Building a Phantom with One Hand

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A Challenge Met

Assembling things that require "only basic hand tools" can end up being daunting tasks. Just ask the parent trying to assemble a bicycle or a dollhouse, or ask the first-time aircraft builder.

Now take away the use of one hand and see how hard the most rudimentary movements become. Buttoning a shirt, preparing a pot of coffee, or tightening a screw can turn into marathon situations. But it's "no big deal" for the person with an open mind and the will to do things differently.

"It was a challenge, to be honest with you," confesses George Haley. "I initially suffered from delusions of grandeur, and thought, Well it's going to be no big deal, I can do this." "This" was assembling a single-seat Phantom ultralight with the added challenge of having only one hand.

"For about 2 years I looked at different planes and settled on [the Phantom]," says Haley. "I wanted an ultralight with cross-country capability, yet I want to go low and slow if I wanted to. I wanted a company that had been in business for a while so if I needed some assistance or a part, it would be there. And I wanted a company where if I picked up the phone ­ as I did 100 times ­ they would not say, 'Oh, it's you again. What do you want'?"

"I purchased the Phantom at a fly-in and a couple of months later they delivered it. I leased a hangar, unpacked the boxes, laid everything out on the floor, and thought, What did I get myself into? My kids said, 'Oh Dad, you can't do this'. And of course I said, 'This is no big deal, this is easy stuff'."

The first thing Haley had to do was design some special tools. He purchased 15 different vice grips and modified them so they were offset so he could clamp each bolt. "Where it might take you a minute to put a bolt in, sometimes it took me 10 minutes," says Haley. "But through rigging and all types of weird ways, I did it. I can't think of anything on [the plane] that I actually couldn't do. Sometimes I would be in the hangar at 2 in the morning looking at the thing and wonder, How the heck am I going to do this? Sometimes it was like building a whole stack of stuff and putting weights in certain areas to hold things in place.

"Of course the 150-hour [assembly] time didn't apply to me. I started assembling [the Phantom] in March 2000 and I basically completed it around December 2001. I'm guessing that I put close to between 800 and 900 hours into this. And I had the advantage too that I could pick up the phone and call the company for technical advice. But the real challenge was devising ways of accomplishing what normally would have been a simple task. So that was the time-consuming aspect of it. Amazingly one went with 2 went with 3 went with 4. And before I knew it I had what looked like a frame to an airplane. And things kept getting attached to it and then there it was."

A state police officer in Colorado for a number of years, Haley lost his left hand when he was shot with a shotgun. "The amazing thing that came out of that whole incident was before I thought if you lost one of your hands, what would you do? The most fascinating thing to me was that I could do anything; I could do everything. I just have to do it differently. Like putting a nut on a bolt meant that I had to devise a way to clamp that bolt to whatever it was going to adhere itself to then put the nut on. Then maybe put a second clamp on the head of it so I could tighten it down so there were counter forces going both ways."

Then came the throttle. Haley laughs when he says he designed 600 different ones, but he had a problem: he couldn't pull the throttle back. "Normally a throttle moves forward and back," he explains. "Well I could move it forward but I couldn't pull it back. So I thought I would turn the throttle quadrant sideways then I could lift it up and down by sticking what's left of my arm in there and move it up and down. But the small, quite complex thing that I had to solve was how to bring that throttle cable in at a 90° angle. On a normal throttle it comes straight in but if you turn the throttle quadrant sideways then you have to bring that cable in at a 90° angle.

"I thought of everything from wearing a special jacket with a cable attached to the jacket to where I could just move my elbow back and it would retract it, to quite complex contraptions that I would go to a machine shop and ask them, 'How would you do this'? And they'd say, 'We can do it this way' and devise something, and then that wouldn't work.

"Then I went to the engineering department at Michigan State University and let the grad students dink around with the problem. They could come up with mechanisms, but they really couldn't be converted to my use."

Finally Haley devised a way to manipulate the throttle. "Picture a potato chip tube cut straight down the middle," says Haley. "I could lay my arm in it and it would be attached to the throttle handle and then I had stops at both ends of that tube so if I pushed my arm forward it moved it forward, and if I pulled it back my elbow pushed it back. That seemed to work the best."

