My moment of truth is fast approaching. Will I succeed or fail to predict the future? I have been repeating my forecast that FAA will announce a draft of their newest regulation, called an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making) at EAA’s big summer celebration of flight. I’m not betting the farm, though. I think it’s a fairly safe prediction. To win an increase in their budget a few years back, FAA agreed to complete a new regulation by December 31, 2023. That new reg is widely known as Mosaic; its full name is Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certification. Because FAA has said the agency needs 16 months to read every comment and adjust the final regulation language accordingly, seeing the future is simple math. Go back in time 16 months from the end-of-year deadline in 2023 and you end up at… yep! — AirVenture Oshkosh 2022. We will see if they meet their goal.
Phone: 985-536-3994Reserve, LA 70084 - USA
Introducing Aero 1000 A Fascinating "Collaboration"You could hardly miss Air-Tech Inc's airplane with its day glow orange and lime green coloration. The airplane was so bright I completely missed the engine until I returned for more… as promised in yesterday's preview article. Upon closer inspection, this Sprint model was powered by Aero 1000, a single-cylinder, four-stroke engine with impressive specs. Air-Tech said it outputs 39 horsepower — similar to the Rotax 447 — and is extremely economical on fuel. "It also has a great sound," said Ken Borne in our video interview about the engine. How does a small displacement engine (250 cc) get that kind of power from one cylinder? Part of the magic is high revolutions. "This engine runs at 9200 rpm." said Ken. The engine idles at 1800-2000 rpm, he added. Is Aero 1000 a creation of Air-Tech, Inc., the longtime Quicksilver representative that now owns the rights? No, they didn't originate this. That effort was done by Mike Robinson, owner and CEO of Blackhawk Paramotor USA. His powered paraglider company sells lots of "quads," four wheel carriages for pilots who like powered paragliders but don't want to rely on their legs for foot launching. (Blackhawk also makes foot launched models.) Blackhawk's search for the right engine for their quads lead them to an Swiss engine popular with cart racing enthusiasts. These racers push the engines hard and after years of working to improve the breed, the base engine has become very reliable. Blackhawk later created a mount construction for the engine to be used on their quads. Bever and Ken noticed this development at AirVenture Oshkosh where the two companies have side-by-side display spaces. They got to talking as vendors do at airshows. After Mike said some of his paraglider customers wanted to investigate fixed wing flying, Bever and Mike struck an agreement to try out the Blackhawk configuration on their Quicksilver line. Bever said the final installed weight of the Aero 1000 with reduction drive and exhaust and all other components is about 15 pounds more than the Rotax 447 with its driveshaft and other hardware. Most pilots will readily give up 15 pounds of useful load to have four-stroke reliability and reduced noise. Bever and Ken have fitted the Aero 1000 to their Sprint after building fairly simple hardware to support the engine — see nearby photos of engine and mounts. When I asked if this particular aircraft with the Aero 1000 powering it honestly stays within Part 103 limits, Ken responded without hesitation, "Yes, it does." While Air-Tech conducts flight testing of the Sprint with Aero 1000, get more information on the engine from Blackhawk. Air-Tech and their collaboration with Blackhawk may have hit a beautiful note with Aero 1000. Contact Air-Tech to inquire further.
Aero 1000 SPECIFICATIONS information supplied by Air-Tech Inc.
- Displacement — 250 cubic centimeters (cc)
- Power Output — 39 horsepower
- Fuel Delivery — Electronic fuel injection
- Carburetor Adjustment — Electronic compensation
- Reduction Drive — Belt drive with clutch
- Cooling — Liquid
- Efficiency — 1.2 gallons per hour at economy cruise
A year ago at Sun ‘n Fun 2021, I reported on a Rotax 503 replacement built in Russia. This information was warmly received at the time because the 503 powerplant was much beloved by ultralight enthusiasts. Little did we know last year that Putin would invade Ukraine and plunge both countries into disarray. The RMZ 500 engine seemed to promise a return to the popular engine. It will surely be months if not years before we see more of them. Despite the former popularity of the Rotax 503 fifteen years ago, one of the most common questions asked of Part 103 producers today is, “Can you provide a four-stroke engine?” It’s not an easy order to fill; two-strokes are potent sources of power at minimal weight, what’s called power-to-weight ratio. Any four-stroke engine is hard pressed to match the power-to-weight ratio of the best two-stroke engines. At Sun ‘n Fun 2022, Gene “Bever” Borne and son Ken of Air-Tech Inc.
