For years I’ve said that of all aircraft to succeed with battery electric flight, the first truly usable, enjoyable aircraft would be a Part 103 ultralight. I’ll list several reasons below but the aircraft you see in these images is already flying with electric propulsion and you can get on the list now. U-Fly-It boss Dennis Carley said they are working on a name. For now, I’ll call the new entry the Electric Aerolite 103 and this machine is ready for market. A few customers already offered payments to get in line (more on that below, too) and one man wrote a check for an Electric Aerolite even while he keeps flying his gasoline-powered Aerolite. How’s that for a vendor’s dream? Are you ready for electric? It’s ready for you! “Clean and Tidy” You hear that phrase about Aerolite fairly often. A very knowledgeable veteran of the light aircraft business, Scott Severen, spoke of visiting U-Fly-It, producer of the Aerolite.
Phone: 386-738-4444DeLand, FL 32724 - United States
Why Parachutes?Any way you look at it, an airframe parachute adds cost, weight, and bulk. These systems cost real money (thousands), add "non-functioning" weight (16 to 50 pounds depending on the airplane's weight and speed), and fill up space you might use otherwise (a BRS system for the Cessna 172 uses a substantial share of the baggage space in that model). All these things — cost, weight, and bulk — are negatives, yet pilots buy these emergency systems regularly. Companies like BRS, Magnum, and Galaxy have sold tens of thousands of these systems. Every single Cirrus (and Flight Design) comes standard with an airframe parachute, so that means almost 10,000 aircraft just in those two brands. I've flown with airframe parachutes for years and I love having such a system on board. I actually stopped flying at night in airplanes without a parachute system. One smooth night over North Carolina with my wife and two friends in a Cessna Hawk XP, Randee asked, "What would you do if the engine quit here?" It was pitch black outside and I knew from previous flights that under us were trees stretching out past the horizon. It was a valid question. Touches a nerve, doesn't it? Aren't we trained for night flying? Don't we practice engine-out procedures? Well, yes, Private Pilots can fly at night (they should be current) but the training concentrates on normal night operations. I've never known an instructor who guides students through engine-out-at-night procedures far from any airport. Whatever you think about night (or other potentially hazardous) flying, an airframe parachute may ease your mind — and achieving that means you will fly more capably. It's a personal decision, of course, but for me, I'll take a parachute anytime.
What About Parachutes?Magnum Parachutes are offered in three packaging concepts. Each serves its own purpose and offers different attributes. Parachutes are sold for aircraft of varying weights and speeds. Each installs unique to that aircraft. Softpacks — These are the lightest and least expensive units, and are therefore popular on Part 103 aircraft where their reduced weight offers advantages. While subject to weather contamination, such as rain, they are easier to inspect. The parachute inside is identical to the other packing methods. Canisters — Placing the parachute inside an aluminum canister protects it from elements and allows a pressure-packed parachute that can make the package significantly smaller. This is good when parachutes are large enough to deal with two and four seat aircraft. Most airframe parachutes have open diameters significantly wider than the span of the wings on the aircraft they are supporting. Stuffing all that densely into a canister system makes it much smaller with the canister itself adding only modestly to weight. VLS (Vertical Launch Systems) — Canisters and soft packs generally aim to the side and can fire upwards or downwards as need to avoid aircraft structure during deployment. Many aircraft, though, work best when that system can eject upwards. However, no matter which way a parachute ejects (is drawn out by its rocket motor), it always opens downwind of the aircraft — usually behind it though not necessarily if the aircraft is in an upset attitude. Buy by Weight — Two criteria dictate which parachute is used on which aircraft: weight and speed. Heavier weights require larger or multiple canopies (a Cirrus SR22 canopy is over 50 feet