Haley is updating that with ball-bearing rails "like a drawer that rides on a rail. I've already designed it and am in the process of building it."

No other modifications were needed for Haley to be able to fly his Phantom. "My other hand works good, my feet work good, that throttle was the only thing that I used my left hand for," Haley says.

At 53, Haley works out of the court system as an investigator in Ingham County, Michigan. Married "to a very supportive wife" and the father of three college-age children, Haley still finds time to help raise funds for his club's sponsored scholarships awarded each year at the local community college, and of course to fly. "I really enjoy the camaraderie of being around the different guys at Mason airport where I'm hangared," says Haley. "I have about 20 hours on the Phantom now.

"I wish I had done something extraordinary, but I did it under a different set of circumstances and did it a different way. I'd like to really emphasize that anything can be done. You may have to stand on your head to do it, but go stand on your head. And get it done. It was just a different way of going about doing something," Haley insists modestly.

­Sharon Wilcox

 

 

Powered Parachute Ultralights for the Budget-Minded

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Airframes Unlimited and Powered Parachute Plans

Airframes Unlimited manufactures both single-seat and 2-seat powered parachutes for budget-minded ultralighters. "Our lowest-priced single-seat powered parachute is $6,995," the company notes. "And our lowest-priced 2-seater (pictured) is $9,595." Both models come completely assembled and ready to fly (or you can buy the plans and do everything yourself).

Ultralighting started at the inexpensive end of aviation, and for some budget-minded ultralight pilots, their ultralighting has stayed there. It's the primary reason they fly ultralights ­ the rest of aviation is just too expensive. And even ultralighting can be costly, if you must have the latest and greatest.

There are, however, still some ultralight companies that see a significant market at the very inexpensive end of aviation. For powered parachute aficionados, Airframes Unlimited and sister company Powered Parachute Plans ­ both owned by Don and Clint Stutts of Athens, Texas (just south of Dallas) ­ are examples of companies targeting budget-minded ultralighters. "Our companies' goal is to make powered parachuting more affordable to the average working man," says Don Stutts. "We are living in an era where $15,000 to $20,000 powered parachutes are common. Powered parachutes in this price range are completely out of reach of an average working man, even with creative financing."

"Our lowest-priced single-seat powered parachute is $6,995," Airframes Unlimited notes. "And our lowest-priced 2-seater is $9,595." Both models come completely assembled and ready to fly, according to the company. Airframes Unlimited offers powered parachute models from a Part 103-compliant single-seater to a 2-seater featuring side-by-side seating and rudder pedals.

Or you can buy the plans from Powered Parachute Plans and build your powered parachute from scratch, obtaining the materials and doing the parts manufacturing and assembly yourself. Constructing an aircraft from plans may save you the most money, but it can require much more time (sometimes hundreds of hours more time) and effort.

Airframes Unlimited claims "hundreds of our powered parachutes are flying around the world, and have been for years."

Note: "Powered Parachute Plans does all business by e-mail, with no phone contact at all," Don Stutts says. "We answer every e-mail received, every day. No one has to wait for a reply from us." Stutts indicates that Airframes Unlimited does use a telephone to assist serious customers. "We learned the hard way that there are a million 'wanna-bes' out there who will keep you on the phone until you go broke, and never spend a dime with you," Don Stutts says. "Our phone time is valuable and reserved for [assisting] serious customers only." Time is money, as the saying goes, and a company efficient with its time may save money and thereby be able to offer lower prices to its customers.

Neither company has a fax number.

- Buzz Chalmers

Airframes Unlimited, 6707 CR 3715, Dept. UF, Athens, TX 75752. * e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Powered Parachute Plans e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .
 

Powerfin Adds CNC Milling Machine to Make Composite Props

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New Apex Hubs Now, New Blades Later

Powerfin's new Apex series propeller hubs are manufactured on a Haas VF-4 CNC vertical milling station (shown here), using the same method "used by many aerospace companies to make stator vanes for jet engines and tail rotors for helicopters," Powerfin says. Apex hubs are available in 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-blade configurations.