More on CP Falcon 503"I wanted to thoroughly test it," Andy said. Yeah, I guess! Eighteen years is a long development cycle but it was not originally intended for market. Yet, this once-personal project took on a life of its own. "Now that I think I've got it perfected," Andy expressed, "we're going to start production on this in 2021." Falcon has a lot of components so it will be more expensive. "Yes," Andy agreed, "it will be a little higher priced aircraft — it takes a lot of time to assemble — but it will fly like a Quicksilver, so those pilots who want to fly faster now have a choice." A Quicksilver-type design like the standard "Smithsilvers" that Tri-State makes from scratch typically cruise 40-60 mph where Falcon is as much as 50% faster. "Yes, this will be a little higher-priced aircraft," Andy observed, "and it must be built as an Experimental Amateur Built." Let's put it in perspective, noting that all prices mentioned below are subject to change. A standard single place Smithsilver by Tri-State Kite Sales assembled for fly away costs about $28,000, said Andy. A two-place with all the extras gets into the high $40,000s and Falcon with a Rotax 503 may come out at about $75,000 equipped as extensively as the one pictured nearby. For those with genuine power lust, a Rotax 582 is also available for about $10,000 more. Contact Tri-State (see near end) for an exact quote and delivery times. "I created Falcon to be a comfort cruiser for cross country flying," Andy related. Falcon and the other Smithsilvers may look a lot like a Quicksilver but they are fully Tri-State creations after many years of operation. Mark Smith founded the company in the late 1970s and formally organized in 1981. In those 40 years, Tri-State has delivered more than 200 complete aircraft and an uncounted number of aircraft served with replacement parts or Tri-State accessories from fiberglass nose pods to new wing covers and everything in between. Of all these, Falcon may be the most advanced and sophisticated. It may look like a simple Quicksilver or a Tri-State Smithsilver but Falcon is a step beyond on many ways, for example, creature comforts. Falcon has a full enclosure, front to back, and even has cabin heat. "I tested this down to 17 degrees ambient temperature, and you can stay about 70 degrees inside the cockpit." While the snow swirls around Tri-State and much of the country, that climate control sounds inviting. Cross country flying is one of the stated purposes. How fast can Falcon fly? "I can hit 93 miles an hour," exclaimed Andy, "and cruise is a solid 80 mph." For those unfamiliar with a standard Quicksilver or Smithsilver, that's a substantial increase, more than 20 miles an hour faster on average. As a nearby image shows, the Rotax 503 engine is nestled down in the aft wing center section because Andy wanted to lower the thrust line to a more neutral position. This means the dual-carb Rotax 503 and its 50 horses push the airplane forwards with less pitch influence, which is a significant part of how it can achieve higher speeds. "Falcon's standard instrument panel has all your flight information," explained Andy, "while all the engine instrumentation is housed on the right vertical support strut. Above your head are all the electric switches for electric flaps, ignition switches and lighting controls." Unlike every Quicksilver or Smithsilver, Falcon has a control yoke as does Quicksilver's GT500 and GT400 models. However, unlike those Quicksilver models, this yoke has been configured specially to make entry much easier. Falcon has a door that props open but when I looked at, I thought entry looked rather challenging. What I missed were the steps Andy took in designing a yoke that neatly folds out of the way. When so retracted, entering Falcon looks easy. Once in place you pull the yoke back toward you and it latches securely into position. With details like this, no wonder Any spent years getting Falcon right on paper and three more to get the pieces and parts in the right place. Falcon's cabin even has a hat rack …or in this case, a headset rack as that's what Andy puts in this location.