wide at the canopy mouth). Faster aircraft need mechanisms to slow the opening of the canopy if speeds are very high — Magnum can handle up to 199 mph! However, if that speedy aircraft is flying slowly when the canopy is deployed, opening should be faster. The self-speed-sensing "slider" (black ring on nearby image) automatically adjusts, slowing deployment — and reducing forces on sewn seams — at high speeds while not slowing the canopy opening if speed is slow. It's a smart solution. Fitting to Airplanes — Each airplane mounts somewhat differently. This increases the work effort for the parachute seller but assures each should perform optimally if needed. Mounting hardware to hold the soft pack, canister, or VLS varies by airplane as do the Kevlar connecting straps, the rocket motor activation housing, and the location of the firing handle. The latter is an important element because if you need to use a parachute, the situation will be tense and confusing and the handle should be in easy reach. Then, a mighty pull on that handle gets you nearly instantaneous action. Service — Parachutes need to be removed, inspected and repacked every few years and rocket motors are generally replaced at longer intervals. Magnum Parachutes in DeLand Florida is equipped and experienced to help service these systems. One important note: Do not try to ship a live rocket without specific equipment and advice — and, don't fire a rocket just to see if it works. These devices fire very quickly (by design, of course) and their velocity is impressive. You wouldn't try to dodge a rifle bullet. Assume a rocket is similarly fast but more powerful. To prevent down time during service Magnum has a great offer: "Loaner Canopy When Yours is Due for Repack. That's right! A a loaner canopy, of the same size and style as the one you purchase from us, is available at no charge for installation in your aircraft while your system is being inspected and repacked (repack cycles are 6 years for most systems). This allows our customers to continue to fly with a complete ballistic recovery system in their aircraft while theirs is being repacked! No other parachute company offers their customers this peace of mind!" Magnum Parachute repack costs are considerably less expensive than most other manufacturer's, said Dennis Carley, proprietor of Magnum Parachutes USA. "For our Softpack systems the repack cycles is five years instead of only one or two years with other brands. Prices run $660 to $975 so about $100 to $150 per year." Parachute-Use Scenarios — Beside loss of an engine at night, other scenarios include loss of power over unlandable terrain (water for example — ditching with fixed gear aircraft usually means coming to a stop upside down), mid-air collision, loss of control, incapacitation of the pilot, and severe weather disorientation. Most owners of these systems agree with this statement: "You may never deploy your parachute, but you use it every time you fly. You can pay full attention to safe operation knowing that if you use up all the skill your training taught you, you still have one more option. It's peace of mind." That's worth a lot. Magnum Ballistic Parachute Systems have been available in the United States since 2006. Today, representation by Dennis Carley assures buyers of a consistent, reliable sales and service provider for the Magnum models.
Here is a short video (4min 12sec) that will be followed by a fuller explanation with detail of how the system mounts on an Aerolite 103. https://youtu.be/GYfNhUiYoOU
Aviation preaches safety long and loud. This dedication within the aviation community has made flying safer than driving despite what landlubbers believe is a risky way to travel. Aviators know better, of course. We work hard at making flying safe. It’s not lucky or some accident of choice. We are all proud of our skill at taking an airplane aloft and returning it safely to terra firma. Except when we cannot… Why Parachutes? Any way you look at it, an airframe parachute adds cost, weight, and bulk. These systems cost real money (thousands), add “non-functioning” weight (16 to 50 pounds depending on the airplane’s weight and speed), and fill up space you might use otherwise (a BRS system for the Cessna 172 uses a substantial share of the baggage space in that model). All these things — cost, weight, and bulk — are negatives, yet pilots buy these emergency systems regularly.