Composite prop maker Powerfin has developed new Apex series propeller hubs. The new hubs were designed and developed using Solidworks and Mastercam CAD/CAM software, according to Powerfin, and are manufactured "on a brand-new Haas VF-4 CNC vertical milling station," Powerfin notes.

"I bought the machine to finish a 3-year research project, developing a very consistent method of producing blades that is currently being used by many aerospace companies to make stator vanes for jet engines and tail rotors for helicopters," explains Powerfin president Stuart Gort. "Apex hubs result from that research. We can sell them now because the Powerfin propeller blades we currently make can fit the new hubs with only a slight field modification [required]."

Apex hubs are available in 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-blade configurations, and offer "unparalled quality, balance and appearance" the company says. "Gort is now finalizing his work on a new molding process," the company adds, "and hopes to release the first new blade planform before 2003."

Prices for Powerfin's Apex propeller hubs are: 2-blade, $150; 3-blade, $175; 4-blade, $200; and 5-blade, $225. Powerfin hub assemblies include the mounting hardware for the Rotax A, B, C or E gearbox, or the Hirth gearbox, according to Powerfin.

Info: Powerfin, 4700 188th St. NE, #G, Dept. UF, Arlington, WA 98223. Phone: (360) 403-0635 * Toll-free: (800) 581-8207 * Fax: (360) 403-0599 * e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .
 

20-HP Teledyne 4-Stroke Engine

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According to David Vogel of Vogel's Electro Source, which is marketing an 18- to 20-hp military-surplus Teledyne 4-stroke engine weighing just 63 pounds,* the reported upgrade kit or plans to increase the horsepower to 40 is "old information." Vogel indicates he knows of no way to safely and reliably increase the engine's horsepower to that level, and therefore his company does not have such a kit or plans.

Info: Vogel's Electro Source, 121 Mount Vernon St., Dept. UF, Milford, NH 03055. Phone/fax: (603) 672-1762 * e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . *See "Industry Watch: Teledyne 20-Horsepower Engine ­ 4-Cylinder, 4-Stroke, Just 63 Pounds," October '01 Ultralight Flying! magazine
 

Chattanooga Sail & Frame Offers Trike Wings, Repair Services and Parts

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Expanding Services in U.S. Trike Market

A "Stars and Stripes sail" was a 50th birthday present from the wife of Chris Blyth of TC's Trikes. The patriotic-patterned wing (seen here mounted on a TC Trike) "is designed to match the characteristics of the TC Trike," Blyth says, "but will fit any trike on the market today." The sail was sewn by sailmaker Alan Bloodworth and the Super D-16 trike wing built by frame specialist Paul Mays, partners of Chattanooga Sail & Frame, which has been supplying TC's Trikes with complete trike wings for the past 3 years.

Chattanooga Sail & Frame (CS&F) isn't exactly "new" to the U.S. trike ultralight industry, having supplied trike manufacturer TC's Trikes* with complete trike wings for almost 3 years. But CS&F has kept a pretty low profile since it was founded by Alan Bloodworth and Paul Mays, both experienced hang glider pilots, instructors and hang gliding dealership repair specialists. Now CS&F is offering the same trike wing construction and repair services to other manufacturers and dealers in the U.S. trike industry.

A little background: Trike manufacturers are a bit different than fixed-wing ultralight manufacturers. While most ultralight manufacturers use subcontracting companies to supply their production lines with ultralight parts (and sometimes even complete subassemblies), trike carriage manufacturers may have another business supply them with the entire wing (or offer another company's trike wings as an option). This is because designing, testing and producing hang glider-type trike wings is a specialty business requiring knowledge and design skills found more often in the hang gliding industry than the traditional fixed-wing powered ultralight industry.

It's no surprise then that many trike manufacturers worldwide (such as Australia's AirBorne Windsports and France's Cosmos/La Mouette sister companies) produce both powered trikes and foot-launched hang gliders. In most cases, the companies evolved from manufacturing hang gliders first, then entered the powered ultralight market by adding a trike carriage to one of their wings. A trike is essentially an ultralight that is a type of powered hang glider, except today's trike wings are usually designed specifically for trikes. Most current trike wings are too fast (and too stiff in handling) to be easily and safely foot-launched, flown and foot-landed as free-flight (nonpowered) hang gliders.

