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

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.