Lightplane Offerings From Canada

By Dan Johnson, EAA Sport Pilot & Light Sport Aircraft Magazine, January, 2008

The Beaver and Chinook ultralight-like aircraft are arguably two of the bestknown lightweight designs coming from Canada. Aircraft Sales and Parts, more commonly known as ASAP, is the company that rescued and now manufactures and sells these designs, along with a powered parachute from its sister company, Summit Powered Parachutes. The tale of ASAP's involvement with the Chinook and Beaver offers insight into ultralight progress - Canadian style.

A History Lesson

Perhaps the most famous ultralight to come out of Canada is the Beaver. With a reported 2,200 flying units since the early 1980s, it's a successful design. However, due to corporate missteps by the companies that owned the brand, the Beaver series was nearly lost. Originally, the Beaver models were manufactured by Spectrum Aircraft Inc. Reorganization left the ultralight in the hands of a company called Beaver RX Enterprises. In 1993, that company closed its doors and stranded thousands of Beaver aircraft owners, along with all the dealerships that sold and serviced them.

Luckily, Brent and Paulette Holomis, the owners of ASAP, stepped in to fill this void. Having already saved the Chinook ultralight following the closing of Birdman Enterprises, ASAP was in position to help. Brent explains, "Because the Chinook Plus 2 is similar in construction to the Beaver, we were approached by some Beaver dealers and customers to see if we could somehow provide them with parts for their existing aircraft."

The company did more than just take over these disappearing designs. Thanks to focus and a related machine shop business, ASAP was able to make improvements on both airplanes. Today, both Chinook and the Beaver have the suffix Plus added to them to denote the additional design work done.

ASAP's array of computer-controlled machines allows the company to build parts in-house when many other manufacturers must go outside to obtain similar quality hardware. Those who compare ASAP to Quicksilver Aircraft, which also has significant machining capability, are close to the mark.

ASAP operates out of two locations. The company manufactures all parts and components for both Chinooks and Beavers at its headquarters in St. Paul, Alberta, Canada. Another location, in Vernon, British Columbia, handles all airplane inquiries and processes part orders. Technical support and new product testing is also conducted in Vernon.

ASAP also has four corporate divisions: Steel Breeze Powered Parachutes (www.SteelBreeze.ca), UL Parts (www.ULParts.com), PPC Canopies (www.PPCCanopies.com), and Summit Powered Parachutes (www.Summit- PPC.com).

The two-place, tandem Chinook Plus evolved from Birdman Enterprises original Chinook via ASAP's design team
The Chinook

Before being rescued by ASAP, some 700 Chinooks had been manufactured by Birdman Enterprises, which did a great job of originating this machine. Canadians in particular, and ultralight enthusiasts all over the world, celebrated ASAP's support of this unique light aircraft when the company took over the design in 1988, and reintroduced the design in 1989.

Though the Chinook's wide cockpit gives it a pudgy appearance from some vantage points, the design slips through the air quite well. It has light and powerful ailerons, which makes it easy to guide through the air. In general, the plane's handling is quite pleasant despite, or perhaps because of, its unorthodox shape.

The Chinook was not always fully enclosed; ASAP added a full Lexan enclosure for the Chinook Plus, making a virtual greenhouse surrounding the pilot and passenger with many square feet of clear plastic offering an unlimited view. Even in colder northern climates, that enclosure provides a reasonably comfortable environment. Entering a Chinook means lifting yourself over about 6 inches of structure, which could prove a bit challenging for less flexible aviators, but once you swing into position you'll love the roominess. Even with a rearseat passenger's feet on rudder pedals right alongside your seat, space is plentiful. If you have some extra girth yourself, the Chinook Plus might accommodate you more comfortably than some other designs.

ASAP offers the Chinook with the Rotax 503 or 582 engines, the HKS 700E, or the more powerful Rotax 912.

The Beaver

As it had done with the Chinook, ASAP added value to the Beaver RX550 by finishing the wing in conventional dope and fabric (Ceconite), rather than the original pre-sewn Dacron envelopes. Using Ceconite increases manufacturing time and adds quite a few pounds (with paint), but it lasts much longer, especially when an aircraft is stored outside. With the conversion to the Ceconite wing covering also came a change in rib spacing from 18 or 20 inches apart to 6 inches apart, which allows the wing to hold its airfoil shape better and improves performance slightly.

ASAP also redesigned the original Beaver into this Beaver RX550 Plus. Both it and the Chinook Plus have a new wing using dope and fabric, which necessitated closer rib spacing and other internal wing improvements.

ASAP also increased sleeving in the leading edge and replaced cable bracing with tubing. Subsequent to these changes, the design was subjected to full static loading, with independent analysis offered by a local university. As proof of the design's longevity, Brent reports that one Beaver RX550 has accumulated more than 2,000 hours while on duty in South Africa. Those who own older RX550s may purchase a conversion kit to upgrade the earlier models.

