Ski's for ultralights, snow skis for ultralight aircraft, aircraft skis for ultralight and light sport aircraft.

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Ultralight aircraft, light sport aircraft, amateur built and experimental aircraft ski installation.

In Canada our summers are shorter than in other areas of the world. To extend our flying into the colder season requires that we install a couple of different items on our craft.
One is an heater - 
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The other is ski's - and like the heater installation it is not quite as simple as it seems. 

There are several things that you have to take into consideration:

Quicksilver MX on skis
1. The length and width of the ski - with reference to the ultralight's weight, take-off and landing speeds. 
2. The type of material used to make and support the ski. 
3. How the ski is supported at the axle, and at the front and back of the ski.

Lets take a look at these:

1. The length and width of the ski - will have to reflect the type of surface you will be flying from.  Deep, soft snow will require a wider ski - while you will find longer narrower skis work better on harder snow packed runways. On Quicksilver MX/Beaver/Challenger/Tundra/Kolb aircraft with about an 800 lbs gross - my experience has shown that a ski about 4 feet and 10 inches wide works well. 

On aircraft such as the L'il Buzzard/Kitfox/Avid etc - aircraft with a gross weight of 800-1200 lbs. a ski 5 to 6 feet long and a foot wide is preferable - wider in snowier areas. It should be noted that the nose ski can pose a problem for aircraft with steerable nose wheels. 

The ski puts a lot more load on the supporting structure than a wheel does. On my first landing with the Challenger I sheared the nose assembly off. Of course in tail draggers you only use two mains and the tail ski is considerably smaller.ski1.gif (161691 bytes)

2.The Type of material used:  
The first set of ski's I made, for my Quicksilver MX - I made using water skis, while these worked well initially, they were not strong enough for landings on rough surfaces. 

The ski broke on contact with a bump in the runway at about 17 mph and shattered. I made another set up and re-enforced the bottoms with fiberglass, they survived but during a crosswind landing the tower supporting the ski broke due to the side load. 

The next set I tried I made out of fibreglass in a mold. They worked well on my Challenger but wore the bottoms off after a season of flying. But those were the early days their are now manufacturers producing skis that have all the bugs worked out. 

A survey of the industry shows that skis are now made from composite, such as the ones we offer. Other manufacturers welded up a chromoly frame in the shape of a ski and then cover it in plastic. Others use all aluminum parts. 

When considering skis consider the type of aircraft, runway, and speed. *Check for a sturdy mount going from the aircraft to the ski. 

Remember that ski will have to take a side load at speeds in the 55 mph hour range in most applications. 

*Check for some kind of a replaceable wear bar - this will also act as a runner for steering on ice. 

3. How the ski is supported at the axle, front and back. During flight the ski has to have support at the axle, and at the front and back. The axle support has to allow the ski to pivot, and most be able to take enormous side loads. 

Remember the ski contact area is more than 100 times the wheel area. When the ski is in flight it must be supported at the front so that it is always in a slight upward angle. If it is facing down it could cause loss of control during flight due to the extra drag, and could cause the ski to dig into the snow on landing. 

To accomplish this two bungee cords are required one on the front of  the ski the other at the rear. The tension should be enough that if you were to lift the plane on that side on the ground the ski comes up at the front. You will also need steel cables to act as limiter straps. 

The front strap will be loose while the bungee is under tension but if the bungee were to fail t

RX 550 Beaver on Full Lotus Floats
RX 550 Beaver on Full Lotus Floats

Some pilots fly on Full Lotus floats during the winter, using the floats as ski's. Make sure to FIRST drain the float bladders of water - I have drained over 70 lbs. of water from the bladders after a summers worth of flying!

hen the limiter strap will only allow the ski to come to a neutral position. The rear bungee has to be loose enough to allow the front of the ski to move up and down on rough fields - with the limiter strap preventing it from coming up to far. 

Both limiter straps and bungees should be perpendicular to the ski and pulling upwards I have found 1/2 and 3/4 inch bungee to work great and can be purchased by the foot in Canada ,at a local Canadian Tire store. Some pilots have just used the standard bungee cord that comes with the hooks on the end. 

On the L'il Buzzard we attach a steel tang to the front lower motor mount. We then attach one of those screw on clevis's - the kind that is rectangular in shape that unscrews in the middle . By using this we can leave the tang on the plane and use the clevis as a quick disconnect. 

So lets just do a quick review: - make sure you have a good ski support -make sure that you have your bungee 's with the correct amount of pressure -make sure that you have a set of safety cables front and back installed at the correct length. -look carefully at the nose gear in a trike configuration to see if it is capable of withstanding the types of side loads you will be placing on it. -on icy surfaces make sure that you have some kind of a steel runner to aid in steering.

One word of caution Remember your skis do not have brakes and you have NO way of slowing down or stopping other than colliding with something. Which of course was the first lesson I learned on my first flight on skis. 
U.B. Judge

Building a set of "ultralight Ski's"

Ultralight Ski's - amphib and regular.

Rotax 582 powered L'il Buzzard on ski's.
Rotax 582 powered L'il Buzzard on ski's.

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