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Questions....Questions... Questions. On an average day I get about 50 calls about ultralight aviation. Since many of these questions are asked repeatedly I thought I might do a question and answer column. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions I have received.

Q: Where can I get reliable information on ultralight aircraft?

A: In Canada it is very difficult for pilots to get good reliable information on ultralight aircraft! Canada's ultralight community consists of roughly 4,000 ultralights, 3,000 pilots, and about a dozen ultralight kit plane manufacturers. This base cannot support any kind of a magazine dedicated to ultralight aviation. Thus most of the information comes from our pilot's associations.
Unfortunately none of these associations have anyone on staff that covers our sport "live." Most of the material you read comes from manufacturers, dealers, or other associations. To get reliable information you must turn to U. S. publications. Publications that supply reliable information on ultralights include:

Ultralight Flying Magazine,
PO Box 6009
Chattanooga TN 37401
This magazine is published 12 times a year. Subscription rate is $30.00 U. S. per year. It's Buyers guide issue is usually the first issue each year. I would rate it a 10. This magazine is strictly ultralights, and has a great classified section. You will not find many stories on general aviation, gyros, etc.

PO BOX 487
Kitplanes is another light recreational aviation magazine that covers segments of our sport. In Canada aircraft like the L'il Hustler, Coyote, Kitfox etc can be built as ultralights! These aircraft are classified as Experimental in the US, and are reported on by Kitplanes. One of the interesting segments has been their reports by actual builders building their projects.

The Ultralight Flyer
Video Magazine
Covering the World of Ultralight Aviation

This is a web video magazine  that covers the sport of ultralight aviation. It includes buyers guide videos, engine rebuilding videos, and over a hundred hours of web video interviews with designers, builders, pilots, etc.

A yearly subscription is $ $24.50 CDN

Q: Which aircraft do you recommend for first time buyers?

A:It is very difficult to say what aircraft you should buy first. What are you going to do with the craft? Will it be on water? How much do you weigh? How much can you spend? Are you going to be doing much cross country flying?

If I was just getting into the sport and only had about $3,000 to spend I would probably pick up an old Quicksilver MX, powered by a Rotax 377. This makes a great little early morning late evening or weekend flying machine. The MX can handle pilots from 150 lbs to 250 lbs. It takes off in as little as 50 feet and has a climb rate of between 600 and 700 feet per minute.
If I had another $3,000 I'd purchase the "Quickfix" conversion. This conversion makes the MX into a strut braced, double service craft with ailerons, and gives it a cruise speed of about 50 mph. This makes a great little inexpensive cross country cruiser, and an ideal float plane.

The MX's strengths are in its well proven design, with thousands flying world wide. Parts are still available from the original manufacturer as well as many other suppliers. It is also a very forgiving aircraft, with a very low stalling speed. Its slow flying speeds allow pilots to make mistakes and live to tell about them. Its weaknesses are that its wing and tail surface covering fabric deteriorates quickly if left unprotected, and the engine crankshaft bearings usually only lasted about 150 hours. Another problem is its lack of cross wind handling capability. It is also a very awkward aircraft to hangar as its highest point is nearly 11 ft.
The "Quickfix" conversion gives its cross country capability with a 50/55 mph cruise and ailerons for cross wind landings. This conversion also shortens the wind and lowers the height to about 6 feet.

The problem with the conversion kit is that it was only available for about 2 years and I don't know how many hours were flown on it. (This was available from the same people that now manufacture the Genesis)

If I had $6,000 to $10,000 and was looking at a two place craft I would probably look to pick up a used RX 550 Beaver powered by a 503 Rotax engine. Parts and pieces are available for the RX 550 from ASAP in Vernon BC. Many thousands of hours have been flown on the Beaver, with over 2,000 of them sold world wide. It was also used as a two place trainer by many ultralight schools in Canada.

Its weaknesses are in its landing gear, and elevator control cables, and in the cross bracing in the wing wires. The elevator control cable and wing wires are TWO SERIOUS problems and have to be fixed prior to me giving this craft an "A" rating!

