuration can allow.
Indeed, when investigating insurance for a taildragger, you will have to prove you have some experience or get training from a suitably-experienced instructor — and you won’t find many able to help you.
How about if an aircraft went both ways? What if an affordable aircraft allowed you to fly with tricycle gear but permitted you to practice your taildragger technique yet still use the nosewheel’s self-straightening capability if you start to get a little “sideways” (literally or figuratively)?
Kolb Aircraft has an answer.
Producers of Part 103 aircraft, such as Kolb Aircraft report consistently strong business for the last few years.
Aviation Future Shock? Questions & Answers with a Australian Editor
Recently I had an exchange with Australian Flying magazine editor, Steve Hitchen. He asked some great questions and after giving my responses I realized some of his question were common ones I hear being discussed. So why not share our give-and-take? Steve’s questions are in blue.
I’d like to talk about power. With LSA restricted to 120 KIAS, it seems unlikely we’ll get much engine development to increase power unless regulations change to either allow an increase in speed or gross weight.
LSA are getting more power, to wit, Rotax’s new 915iS with 135-horsepower and the Continental Titan line with 180 horsepower. I do not think this is the end of the horsepower boosts …plus LSA speed and/or weight changes could conceivably follow in the USA but are currently not limitations in other countries that accept the ASTM standards as a basis for approval or certification.
North Wing Design
North Wing is America’s leading manufacturer of weight shift LSA and Part 103 ultralight trikes. The company’s wing designs are so good that most other trike manufacturers use them. Aircraft prices are highly affordable by all.