Want More Info?At this time, Tri-State is making a much-needed update to their website. Andy referred to the current one as a "nostalgia website" because it holds extensive commentaries written by Mark Smith, the patriarch of Tri-State. His words make a fun, and historic, read but what the vintage website does not do is provide clear navigation to the various aircraft models and component parts or assemblies that Tri-State builds. The new website will address these shortcomings while hopefully keeping all Mark's original musings. Until the new website is finished, visit Tri-State's "Hangar Talk" Facebook page. If you want more or are ready to act, use these contacts:
In this video, I interview Andy Alldredge about his Falcon at Midwest LSA Expo 2020. https://youtu.be/wEeK3GWCYMs
* Tri-State Kite Sales is a name dating to the earliest days of Quicksilver, when the company that birthed this design was called Eipper-Formance (one of the original partners was named Dick Eipper). In those formative days of the mid-1970s, hang gliders were often generically called "kites." Since the very first Quicksilver was an unpowered glider, early buyers casually called them kites as well. The name stuck even if it does not mean much these days. Another large and very successful supplier of component parts and accessories for Quicksilver airplanes is Air-Tech, Inc., run by Gene "Bever" Borne and his son, Ken. They're still at it but the Louisiana business now owns the entire Quicksilver line (excluding GT500) and continues to supply new kits, fully-built 103s, Special Light-Sport Aircraft models, and lots of parts and accessories needed by Quicksilver owners.
One of the most successful airplane designs of all time is the Quicksilver. Van’s Aircraft of RV fame has delivered more kits, yet with 10,869 RVs presently flying, Quicksilver still remains far ahead with more than 15,000 flying. Naturally, such market success spawned other builders. Those who attempted to copy and duplicate Quicksilvers have mostly faded away but some enterprises (see at bottom) built a business out of supplying parts and components that Quicksilver itself never offered. One of the most successful of these is Tri-State Kite Sales, based in Mt. Vernon, Indiana — and no, not Mt. Vernon, Illinois where the Midwest LSA Expo is held every September. Andy Alldredge started his Falcon project 18 years ago when he was a lad of 20. The airplane looked good enough that I thought it was something new but, nope. This is a well flown aircraft that has been well maintained.
Quicksilver MXQuicksilver's MX entered the market in the early 1980s, like all the models featured in our Vintage Ultralight series. Originally designed by Jack Hutchinson for Eipper Aircraft as a single-place weight-shift-control ultralight, the first ones were literally light enough to be (sort of) foot-launched, as was required before FAR Part 103 came out in fall of 1982. Alert readers may note that Jack Hutchinson was mentioned back at the beginning of this series as he was also instrumental in developing the Buccaneer XA. He was a big name in those days. I have a fond memory, down here in Florida many years ago, of him running around a field with a very early powered Quicksilver. It had a tiny engine but no landing gear …none whatsoever. Jack picked it up — albeit dragging the curved tail skid — added all the thrust 10 or 12 horsepower could yield, and he ran. And ran. And ran. I think Jack ran the length of a couple football fields and only managed to barely get a foot or so off the ground. Average speed: maybe 15 mph. Yeah, those were the days! With more power and further development, Quicksilvers got better. And better. And better. The California manufacturer sold a ton of them. By the time the earliest MX models came out, Quicksilver was a huge force in putting people in the sky. In one year — a reader reminded me it was 1983 — the company sold more aircraft than Cessna, Piper, and Beechcraft combined. That got the attention of plenty of aviators. Average selling price back then, for a ready to fly aircraft: $3,595.00. (Today, that would be $9,667 after adjusting for inflation — still a fantastic bargain, and as you'll read below, you can still buy one for the original low price.) Quicksilver MX is a high-wing, tricycle-gear, two-axis control aircraft in a pusher configuration. It was the first ultralight to be mass-marketed and mass-produced. As a bolt-together assembly kit, Quicksilver required no manufacturing of parts by the builder. All fabrication was done at the factory. A kit took between 60 and 80 hours to assemble, using common hand tools, and could be built in as little as a one-car garage. Accomplished builders, often dealers for the brand, could put one together in less than 20 hours. Quicksilver was the first ultralight kit on the market to come with a very comprehensive assembly manual, with all of the AN bolts and anodized tubing clearly marked and supplied on shrink-wrapped packaging boards. No one had anything like this organization at the time and I've never seen such packaging again. Originally power was supplied by the Cuyuna 430 engine but this powerplant was later updated to the Rotax 377 and then Rotax 447 engine. With 40 horsepower, the very lightweight Quicksilver MX climbed with great vigor although it simply didn't fly fast no matter how much power you put on it. The MX model abandoned the weight shift idea — this was too foreign to lots of potential customers. Instead, it used stick-and-rudder two-axis