In a world of ultralights populated with powered parachutes, powered paragliders, weight-shift trikes, and all manner of 3-axis ultralights, why not a powered hang glider? Why not return to our roots? For those too new to the scene to remember, ultralights started out as powered hang gliders. John Moody, the man widely known as the “Father of Ultralights,” first motorized and flew a hang glider called the Icarus II (which evolved into the Easy Riser). Moody’s first ultralight, back in the mid-1970s, had no landing gear and no tail because those appendages weren’t on hang gliders then, or now. After Moody’s early work – plus that of others in the hang gliding and ultralight community – other pioneers began adding power packages to more conventional hang gliders. The Easy Riser Moody flew had good performance but didn’t break down as efficiently as the fully-foldable “flex wings,” as they are commonly known today.
|(chassis only) 90-115 pounds1, (wing and chassis) 155-175 pounds2
|156 square feet
|2-3.5 pounds per square foot 2
|1can vary depending on optional equipment.
2depends on wing used.
|Zenoah G25B-1 single cylinder
|22 hp at 6600 rpm
|20.5 pounds per horsepower
|Never exceed speed
|Rate of climb at gross
|Takeoff distance at gross
|Landing distance at gross
|1depends on wing used.
|Wills Wing Falcon 225 wing (many other choices work with this 95-pound trike), in-flight recoil starting, 2.5:1 belt reduction with 52-inch prop, light weight-shift control, steerable nosewheel with trailing link design, 4130 steel main gear, 2.5-gallon fuel tank.
|Many other wing choices, electric starting, 3-blade composite prop, fairing and wheel pants are in development (available March 2000, says manufacturer), engine and flight instruments, ballistic- or hand-deployed parachute.
|6061-T6 aluminum tubing chassis, 4130 chromoly welded steel, AN hardware, Dacron® sailcloth.
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - All-new, all-American trike chassis design intended to be connected to any number of modern hang glider wings. Built ready-to-fly. Uncomplicated construction saves weight and reduces drag significantly (compared to conventional trikes). Though simple, the SkyCycle's design is well-conceived and has what it needs to get the job done. Now powder coated and with a strengthened front fork. Manufacturer is a long established, secure and successful enterprise.
Cons - No matter that it reaches its goals, the SkyCycle isn't for most ultralight pilots; neither will purist hang glider pilots embrace the SkyCycle. Overall finish is not as slick and professional as heavier European trikes (new powder coating improves the finish). No 2-place SkyCycle is available for instruction. Sink rate and glide suffer from chassis drag (versus hang glider only). Manufacturer is primarily a hang glider enterprise not focused on powered ultralights.
Subsystems available to pilot such as: Flaps; Fuel sources; Electric start; In-air restart; Brakes; Engine controls; Navigations; Radio; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Despite its simplicity, the SkyCycle has a kind of in-flight trim (part of the hang glider wing; called variable geometry) which can noticeably shift your speed range. Overhead pull starting works quite effectively and can be used while seated (e.g., after a day's soaring with the engine off). Optional electric start system available. Easy access to all components.
Cons - Design is so simple and compact that adding features will be challenging; such additions can also detract incrementally from the design's goals as a soaring machine. No hand throttle to complement foot throttle (as most heavier trikes have). No flaps or other landing aid devices currently available.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Thanks to its hang glider heritage, the SkyCycle has plenty of instruments in the lightest, smallest package ultralight pilots have seen. Four-point seat belts on test ultralight; 3-point now listed as standard. Entry and exit can hardly get easier. Seat is adequately padded.
Cons - What "cockpit?" Deliberately-minimalist design (to optimize engine-off soaring performance) offers little in amenities like pockets or instrument/radio panels. No pilot protection for cold climate operations; bundle up. Not designed to take stuff with you.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Very responsive in taxi mode. Tight turn radius is possible. Nosewheel steering benefits from trailing-link design and a new, stronger aluminum construction on models after our flight-test trike. Visibility is excellent thanks partly to a wing that can be pivoted out of the way if needed. Gear is much tougher than it looks; able to cope well with off-field landings. Plenty of prop clearance also helps in rougher fields.
Cons - No brakes offered, though arguably they aren't needed in this type of ultralight (a soaring pilot's "launch system"). As with all trikes, gusty winds require much more muscle to hold craft stable while taxiing.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Simple straightforward takeoff and landing characteristics - if you know your wing; high-performance models may be more challenging. Simple gear construction seems to do well on bumpy surfaces. Massive visibility on landings. Good climbout power (600 fpm initially) is adequate at most air parks. Good clearance - chassis and prop - allow rougher-field landings. High- performance hang glider wings offer excellent energy retention.
Cons - No trike is good at crosswind landings. No flaps or other landing aid and no true slip potential force you to plan your landings better and learn new approach techniques (like S-turning). Lack of brakes may limit use on some surfaces. Takeoff traffic visibility is somewhat limited by large, close overhead wing.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - Modern hang glider wings optimize weight-shift control to its fullest potential. Also benefiting from greater wing loading, overall control is light and highly responsive. Surprisingly quick roll rate without high muscular effort. Very light pitch that is at the same time very stable. Variable geometry changes speed range and control forces noticeably.
Cons - Many references to 3-axis control (like dutch roll exercises and adverse yaw) don't directly apply to weight-shift. Three-axis pilots definitely will have to concentrate at first (though it is actually much simpler than 3-axis). Even among trike pilots, these powered hang glider trikes may seem unusually responsive.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - Climb with the little 22-hp Zenoah engine is sprightly, at 500-600 fpm "even with heavier pilots," says LMFP. Lean, simple construction aids soaring goals by reducing frontal area and drag; very light chassis weight also helps. Wheel pants are planned as is a nose fairing. Sink rate and glide performance are very good, even with the added drag of the trike chassis (compared to a hang glider).
Cons - Sink rate and glide angle of the supporting wing are compromised by the drag of the chassis. Design begs to have lightweight fairings over the square mast, front support tube, and gear parts (see above note about added drag). Wing is loaded higher than optimal for original design, as though flown by a heavy pilot at the top of the recommended weight range.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Hang glider wings are extensively tested and industry certified in a tough program. Very positive in all normal flight regimes. Stall characteristics are positive, though the nose can break somewhat sharply. Powered characteristics are positive even during power changes. Good seat restraint and ballistic parachute were appreciated.
Cons - Hang glider wings are built with anhedral, deliberately lessening roll stability; aids overall handling but can result in tightening spirals if uncontrolled. Tailless aircraft can experience tumbles in strong soaring conditions (though trike chassis actually lessens this possibility and, for the record, this can also happen to tailed aircraft).
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - Bargain deal at $6,995 currently available (time limited). Normally sold as chassis and you add the hang glider you may already own. The SkyCycle is a very attractive choice for aging hang glider pilots wanting to do some soaring without the foot-landing effort. Allows complete power-launch and lift to the thermals; climbs vigorously at 500-600 fpm even with heavier pilots. Excellent flight characteristics which vary with the wing you select. No building hassles. Easy, compact storage. Qualifies under FAR Part 103 with room to spare.
Cons - Trike chassis is sold as adaptable to many wings (that you may already own), but unless you buy the wing ready-to-fly from the manufacturer, you have a duty to determine if the wing is appropriate and to assure the correct attach point. Limited market (single-seater aimed at soaring flight) may lower eventual resale, at least in a fast sale. Simply put, this ultralight won't appeal to many ultralight enthusiasts.