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A Bigger Belite
By Randy Dufault
July 27, 2017 - Long known for Part 103 conforming ultralights, Belite Aircraft is adding an experimental option to its stable of kitbuilt airplanes. A key reason for such a move is the carriage of more than one person, and Belite’s new Chipper model, has room for two.
Configured either as a taildragger or with a nose wheel, the Chipper leverages a number of advanced engineering and construction techniques that make the path from a set of parts to a complete, flying airplane a relatively simple affair.
The prototype Chipper is here at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017 at Belite’s booth in the Ultralight/Rotorcraft Display area.
Since the project was unveiled at SUN ’n FUN, work has been done to improve the Chipper’s performance.
“We worked hard to make aerodynamic improvements in Chipper, and they have paid off with a big gain in demonstrated airspeeds, climb rate, and range,” said James Wiebe, CEO of Belite Aircraft. “We’ve also done additional engineering work, allowing us to increase the gross weight and useful load of the airplane.”
Many of the Chipper’s components are cut from honeycomb aluminum sheets on the company’s computer-controlled machine tooling. A builder simply trims the pre-cut pieces and assembles the plane by fastening them to pre-fabricated aluminum angles.
Traditional fabric covers the wings and tail surfaces. Builders are free to choose any covering system, but using prefinished fabric can cut the costs and time associated with painting. Paint is an option for the fuselage; however, the vinyl wrap used on the prototype helps shorten build time and simply decorates the plane with unique graphic designs.
Belite estimates that a builder, who understands a bit about airplane construction and has some experience with fastening aluminum, can complete a Chipper in less than 700 hours.
Engine options up to 100 hp can power the craft. With the popular four-stroke Rotax 80-hp 912 UL engine mounted on the prototype, flight-testing shows a top speed of 100 mph, even with 21-inch tundra tires. Typical cruise speed is 90 mph at an altitude of 5,500 feet, with the engine set at 75 percent power. Fuel burn at cruise is consistent with published Rotax specifications.
The company expects further performance gains later this year when the Chipper is mated with an improved engine cowl and smaller wheels.
Builders can choose between 1,000 pound and 1,200 pound gross weight versions, depending on engine choice and useful load needs. Two fuel tank options allow builders to further tailor range to their liking.
Belite is offering the first 24 Chipper kits at an introductory price, several of which are still available.