Belite Ultralight Aircraft and Instruments
Instruments not just for ultralights
By Larry Zepp, for Experimenter
The Wonder of Wonders, Belite's newest ultralight, has a Wonder Bread-type paint scheme and was on display (both on the ground and in the air) at Paradise City during the 2012 Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In & Expo.
James Wiebe, CEO of Belite Aircraft, has created what he describes as a miniature Cub in an ultralight package. His FAR 103 legal ultralight aircraft are focused on using good design and modern-technology materials to produce excellent performance for normal-size people. But along the way, James has created some very unusual aircraft instrumentation that isn't only affordable but weighs very little.
All Belite aircraft variations use a Dacron fabric-covered wing and a tube fuselage. The wing is made in two configurations, the standard aluminum spar and wood ribs or the super light carbon-fiber spar and aluminum ribs. The standard fuselage is steel tube construction, and the new superlight uses aluminum tube construction.
|Belite trike ultralight||Belite Superlite|
His big challenge was to create a full-featured airplane that could meet the weight restrictions specified in FAR 103. James developed a new lightweight carbon-fiber process and incorporated new engines, which were far more reliable and lighter, to ensure that the Belite is well below the 254-pound limit. Light weight is further enhanced by the company's line of electronic instruments (more on those later). In fact, James said their highest-performance plane with carbon-fiber spars weighs only 200 pounds.
James received the August Raspet Memorial Award at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2011 last summer. The award, named after the late Dr. August "Gus" Raspet, has been given annually since 1960 to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of light aircraft design.
James said he enjoys promoting GA. To publicize his Belite ultralight, James made a proposal to the Discovery Channel's Mythbusters team. He suggested they recreate the story of an Alaskan bush pilot whose plane was attacked by a bear. The pilot patched the fabric with duct tape and flew it out successfully. Mythbusters showed James and the Belite in an episode that aired October 19. The show featured him flying a Belite airplane that has been ripped apart by a simulated bear attack and then patched with duct tape!
|Kari Byron of the Mythbusters team with simulated bear claws||James Wiebe and the Mythbusters team|
"It's an excellent example how we must use every means possible to remind people about the joy of aviation," he said. "I think it will be uplifting in an emotional sense to those who have not been exposed to the fun and freedom we have."
The Belite line of instruments are electronic with LED output, very low weight and current draw. Most can be operated off a 9-volt battery! A complete panel is offered for ultralight or basic aircraft.
|The popular electronic turn coordinator||Airspeed and vertical speed combo|
The instruments are a big weight saver for ultralight and homebuilt aircraft. Complete panels are also offered (shown below) that can be operated using a rechargeable battery - no engine electrical system required! They are also practical as backup instruments for larger and faster kit planes using a primary glass panel.
An avid pilot who began his flying career at Cessna Aircraft as a summer intern in 1978, James said he is most excited, however, about Belite's fuel discernment technology. The technology allows the plane to detect water in gasoline and can also detect differences in fuels and provide warnings.
|Complete light aircraft panel||Patented water detector for fuel|
Fair skies and tailwinds!