An exception to this general principle is the lighter-weight single-seat trikes on the market, like Lookout Mountain Flight Park's SkyCycle (called the Freedom Machine** when it was introduced in '98) or U.S. Airborne Sport Aviation Center's Powerlite***trikes. Because of their lighter wing loading (less weight per square foot of sail), these single-seat trikes can sometimes use actual hang gliders for their wings.

Many modern hang gliders designed and tested during the last 2 decades are strong enough to support the extra weight of the trike undercarriage. Sometimes this is accomplished by adding structural reinforcement in important places ­ for example, adding an internal sleeve to the aluminum tubing at the center of gravity point where the trike carriage attaches to the wing's keel. Although the hang glider may have the structural strength to carry the weight of the trike carriage, hang glider airframes are not designed with airframe vibration (from a pulsating powerplant) in mind. Anyone considering using a hang glider for a trike wing would be well-advised to contact the wing's manufacturer, as well as the trike manufacturer, for advice.

Today's trike market is seeing more companies specializing in designing, testing and producing trike wings specifically for the powered ultralight market. The principals of such trike wing companies ­ like Bloodworth and Mays ­ usually come from hang gliding backgrounds and with hang gliding industry business experience. Two noteworthy examples in today's trike market are Kamron Blevins of North Wing Design and Mark "Gibbo" Gibson of Butterfly Wings by GibboGear.**** Blevins began as a hang glider sailmaker, then formed North Wing Design to produce trike wings (and now entire trikes). North Wing was the first to introduce a strut-braced (rather than the typically cable-braced) trike to the U.S. market with their Maverick*****trike.

Gibson was a very experienced hang glider pilot who earned a gold and two bronze medals as a Hang Gliding World Championships competitor. A decade ago, Gibson also held the official World Record for distance flown in a hang glider ­ 412 kilometers (258 miles) on July 31 of '92. Gibson designed hang gliders for British hang glider manufacturer Airwave and developed and produced his own hang gliding harnesses for a living under the company name GibboGear. Turning his talents and attention to the larger ultralight market, he formed Butterfly Wings by GibboGear, designing and manufacturing trike wings at first, then entire trikes.

Three years ago, Bloodworth and Mays were eyeing the growth in the ultralight market. Both pilots had gained considerable experience in hang glider sailmaking and airframe construction while working for Matt Taber, president of Lookout Mountain Flight Park, a "hang gliding resort" and the Number One mountain-flying hang gliding training center in America. Taber had expanded his business by developing and marketing the single-seat SkyCycle trike using the 22-hp single-cylinder Zenoah G25B-1 2-cycle engine.

Bloodworth and Mays formed CS&F, and soon began building and supplying trike wings to local trike manufacturer Chris "TC" Blyth of TC's Trikes. (Bloodworth specializes in sewing the Dacron®-sailcloth sails, while Mays does the airframe work. According to Mays, CS&F subcontracts some of their sail-repair sewing work to another local hang glider pilot with considerable sailmaking experience. CS&F's trike wing repair services are designed for ultralight dealers who don't have the facilities, equipment or experience to handle the job, but still want to offer repair services and support to their customers. CS&F also sells after-market parts for trikes.)

Not surprisingly, the two partners of CS&F are hoping to eventually develop and manufacture their own trike (to be introduced perhaps as early as the end of this year).

- Buzz Chalmers

*See "Industry Watch: TC Trike Latest to Enter Ultralight Market," December '00 Ultralight Flying! magazine
**See "Industry Watch: Freedom Machine 'Soars' on the Market," July '98 UF! magazine
***See "Industry Watch: U.S. Airborne Imports Airtime Products," May '02 UF! magazine
****For a flight evaluation of a trike with a GibboGear trike wing on a Water Trikes' trike, see "UF! Pilot's Report: Efficient Amphib Trike ­The Kalypso," July '02 UF! magazine
*****For a flight evaluation, see "UF! Pilot's Report: Not Like the Others ­ North Wing Design's Maverick Trike," September '99 UF! magazine

Info: Chattanooga Sail & Frame, 4223 Kelly's Ferry Rd., Dept. UF, Chattanooga, TN 37419. Phone: (423) 504-8745.
 
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