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Belite Aircraft introduces ultralight with floats

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, at 3:50 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, at 6:34 p.m.

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Belite Aircraft has a new product: an ultralight with floats designed to land on water or land.

The Belite SeaLite, an amphibious single-seat, high-wing ultralight aircraft, flew for the first time Tuesday.

It was built because of customer demand, said Belite founder James Wiebe.

A customer approached Wiebe 18 months ago at AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., and said he’d buy it if Wiebe would develop it.

A deal was struck.

“There’s real demand for stuff like this,” he said.

The plane opens up a new market for the company.

“It breaks open Alaska, coastal areas such as Florida, Minnesota, Michigan, the Great Lakes and upper New England,” Wiebe said – anywhere with bodies of water.

The plane’s wing spars, floats and other key elements are made from carbon fiber. Each wing and float weighs about 20 pounds, Wiebe said. The fuselage is constructed largely from aluminum.

“This is aerospace technology applied to small aircraft,” he said.

A seaplane with floats and without wheels will cost $50,000 to purchase.

The plane with floats and wheelswill cost $60,000.

For the first flight, Wiebe took off from a glider port in north Wichita and returned to the runway.

Testing to demonstrate the aircraft’s takeoff and landing operations from water will take place soon, Wiebe said.

The ultralight craft falls under federal aircraft regulations that do not require a certificate of airworthiness, and pilots are not required to be licensed to fly it, Wiebe said.

Still, pilot skills are necessary, Wiebe said.

“It flies very much like a Piper Cub,” he said.

Delivery to the customer is expected in early 2014, Wiebe said.

The Belite Aircraft was developed from the Kitfox Lite aircraft, which Wiebe highly modified. Wiebe and his wife, Kathy, acquired the tooling, existing parts and manufacturing rights of the Kitfox in 2009.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mmcmillin.

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