Belite Aircraft, a new company based in Wichita, Kan., unveiled its prototype airplane Tuesday afternoon in the middle of the city's Old Town neighborhood. The aircraft, which flew for the first time just last week, is an extensively modified version of the Kitfox Lite. Entrepreneurs James and Kathy Wiebe acquired the production rights to the aircraft earlier this year and have redesigned it to reduce the weight below the 254-pound limit needed to qualify as an ultralight under Part 103. The wing, struts, spars and ribs are constructed using a proprietary carbon fiber process that James Wiebe says builds faster than aluminum, wood or composite construction. The aircraft will fly at about 55 knots with a range of 200 miles. It will be on display at EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh later this month and Wiebe said he will release further information at that time about pricing and delivery schedules. It will be offered for sale as a kit or fully assembled.
Wiebe called last week's brief first flight a "test hop" and said more extensive flight testing and modifications will take place before the Oshkosh debut. Various engines are still being tried out. Wiebe said the final weight will be about 245 pounds. "Of course you can fly it as a homebuilt experimental with any weight you want," he added. Wiebe is an instrument-rated pilot, and he and his wife previously developed computer storage devices, a business they sold last year. More information about the aircraft can be found at Wiebe's blog and at the company Web site.