SkyStar Aircraft Averts Disaster

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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 for us."

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! magazine
**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! magazine


Nielsen-Kellerman Offers Latest Pocket Weather Station

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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 Tracker include:
* Full portability
* Guaranteed accuracy specifications that ensure precise and reliable readings
* Large back-lit display for easy use in any conditions, day or night
* 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 a button
* 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 readings
* 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," NK says.
* Assembled in the USA, with a 1-year warranty

Specifications include:
* 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 1.1 inches).

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: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Phantom Aircraft Builds Seven Subassemblies

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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 Aircraft.

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: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

More Trike Wing Innovation From Gibson

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Swing Wing Option on GibboGear Trike Wings

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 to Gibson.

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 end.

"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 wings.

"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! magazine
***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 * e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .


New Kalypso - Definition of Amphibious Trike?

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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
**See "Industry Watch: ...And Now, a Trike Wing Kit," January '01 UF! 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: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .
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