CGS Hawk in 2020The video below and the text that follows are part of The Ultralight Flyer (TUF) project I have called "Ultralight April 2020." I urge you to visit Videoman Dave's popular YouTube channel and to support his work. Even though we work together, I also paid real cash to be a Lifetime member: $49.95… as good a bargain as you'll find. The point of this series of short (5-minute) videos is to identify aircraft almost anyone can afford. I should not have to say it, but please don't assume a $5,000, decades-old ultralight will compare well to a modern LSA. The good news is that, in some ways, such a low-cost aircraft might even be more fun assuming you use good judgement about when and where to fly. Over 40 years have passed with many Hawk aircraft still safely flying today. Some are offered for sale on various outlets. Both Dave and I have flown CGS Hawks — go here to see a long list of my Hawk reviews …I believe for every model Chuck ever made. My words and Dave's videos give recommendations for aircraft that we have flown, owned, and/or built. As Dave notes, all of the aircraft featured in his series still have manufacturers producing parts for their repair and continued airworthiness! In the video below Videoman Dave gives you a quick look at the ground-breaking (for its day) aircraft. Chuck Slusarcyk introduced his proud creation at Sun 'n Fun 1982. After conducting a survey at a previous show, Chuck learned that pilots were looking for an affordable, enclosed, strut-braced, three-axis-control ultralight with flaps tricycle gear, and a steerable nosewheel (such was not common in those days). Like most ultralights of the time, Hawk was a pusher configuration. A Hawk kit is available brand new in either tricycle gear or taildragger. Using bolt-and-rivet aluminum-tube construction Hawk is built around a uniquely curved main boom tube. Everyone asked about the boom and Chuck had a ready answer: "It's a 52-foot radius curve." In those days, such construction was quite unusual. An original Hawk kit took between 350 and 400 hours to build. It can be built in as little as a single car garage, using common hand tools. A small air compressor and rivet gun will save your gripping muscles. Once the airframe and wings are completed they are covered in sewn envelopes of Dacron sail cloth. Hawk features zippered doors that can be removed. The design features standard stick and rudder controls, with a flap handle located just above and to the left of the pilot's head. Power was originally supplied by the Cuyuna 430 engine but later models used the Rotax 377, and 447 engines. Current ultralight models often use a single-cylinder Hirth (video review) engine. Cruise is typically around 55 miles per hour. It has an honest climb rate of between 600 and 750 feet per minute, and stall with flaps can be as low as 22 miles per hour. A number of float systems can be retrofitted to the Hawk, as can snow skiis. Other options include a ballistic parachute system, and an in-cabin heater. IMPORTANT: If you consider purchasing a used CGS Hawk, The Ultralight Flyer recommends that the plane's fabric be tested and the airframe, wings, landing gear, and the control systems be thoroughly inspected! If the history of the engine is unknown it is recommended that the exhaust be removed and the pistons inspected for wear and seizure! At the time of production of this video The Ultralight Flyer estimates the value of a used CGS Hawk from the 1980s to be worth between $3,500 and $5,500. The Ultralight Flyer also recommends that the buyer contact CGS Aviation to inquire about any modifications or updates that the factory might recommend.
Way back when, long before the birth of the Light-Sport Aircraft segment (in 2004), lots of us flew ultralights. They were barely more than powered hang gliders — except one. Before 1982 these lightest-of-all aircraft were required to be foot-launchable. It’s true. I once staggered into the air partly carrying, partly dragging a Quicksilver. I got airborne thanks to a generous 15 mph headwind that provided about three quarters of the speed I needed for… um, you can’t call it “rotation,” but to get enough lift that I could sit down. Yes, “sit down.” You didn’t think I ran for take off while sitting comfortably belted into a secure seat did you? Nope, that Quicksilver had a literal swing seat and a special rear axle that allowed a full stride of your legs. OK, that requirement proved futile and FAA later dropped it, but one guy in particular drove that older requirement into the annals of history.
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.
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.
What would be the point of more powerful engines on LSA?
Well, that topic could take us down quite a lengthy path. Let me offer a somewhat shorter reply. You are right about many tech developments — and on that I point you to an article published recently in General Aviation News' "The Pulse of Aviation." Two thoughts: (1) I believe the LSA sector has reached an interesting level of maturity. The pace of major innovations may have slowed but the most important developments are now common on most LSA (and light kits). This situation is not so different than smartphones that totally upended mobile a decade ago with the introduction of the iPhone. In a similar time period, that industry has also matured and development has lost its torrid pace. (2) The funny thing about innovation is you often don’t know how or when it might emerge. Electric propulsion is one possibility and then we are seeing the first glimmer of a new class of aircraft with a collection of spinning blades or rotating wings. Who can guess where precisely that is headed? Whatever the coming changes, they will work first on lighter aircraft. My article referenced above tries to speculate a bit.
