In a calculated move planned for over a year, powered parachute leader Buckeye Industries introduced their new trike line at AirVenture ’98. This marks two points of interest to EXPERIMENTER readers. The first point is a significant entry to the trike market, a segment of ultralight aircraft that has finally shown real growth potential after many years of effort by trike makers. Though European companies threw open the door with persistent marketing efforts mimicked by a few Yankee builders, Buckeye’s entry to the field could increase the number of trikes sold by a good margin. Secondly, as a widely acknowledged sales leader among powered parachute builders, Buckeye is making something of a statement to that community of aviation enthusiasts. Powered parachutes deserve a follow-on aircraft and Buckeye has decided (logically, to my view) to make that successor a trike. And, Why Not? If you owned Buckeye and already made a slick, wheeled carriage for your powered parachutes, wouldn’t you also leverage that design to work for a trike?
Trikes: they’re enjoyed around the world by thousands of pilots A what? Not sure what a “trike” is, are you? Don’t feel bad. Although these machines may represent the largest production of aircraft in the world, many pilots have overlooked their appeal. A trike is an aircraft made of two principle parts: a wing that resembles a hang glider (but is more stoutly built) and a carriage. The latter element is comprised of an engine, landing gear, seat and instrumentation. Within certain bounds, the wings and carriage can be mixed and matched. They may sound strange, but they are enjoyed around the world by thousands of pilots. In fact, among European light aviation enthusiasts, about one in every two flies a trike. Just a toy? Not! In case you think that such a contraption must be only for young sport enthusiasts that don’t have enough money for a “real” airplane, think again.
You can’t buy an Easy riser anymore and you might find it hard to pry one away from those loyalists who still fly one. Their day has passed but early in the ’80s at Oshkosh, 24 ‘Risers made up two thirds of all ultralights that showed. A simple bi-wing glider to which power was fitted, the design emerged from the hang gliding world. The wing is very efficient and in its heyday, it won contests regularly. The aircraft is tailless, using weight shift for pitch. Roll is initiated through drag rudders located at the wing tips and between the staggered wings. It was first flown from foot launch and you might still find someone who will demonstrate this technique for you. I’ll never forget watching John Moody foot launch a ‘Riser with a Mac 101 engine. He was on the beach where I was attending a hang gliding contest. He ran bravely to get off in the underpowered aircraft.
Darlings of late-evening flying at airshows (when winds are calmer), powered parachutes are among the simplest and most fun of the ultralight class. If low and slow flying over inviting scenery sounds good, Six Chuter has your aircraft waiting. Controls don’t get much simpler: right, left, aerodynamic braking (right and left together), and power for altitude changes. Lessons are therefore brief. Powered parachutes are about the only segment of ultralight aviation that isn’t worried over their empty weight exceeding Part 103’s 254 pounds. The Skye Ryder I single place is a mere 205 pounds, way under the limit. The 215 pound Skye Ryder II is a two-seat trainer, therefore tipping the scales a whopping 281 pounds under the permissible weight! Neither do they have a problem with the top speed limitation, flying as they do at 26 mph. The single place uses the 447 Rotax and earns a climb of 700 fpm.
The Tornado is one the most exhilarating ultralights I’ve flown. As I approached the short span aircraft, I didn’t expect to be so delighted with its flying qualities. The Tornado has great lines. It looks like it might fly fast, handle briskly, and cope with bumps well. These impressions turn out to be correct when you fly the plane. However, flight reveals some secrets as well. A clean design, cantilevered wings, full enclosure, with slick aluminum surfaces contribute to good slow flight qualities. The wing obviously works harder that its short span suggests. The Tornado will fly slowly when you deploy the large flaps and the speed range is admirably wide. The plane will also land at surprisingly slow speeds. Handling is not only good at high speeds, it remains crisp at stall. Stalls themselves are mild affairs with no evil tendencies; under full power, I simply couldn’t generate a stall.
