Experimenter

FEB 2015

Experimenter is a magazine created by EAA for people who build airplanes. We will report on amateur-built aircraft as well as ultralights and other light aircraft.

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12 Vol.4 No.2 / Februar y 2015 THE AEROLITE 103 ULTRALIGHT THE AEROLITE 103 STORY is one about a perfect little fi xed-wing ultralight that was conceived as a back-to-basics retro design almost 20 years ago. It was designed with just about everything you could want in an ultralight. It fl ew well and won awards. People wanted to buy them, but within about seven years of its introduction, the manufacturer closed its doors with unfi lled orders. This business failure shows that it takes more than an excellent design to make a successful airplane. The company must be able to deliver products on schedule and keep the cus- tomers happy. The Aerolite 103 story has a happy ending, however, with Terry Raber, the original designer putting the ultralight back into lim- ited production in 2010, and fi nally, like a bird looking for a nest, the Aerolite found a new home in 2013 with a new owner, Dennis Carley of U-Fly-It Light Sport Aircraft in DeLand, Florida. Terry, a certifi cated fl ight instructor and former corporate pilot, got hooked on ultralights when he fi rst fl ew a Sunburst ul- tralight in the 1980s. He established a reputation as a CGS Hawk dealer and a prize-winning builder with a Reserve Grand Cham- pion CGS Hawk at the 1995 Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In & Expo. In 1996, he began designing a back-to-basics retro design, saying he thought there was a real need for a modern ultralight- legal machine. Ultralights had evolved in the 15 years since their birth in the early 1980s into full-featured, proper little airplanes, and many exceeded the 254-pound legal weight limit. EVERY THING YOU COULD WANT Terry took the best ideas from existing designs and incorporated just about every feature you could want in an ultralight. The resultant Aerolite 103 was a high-wing pusher with a windscreen, ailerons, fl aps, tricycle gear, brakes, and electric starter. It was built with aluminum tubes and Dacron sailcloth for easy repairs. High-wing airplanes make good ultralights because you have a better view of the scenery below, and they may be better for low- time pilots in crosswind landings. Tricycle gear and brakes make a real dif erence and could lengthen the life of the airframe (besides making it easier to turn around at the end of a runway in a cross- wind). Pushers are often preferred in slow fl ying for a better pilot experience and to get the engine noise behind the cockpit. Add a four-point harness and make it ready to fl y (RTF) for a reasonable price, and the Aerolite 103 had everything you could want. The Aerolite 103's wing and airframe are heavily based on the CGS Hawk and Quad Cities Challenger. The wing is similar to the Challenger wing, but shorter at 26 feet, 10.5 inches. The large tail is similar to a T-Bird or CGS Hawk, and the landing gear struts are fi berglass tubes that have proved successful in countless ultralights, trikes, and powered parachutes. The fuselage is based on a single lower keel, a bit like a weight-shift trike. The airframe is mostly bolted-together 6061-T6 aluminum tube and gussets. Terry called his ultralight the Aerolite 103 to advertise its compliance with the FAR 103 regulations. It was introduced at EAA Oshkosh 1997 where it won the Grand Champion Ultralight award. He went on to win several more awards at Oshkosh and Sun 'n Fun in the next three years. It had lots of great features This elegant, 5-gallon, spun-aluminum fuel tank is from a sandrail buggy. A bare Aerolite 103 fuselage with the control system installed. A green, Kawasaki 340–powered Aerolite 103 climbing away at AirVenture 2014. Photography by Dan Grunloh

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