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Is The Hummel UltraCruiser as good as it looks?

Posted By:
John Eiswirth
112
Posts
19
#1 Posted: 11/11/2009 22:27:16

I eventually want to get into LSA, but I see part 103 as a less expensive and quicker way to get into the air.  I have looked at specs and pictures of many ultralights and the one that most appeals to me is the Hummel UltraCruiser.  I like that it is all metal construction and is powered by the 1/2 VW engine.  It is advertised at 250lbs MT weight (without brakes), 500lbs gross.  I've viewed on line several sets of construction photos and it looks very doable as plans built.  Cruise is listed at 85 with stall at 28 1000fpm climb (with a 170lb operator, which I'm not).  My view is that I'm very interested but it sounds almost too good to be true.   I would like to hear from people with flying/building experience with the UltraCruiser.

WHATCHATHINK - buy the plans or keep looking?



Jim Heffelfinger
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#2 Posted: 11/12/2009 11:20:56

I hate this ..... just spent 20 minutes typing away and I bumped the keyboard and lost it all........

Look around and see if there are any REALLY legal (part 103) Ultracruisers flying.    I bet few or none.  Cruise speed is outside the UL limits.  Weight has been a big issue with ALL the ULs.  Most are legal on paper only - some are impossible to make weight - unless you eliminate the engine.  BTW the 1/2 VW is 90 pounds.  That leaves 163 pounds for everything else.   See the thread on this UL forum - DATA mining. 

Ask the designer for a listing of flying Ultracruisers to check in with.  



James R Thomas
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#3 Posted: 11/12/2009 12:54:37

Jim is absolutely right, there are very few legal ultralights. I used to belong to a USUL club and someone had the bright idea of weighing our planes. We were shocked at the results. None were within 50 pounds of being legal and most were 100 pounds plus over. All were advertised by the manufacturer as being under 254 pounds. The trick here is that it is the builders responsibility to make sure the completed airplane makes the legal weight. You have several options. I'm sure you can find a trike or even a fixed wing, like a very basic Quicksilver that will make Part 103 but you'll be sitting out in the open. That's great in summer but severely limits when you can fly. Your range and performance will be severly limited but they're a ball to fly. Another option, pretend it makes Part 103 like most "ultralighters" do and don't draw attention to yourself. Phantoms are great choices that fall into this class. They look like an ultralight is supposed to look like but they have good performance and the pod and windshield will make it  more bearable in cold weather. If you want an even better "go somewhere" airplane, do the Sport Pilot. It's not that hard or expensive and it opens up a whole lot of performance options. There are lots of good  planes like Challengers, Kolbs and Hawks, both single and 2 place that make good cross country planes but make great "low and slow" planes too. After a while flying in circles is going to get old and you'll want to go somewhere. It's a lot more pleasant in an enclosed cockpit at  70 or 80 mph than at 40mph out in the open. Just one more word of  advise. Flying and being a cheapscape ofter leads to disaster. Thinking back over the years about all the mishaps I've seen, practically all were caused by people trying to fly junk to save money. The 2 things just don't mix. Buy a good, solid, proven design with a proven engine and you'll never regret it. Thanks for giving me a chance to sound off. Cheap advise but you can't beat the price! James Thomas



John Eiswirth
112
Posts
19
#4 Posted: 11/12/2009 21:35:58

Thank you James and Jim for your responses.  I am skeptical and that's why I'm seeking knowledgeable opinions.  Hummel has other models that are advertised as heavier that are longer with a shorted wingspan and 2 more cylinders with probably brakes and a few other options that fly faster, climb quicker and I'm guessing have more, thicker metal. I'm really hoping against hope that there's more truth than fiction to the UltraCruiser.

I had my eyes on the Rag Wing Special (wings fold), but I talked to someone a few years ago who built one and it was grossly underpowered, read that as scarey, with the engine required for ultralite use.  If it was heavy he didn't say so but I didn't ask.  He was going to change engines, add a few features and go for experimental with it. 

I read a story about the Mini Max a while back that claimed it as being one of the few compliant ULs.  There are many things that appeal to me about it, but it is f/w construction and the wings don't fold which means I can't store it inside and I live in Louisiana in a place where fairly high gusty winds are more a rule than exception on hot afternoons (and we get more than our share of rain). 

Maybe I should play the game and pretend, but if somewhere along the line there is a form where I have to certify that it is compliant --- every FAA form I've seen that you sign says something about a $250,000 fine for stretching the truth.  I haven't given up yet, but if Part 103 is a myth, or if I can't find a ULV that mimics a real airplane that will work for me, I'll skip UL's and start plans building a LSA with flying lessons to come later. I was hoping to use the UL between infrequent lessons while building the LSA.   If I look hard enough I can probably find another way to get some air under my butt, but it won't be more convenient or as much fun as taxiing out of my driveway to the grass strip across the street.



