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Belite Aircraft shears axle while taxiing in Flint Hills pasture

WICHITA — James Wiebe made a precautionary landing in his Belite ultralight aircraft in a pasture in the Flint Hills on Wednesday.

The landing was safe and smooth, he reports. But after refueling, the axle of the aircraft broke off while taxiing. The propeller was destroyed, but the airframe was unhurt.

“I think there was a hole (in the ground), and I also think we under-designed the main axle,” Wiebe told me in an e-mail. “In looking at it, there was a clear, single point of failure — the axle. We designed it out of hollow material to save weight.”

Wiebe said he already has a new solid, and much stronger axle cut and ready for installation. The aircraft is being trucked to the EAA’s annual AirVenture fly-in where the Wiebes will have the plane on display. It won’t fly again until after the show.

Check out details of his adventure in the Flint Hills on James’ blog.