There's already a lot of technology in LSA thanks to the need to save weight, which has me wondering where the sector is going. Can you provide me with some thoughts?
One definition of composite is "made of various materials." In the past "composite" implied fiberglass. LSA already rely on fiberglass, aluminum, and steel but add high-tech materials such as Kevlar, carbon fiber, and titanium. Today, the most advanced designs have significantly carbon fiber airframes, partly for weight but also strength as well as aerodynamic efficiency and design beauty.
Composite versus metal. Is there something else? What type of composites are in common use and what types are under development? What drives composite development? Does metal still have a future in LSA? Is mix-and-match of both the way to go?
That's one beauty of fiberglass and carbon. You can have beautiful shapes and strength with weigh savings. Assembly ease is a factor, too. Those materials will surely persist for those reasons and for future production efficiencies. However, since nearly all airplanes are low-production — essentially hand-built with modest use of robotics, even at the Boeing or Airbus level — prospects for genuine mass production seem distant.
What are the major construction methods? Is there room for the construction method to contribute to the aircraft performance in terms of weight saving? Aircraft like the Ekolot Topaz have fuselages formed in two halves then adhered together like a Revell P-51 model. Is this the way of the future? Is there room for mass production?
Avionics development has seen technology cascade down from GA, but there is some that has been designed from scratch for the LSA sector, such as AoA Indicators. Which way will the technology flow in the future? Is EFIS going to become standard for LSAs or do the traditional clocks still have a place? Have we reached a pinnacle in LSA simply because the sector can operate without technology such as HUDs?
Perhaps we are pushing some boundaries if new ideas and materials are not forthcoming. However, they are forthcoming. I’m not too worried about it. For example, crush zone technology in cars did not add weight — in fact removed it compared to other methods — and this greatly added to safety.
Weight-saving is always an issue for manufacturers. In Australia a land-based LSA can lift no more than 600 kg (1,320 pounds), so what can manufacturers do to increase their useful load? Are we reaching a dangerous situation where the aircraft are getting too light or are too heavy to include some desirable safety features, such as parachutes?
Are regulations stifling LSAs? Should LSAs be able to fly at up to 750 kg MTOW (1,650 pounds gross) to give manufacturers more design freedom? Is there anything that has to change to enable more technology to be used in LSA, and if so, what is it?
You are right that LSA is leading the innovation charge in many ways. Where can the industry go from here? We (LAMA) have spoken to FAA a lot in the last three years as we seek new opportunities within the present regulatory framework. It is perfectly clear that LSA were a significant reason why FAA went ahead with the Part 23 rewrite and use of industry consensus standards. To answer the future question, I again refer you to this recent article. The freshest new tech in aviation may come from outside aviation but I would never discount the passionate, imaginative, and motivated designers and developers operating in light aviation today.
There's a lot there, but there's also a lot to think about. Until the rewrite of FAR23, the LSA sector led general aviation in technology, especially in the use of composites. The new FAR23 is sort of like catch-up regulation for GA, but where does the technology leader, LSA, go to from here?
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.
The story as reported…Here are some portions of the article, which relates, "At the start of the clip the pilot is seen trying to steady the plane as it rapidly descends while spinning around." Remember, this is a test pilot exploring the flight qualities and performance parameters of a Light-Sport Aircraft, which I agreed not to name (but it was obvious to me that this was not the aircraft in the still picture Daily Mail used).
"The dizzying video shows the aircraft spinning faster and faster as the scenery speeds past. The pilot … was forced to deploy the safety measure during a spin recovery test."He escaped uninjured and the aircraft was fixed and ready to fly the following day." Daily Mail goes on to report [BRS] company founder Boris Popov as saying about the clip, "The pilot wants to remain anonymous as well as the location but we can say it was filmed in Asia and the plane was flying the next day." I know a little more but the actual airplane or incident is less the story than the success of the parachute product. These devices have saved many lives — BRS alone has logged nearly 400 "saves" and other companies like Magnum add to the number. I hope you will consider such a system for your aircraft. If you elect not to, then, please fly as safely as you can. Happy New Year, everyone! I wish you many happy hours aloft in 2018 and I hope you never have to see your parachute.