If I had $10,000 to spend and was looking to buy a single place plane I would probably go with a new Firestar, Mini Max, Sparrowette, Fisher 404, Sport Parasol, Supercat or Hipps Reliant. On the minus side of these kits are the building times. The prices are low because you will be doing much of the fabricating. Building times for the above aircraft are in the 300 to 400 hour range.

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Check out The Builder's corner for more information on building one of these kits!

Other aircraft to consider in a single place version between $10/$15,000 are the Coyote, Airaile, MX Sprint, and Flightstar. These have been out for many years now, and the manufactures have a reputation for the quality of their kits. These kits while priced higher have building times of 100 to 150 hours. The disadvantage is that they all use dacron fabric that will need a UV barrier.

If I had between $10,000 and $15,000 to spend, and was looking for a two place craft I would probably buy a NEW Chinook Plus 11, Tundra, or L'il Buzzard. These aircraft sell for less than $15,000 in kit form minus engine and can be built in about 200 hours, with the L'il Buzzard coming already built..
The Chinook Plus 11, has been in production for several years now. It features aluminum tube bolt and rivet together construction , covered in conventional aircraft coverings. Several years ago it was completely redesigned. Changes include a new longer and stronger fuselage, new wing construction, new landing gear, and control system. These changes make for a neat little aeroplane, quite capable of flying with two people on a 503 Rotax engine. The company while small (a family run operation) has a reputation for honesty and integrity.

The Tundra has also been around for about four years now, and has also undergone some very extensive design changes. Originally a small family operated company, with the craft now being produced by Loran Aviation the U.S. The Tundra prototype was used for over a year in a training environment and proved itself a rugged trainer.

The construction features a welded steel fuselage front section, with an aluminum boom running to the tail. It has a welded steel suspension system using bungee cords. It comes with a front nose cone section that can be completely enclosed. I have not had an opportunity to fly the Tundra on a 503, but when powered by an old 532 Rotax with a two blade prop climb rate was over 1200 feet per minute with a cruise speed of 65 mph at 5000 RPM.

On the down side, while the craft has been in production for about a year and a half now I have no idea how many are flying or how many hours they have flown. Note: The prototype which is still flying has over 250 hours on it as of this writing.

Editors NOTE: Loran Aviation has gone out of business, reports on the quality of the kits they delivered are questionable, I advise caution if you are considering buying a kit that was built by them!

The L'il Buzzard, is produced by L'il Hustler Ultralight Aviation has been available since 1990 and has proven to be a rugged little aircraft with decent performance. It features a 4130 welded steel fuselage, with aluminum "D" cell construction in the wing. It has a wide 41inch cabin, with adjustable seats, dual controls, and in cabin trim. Power is can be supplied by the Rotax 582 on up to the Rotax 914.

Other craft in this price range in a two place include: The Fisher Classic, and Super Koala these all wood aircraft require about 500 hours to build. These are both beautiful little planes. Their main problems are that they need the 582 Rotax engine for power and have what has been reported as very weak landing gear. They are also not planes that I feel would survive the very abusive day to day training environment. As a one owner, one pilot craft, I would highly recommend them. The factory is one of the best in the business!

The Kolb Mark 111, uses a welded steel fuselage front section, connected to the tail with an aluminum boom. Pilots report building times in the 500 to 600 hour range. The factory while small has a reputation for quality. The craft will fly comfortably on the 503 Rotax engine with two people, and has folding wings for ease of storage. Its main reported problems are in lack of speed, cruise is only 60/65 mph, and slow delivery from the factory.

The next group of aircraft are priced from $20,000 to $30,000. Several aircraft that I would rate highly include: The Merlin-This craft has to be one of the toughest little aircraft on the market today. It was designed by John Burch a commercial ultralight instructor. Its standard engine for the ultralight category is the 582 Rotax with the 618 and 912 now available.

Construction is a welded steel fuselage. Aluminum D cell construction is used in the wing and the craft is covered in standard aircraft covering materials. Building times are a reasonable 400 hours. On the plus side the Merlin has one of largest pilot enclosures in the industry, good visibility, and very strong landing gear.

The downside of the Merlin is that its performance in climb is only about 500 feet a minute with pilot and student on board. This figure is nearly halved when the craft is float equipped.
Note as of this writing the Merlin factory has gone out of business again.

