GT Manufacturing Develops Xtralite SkyCycle Trike

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Uses 25.5-Horsepower Simonini 2-Cycle Engine

Right: GT Manufacturing's redesigned SkyCycle trike (called the Xtralite SkyCycle), flies below the ridge of Lookout Mountain, world-renowned for soaring. Shown here, the Xtralite is fitted with a state-of-the-art Wills Wing double-surface "topless" (no kingpost or upper rigging) Fusion 150 hang glider for its wing. Below: The single-seater features the 25.5-hp Simonini Mini Plus 2-cycle engine spinning a 2-blade wood prop as standard. Other engines are available on the Xtralite trike.

It began as the Freedom Machine,* a lightweight single-seat trike ultralight designed to be capable of using actual hang gliders for its wing (as opposed to most trikes which employ hang glider-type trike wings specifically designed for heavier trikes). Soon renamed the SkyCycle trike by GT Manufacturing designer and owner Matt Taber, the single-seater appealed to hang-glider-pilots-turned-trikers and other ultralighters looking to soar high in thermals without having to make a long drive to the mountains just to find the best launch site to foot-launch their hang gliders. GT Manufacturing is a sister company to Taber's Lookout Mountain Flight Park, the number-one training center in the U.S. for graduating mountain-qualified hang glider pilots. The SkyCycle's claim to fame may well be its ability to "thermal" like a hang glider ­ to turn the engine off and rely on Mother Nature's natural elevator to the heavens, riding the rising air currents to cloudbase.

At first, the SkyCycle used the 22-hp Zenoah G25B-1 single-cylinder 2-cycle engine from Japan for its powerplant (still available as an option). But Taber redesigned the SkyCycle and cut 20 pounds from the weight by utilizing thin-walled TIG-welded 4130 chromoly steel for the trike carriage and employing a lighter (and more powerful) 25.5-hp Simonini Mini Plus 2-cycle engine from Italy. Electric start is a standard feature on the Simonini engine. The lighter weight of the new model ­ called the Xtralite SkyCycle ­ enhances its ability to soar (gain altitude engine-off in rising air).

"This is a true lightweight portable soaring solution," Taber says. "The idea is to fly this machine into the sky and find a thermal, then turn the engine off and challenge yourself to stay up using no engine power." The total (gross) weight of trike carriage, wing, fuel and pilot is important in soaring ­ and the less weight the better. GT Manufacturing lists the empty weight of their Xtralite SkyCycle trike carriage at 80 pounds, and the weight of the Xtralite including a typical wing as 135 pounds.

"The Xtralite weighs in at an incredible 80 pounds, not including the wing," GT Manufacturing says. Pilots can use the hang glider of their choice as the Xtralite's wing. To be used, most modern hang gliders require no modification except beefing up the side wires, GT Manufacturing indicates. The company will assist in fitting each Xtralite pilot to the best choice of wing for their trike.

"Many people are concerned with buying the fastest wing," Taber points out. "But that's not the most important feature of a wing. Most soaring pilots wish to be in the air with an easily controlled and forgiving wing to have fun, not just cover the most distance. Ease of flying and stability of the wing are more important to the typical soaring trike pilot."

GT Manufacturing also touts the portability of their Xtralite SkyCycle. "The unit will fold down into an easily managed structure on wheels, which fits in the bed of a pickup truck or inside a minivan," the manufacturer says. "Most hang glider wings fold up in 15 minutes and will easily transport on an auto roof rack."

What about performance? "The Xtralite packs plenty of power for any pilot," the company says. "Pilots must choose a wing which will accommodate their weight plus the 80 pounds of the machine.

"Performance characteristics with most recreational hang gliders used for the wing are very impressive," GT Manufacturing claims. "The Xtralite trike with the standard Simonini engine requires only 75 feet of runway to take off, and can crank out 500 feet per minute of climb."

Standard features of the Xtralite include: Simonini Mini Plus 2-cycle engine with electric start and 2-blade wood prop, foot throttle, custom GT 5-point shoulder harness pilot restraint, comfortable GT fabric sling seat and removable 3-gallon polyethelene fuel tank.

Options include a fiberglass fairing package (for the trike carriage), fiberglass wheel pants, instruments (EGT, CHT, tach, hourmeter), faired GT saddlebags (designed to fit a hand-deployed emergency parachute), hand-deployed parachute or ballistic BRS emergency parachute, and custom floats.

The price for GT Manufacturing's single-seat Xtralite SkyCycle trike (without wing) is $5,500. "The friendly folks at Lookout Mountain Flight Park will help fit each pilot to the best choice of gliders," GT Manufacturing says.

*See "Industry Watch: Freedom Machine 'Soars' on the Market," July '98 Ultralight Flying! magazine

­ Buzz Chalmers

Discovery (introductory) flight: $99. Info: free. GT Manufacturing, 7201 Scenic Hwy., Dept. UF, Rising Fawn, GA 30738. Phone: (706) 398-3541, toll-free: (800) 688-5637 * Fax: (706) 398-2906
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