When I first saw this news story I thought it was one we reported earlier involving a similar aircraft and parachute. However, what grabbed my attention was the clarity of the still photo seen nearby. It was, and it was not the earlier story. Let me explain… The deployment event recently reported is not new even if that’s how the mainstream media portrayed it. Many months ago, a test flight got into an uncontrolled flight situation — a “normal” occurrence, that being what test flights are intended to discover. A successful parachute deployment followed. However, this provides an opportunity to learn more about airframe parachutes. I know something of this because for 18 years, I worked closely with BRS Parachutes of South St. Paul, Minnesota. An airframe parachute system makes a compelling story that media reporters loved. At one time, BRS and its whole-airplane parachute systems were featured on seven (yes, 7!) different TV documentaries at about the same time.
What do you do?I hope you never face this scenario. You probably will not. Modern engines, airframes, and instrument panels make it most unlikely. Nonetheless, it happens. Do you believe you could set down in the water in such a way that you can escape? Of course, you've never practiced a water ditching and that move by Captain Sully may not be your option. I have flown to the Bahamas with and without an airframe parachute. I never experienced even a hiccup from the engine or other systems but I'm here to tell you the flights with the parachute were far less stressful. Stress is never good and your flight over the lake when the engine quit dramatically increased your stress level. How well do you think you will perform when your heart is pounding? Disclaimer: I used to be involved with a company producing these systems. I am clearly biased in their favor. Yet in my former role I spoke to literally dozens of people who had pulled the handle and every single one of them thought it made all the difference in the world. Most said, "You just saved my life!" Certainly, if you can fly to an emergency landing, do so! Absolutely! However, sometimes, even a Captain Sully has to play the cards he's been dealt. In his case that turned out well. He became a hero. Yet if you fly in a fixed gear airplane the odds of your airplane flipping upside down are seriously high. If so, and you and your passenger are upside down in the water, will you get out in time? Look, this may not be how you choose to think about your flying. It's supposed to be fun and enjoyable and it nearly always is so. Nonetheless, you practice stalls, emergency approaches, and crosswind landings so you are ready if it turns ugly on you. Most of the time that training works great. Even better, it is rarely — very rarely — needed. Is it wise to ignore the possibility a parachute might be your only option, even once in your flying career? Check Magnum Parachutes page and see a list of some (but not all) the times when a parachute might be very valuable. Can you avoid all these situations? Yes, maybe... hopefully! Do you want to bet the farm on it? I'll tell you from my four trips to the Bahamas flying that such crossings completely out of sight of land were enormously more enjoyable with a parachute than without. I knew I had a way out if the worst happened. Magnum Parachutes offers rocket-deployed systems for a wide variety of airplanes. They are supplied from a U.S. importer who has all the credentials to do so competently and safely. Check their product line to see what Magnum offers and what a system will cost. Then do your best planning because when the engine hiccups over unlandable terrain, it's too late to buy and I don't want to lose any of my flying buddies to an avoidable incident. The video below shows a fuselage extraction test performed by manufacturer Stratos 07. https://youtu.be/DyY8Ke3LikQ
Let’s say you are flying on a wonderful cross country trip. You’ve been humming along enjoying a beautiful day. The plane is flying great and sightseeing is superb. The ease of the trip in one of our modern flying machines with a big digital screen showing the way could lull you into crossing a large lake between you and your destination. Midway across the lake, your engine unexpectedly sputters and stops. You calmly run through your checklist. Nothing appears amiss. You try restarting but the engine won’t cooperate. Anywhere you look it’s the same distance to land. You calculate you can’t glide far enough. What do you do? I hope you never face this scenario. You probably will not. Modern engines, airframes, and instrument panels make it most unlikely. Nonetheless, it happens. Do you believe you could set down in the water in such a way that you can escape? Of course, you’ve never practiced a water ditching and that move by Captain Sully may not be your option.