SkyStar Aircraft Averts Disaster
Runaway Cessna Wrecks Kitfox Hangar
Perhaps giving added meaning to the phrase flying
shrapnel, SkyStar Aircraft personnel had to run for their lives
while working in the company's final assembly and show plane hangar
to avoid the devastation caused by the spinning propeller of a
runaway Cessna 182 (middle, in photo) in a ground accident. Fortunately,
no one was hurt.
Wednesday, May 9, 2001 was a normal (and busy) day at SkyStar
Aircraft in Caldwell, Idaho, according to the manufacturer of
single-seat Kitfox Lite Part 103 ultralights*, 2-seat Kitfox Lite
Squared ultralight trainers**and the Kitfox line of light sport
aircraft.*** Six SkyStar employees were working in the hangar
used for final assembly and packaging. The hangar also housed
the manufacturer's show planes, in preparation for the 2001 airshow
and fly-in season.
At 3 p.m. the character of the day changed radically. "A
Cessna 182 had just been pulled from its hangar, located about
75 yards from the Kitfox plant, to start a newly installed engine,"
SkyStar reports. "The 182's engine roared to life at full
power and the aircraft accelerated rapidly toward the SkyStar
final assembly/show plane hangar." Unable to shut down the
engine or stop the runaway airplane, the occupant and the 182
crashed under the partially open SkyStar hangar door. The general
aviation aircraft then "chewed" its way to the back
of the hangar, destroying SkyStar's demonstration planes (which
were "also used for engineering research," the company
notes), severely damaging two customer airplanes under construction,
and destroying or damaging tooling and general hangar contents.
The six SkyStar employees ran for their lives, and successfully
avoided the 182's churning propeller and debris (giving real meaning
to the phrase, flying shrapnel). The propeller eventually
broke off. According to SkyStar, one badly shaken employee later
quipped, "They are right. How fast you can run depends on
what's chasing you."
"I think humor is a way of dealing with trauma,"
observes SkyStar Aircraft president Ed Downs, "but the reality
of the loss is stunning. We are [near] the beginning of the airshow
season and our show planes are gone. We have our work cut out
Fortunately, there were no injuries in the Skystar hangar incident.
"It was a miracle no one was injured or killed," Downs
states. Assessing the destruction in SkyStar's final assembly
and show plane hangar, he summed it up this way: "The Kitfox
has been on some pretty wild rides over the last 17 years, but
this takes the prize."
The company quickly rebounded from the near-disaster. "In
less than 24 hours, SkyStar was back in full production, both
for new aircraft and parts," Downs reports. "We have
secured exciting and beautiful demonstration airplanes from our
builder base. And we have already begun to build new demonstration
airplanes here at the factory, and we are rearranging our aggressive
demonstration schedule. Insurance and legal issues are being dealt
with in a productive manner. All in all, we are in great shape."
According to Downs, the Kitfox company "is making lemonade
out of [the lemons from] this very sour experience."
-Report filed by SkyStar Aircraft Corp.
*For a flight evaluation of the Kitfox
Lite Part 103 ultralight, see "Pilot's Report: Part 103 Kitfox
Lite - SkyStar Does Lite Right," July '99 Ultralight Flying!
**See "SkyStar's Kitfox Lite2 Ultralight Trainer Takes to
the Skies," April '01 UF! magazine
***For a personal report on SkyStar Aircraft and their line of
Kitfox ultralights and light sport aircraft, see Jack McCornack's
"Skywriter: Checking Out the 'Foxes," November '00 UF!
Nielsen-Kellerman Offers Latest Pocket Weather Station
Kestrel 4000 Weather Tracker
The Kestrel® 4000 Weather Tracker™ (shown here
actual size) is Nielsen-Kellerman's latest pocket-size weather
meter, providing measurements of wind speed, temperature, wind
chill, relative humidity, dew point, barometric pressure, altitude,
density altitude, wet bulb temperature and heat stress, plus a
clock and calendar. The weather station's memory "allows
users to log the environmental data for entire trips, expeditions,
outings or flights," NK says.
Nielsen-Kellerman (NK), manufacturer of the Kestrel® line
of pocket weather meters, has released "the next generation
of weather-monitoring instruments - the Kestrel® 4000 Pocket
Weather Tracker™," the company announces. "A complete
hand-held weather station," NK says, "the Kestrel 4000
measures every major environmental condition: barometric pressure,
altitude, density altitude, temperature, humidity, wind speed,
wind chill, dew point, wet bulb temperature and heat stress."