A unique looking machine, the Streak Shadow design hails from England. This gives another unique quality among ultralights available in the USA: it comes with British CAA approval. Their Section S procedure is most demanding and the Streak owns a certificate. Heavily part-sourced in this country by U.S. distributor, Laron Aviation Technologies, it becomes almost Made In America. With its high tail boom, twin rudders, and composite cockpit, no one mistakes a Streak Shadow at an airshow. Flying in a certified aircraft, I felt more comfortable pushing the envelope. I almost never check for Vne; I’m no test pilot. I didn’t go to the listed 140 mph (!), but found this to be the fastest ultralight I’ve flown. Less rigorous flying showed speeds approaching 90 mph. At whatever speed, the handling was very good as was ground handling. Equally easy was entry to the forward seat where you find yourself luxuriously surrounded by a nicely-finished composite structure.
Bi-winged airplanes — or simply bipes — are fascinating to a major segment of the flying community, and it’s and not just “old guys” who like them. The nostalgia they evoke appeals to a broad segment of pilots. Talented designer Ed Fisher created this single-seat Micro Mong replica. Does it fly as well as it looks? The short answer: Yes, it does! The light weight aircraft is built around a welded-steel frame. While it is small overall, the Micro Mong is surprisingly roomy. Controls are fluid and light to the touch. Even with the smallest Rotax pulling her along, the Micro Mong has plenty of power for all but the heaviest pilots. However, if you need more oomph, the Micro Mong can accommodate the 52-horse Rotax 503 engine. In the air, the Micro Mong feels as light as the specifications which describe the bird. She dashes about with ease and has the famous snappy role which is something of a trademark for bipes.
Here’s a fun little plane with a good design heritage. Something of a sleeper till now, new builder Wings of Freedom is starting to promote the Flitplane. This interesting aircraft is an Ultralight in the best tradition; she comes in well under the 254 pound weight. True 103 aircraft are more popular than ever as federal regulations remain aviation’s lightest load. The Flitplane joins a welded steel fuselage to aluminum wings covered with dope and fabric. A cleverly laid out cockpit shows marvelously good use of triangulation for strength with the least structure. Her rounded tail preserves some style in the simplicity. With such a light airframe, Flitplane has enough weight allowance to accommodate a beefy 35 horse engine from 2si that will push the plane enthusiastically into the air. However, this is an ultralight in which to enjoy slow flight. Using a big wing loaded lightly to only 3.4 pounds per square foot, the Flitplane can stall at only 26, cruise at 45, and not exceed 63 mph.
St. Andrews Aviation boss Charles Dozier calls his new Viking II a “parachute plane” rather than simply a powered parachute. In one particular way it certainly isn’t like those which preceded the new aircraft: Viking II employs side-by-side seating in the first such example with which I’m aware among powered parachute aircraft. For those doing training in these machines, such side seating is usually considered optimal so the instructor can better interact with his student. Ground steering is also made intuitive by employing a steering bar that works the way a bicycle does (whereas many powered parachutes use a joystick-type control for ground handling). Because the seats are alongside one another, Dozier was also able to centralize the throttle and nosewheel brake. Another benefit, says the designer, is a lowered center of gravity because the student or other occupant is not raised above and behind as in most powered parachutes. For in-air steering – which requires the use of your feet on powered parachutes – the Viking II has a dual set of foot pedals such that either occupant can fly the machine while the other observes.
The Tundra evolved out of experience with the old Beaver 650 that had loads of development but which never really got squarely on the market. Thanks to its resurrection by Laron a few years back, this desirable aircraft flies onward. Today, the model is built by Joplin Light Aircraft who bought the design rights for the Tundra and 1/2-Tun (single seater). Joplin got started distributing ASAP products in the U.S. but has now grown into an Original Equipment Manufacturer to better implement their own improvement ideas. One of these upgrades involves the impressive Geo-Suzuki engine. This 65-horse four stroke powerplant burns a mere 2 gph from its smooth-running three cylinders. Best of all the lively engine is priced at $4,995, well below that of some four-stroke options available to ultralight enthusiasts. Joplin makes the Tundra available standard with a Geo-Suzuki conversion, so adding the engine is simpler. A tandem design, the Tundra is easily appreciated by larger American pilot because it enjoys a wide cabin with ample elbow room.