Jim Heffelfinger
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#5 Posted: 11/13/2009 12:30:21

 

John,

Let me be truthful – there are still many ULs that are out of compliance actively flying.  Everyone knows it.  That said – if the FAA comes to you and says prove your plane is part 103 legal. You will have to take the bullet and you may not like the ER bill.  The maverick attitude is what got part 103 in the 80s and helped with LSA/SP. 

Back before LSA/SP it was a wild west show.  More planes went from designed 30 HP to 50 HP than you can shake a stick at.  We got used to great performance – not requiring 90% power to make level flight.  People were buying 2 seater “trainers” and using it as a 2 seat plane – no cert as an instructor.  Taking people for rides – for money.  The FAA was not happy with the self-policing by the industry – there were too many mavericks.  

The intro of LSA/SP placed the gray zone to 0.  If not UL then LSA and requires a license.  This is a good thing and a bad thing depending on your perspective.  No matter what start, you will need lessons in either a UL trainer (yes they still exist) or SLSA.  Just because the UL doesn’t require a license that does not mean you do not need lessons.  I won’t belabor this as I assume we are high functioning adults here.

One thing I strongly feel about is  - the learn before you buy.  Here are my thoughts: As a non pilot you are just dreaming of flight  - a great emotional journey.   If funds were unlimited you would be getting sweaty palms over a Cirrus or Lancair brochure.   Once you start flight training you will be getting a lot of reality training as well.  Your preference for aircraft will – I guarantee it – change.  Your dreams will be grounded in knowledge and had you bought that high performance aircraft you would be kicking yourself at how you are going to sell it to buy what now interests you – a Pietenpol.

That said - go get hooked up with lessons.  Consider all the possibilities of flight.  PPC, PPG, gliders, lighter than air, UL fixed wing, trike, gyro, Sport Pilot (LSA), classics – J3 and the like, or the Cessna flight school route.  Hook up with an EAA chapter – it may be a better value for lessons.  Consider a plane after you have some hours. 

Don’t discount wood.  In well maintained condition they last as long as a metal plane.  There are a number that have folding features and they can make weight much easier.  See Fisher Flying Products.

 



Roger Mann
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#6 Posted: 11/13/2009 13:01:38


Ragwing 28.JPGHel John, You are getting some good advise and I agree about the phantom, with a UL engine in order to make the weight it is a good choice. Don't give up and do what you are doing which is research and when ever possible verfy it yourself by visiting and seeing for yourself. The minimax's are also very easy to remove the wings so that may be your best option.

I am currently trimming a few pounds off of a ultralight "to be"that I now have finished. It is 298 lbs with a Chute so I need to trim off 20 lbs which is possible but I will have to do away with a few items that I wanted like tundra tires and encloseure. But I just like you need a wing fold now so that has to stay.

Best of luck with your search, roger



Files Attachment(s):
Ragcat Wing fold.jpg (380078 bytes)
John Eiswirth
112
Posts
19
#7 Posted: 11/13/2009 13:30:37

Thanks Jim,

I understand your concerns and my "lessons come later" comment probably caused you to think I would fly a UL without them.  If I go the UL route while building the LSA, I will take lessons through solo before any UL lift off.  I flew back seat as a teenager in a Civil Air Patrol Aeronca L-16; about 30 hours  of Sunday afternoons that don't count toward a license.  We worked on straight & level flight by visual cues, turns, steep turns, around a point, figure 8, power off stalls, picking a spot and flying an emergrncy landing approach down to 50' w/go around.  No take offs or landings, but follow throughs on the controls.  I took a couple of lessons in 1966 before joining the USAF in a Cessna 150 and a couple more lessons in 1973 in a Cherokee 140.  The fun stuff has been on the back burner for a long time while investing in family.  I'm retired now and I'm looking to find a way to use limited resources as I identify them amplifying them with sweat eguity to get as far as I can go.  I'm pretty good with things mechanical; very much at home rebuilding engines and spent a cold winter working on the "airframe crew" recovering that L-16 with Irish linen and dope.  Somethings gonna work and I won't do anything stupid.   I appreciate your advice very much. 



Jim Heffelfinger
Homebuilder or Craftsman
256
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#8 Posted: 11/13/2009 16:29:25

Another issue with the UL enclosed aircraft is size.  Most are 22-24 inches wide on the inside.  So if you have picked up a few mid-life crises pounds then it will be necessary for a "fitting".  The Fisher FP- series aircraft are all about the same size - following the same basic design model. But the open cockpit models allow a slightly larger (tall/wide) person to get in AND out.  As you stated you want a plane that looks like a plane size does matter.  

