Welcome to a New Year! …and to a new airplane, a new Part 103 entry to be specific.
One of the most amazing discoveries of 2020 — the year Covid upset lives around the globe — is the particular and peculiar strength of Part 103 ultralights.
In a year that has seen hundreds of thousands of small businesses fail under the pressure of executive orders, and the lockdown of an amazing percentage of the world’s individuals, the littlest airplanes have found new life.
Are you surprised? I was… despite being a fan of Part 103s for several decades.
What will happen in 2021 and beyond? No one has a crystal ball but I am going to guess that we will continue to see strength in the 103 segment for one primary reason: affordability.
You Can Afford
Your Own Aircraft
FAA’s Part 103 is an American phenomenon, dating to 1982, when the nearly 40-year-old regulation was issued. Did lead rule writer, Mike Sacrey and his band of bureaucrats know what they were unleashing? How could they? They could not see the future any better than anyone else.
Yet, four decades later, this segment is thriving beyond what many pilots are willing to believe.
Now, fresh from the aviation-oriented land of Brazil comes a new entry. While Sector Aircraft works to shore up financing for their two-seat LSA Hero project, designer André Godoy completed his single seat Quantum project and is trimming weight to make it qualify as a U.S. Part 103 vehicle (more on that below). Here’s how he describes his project.
EAA Oshkosh 2019 — “Dan, at the last EAA event in Oshkosh in 2019 we almost met. In fact, I saw you but I was ashamed to go and talk without having pre-arranged it. At this air show, I found a great place to sit and eat a hot dog and grabbed my sketch notebook that is always with me. While eating my sandwich, I finished the main sketch of my first ultralight project, Quantum.”
Part 103 in Brazil — “Brazil has recently launched a standard for ultralight aircraft: RBAC-103. This standard allows an empty weight limit of 440 pounds, a maximum speed of 100 knots and an aircraft can be two-place. This configuration greatly facilitated my Quantum project and we have achieved good results within this Brazilian category. However, RBAC-103 serves few countries.”
Quantum Design — “When I returned to Brazil, I sat at my workstation and started working a lot on the 3D project. Using the engineering software called SolidWorks, I devised several good engineering solutions.”
Describing the Project
“I decided to use the fantastic Hero wings. As the two aircraft are quite different, I made some modifications. Quantum has a trapezoidal aluminum wing with a profile from engineer Harry Riblett. It was never used on any aircraft but in the initial simulations they behaved very well so I decided to use it. I removed the flaps and the machined spar of Hero and added lift struts. I kept the wing tips and the result weighs only 55 pounds per wing including aileron. At that moment I found that I was on the right path!
“I made the tail with NACA-008 profile, where in Flow Simulation trials, that shape gave more control power at low speeds. I continued with the design and in November 2019 the plane was ready, as well as all software and real load tests, and we were just waiting for our engine to arrive, a Polini Thor 250DS (Sector has become the Polini dealer in Brazil). In December 2019 we started the first tests on the ground, we had a very pleasant surprise with the results but we needed adjustments and improvements in the prototype.
“In January 2020 we made the first flight and started the flight tests. Because I had recently finished an LSA project (Hero), I used the ASTM-2245 standards to make Quantum, mainly following the structural load and flight items. We created a quality assurance manual, and all this experience will help when we start manufacturing the Hero.
“Following ASTM standards, Quantum flight tests used the same flight test cards as we did for Hero. We logged approximately 25 hours and after this validation period we start calling friends to fly the new bird, including pilots such as Captain Bertolini, who flew many military planes and was for more than 15 years a test pilot for Embraer. His input helped me refine the design and we already have sales of Quantum in Brazil and production has started, which is very good for us.”
“As I prefer not to brag about my own design, I collected information from the experienced pilots who flew Quantum.
“Coordination maneuvers went beautifully. Approaches to landings showed good stability even in crosswinds. Touchdown does not require exceptional effort; abrupt corrections are not needed as Quantum delivers a smooth and pleasant ride.” By late November 2020, André added, “We have logged 56 hours and the experience of more than 18 pilots.”