Former flight school operators Mike and Susie Harmening obviously know what powered parachute pilots want. The company is thriving and customers relate positive impressions about their contact with the couple. That they build a quality aircraft should therefore come as little surprise. In a world of single place powered parachutes exceeding the $10,000 mark, the Harmening’s Buckshot offers a great value at $7,995 for an aircraft that can laugh at Part 103 definitions. Tipping the scales at a mere 230 pounds you can afford some accessories; for example, the company says you can install the Rotax 503 (over the standard 447) if you wish. For well under $10,000, the Harmening family organization can supply their original High Flyer that can be either a one or two seater, and stay under Part 103’s single seat restriction, a nice compliment to the effort to keep weight low. Some other designs seem to get their strength from the sheer quantity of tubing used.
After saving two leading Canadian ultralight designs, refining, building, and marketing the Chinook and Beaver 550, plus operating their successful machine shop enterprise, they also started producing their own powered parachute, the Summit. And as they did with the other ultralights, they made changes to bring improvements they felt were needed. ASAP changed the control system from the standard foot-tubes that create lateral control on most powered parachutes. Summit uses “foot platforms.” Accessible only to the front seat pilot, the platforms (like rudder pedals) effect a turn in the direction pushed. When you push on one platform it slides on a rail to input the control to the canopy trailing edge. Steering on the ground also takes a new turn. Instead of a joystick-type control common to other brands, the Summit employs a control wheel that moves the nosewheel only. A lever on this yoke activates a nose drum brake. Summit supports its parachute canopy from four points, not unlike the Para-Ski but quite differently than most powered parachutes which suspend from a couple common points.
|Empty weight||475 lbs|
|Gross weight||992 lbs|
|Wing area||150 sq ft|
|Fuel Capacity||(Rotax 503) 3.75 gph|
|Max Speed||100 mph|
|Cruise speed||80-85 mph|
|Stall Speed||40 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||750 fpm|
A dashing hybrid from the European microlight scene European microlight designers are blazing new runways to the sky. Two decades after the first powered hang gliders were turned into powered ultralights, companies now offer two styles of aircraft. As one would expect, many ultralight designers have evolved their airplanes in new ways. These producers now offer flying machines that employ the best ideas of familiar old designs (such as sewn Dacron wings and aluminum-tubing main structures), but they combine these tried and true components with composite fuselages and welded steel parts. Many variations on this theme keeps a wide range of aircraft in the pipeline. Taking a different approach are those designers who are emerging from the world of kit-built designs. Some developers have conventional general aviation or airline design backgrounds. Whatever their experience, these engineers create clean-sheet designs that have evolved since the early days of aviation design. As each tries to create a new microlight, they are not bound by any traditions, other than the laws of aerodynamics.
Rotax’s new 912S produces more horses per dollar than its 80-hp 912 (no “S”). One of the big success stories in light aviation powerplants is the Rotax 912. The four-stroke engine evolved from Rotax’s two-stroke line and offered a strong 80 horses. Still, some planes need a little more. MORE GET UP AND GO “An airplane that climbs well on the (regular) 912 won’t see much improvement from the 912S,” said one of the leading importers, Phil Lockwood of Lockwood Aviation Supply. “But if your plane climbs a bit marginally with the 912, the 25% power increase in the 912S will make a world of difference.” More power usually means more weight; however, the 912S adds a mere 3.5 pounds over the standard 912. Rotax Aircraft Engines – a division of world aviation leader Bombardier – also offers the 914, a turbocharged version of the 912. The 914 brought power from 80 horses to 115 (with 100 continuous), but comes with a substantial price increase.