controls, but with a difference. The joystick connected to the elevator and rudder while the rudder pedals were connected to spoilerons on top of the wing. Admittedly, this still throws pilots who learned in a Cessna 150, but if you ignored what controlled what and simply flew it as you expected, it worked surprising well but with an advantage no 150 driver ever considered: the pilot could deploy both spoilerons at the same time by depressing the rudder pedals. This killed lift on the wings and allowed the aircraft to get into very short runways. Despite it's functionality, some pilots didn't like the arrangement and the company later adapted conventional ailerons with all the controls hooked up as expected. Then and now, single-place Quicksilvers use a right-hand joystick and left-hand throttle. Brakes are common now, but for years Quicksilver didn't have any …and never really needed them. With Quicksilver MX a market leader in its day, the iconic series of models still leads the world in ultralight aircraft style kits. Videoman Dave wrote, "The Quicksilver MX is one of the safest, most fun flying ultralight aircraft I have ever flown, and I highly recommend it." Through his The Ultralight Flyer YouTube channel, Dave rates the Quicksilver MX an A+ when powered by a Rotax engine, with good, tested fabric, an airworthy propeller and a low time engine. Please follow the inspection advice given in the first installments of the Vintage Ultralight series. For a troubleshooting report on the MX, visit Videoman Dave's website (different from his YouTube channel). At the time of production of this video The Ultralight Flyer would estimate the value of a used not-abused Quicksilver MX to be $3,500 to $5,000. For new Quicksilver aircraft and the most extensive stock of replacement parts for every model ever made, visit Air-Tech, Inc. Proprietor Bever Borne was once the largest dealer for Quicksilver in the world. His Louisiana business owns all the original tooling and he runs the business with his son, Ken. You can find so much more info about Quicksilver on this website that you might never stop reading.
Ah, the Quicksilver! Where to start with this veritable icon of the ultralight sector? With more than 15,000 flying, it even outranks Van’s Aircraft for kit aircraft that made it into the air — although Van’s has sold more kits in total and no one disputes the Western brand’s leadership position. The earliest Quicksilvers were hang gliders (last photo). Engines came later but at first the weight-shift seat stayed (nearby image). The pilot had lateral control — still by weight shift — but via lines that moved surfaces. Pitch, however, was fully controlled by the pilot moving his or her body. Those were fun days and provided wonderful memories (yes, I flew them as weight-shift aircraft). Yet the brand went on to vastly greater development. In this article, our focus is on the original three-axis control model, the oh-so-famous MX (multiple axis). Quicksilver MX Quicksilver’s MX entered the market in the early 1980s, like all the models featured in our Vintage Ultralight series.
If you want to know any and everything about Quicksilver, one man knows it all. He is even more knowledgeable about the aircraft than the company(ies) that have owned the brand as he’s been associated with Quicksilver for 40 years, through every owner of the California company. His Lousiana company, Air-Tech, now possesses all inventory and tooling for every part the manufacturer made. He and his team can and will support all parts needed for any model… a great thing. Hear from this interesting fellow in this video.
One of the major stumbles in the light aircraft world was the closure of Quicksilver Aeronautic’s southern California factory in Temecula. That ended a long-running era dating back to the 1970s. See articles here and here. Plenty of folks expressed concern. Their worry was warranted. As a kit supplier, Quicksilver was one of the most prolific in aviation history with more than 15,000 kits delivered, nearly every one of which got airborne after the short build time. Some have been retired due to age, accident, or neglect, but many thousands continue to fly. What happens when that large fleet can no longer buy parts? With the factory closed, are all those owners orphaned, having no factory-fresh parts available? Don’t worry, be happy (so the song said). “We currently have all the Quicksilver parts in stock and are shipping mass quantities daily,” said Gene “Bever” Borne, of Air-Tech, Inc.
You could say 15,000 aircraft buyers can’t be wrong and you’d be right. Quicksilver, in several various corporate iterations, has indeed sold 15,000 aircraft kits for its whole line including what they call the MX series and the GT series. Going back to the early 1980s — or even earlier when the company was a hang glider producer under the namer Eipper Formance — the company has made so many models I could nearly fill a post with the names, so I won’t try to list them all. Suffice it to say this is one of the most prolific airplane companies since the Wright brothers first flew. Today, the line up includes the aircraft in the nearby photos called Sprint. It’s a single seater, now positioned as the MX-103. As the company notes on their slickly upgraded website, “[We are] launching the MX 103 a legal ultralight with 50 horsepower engine for $18,900 fully assembled.” They note that MX 103 is based on the MX Sprint that has a long track record of safety and ruggedness in an open air flying machine.