And the new weather meter does more than just display the current
conditions. "The Kestrel 4000 is a tracking device that allows
users to log the environmental data for entire trips, expeditions,
outings or flights," NK points out. "The 4000's extensive
memory and recall functions give anyone playing or working outdoors
the ability to accurately watch and predict weather trends."
How often the unit will take regular measurements is set by
using the easy-to-use customization menu, according to NK. "Once
programmed, the unit 'wakes up' at the predetermined interval
to measure and store all the readings," NK notes. "The
data can then be reviewed in a graph with a scrolling cursor that
tells the date, time and value for each reading."
The Kestrel 4000 has memory storage for 250 data points, recording
up to 4 months of data, depending on the storage interval, according
to NK. Other features of the 3.6-ounce Kestrel 4000 Pocket Weather
* Full portability
* Guaranteed accuracy specifications that ensure precise and reliable
* Large back-lit display for easy use in any conditions, day or
* New humidity sensor that yields ±3% accuracy, and offers
greater stability in extreme low-humidity conditions
* Unit can automatically store measurements (even when it is turned
off), or you can manually store measurements with the press of
* Optional PC interface to upload data to a personal computer
* Flip-top impeller cover that protects the user-replaceable (without
tools) 1-inch impeller while still enabling all other weather
* Rugged waterproof case
* Clock and calendar providing day, date and time of every reading
* Three user-defined screens that can combine readings for quick
and easy reference
* Minimum/maximum/average screens that provide the historic minimum,
maximum and average values for every measurement
* Automatic shutdown, either after 15 or 60 minutes of no button
presses. "This feature can be disabled," NK says.
* Multiple language capability - English, Spanish and French
* Neck and wrist lanyard, soft carrying pouch and two AAA batteries
are included. "Battery life is at least 400 hours,"
* Assembled in the USA, with a 1-year warranty
* Windspeed is measured in miles per hour (mph - range
is 0.7 to 89 mph), knots (kt - range is 0.6 to 78 kt), meters
per second (mps - 0.3 to 40 mps), kilometers per hour (kph), feet
per minute (fpm) or Beaufort scale (Bft - a scale on which successive
ranges of wind velocities are assigned code numbers from 0 to
12 or from 0 to 17).
* Temperature is measured in Fahrenheit (-20° F to
+158° F) or Celsius (-29° C to +70° C), with an accuracy
of ±1° C for temperature, ±2° C for wind
chill, ±3° C (above 20% relative humidity) for dew
point, and ±3° C for heat stress. Temperature range
for normal operation is from -20°C (-4° F) to +60°
C (+140° F). "Below -20° C (-4° F)," NK
adds, "accurate readings may be taken by keeping the unit
warmer than -20° C and exposing it for less than a minute
- the minimum time necessary to take a reading."
* Relative humidity is measured in percentage (5 to 95%),
with an accuracy of ±3% and a calibration drift of ±2
% over 24 months (can be field calibrated).
* Barometric pressure is measured in millibars (mb) with
a range of 870.0 to1,080.0 mb, inches of mercury (inHg) with a
range of 25.70 to 31.90 inHg, pounds per square inch (psi) with
a range of 12.66 to 15.72 psi, or hectopascals (hPa) which is
a measurement in hundreds of pascals (1 pascal is equal to 1 newton
per square meter). Accuracy of the barometric pressure measurement
is ±3 hPa (between -10° and +60° C).
* Altitude and density altitude are measured in
feet (range is -1,500 to +30,000 feet) or meters (range is -500
to +9,000 meters) with an altitude accuracy of ±30 meters
(98.4 feet) at standard atmospheric conditions, and a density
altitude accuracy of ±75 meters (246 feet).
* Dimensions are: 12.7 by 4.5 by 2.8 centimeters (5 by 1.8 by
Retail price of the Kestrel 4000 Weather Tracker pocket weather
meter is $329, "available at national retail and catalog
outlets or directly from NK," Nielsen-Kellerman notes.
"Nielsen-Kellerman is known worldwide for waterproof speed
measurement, timing and audio systems for competitive rowers,"
the company says. "Virtually every rowing shell at the 2000
Olympic games in Sydney, Australia carried NK equipment."
- Buzz Chalmers
Info: Nielsen-Kellerman, 104 W. 15th St., Dept. UF,
Chester, PA 19013.
