The following story is one that moved me and might affect you similarly. I consider all recreational aviators anywhere in the world as fellow flying enthusiasts. Maybe you do, too? Whatever we fly, pilots share a love of aviation, regardless of what language we speak or what currency we spend.
I am flooded with admiration for those airplane producers in Ukraine who have courageously continued even as bombs fall and missiles fly. I have visited three Ukraine producers (some years ago) and I can only try to imagine what they are experiencing today.
In this article I want to shine a light on courageous efforts by regular Ukraine citizens to continue making aircraft that bring satisfaction to pilots in America and many other countries.
Aero Hang Gliders
As you’ll hear in the first video below, I was told a compelling story about workers in Kyiv-based Aeros going to their factory pre-dawn, entering quietly, working with reduced lighting to be less conspicuous, and locking themselves in for the workday. Whatever the present-day facts, I cannot imagine many Americans being willing to go to work under such circumstances.
Still the Aeros team continues to build and deliver their flying machines, ranging from hang gliders to trikes to the Sky Ranger three-axis airplanes (long flight review from 2007). The Ukraine company has been building these for at least 20 years; I last visited in 2003.
Aeros reported on their website, “In the last few years [we have seen] growing interest in lightweight trikes.” The company employed the term “nanolight” because this tiny trike is extremely light compared with more conventional two-seat trikes.
“These little ones attract pilots for being as portable as possible,” said Aeros. A nanolight trike, they point out, can be folded up to fit in the back of many cars; the entire aircraft can be de-rigged and stored at home with minimum time and effort.
ANT, or Aeros Nanolight Trike, is primarily aimed at those of us who like the idea of soaring a hang glider but don’t live near mountains to launch from or simply desire a way to get aloft without needing the support of a launch team. “Some pilots choose nanolight trikes just to have an alternative on normally non-soaring days, others – to open up new soaring opportunities,” explained Aeros.
Fulfilling the Aeros concept of maximum portability, ANT’s main landing gear is manually retractable even in flight, to position the main gear out of the wind stream.
A very experienced builder of both beginner and competition-grade hang gliders, Aeros has created the Discus T wing specifically for ANT. Discus T comes in two sizes, Discus 14T and Discus 15T, the number roughly relating to the square meter area of the wing. This is their best soaring choice for ANT.
Fox T is another wing for nanolight trikes, created for “those who want to feel the simplicity and real pleasure of bird-like flying,” said Aeros. Fox T offers low and slow maneuverable flying. “Fox T has been developed from our beginner Fox glider and has been reinforced and adapted exclusively for flying with nanolight trikes,” Aeros clarified.
For experienced pilots wanting maximum performance, Aeros offers their Combat T, “a step higher in nanolight technology, designed for those who want to fly faster and farther.”
Besides the Polini or Vittorazi two-stroke engines adapted from the powered paraglider industry, Aeros offers a Bailey V5 four-stroke engine (article) to minimize maintenance costs and provide greater engine reliability.
As an example, an ANT trike with a Discus T wing and a Bailey V5 at cruising speed consumes as little as two-thirds of one gallon of fuel per hour, offering incredible fun at minimal cost. “You can power fly ANT for more than three hours,” probably using less less fuel than on your drive to the airport or airfield.
I hope Aeros will be able to keep producing its flying machines throughout this time of war. It puts smiles on the faces of their customers while keeping their workers employed.
Popular & Colorful
One of the most successful LSA in the U.S. market is also manufactured in central Ukraine.
When I visited this company many years ago, they were new in western markets. Fortunately for them, a wealthy Saudi Arab businessman and flying enthusiast helped bankroll the new company.
On my visit, I saw an active operation with workers buzzing to build aircraft. However, they did so in a converted factory that was far from optimal. They made it work but they had ambitions for another facility.
I flew with principal designer, Yuri Yakovlev in an A-22 (image nearby) to a location where he planned to expand and improve their facility. The second video below shows the nice building that followed along with destruction it suffered from Russian artillery.
Like Aeros, Dennis Long indicated Aeroprakt is continuing operations despite the scary conditions in their home country. Dennis handed off Aeroprakt importation to Andy Humphrey of Heavenbound Aviation. The company is active at all major airshows.
CT and F-series
The most famous builder of LSA in Ukraine is the Germany company, Flight Design. Many years ago, company leader Matheus Betsch established a factory in Kherson (pronounced “HAIR-son”). Unless you’ve completed avoided the news you should recognize this name as one of the few areas Russia occupies in Ukraine.
I visited this city in the south of Ukraine some years ago. In addition, many LSA pilots will recognize the name Tom Peghiny, the longtime importer of the CT series. Tom married his wife in Kherson and her family remains in this area. This has been an exceedingly difficult experience for them. While the leaders of countries have their aggressive ambitions, it is the ordinary citizens of those nations that have to bear the consequences.
Flight Design’s Ukraine, German, and Czech teammates worked to shift production of CTs and the new F-series from Kherson to Šumperk in the Czech Republic. The market leader has already resumed shipments, a admirable accomplishment under the most trying and dangerous of circumstances.
This post has no political message beyond hoping for peace but I felt it was worthwhile to show how bravely those people continue working to build the aircraft many American pilots enjoy.
Here’s wishing for better times for everyone in Ukraine’s light aviation community.
- Aeros manufacturer’s website
- Worldwide distributors for Aeros
- Aeroprakt in the USA is represented by Heavenbound Aviation (website)
- Flight Design in the USA, represented by Airtime Aviation
- Article on Ukraine producers from March 2022 when Russia invaded, on this website
- Article on my long-ago visit to Aeroprakt in Ukraine
Here’s a brief look at the Aero ANT (Aeros Nanolight Trike) as seen as Oshkosh 2022.
“Following is a YouTube video from Plane Ukraine depicting the Russian destruction of Aeroprakt headquarters. The story of this destruction of one of the world’s most innovative LSA companies needs an audience.” —Forwarded by John Inglis
Most of you won’t understand the language in this video but words are not necessary to show how a beautiful facility created by Aeroprakt has been badly damaged by artillery strikes. What a shame…
John isbister says
This is off subject — Are you the Dan Johnson that was the builder or the person behind Fledge 2 and Fledge 3 ultralight aircraft? The reason I’m asking is I’m rebuilding one now. My father was an aircraft inspector for years and also a member of the EAA club and I spent my younger life learning about aviation! Unfortunately I got cancer and lost my vision in one eye and figured my flying days were over until I read about ultralights. Anyway, I have many questions I would love to ask you? Thank you.
Dan Johnson says
No, I am not that person, but you found a great website for ultralights. Check our Part 103 List..
Was excellent; real interesting to read.
Joachim H Saupe says
Thank you for this article Dan!
Skot Weidemann says
Thanks for your reporting. War should end! War is useless! Power to Ukraine!
Rich Jennings says
Thank you for reporting on the efforts of those aircraft manufacturers in Ukraine. It is inspiring to see their spirit and determination, to try to have some sense of normalcy in spite of the horror all around them. Truly great people there. Well deserving of our support.