Build time for the RX550 kit is estimated by ASAP as 150 to 180 hours. The builder simply assembles the kit, no component fabrication is necessary, and part accuracy is good- thanks to the company's computercontrolled machining.

ASAP also supports a wide selection of engines for the RX550. Builders can choose a Rotax 582 or 912, but ASAP also works closely with HPower Ltd., in fitting the HKS 700E four-stroke engine on the Beaver airframe.

ASAP's latest offering is the singleplace Beaver meets Canada's ultralight criteria but weighs too much to fly as an ultralight in the U.S.

The control system of the Beaver RX550 Plus is quite conventional, using pushrods to control ailerons, and cables to effect rudder movements. It has full-span ailerons, which Brent says improves the handling significantly on the RX550 Plus over the original version. The RX550 Plus does not have flaps, flaperons, or other glide path control devices, though ASAP indicated these devices might be added in the future. Nor does it have trim; however, an inventive kit builder could create a trim system.

The Beaver RX550 Plus does have the ultralight-like nose cone and windscreen, but it opens to the sides, giving open-air enthusiasts a machine they'll enjoy.

A Single-Seater

Both the Chinook Plus and RX550 Plus are two-place machines. With the ultralight exemption in the United States expiring on January 31, American owners of these two-place machines will need to convert their aircraft to experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA) or experimental amateur- built status to remain legal, while our Canadian friends may continue to fly these machines under Canada's ultralight regulations.

ASAP has now introduced a singleseat version of the Beaver. This recent offering brings a pleasantly light version of the former RX35 model powered by a 40-hp Rotax 447 for $17,500. At a typical empty weight of 340 pounds, the Beaver SS doesn't qualify as a Part 103 ultralight here in the United States, but it does meet Canada's rules and offers 300 pounds of useful load. Americans who relish single-seat aircraft could build this machine as an amateur-built aircraft and fly it as a sport pilot.

Both Chinook Plus and Beaver RX55 Plus are available with the Rotax 503, 582, or 912 engines or the HKS 700-E.
Which Will It Be?

Both the Beaver and Chinook have enjoyed a rich part of Canadian light aviation history. Both have good reputations for safe operations and longevity. Ask ultralight or microlight pilots around the world and many will be familiar with the Canadian designs. With the exception of Murphy Aircraft Manufacturing's Rebel series of light aircraft, the Beaver and Chinook are some of the most recognizable lightplanes to come from America's neighbor to the north.

Given the current parity between the American and Canadian dollar, the price in Canada is essentially the same as in the United States. ASAP lists an HKS-powered Chinook 2 Plus for $26,700, only $700 more than with a Rotax 582. While the Rotax has a little more power at a bit less weight, the HKS represents a great buy, especially if you prefer four-stroke power. On the contrary, a Rotax 912-powered Chinook 2 Plus will cost $36,000.

An HKS-powered Beaver RX550 Plus lists for exactly the same price as the Chinook, though it doesn't offer the Rotax 912 version. However, the Beaver will fly adequately with the Rotax 503, and using a B gearbox, you can obtain the full airplane kit for less then $21,000. In the age of $100,000 light-sport aircraft, it's a great value. As these are homebuilt aircraft, meeting the definition of light-sport aircraft, American pilots may build the aircraft in the experimental amateur-built category and fly them with a sport pilot certificate, using a state driver's license serving as evidence of medical fitness. Of course, pilots with higher certificates may also fly these aircraft.

A View from the Summit

As evidenced by the list of divisions ASAP has created, the company believes strongly in offering a broad range of products. To that end, Summit was formed to produce powered parachutes (PPCs) and thus serve another subset of the recreational aviation market.

The company's latest machine, the Summit II, has design qualities that bear more resemblance to conventional aircraft than many other powered parachutes. Powered parachutes use canopies, or parawings, as their wings, with most coming from the same few suppliers. Summit claims to be the first to use cell canopy stiffeners. These are thicker panels of cloth sewn into the leading edge openings of a canopy's individual cells to enhance canopy opening during the inflation period. Following Summit's lead, other manufacturers have now adopted the idea.

Full Lotus Floats are a popular option for the Canadian-built aircraft.

Summit also uses distinct and separate seats for each occupant. Older powered parachute designs had seats that pressed the front occupant between the legs of the aft occupant. Many pilots, especially larger ones, find the separated, individual seats more comfortable.

Summit's carriage allows a much steeper deck angle on landing than other brands, more than three times higher, according to Summit spokesperson George Wood. The benefit of this is that a larger deck angle tends to cause initial contact only on the rear wheels rather than all three at once.

The company uses all-anodized finishing on the airframe's 6061-T6 tubing. While this is common on fixed-wing aircraft, most PPC manufacturers powder-coat their airframes. While such painting can be done precisely, the worker must be skilled at the task, and painting still doesn't cover tubing as thoroughly as does anodizing, which covers surfaces inside and out. Because anodizing is not as thick as paint, Summit believes it better permits fitting of precisely made parts. Anodizing costs more but the company feels the results are better.