After ten years of producing exclusively single seaters, Tennessee-based TEAM Aircraft broke with tradition and rolled out their very first two seater, the Tandem Air-Bike, at Sun ‘n Fun ’96, following the company’s successful Air-Bike design debuted two years earlier. Wayne Ison’s TEAM got a lot of attention from the Air-Bike – it being regarded as an aircraft you get on, not in. That same sporty, fun-to-fly concept has now stretched into a two-seat model. Some buyers will use the Airbike Tandem for instruction under the training exemption to Part 103. Others will N-number the machine and use it for the occasional joy ride with a passenger. It should work well either way. In fact, the close-quarters tandem seating means that when the aircraft is flown solo, it should perform well and yet feel more like the agile single seater than some other designs. This theory has worked well for Kolb and their Firefly II, for example.
What Kind of Pilot Are You? Let’s just say you actually know yourself. While this sounds like a comment that deserves a “duh!” response, don’t be too quick to judge. If every pilot or buyer of an aircraft knew what he/she needed or wanted, my job would be easier. But it isn’t so. Most pilots know something about what they want, but many don’t have enough information to make the best decision. Some readers are “experts.” A good many ultralight or light plane enthusiasts have been around long enough and owned enough of a variety of ultralights to know what they like. These veteran sport aviators represent a lot of combined experience. If you’re new to ultralight flying, I strongly encourage you to seek out local experts. They can be your very best source of information because they know you. (However, as I reminded you last time, remember that anybody selling any aircraft – whether their own or one they represent – has a bias that you must not overlook.
|Empty weight||600 lbs|
|Gross weight||1,150 lbs|
|Wing area||128 sq. ft|
|Wing loading||9.3 lbs/sq. ft|
|Useful Load||550 pounds|
|Length||19 feet 9 inches|
|Cabin Interior||38 inches|
|Height||6 feet 1 innch|
|Load Limit||+5.7, -2.28 g|
|Fuel Capacity||12 gallons 1|
|Baggage area||hat rack|
|Notes:||1 Optional wing tanks available at 7 gallons each.|
|Standard engine||Rotax 912, 80 hp|
|Power loading||14.3 lbs/hp|
|Max Speed||120 mph|
|Cruise speed||90-100 mph|
|Economy Cruise||Duration-3 hrs, Range-250 miles, Fuel Consumption (Economical)-about 3.0gph|
|Stall Speed||35 mph|
|Never exceed speed||120 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||800 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||350 ft|
|Landing distance at gross||400 ft|
|Notes:||Service Ceiling (est.)-10,000 ft.|
Vintage looks. A few companies in aviation specialize in the look and feel of aircraft from yesteryear. These manufacturers offer aircraft that are reminiscent of days gone by in aviation. Visually and even in the way they fly, these machines can transport enthusiasts back to the so-called Golden Era when the nascent aviation industry offered simple, easy to fly aircraft like the Piper Cub and others. Today, most of these specialty aircraft are kit-built airplanes because the freedom of the Experimental 51% rule permits exploration that cannot be justified when making a fully FAA certified model. Some of these kit manufacturers hail from the ultralight community. Fisher Flying Products is one such company. Second-Generation Fisher In two ways, North Dakota-based Fisher Flying Products is a second generation company. First, the company now owned by Darlene Jackson and husband Gene Hanson was purchased from Mike Fisher, who subsequently started another business using his name.
|Empty weight||274 lbs (as flown)1|
|Gross weight||550 lbs|
|Wingspan||20 ft. 2|
|Wing area||95 sq. ft.|
|Wing loading||5.8 lbs/sq. ft2|
|Fuel Capacity||5 gal. (standard)|
|Kit type||Assembly kit|
|Build time||150 hours|
|Notes:||1Fitted with the Zanzoterra engine, Beierle feels the Gull 2000 can make Part 103 ultralight weight..|
2Effective span, due to the wing tips, is 22 feet, says Earthstar; a span of 24 or 28 feet is available with 133 square feet of area.