Handling Qualities — “Flight controls use cables and pulleys for the ailerons and rudder, and control rods for the elevator, giving Quantum harmony and maneuverability characteristics comparable to larger, heavier planes. Making a turn with Quantum does not require corrections with the rudder as Frise-style ailerons help Quantum make well-coordinated turns. We have a docile aircraft that can accept mistakes from less experienced pilots while providing pleasurable handling to higher-time pilots.”
About André Godoy
André Godoy hails from Campinas in the state of São Paulo. “During my childhood, I lived near an aerodrome and I could see all the colorful ultralights flying over my house. At the age of seven I found my vocation; I wanted to work in aviation.”
“In my adolescence, I studied mechanical manufacturing processes because in Campinas, I could not take an aeronautics course. In the early 2000s I started working with SolidWorks software and then I went to work as a project manager in a company called Inpaer in Campinas — today, Americans know this company as Texas Aircraft — making the first Brazilian LSA called Conquest (today, with metal fuselage, it is called Colt).
“I dedicated my life to studying manufacturing, engineering and design processes. I did little study to be a pilot. However, when Quantum … was ready [I prepared extensively] and did my solo flight on Quantum. What an immense pleasure to be able to design, build, and do my solo flight on this aircraft. Few people do this in life, like Wright Brothers in 1903 and Alberto Santos-Dumont in 1906. Of course, I don’t want to compare myself to those pioneers but I think I know what they felt.”
U.S. Part 103 Entry
“Now we are working to make a specific ultralight to meet the American Part 103 regulation,” André continued.
“We will engineer a weight reduction to stay within the 254 pound limit and we will use the new Polini Thor 202 engine to have lower speeds.
“As this will be a new project we will give it a new name. It will use the same wing profile as Quantum and Hero and the same tail profile. We will keep it all in aluminum and I will maintain the same flight quality.
“We are working hard to have this project as soon as possible. In Brazil, in the ’80s, we had a romanticism about ultralight flights at airfields. I feel that this is coming back all over the world and I want our planes to be able to bring that inspiration to all pilots again.”
André projected in late November 2020, that by January 2021 he will provide pictures of the new ultralight.
“I need only choose a new name for him,” finished André. He has since decided on the name Spark. As he worked to trim weight to fit U.S. Part 103, André said, “To reduce the last 10 pounds, [I will] change all fairings to carbon fiber including the seat. I also designed the engine mount for three options: Polini Thor 202 to fly up to 55 knots (the Part 103 limit); Polini Thor 250 to fly up 60 knots, and new Polini Thor 303 to fly up to 65 knots.” It is too early for pricing to be determined.
When André completes his work on Spark, it will be my pleasure to add it to the coming Part 103 List. André closed his communication suggesting we may see his work at Sun ‘n Fun 2021. Let’s hope!
Darrell Harrell says
Hi. I’m in the market for an ultralight. What’s the ball-park price. Thanks.
Dan Johnson says
It sounds like you should visit the Part 103 List, where you will find links to all manufacturers. Happy shopping!
[This comment was edited to remove language.]
How much does one of these 103s cost? I don’t know why you didn’t show the price. If you have to, just send me a ball park price. Please list a price.
Dan Johnson says
Assuming you are faulting me about a lack of price, I always stay away from doing so as these article are often read years later.
In future comments, please watch your language. I consider this a family website.
In Australia, sub 300 kilogram MTOW ultralights are all but dead, with our governing body (Ra-Aus) promoting heavier, faster, slicker, and expensive pseudo GA aircraft.
The days of those magnificent men in their flying machines are sadly over in this country.
Edward Snyder says
The design is almost a direct copy of the Phantom Ultralight from the 1980s and beyond except for the metel wings and lift struts. The Phantom was wire braced and primarily used the Rotax 503 engine.
It’s still good to see people exploring the FAA 103 regulation to see what it brings.
Dan Johnson says
Well, those differences are rather significant, so I don’t think it’s accurate to make those comparisons. Yet I’m glad you’re happy about the health of the Part 103 producer community. Watch for our coming Part 103 List (in development now).
[computer translation] For André, this aviation, has plenty of space to grow, we still need a lot of resources.
Parabéns André, essa aviação, tem muito espaço p crescer, ainda temos necessidade de melhores recursos.
Kevin Armstrong says
Tony Illief builds a more elegant version and has been continuously improving it for a very long time
Hollis Babb says
Great article! Looking forward to seeing @ Sun N Fun.