Phone: (610) 447-1555 * Fax: (610) 447-1577 * e-mail:
Phantom Aircraft Builds Seven Subassemblies
Phantom Aircraft - manufacturer of the venerable single-seat
Phantoms (the enclosed-cockpit Phantom X-1e model is pictured
here) - has now made it easier on their customers by building
seven subassemblies at the factory (at no additional charge),
reducing kit build time by an estimated 25%, according to Phantom
After completing a labor cost study on building and assembling
certain components of their Phantom ultralight kits, Phantom Aircraft
- manufacturer of the venerable Phantom line of single-seat ultralights
- "was surprised to find it only cost us $37 more to assemble
the components for our customers [compared to bagging, marking
and grouping the same components]," reports Phantom president
Pat Schultheis. "All Phantom kits now have seven different
assemblies done for the customer at the factory at no extra charge."
Phantom expects the net result of these kit changes to be some
very happy customers.
"We now give the customer the lower cage all framed, the
tail assemblies built (the customer still covers them with fabric),
the control stick assembled, the ailerons framed and covered,
the fiberglass pod body has the mounting holes cut out, the keel
tube comes with all the brackets mounted, and the motor mount
has the main brackets installed," Schultheis elaborates.
"This should save the customer about 25% of the assembly
time." The open-air Phantom X-1 has an assembly time listed
as 125 to 150 hours, and the enclosed-cockpit Phantom X-1e is
listed as 90 to 180 hours. Those assembly times should be reduced
25% due to the extra assembly now done at the factory.
"By adding his wheels to the landing gear," Phantom
Aircraft says, the new Phantom owner "can sit in his rolling
cage in his living room that first night, making vroom vroom
sounds." That is, "if he or she has an understanding
spouse," Schultheis quips. "We found that customers
needed an incentive to get started on their building project,
so we made it very easy for them."
- Buzz Chalmers
Info pack: $3, video: $15. Phantom Aircraft, 6154 West
G Ave., Dept. UF, Kalamazoo, MI 49009.
Phone: (616) 375-0505 * Fax: (616) 375-0551 * e-mail:
More Trike Wing Innovation From Gibson
Swing Wing Option on GibboGear Trike
GibboGear's new Swing Wing option is shown here on a
BabyButterfly trike wing mounted on the BB Trike imported from
Hungary. The braced "nose post" (sticking up above the
wing's nose) and extra pair of top wires support each leading
edge as the wings are swung open or closed.
Mark "Gibbo" Gibson's trike wing manufacturing company,
Butterfly Wings by GibboGear, is getting a reputation for innovations
in trike wing design and convenience. Identifying a "niche
market" for a stable trike wing with easy and predictable
handling characteristics, Gibson began making and marketing his
Butterfly trike wing. Gibson used his experience as a World Class
hang gliding competition pilot and hang glider designer to develop
the single-surface Butterfly trike wing,* designed for stability
in turbulence as well as easy and predictable handling during
takeoffs and landings. The Butterfly trike wing continues to be
the company's "bread and butter" product, according
Located at the Lake Wales Municipal Airport (XØ7), Butterfly
Wings by GibboGear's product line has expanded rapidly since Gibson
started manufacturing trike wings in '99. The company's products
now include the single-surface Butterfly trike wing (in three
sizes - the original 21-meter Butterfly trike wing, the 17-meter
BabyButterfly** and the just-released 15-meter MiniButterfly),
the faster double-surface Firefly trike wing*** (a higher-performing
trike wing for more experienced trike pilots), and the BB Trike****(
a top-of-the-line fully loaded trike Gibson imports from Hungary).
And now, GibboGear has released their patent-pending Swing Wing
- an innovative option to speed the time-consuming chore of many
trikers who set up their trike wings (usually a 20- to 30-minute
task) each time before they fly and break them down again at day's
"Have you ever dreamed of a trike wing that would just
swing open?" GibboGear asks. Well, Gibson did, and now he
has designed and developed one, available on all GibboGear trike
"Using a small braced 'nose post' [similar to a kingpost]
and an extra top wire, we are able to swing the wings' leading
edges open and closed like a gate with the aid of a 2-to-1 pulley
system attached to the pull-back [wing tensioning] cable,"
GibboGear explains. "The Swing Wing comes with a special
protective bag that covers the folded wings, allowing the still-attached
control bar and lower (flying) wires to stick out, so the entire
trike and wing can be trailered."
Word of the Swing Wing option already has spread among trikers
and potential trikers. The Swing Wing option is being ordered
on 30% of GibboGear's trike wings, Gibson claims.
Price for GibboGear's Swing Wing option is $400.
- Buzz Chalmers
*See "Industry Watch: ...And Now, a Trike Wing Kit,"
January '01 Ultralight Flying! magazine **See "Industry
Watch: BabyButterfly Trike Wing," November '01 UF!