|Standard engine||Rotax 503 (as flown)1|
|Power||52hp at 6,500 rpm|
|Power loading||10.6 lbs/hp|
|Cruise speed||60-105 mph3|
|Stall Speed||26 mph|
|Never exceed speed||120 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||1,500 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||125 ft.|
|Landing distance at gross||75 ft.|
|Notes:||3Cruise can be held to Part 103's 55 knots with a smaller engine and the right prop, says Earthstar.|
|Standard Features||Cantilevered wing, Rotax 503, independent main wheel brakes, in-flight trim, counter-balanced ailerons and stabilator, 5-gallon fuel tank, Lexan® windscreen, 4130 chromoly cage, shoulder belt seat restraint, fiberglass seat, fiberglass body, metal wings with drooped tips.|
|Options||Other engine choices, including the Zanzottera, 60-hp HKS and Rotax 447, longer wings (see specifications), instruments, door and side panels, electric starter, 2- or 3-blade composite prop, aluminum or fabric wing covering, and ballistic parachute.|
|Construction||4130 steel airframe, fiberglass fairing, aluminum or fabric wings, metal tail coverings.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - Few ultralights inspire me more than the Thunder Gull line and the Gull 2000 is the "best of breed" in my opinion. Single-seater but with more room for big pilots and more refinements than ever. Long-lasting materials used in construction. Proven design over many years; even copied. Wider speed range than most aircraft (not just ultralights). Sits on all three gear.
Cons - It may be one of ultralight aviation's best planes, and you'll pay for it. Gull 2000 kit sells for $10,965 and the Rotax 503 engine as tested will add more than $4,000. Cannot qualify for Part 103 with 503 engine and one that will make weight may not satisfy all buyers. Most are fully enclosed, a negative for those who love out-in-the-breeze flying (though you can order it without sides).
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 - Well-equipped ultralight with in-flight trim, flaps, and differential brakes all standard; all these systems worked excellently. Electric start is available since the 503 Gull 2000 won't make Part 103 weight. (The test plane was headed to Canada where the weight values are different.) Easy engine access. Flap handle is close yet nonintrusive.
Cons - Trim knob is better than older models, but is still counterintuitive to use. No trim position indicator. Fueling is done inside the Gull 2000 - unless you remove the tank, itself a hassle - and some fumes were noticeable. Panel space is minimal if you must add more instruments or radios. Heel brakes aren't every pilot's favorite.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Easier entry than older single-seat Gull models, thanks to a door that extends both lower and higher. Beautifully appointed interior; a carpet kit is available. Excellent use of interior space makes it seem larger; big pilots will fit quite easily. Superb visibility out either side and forward. Good seat belt restraint. Comfortable seating for longer flights.
Cons - Rearward visibility no better than many other enclosed ultralights. Baggage area is quite limited (though Beierle flies across America in the Gull 2000, he's a minimalist). Left side door only. No quick seat adjustment.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Low stance, good weight distribution, and trailing link nosewheel make for easy ground handling. Nosewheel has some suspension, thanks to fiberglass rods. Wide aluminum Hegar tires ($240 option) gave excellent grip. Excellent nosewheel response; extra weight up front surely helps. Turns very tightly. Taxi visibility is very good.
Cons - Clearance could be an issue if you land out in an especially rough field. Main gear is not suspended except via air in the tire and gear leg flex. Heel brakes can be "dragged" without realizing your error. It gets warm inside this (optional) full enclosure, at least until air inlets start working.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Jumps off the ground with the best of them; factory says only 125 feet is needed (with Rotax 503). Gull 2000 slows beautifully for landings in smaller areas; factory reports 75 feet with brake use. Crosswinds are only a problem if your skills are new or rusty. Slips work well, as do the large flaps. Good energy retention means smoother touchdowns.
Cons - Smoother runways are much preferred as ground clearance is less than some ultralights. Except for a warm cabin in hot weather, I found no other negatives in this category.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - Controls are exquisite on the Gull 2000; all Earthstar ultralights are good, this one is the best I've flown. Harmony was very good. Control range and authority are excellent. Very predictable characteristics. Control reach and feel were natural and pleasant. I'd say more but it begins to sound like an advertisement.
