Aerolite 103 with 4-stroke engine

Aerolite 103

Aerolite 103 at Oshkosh 2014

Regular readers will know about my interest in cheap (or rather, ‘less expensive’ – nothing in aviation is cheap) single seat ultralight aircraft.

One of my favourites, the Aerolite 103 (Aerolite 120 in Europe) is now available with a 4-stroke Briggs & Stratton 22 hp engine. Although heavier and a bit less powerful than the 2-stroke alternatives, the B&S motor still gives the aircraft a climb rate around 600 fpm and a cruise speed in the same 60 mph range. And of course it does it more quietly, using less fuel and, dare I say it, more reliably.

These very light 1-seat ‘Part 103’ aircraft have been slow to catch on, even in the USA, where you can fly them legally without registration or even a pilot’s license. This, in spite of the low purchase and running costs and (optional) folding wing, which allows storage in a garage or in the corner of a hangar which can’t be used by conventional fixed-wing aircraft. However, Aerolite reports growing sales in USA – more than 40 in 2014 – and now there is a German type-certified version – the Aerolite 120 – it looks like sales are set to grow exponentially over the next few years.

Priced from under US$15,000 (factory built!) for a 2-stroke version and probably under US$16,000 for a 4-stroke version, the Aerolite represents a great starting point for impecunious aspiring young pilots.

Factory-built single seat aircraft which are accepted under FAA Part 103 still cannot be registered in Australia, you have to build from a kit to be legal. In spite of lobbying from several sources, CASA and RA-Aus have still not woken up to the potential of these low cost aircraft as entry points for the more expensive end of the market. I wonder when RA-Aus will stop moaning about declining membership numbers and do what they should be doing to open aviation at grass roots level and work with CASA to ‘de-regulate’ these single seat aircraft? USA has done it. UK has done it. The rest of Europe has, in its own way, done it. Australia is now well behind in this growing ultralight market – what a shame.

More single seat ultralights

aerolite_103_7The second single seat ultralight Rob writes about is the Aerolite 103 – so named after the Part 103 regulations in the USA under which it’s built and flown. In Germany it’s known as the Aerolite 120, reflecting the maximum empty weight allowed in Europe.

This aircraft is a more traditional ultralight than the Sirocco NG (see an earlier post) in that it’s constructed from aluminium tube and dacron fabric covering. It uses a range of 2-stroke engines with electric and maybe 4-stroke propulsion in the pipeline. Favourite engine is the Hirth F33, a 28hp 2-stroke with electric start. With this engine, the aircraft sells in the USA ready to fly for under US$17,000, making it a very affordable way to get in the air. Main options include a ballistic rescue system, wheel spats and lift strut fairings. A range of dacron colours and patterns are available.

The Aerolite 103 will carry 140 kgs including 20 litres of fuel. Cruise is a gentle 50 knots maximum, take off and landing are in the 30-50 metres range.

There’s more information about this amazing little aircraft on byDanJohnson – a major USA website/blog covering a vast range of light sport and ultralight aircraft. His posts are quite frequent, particularly at this time of the year, with not only Aero Friedrichshafen but also Sun ‘n Fun in Florida. So have a look now while the Aerolite post is current.

What a pity CASA and RA-Aus do not permit these beautiful and relatively inexpensive factory built aircraft to be registered in Australia.