Some UL aircraft get over weight just by heavy handed painting.  Others are "modified" and end up over.  On some taking off the oversized wheels and the 50 hp engine will get pretty close.   



John Eiswirth
112
Posts
19
#9 Posted: 11/13/2009 21:11:51

Nice looking RagCat Roger.  I wish you much luck with finding the right places to trim the weight.  I'm not going to give up but I see a lot of research and material weight calculations in my immediate future.  Looks like I'm going to need to build them on paper to decide the probabilities of making the weight limit.

Thank you for the advice and for sharing your project.  I look forward to seeing some shots of it in the air!

 

John



John Eiswirth
112
Posts
19
#10 Posted: 11/13/2009 22:09:00

Hi Jim,

My shop is pretty well equiped for wood work (I'm completing the rebuild of a mantle for the house at present) so nothing is off the table at this point.  I'm disappointed that I can't necessarily believe the specifications as listed in AeroCrafter and Kitplanes.  I'm going to try to make some real good estimates based on all the info I can find on models that I would like to own.  I lean toward metal construction, if I can calculate a probability that it will be legal, because I am thinking seriously about a Zenith CH-750 or 701 plans built w/Corvair engine for my LSA project and it would be similar construction.

 



Jerry Rosie
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
482
Posts
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#11 Posted: 11/14/2009 12:44:48

 I read a story about the Mini Max a while back that claimed it as being one of the few compliant ULs.  There are many things that appeal to me about it, but it is f/w construction and the wings don't fold which means I can't store it inside and I live in Louisiana in a place where fairly high gusty winds are more a rule than exception on hot afternoons (and we get more than our share of rain). 

The MiniMax is 103 compliant and a fun airplane to fly.  Don't worry about storing it as the wings, though they don't fold, can be removed or installed in about 15 minutes (with help) or 30 minutes or less without help. The only drawback, in ,my opinion, is that the open cockpit makes winter flying available only for the staunchest of pilots.  It is a sturdy airplane and forgiving of all but the most agregious mistakes. (I recently sold mine and the new owner stalled it into the ground from about 10 feet in the air and, after a moment to allow his nerves to reset, was able to fly it with no damage to the aircraft or himself).  The Rotax 277 engine will give you a safe two hours of flight on a tank of gas and at 65MPH cruise can get you to a number of airports around your home base.

 



Cheers, Jerry NC22375 out of 07N
John Eiswirth
112
Posts
19
#12 Posted: 11/14/2009 22:28:56

That's pretty impressive to take a bounce like that w/o damage.  It speaks well of the bracing and strength of materials used.  The MiniMax is under consideration.  Removing the wings might make it feasable, but folding is a better option for storage in my very flexible, efficient (read that as too small) shop.  All the equipment is rolled to the side where the door isn't (unusable) when something is stored inside.  The stored item must be kicked out to set the shop up again for use.

The Perceptor N3 Pup is another ULV under consideration, but I haven't discarded the chance that the UltraCruiser could be legal.  I'm looking in my 8th edition of AeroCrafter and see the Hummel Bird listed at 268 lbs MT weight.  It's NOT a UL, has tricycle gear and looks similar, but the UltraCruiser is advertised as a total redesign for the purpose of qualifying as UL.  I'm just gonna have to beat this horse some more before I'm ready to give it up as dead.  On the other hand, my respect for money won't let me proceed unless I am as sure as I can be that I'm not wasting it.

On the "get you to a number of airports around your home base", how big a deal is it flying a UL to airports.  I'm of the impression that it takes prior permission and remember reading that you have to remain clear and give way to all certificated aircraft.  I don't remember the exact wording but Part 103 spells it out pretty clearly as I recall. My expectations have been staying around the patch, staying clear of populated areas and not flying over people or their houses while I practice between widely spaced lessons.



James R Thomas
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#13 Posted: 11/15/2009 08:14:34

Hey John, About your question about flying an ultralight into airports, as long as you stay out of controlled airspace, that is airports that have control towers, (B, C, or D airspace) you should be fine. Any public municipal airport is supposed to be for all public use. Some have tried to ban ultralights but they don't have a leg to stand on. I flew my Hawk into many airports (as an ultralight before it became a experimental light sport) and I never had any ptoblems. I was always made welcome. Just get a hand held type radio with a headset and learn all you can about airspace and proper airport procedures (like pattern altitude) . If you get some sport pilot training you'll be well educated in these things. Good luck', James Thomas



Jerry Rosie
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#14 Posted: 11/15/2009 11:07:01

Just to second James' comments about flying into airports.  I never had a problem.  A hand held in the ultralight will allow you to communicate and that is all that is required to fly into Class C and D airspace.  Class B requires a Transponder, so you probably won't even be thinkiing about that, but, there is no reason you can't fly your properly equiped (radio) ultralight into any other airport.  Nearly all ariports will give you permission to land and if there is any doubt, a phone call proir to take off should clarify it for you.