The Maverick-Manufactured by Murphy Aircraft in British Columbia Canada this aircraft looks to be a winner. Construction mates a metal fuselage with a combination metal and conventional aviation covering materials. Cabin areas are respectable. Performance is good with climb rates appearing to be in the 800 feet per minute at gross. Cruise speeds are a respectable 75/80 mph.

The downside is that the aircraft has a high building time, reported to be in the 1,000 hour range.

The Coyote S6ES-This aircraft is my choice for a land based plane. It features a welded steel front fuselage section, mated to an aluminum rivet together tail section covered in dacron saicloth. Wing construction features aluminum tube bolt together construction covered in dacron sail cloth.
Building times are 150/200 hours. My recommendation for power would be the 582, or 912 Rotax. Climb rates are 900 feet per minute at gross and it cruises around 80 mph.

Its biggest draw backs are the trim system, and vibration from the motor mount. Another negative is visibility over the nose for shorter pilots.

Q:Is it cheaper for me to build a plane from plans?

A: I have had several customers build aircraft from plans. In most cases it has proven to be more expensive than buying a kit. The reason for this is that when a manufacture is building his kits he is buying in bulk, making his prices cheaper. He is also able to use shorter pieces of material that are left over from one kit to complete another. Other savings the manufacture would have over an individual are sourceing supplies.

Once a craft is in production the manufacturer knows where to get his parts and pieces from. An individual can spend a great deal of time and money traveling and phoning around for this part or that.

Some builders who already have a familiarity with wood, or are in the welding industry have reported savings. These come from already having a source of supply and knowing how to build in the material they will be using.

Q: What are some of the aircraft that can be built from plans?

A:Some aircraft that can be built from plans include: Green Sky Adventures Zippy Sport, The Hipps Kitten and Sportster, The Howland H-3 Pegasus and H-2 Honey- Bee, Light Miniatures LM-1, LM-1 A-W, LM1-2X2P-W, and various other replicas, The Murphy Renegade 11 and Renegade Spirit, Norman Aviation's Nordic 11, Nancy Peris JN-1, Preceptor Aircraft's N-3 Pup and Ultrapup, Raceairs Skylite and Micro Mong, Ragwing Aeroplanes RW-1 Ultra-Piet, Replica Plans SE%A Replica, TEAM aircrafts Max 103, Mini Max, and HiMax, Wicks Aircraft Supplies Supercat, Zenair 's CH 601 and 701.

Q: Are Rotax two stroke engines reliable?

A: Most of my flying is in a training environment. I fly on Rotax 503 and 582 engines, equipped with dual CDI ignition. Experience has shown that these engines can be operated safely and with very little maintenance other than spark plugs, fuel filters, gas and vacuum lines, rubber intake manifolds, and needle jets, for about 300 hours. At 300 hours the engines are completely disassembled and all worn parts replaced. Once this work is done they can again run for another 300 hours. Of the two engines the 503 Rotax is the most trouble free. The 582 while proven to be a good reliable engine has had problems with crankshaft connecting rod failure! According to Rotax these failures represent less than 1% of the engines sold.

Q: If you were going to support a pilot's association which would it be?

A:If I could afford to I would belong to all the associations that represent my interests! In Canada, these include UPAC, which has been responsible for many of the changes currently taking place in the ultralight aviation in Canada. UPAC is also the only association supplying insurance for ultralight schools in Canada.
UPAC information

The RAAC which is responsible for Amateur built inspections on Amateur built ultralights.
COPA, Canada's largest pilots' association which represents all segments of aviation.
In the U. S. I would belong to EAA which puts on Sun N Fun at Lakeland Florida and Oshkosh, in Oshkosh Wisconsin.

These are the largest aviation shows in the world, and feature separate sections just for ultralights.
Another association I would belong to is the United States Ultralight Association which is the voice of ultralight pilots in the U. S. and is sanctioned to do flight training in two place ultralights.

Zipster single place ultralight biplane designed by Ed Fisher.
Zipster single place ultralight biplane designed by Ed Fisher.

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