***See "Industry Watch: In the Works - New FireFly Trike
Wing," September '01 UF! magazine
****See "Industry Watch: GibboGear Offers BabyButterfly BB
Trike," December '01 UF! magazine
Info pack: free. Butterfly Wings by GibboGear, 260 S. Airport
Rd., Hangar 1, Dept. UF, Lake Wales, FL 33853. Phone: (863) 679-6383
New Kalypso - Definition of Amphibious Trike?
On land or on the water, the new Kalypso amphibious trike
is "designed with ease of use and total enjoyment in mind,"
says Bob Bullock of Water Trikes. With the new Swing Wing Butterfly
trike wing (note the new "nose post" forward of the
kingpost on top of the wing), the Kalypso claims a 5-minute setup.
And with its Krücker floats and standard 50-hp Rotax 503
dual carb 2-cycle aircraft engine, the Kalypso also claims 5-second
water takeoffs, according to Water Trikes.
We've said it before - Bob Bullock isn't bashful when he boasts
about the ultralight products he sells. His company, Water Trikes,
is the U.S. importer of the Canadian-made Krücker floats,*
designed specifically for trikes, and Bullock absolutely raves
about their performance, as well as water-based amphibious trike
flying in general.
And now Water Trikes has joined the ranks of ultralight manufacturers,
and Bullock has a new product to brag about - the Kalypso amphibious
trike, which he boldly claims is "the definition for amphibious
trike." And his brash statements don't end there. "The
Kalypso is the first truly functional amphibious trike,"
he enthuses, "designed with ease of use and total enjoyment
in mind." How so? Bullock backs up this claim with another:
"With the new Swing Wing from Butterfly Wings by GibboGear
you can go from trailer to trike flying in just 5 minutes.
"The Kalypso is a complete departure from other float
trikes," Water Trikes explains. "Designed around the
Krücker floats, the Kalypso has the ability to get two large
trikers off the water with [less] horsepower because the floats
don't get 'on step' like '3-axis floats' do. They act like a ski
and [plane on the water's surface] with 70% of the float riding
in the water to give unparalleled stability while the patent-pending
design seemingly has no resistance."
The Kalypso combines the latest design of floats, trike wing
and powerplant "to make float flying as enjoyable as you
dreamed it would be," Bullock goes on. "From floats
designed specifically for trikes to the Swing Wing designed by
Mark 'Gibbo' Gibson at Butterfly Wings by GibboGear, you'll enjoy
5-minute setups and 5-second takeoffs. If you ever wanted to fly
an amphib, now you have a reason."
Standard features of the Kalypso include: 50-hp Rotax 503 DCDI
(dual carb, dual ignition) 2-cycle aircraft engine, Zanzottera
MZ 3.11-to-1 reduction drive (with clutch) or Rotax B gearbox
drive, 67-inch Hotprop 3-blade composite scimitar propeller, GibboGear's
single-surface Butterfly** trike wing with the Swing Wing option,
electric retractable wheels (with manual backup), instruments
(dual EGT, tach and Hobbs® hourmeter), and protective covers
for the instruments, engine and prop.
One Kalypso standard feature not usually included in the price
of other amphibious ultralights is the Kalypso's custom trailer,
which Bullock added to his list of standard features after a trucking
company wanted to charge him more than $1,500 for shipping just
the floats after the September 11 terrorist attack on the World
Trade Center twin towers and the Pentagon. Now the fully assembled
and ready-to-fly Kalypso comes to customers "on its own wheels."
Customers can either pick up the Kalypso on its trailer at the
factory, or Water Trikes will deliver the trike and trailer to
the buyer (for an additional fee).
Options include: Other engines, other trike wings (by BB Trikes,
GibboGear and North Wing Design), and a ballistically deployed
BRS emergency backup parachute.
Construction of the Kalypso is an all-aircraft-grade 6061-T6
aluminum frame with stainless steel components, stainless steel
cable and AN hardware, according to Water Trikes.
Price for the complete ready-to-fly (and factory test-flown)
Kalypso amphibious trike (with 50-hp Rotax 503 DCDI engine and
Butterfly trike wing), including custom trailer, is $21,995.
- Buzz Chalmers
*See "Industry Watch: Water Trikes Imports New Krücker
Floats," November '01 Ultralight Flying! magazine
Brochure: free. Video: $25. Water Trikes, PO Box 345,
Dept. UF, White Rock, SC 29177. Phone: (803) 407-2338 * Fax: (209)
633-6652 * e-mail:
**See "Industry Watch: ...And Now, a Trike Wing Kit,"
January '01 UF! magazine