Cheers, Jerry NC22375 out of 07N
Jerry Rosie
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
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#15 Posted: 11/15/2009 11:21:41

I'm not trying to sell you a MiniMax because I can make no money from it but, don't discard it bacause the wings don't fold.  I will admit that a folding wing airplane would be more convenient in your situation, but if you use your shop to build a couple of wing cradles on casters, storing the MiniMax with its wings removed (again a 15 minute job at most) would be a simple taks of wheeling the cradled wings and the fuselage out of your shop when you wanted to use it.  Even better, but a bit more complex, mine came with a custom built trailer that carried the wings alongside the fuselage.  Movement in and out of the storage space meant wheeling the trailer in and out - no more time consuming than wheeling a wings folded airplane in and out.  The trailer was not enclosed so it weighed next to nothing, and wheeling it around was a one man job. It served to easily transport the airplane to the airport when I wanted to fly - something you are probably going to need to transport a folded wing airplane anyway.  Keep researching - it's part of the fun!

 

 

 



Cheers, Jerry NC22375 out of 07N
James R Thomas
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#16 Posted: 11/15/2009 21:08:06

I'm attempting to respond for the 4th time so here goes. All controlled airspace (B,C,and D) require radio communication, transponder and encoder. Radios are not required to fly into uncontrolled airports. It's a good idea but not manditory since older planes without electrical systems usually don't have them. A lot of municipal airports have jet and turboprop traffic that make 10 mile plus, straight in finals and you don't  want one of those bearing down on you from behind when you turn your ultralight onto a short final. Thanks, James Thomas



John Eiswirth
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#17 Posted: 11/15/2009 23:16:40

James and Jerry,

I appreciate the info.  Sounds like there could be some utility as well as fun with the un-towered airport option.   I have taxi access to a grass strip if I ever manage to have a use for it.  I know the journey will be a long one but I'm looking forward to the building as well as the flying.  I also plan to join a chapter that's not far away next year.  I went to a fly in there a few months back and they have some members flying Corvair engines.  I'm still taking baby steps but the plan is starting to gel and I feel good about the evolution of my goals.  I haven't formally written a "mission statement", but participating in these forums has been guiding me informally through that process.  For now I'm still trying to find the answer to my original thread question.  I was hoping to hear glowing reports from some UltraCruiser builder/owners.  Their silence is warning me to find a way to verify the MT weight.  If it clears that hurdle, cruise speed can probably be brought to specs with a lower pitch prop and throttle stop setting.  I've got to ratchet up my investigation of the numbers and spend less time watching videos of it flying. Thanks for sharing. -John



James R Thomas
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#18 Posted: 11/16/2009 08:07:42

Hey again John, I have people regularly asking me about how to get into flying. There are several ways, some better than others. The obvious worst would be to buy some type of ultralight and try to teach yourself to fly.I know 1 pilot who did this and survived. I knew another 1 that came to our field and tried this and died 2 minutes into his 1st flight. The best option is get Sport Pilot training 1st. Buy a study kit and you'll learn everything you'll need to know except actual hands on flying skills. You don't have to take the knowledge test before you begin flight training but the things you learn from the study guide will help a lot when you begin to fly and put these things into practice. Getting your Sport Pilot certificate is just not that big a deal. It's really enjoyable and will open up a lot more options of what you can fly. Also at this point you probably don't know what type of airplane you want. After you've become familiar and flown some different types you will be able to make an educated choice. I,ve flown a one particular type that I really disliked, some others that I much preferred over others. After sport pilot you'll have a broad choice from true ultralights up to some good performing, cross country capable airplanes. Even if you don't get your Sport Pilot certificate, you'll be far more educated. Hang in there, James Thomas



Jerry Rosie
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#19 Posted: 11/16/2009 09:22:33

 "All controlled airspace (B,C,and D) require radio communication, transponder and encoder."

 

Just to clarify - a transponder is not needed in Class D airspace - two way radio, yes, transponder, no.

 



Cheers, Jerry NC22375 out of 07N
James R Thomas
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#20 Posted: 11/16/2009 15:26:23

HEY AGAIN GERALD, I believe we've got it all straight now. You're right about D airspace, 2 way radio communication only and no transponder is required. B and C do require a mode C transponder. I'll check my book next time before I speak. I was real sure but I guess the old memory is the second thing to go. James Thomas



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