Cons - None. If you don't like the way Gull 2000 handles, you may be too picky.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - The widest speed range I can recall in any aircraft; Beierle claims a stall of 26 mph - I could not accurately verify - and a Vne of 120 mph for an astounding 4.6:1 ratio (most designers would be delighted to hit 4:1). Climb rate is a breathtaking 1,500 fpm with the Rotax 503. Design also flies nicely at slow speeds. Can carry more than it weighs.
Cons - Honest, I tried, and I couldn't come up with any performance shortcomings. Performance will be more modest if you stay within Part 103 (which is possible), as you must use a much less powerful engine.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Beierle calls his machines "stall- and spin-resistant" and I'd basically agree (though very aggressive use of controls could compromise this statement). Factory reports stall at 26 mph though I could not verify this fact; my stall experience was at 28-29 mph though this is still very slow. A beginner can certainly handle the Gull 2000 if he or she pays attention.
Cons - The Gull 2000 looks like it flies hotter than it does and this may mislead some buyers (though I doubt they'd be disappointed). Adverse yaw is present though it didn't last long. Power changes cause minor adverse reaction. Longitudinal stability was slightly negative as is common on most ultralights with the engine mounted high on the airframe.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - Is the Gull 2000 worth $15,000 to $16,000 plus options? You bet! This remains one of the best machines I've flown after sampling more than 250 models and I don't say that lightly. It will also last well with its metal or painted fabric exterior covering. Wonderful flight characteristics for all experienced pilots and most beginners. Build time isn't bad at 150 hours and factory offers help in a couple ways.
Cons - No wheel pants seemed strange on such a clean machine (but you can add them). Does not make Part 103 with the popular Rotax 503. Having it fully built costs $8,000 without finish paint (ultraviolet protectant is included). Payment must be in cash or money order; no checks accepted.
It is Mark’s design philosophy to make the most efficient aircraft he can, one that will use the least fuel. He defines himself as “a minimalist,” and this sentiment is carried throughout this beautifully optimized aircraft. To me, Mark appears to have grown increasingly comfortable in his role within ultralight aviation. Relaxed and confident, he knows he has created a superior flying machine. He also smiles a lot more these days in my opinion, thanks to a wonderful woman named Leslie who accompanied him to AirVenture 2000 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Married a year and a half ago, the two complement each other and make a good team. No more tight squeezes Perhaps it was this new personal relationship that motivated Mark to pay more attention to creature comforts. Notably, the Gull 2000 is wider than the previous single-seat or tandem two-seat Thunder Gull aircraft. Considering Mark is a lean and healthy vegetarian, his concern for broader pilots is no doubt appreciated.
Updated: 7 December 2001 If you like hang gliding… then you have come to the right page. Currently, the Website has several Dennis Pagen pilot reports of the most popular hang gliders. (Thanks to Dennis for working me to bring you his fine reports.) I also have posted the last few Product Lines columns from Hang Gliding magazine. This column has run every month for the last 22 years and therefore represents a significant historical record for the sport of hang gliding. I will add the newest versions each month and will go back and add the older ones on a steady basis. Powered Hang Gliding & Soaring Those hang glider pilots willing to add engines to the equation will find some pilot reports on light trikes. These are machines I have flown that can deliver soaring flight to hang gliding enthusiasts. Some are better than others. well, that may be why you visited this site — to see the differences.
ST ST. PAUL, MINN. — Since last month’s column, I’ve been to the USHGA board of directors meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah. As usual, the large group of directors spent many hours — all unpaid, volunteer work and they pay most of their expenses to do so! If you want more details, ask your regional director or read articles elsewhere in this magazine. ••• However, my focus at these meetings is as chair of the Publications Committee. Often, this committee’s work is obscure but this time, the committee recommended and the full board blessed an idea that will affect everyone in Yooshga, including both hang gliding and paragliding pilots. The committee recommended and the board approved a plan to combine our two magazines into one. • Now, before I go off and make someone angry, let me stress that you will see articles in both magazines surrounding this change AND members will be given a chance to provide their thoughts.