Total Eclipse Fly-In for All Ultralights

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The name Total Eclipse is somewhat unusual for a fly-in, but it seems befitting of an up-and-coming gathering of all types of ultralights (powered and otherwise) garnering attention at the Carroll County-Tolson Airport outside Carrollton, Ohio. "I wanted to get as many ultralights in the air as possible to 'totally eclipse the sun'," says fly-in organizer Mark Mathias about naming the fly-in, which he founded in '93. Mathias, who operates a chemical packaging company as his regular profession, says he started the Total Eclipse Fly-In because his family of non-flyers always picked non-aviation events to vacation at. He decided if he couldn't go to the big fly-ins to see the ultralights, he would start his own fly-in and get the ultralights to come to him.

Eight years later, the fly-in is still growing and attracting notice from the area media, with more than 100 ultralights expected to attend the 2001 version on the weekend of August 18 and 19. Mathias says he personally spends about $500 promoting the event each year, inviting ultralight manufacturers and distributors to attend and display their ultralights, as well as arranging for ultralight instructors to be on hand to offer introductory flight lessons to the general public and spectators. He also maintains and uses an extensive mailing list of ultralight pilots, sending out a flyer each year to potential attendees (call him to get on the list). Mathias does not charge ultralight companies for display space at the fly-in, a benefit that attracts ultralight manufacturers such as CGS Hawk manufacturer Chuck Slusarczyk of CGS Aviation in Broadview Heights, near Cleveland, Ohio.

"Chuck runs my ultralight contests," Mathias says, going on to explain that his fly-in does not offer any serious ultralight competition (the competition is not sanctioned by an ultralight organization, and offers no National Ranking Points to competitors), but rather Mathias prefers fun contests for pilots and spectators. Slusarczyk, an ultralight pioneer and one of ultralighting's most entertaining characters, also brings his guitar and harmonica, to sing and entertain when he's not spinning ultralight tales of the early days.

All types of ultralights ("all small flying vehicles" the flyer says) are welcome to attend and should be represented at the Total Eclipse Fly-In -- fixed-wing ultralights, trikes, powered parachutes, gyroplanes, hang gliders and helicopters -- according to the organizer. "The fly-in is open to the public," Mathias notes. "Everyone is welcome." Ultralight flight instructors will be available to give introductory flight lessons in ultralights, powered parachutes and gyroplanes, according to Mathias. This year, Mathias appears to be making a special effort to get more trikes to attend the fly-in.

Carroll County--Tolson Airport features parallel asphalt and grass runways (4,300-foot asphalt and 1,600-foot grass), an on-site fixed base operator (but no on-site ultralight dealer), an on-site aviation parts store, and an on-site restaurant. The restaurant, with their famous pies, attracts people from all over the region, according to Mathias. Accommodations include on-site camping, a motel 2 miles away, and a bed and breakfast nearby.

The Total Eclipse Fly-In is held every year on the third full weekend of August.

Info: Total Eclipse Fly-In, Mark Mathias, PO Box 145, Dept. UF, Gnadenhutten, OH 44629. Phone: (740) 922-2228 * Fax: (740) 922-9246 * e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Sandhill Cranes Successfully Return North

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Lishman and Ultralights Led Them South on Migration

 Migration is not an inherent trait for birds -- it must be taught. By getting these sandhill cranes to imprint on the trike, "disguised" as a big ugly crane (left) as their "mother," the birds are eventually taught to trust it and fly in formation with it, the prelude to teaching them the migration route. "With a 50-hp Rotax 2-cycle engine, the trike flies at 28 to 55 mph and has a range of 3 hours; cranes average about 32 mph," says Operation Migration.
Photos by Joseph Duff, courtesy of Operation Migration

After Bill "Father Goose" Lishman flew south in his trike, leading a flock of sandhill cranes (raised in captivity) on their first winter migration last fall, the big question remained: Would the big birds complete their migration by returning north on their own? The answer to that question would determine whether the same ultralight-led migration could be attempted again, this time with a flock of endangered whooping cranes (also raised in captivity), in an attempt to increase the whooping crane population in the wild. Whooping cranes are the most endangered crane on earth, having recovered from a low of only 21 birds in '41 to slightly more than 400 today.

The answer to the big question is now in, and it's Yes! The sandhill cranes did complete the round-trip on their own, migrating the 1,250 miles north to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).

On April 27, signals from radio transmitters attached to the sandhill cranes (the most numerous of the crane family) were detected, indicating the cranes had arrived at their summer feeding grounds up north. The flock had left their winter refuge at the St. Martins Marsh Aquatic Preserve, owned by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in Citrus County in central Florida on February 25. Lishman's Operation Migration*ultralights had led the cranes there, completing the journey on November 11, 2000. Lishman's pioneering work raising and then flying with migratory birds in his ultralight was the basis for the Hollywood movie Fly Away Home**. Lishman and Operation Migration cofounder Joe Duff produced a video on the movie, released by In the Sky Productions***With the sandhill crane migration success, Lishman and Operation Migration are one step closer to the ultimate goal of reintroducing to the wild a flock of endangered whooping cranes, using the same ultralight-led migration techniques. If the Fish and Wildlife Service approves the proposal, WCEP will try to establish a migrating flock of whooping cranes in the eastern portion of the North American continent. (A single "western flock" of wild whooping cranes currently migrates between Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast of Texas). The total population of wild whooping cranes is a single flock "subject to hurricanes, contaminants and disease," says WCEP. "To help ensure the species' survival, the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team (a WCEP member) decided a second wild flock of migrating whooping cranes should be established in the eastern United States." As this issue of Ultralight Flying! magazine went to press, the word was that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approval for Operation Migration to proceed (this time with whooping cranes) could possibly have come as early as June '01.

Stay tuned to Ultralight Flying! magazine for more on this continuing experiment utilizing ultralight aircraft, or check out Operation Migration's Website at: .

*For more on Bill Lishman and Operation Migration, see "Flightlines: Update -- 'Father Goose' Bill Lishman;" August '00 Ultralight Flying!UF! magazine
**See "Fly Away Home," November '96 UF! magazine
***See "Video Views: The Ultrageese -- The Inspirational Story Behind the Columbia Pictures Hit Film," November '98 UF! magazine magazine; and a related article, "Flightlines: Whooping Cranes Get Royal Attention," June '99


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 .

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