Summit uses a central lower beam on its PPC carriage similar to many ultralight aircraft with tail booms. Summit calls that member a "body tube fuselage," and it distinguishes the design from that of other powered parachutes. Following this construction style with riveted gussets, Summit was able to make a strong design that is notably lighter than some of its competitors'; many other PPC models are 25 to 50 pounds heavier for a comparable model.

The Summit II's foot pedals are different than those of other PPCs; they relate well to rudder pedals on fixedwing aircraft. Most PPCs use foot bars, which tend to be nonintuitive to fixed-wing pilots. In another nod to conventional aircraft controls, the Summit II's throttle moves forward to produce more power. Traditionally trained pilots may find adapting to the Summit PPC is easier than dealing with throttles that pull aft to add power (the "joystick" method).

Summit positions the engine weight directly over the rear wheels whereas many PPCs place the engine aft of the wheels. The company says this helps Summit II deal with those landings where the aft carriage can strike the ground. Drawing further on knowledge from the ultralight aircraft industry, Summit uses a dynafocal engine mount technique to suppress vibration. (Dynafocal refers to aiming the mount attach points at the center of the engine's mass.)

ASAP's sister company, Summit Aircraft, offers uniquely designed single and two-place powered parachutes to offer flight enthusiasts another alternative.

The Summit II uses an aircraft-like control yoke but is linked only to the nose wheel, and it works intuitively for ground steering-that is, turn right/go right. Most PPCs use less familiar ground-steering systems that puzzle airplane pilots. A hand brake is fitted to the left side of the yoke operating a drum brake on the front wheel. Of course, such a brake is useful only when the wing is not lifting that wheel off the ground.

Flying The Summit

I flew with George, who proved to be a good transition instructor. Getting things rolling in a powered parachute is different than with a fixed-wing aircraft or a weight-shift machine. First you begin to power up the machine, then you make sure your wing is inflated properly, and and only then do you add full power to continue the takeoff.

In flight, you guide the Summit or most other powered parachutes with foot controls much like you steer a fixed-wing aircraft on the ground with your feet. But instead of the foot bars used on most PPCs, Summit uses foot pedals that travel back and forth on rails mounted on either side of the body tube fuselage. This likely will seem more intuitive to conventional pilots. The slideable pedals are secured to the rail top and bottom, and I found them to move quite fluidly. According to the company, the range of motion that's available from this sliding pedal arrangement gives more line action than the hinged foot bar method so that the pilot has a increased measure of control. The control range is enough, George says, that you hardly need to pull on the control lines with your hands to add input as is commonly done on other brands of powered parachutes.

Approaching to land, a final goose of power just before touchdown slowed the descent rate and we touched down with excellent control. I estimate about a 1.5-second delay between a significant power input and response from the wing, so you need to plan ahead slightly. Ignoring this delay can cause the carriage to swing more under the canopy. While that's no issue aloft, you don't want such movement as you touch down.

Full Lotus Floats are a popular option for the Canadian-built aircraft.

Most PPC manufacturers locate the main gear axle ahead of the engine weight, but Summit locates its axle a good 18 inches further aft. Combined with its main boom-type construction and adjustable hang point, it's unlikely Summit owners will experience a prop strike. Such events can occur when PPCs land with the aft end of the carriage hanging relatively low. Yet fitting powered parachute carriages with such a positive angle of attack is necessary if the parawing is to produce lift during a take-off roll. Summit's aft axle construction appears to better support the engine at all times.

My test Summit II aircraft had an S-500 Mustang canopy. This parawing is made to Summit specifications and George described it as a common square parachute. An elliptical model called the Thunderbolt E-340 is available. In both cases the numbers refer to the square footage while the S stands for square and E for elliptical. Square is best for training according to nearly all powered parachute producers.

While we flew at near gross under the S-500 Mustang, I observed the power used for various phases. During climb-out, we used about 6,200 rpm; during cruise, we used about 5,200-5,300 rpm. These values are not notably different from the average fixed-wing or trike ultralights.

George indicated that with the Thunderbolt elliptical wing, 4,700 rpm would be sufficient, showing the added efficiency of the elliptical shape even though it has only two-thirds the square area.

For landing, a 4,400-rpm setting produced about 300 fpm of descent on approach.

Summit proved its technical ability by reaching special lightsport aircraft status first among all powered parachute manufacturers. Since its related businesses have shown they can produce a wide variety of aircraft and components, this should surprise no one.

It's quite apparent the ASAP and its related companies have established a business model that intends to serve light-flight enthusiasts. Flying an ASAP or Summit machine may be your way of affordably getting into, or back into, the air.

Aircraft Sales And Parts

Web Site: www.ultralight.ca
eMail: asap@junction.net
Address: P.O. Box 995
City: Vernon, BC V1T 6N2 Canada
Phone: (250) 549-1102
Fax: (250) 549-3769

Summit Powered Parachutes

Web Site: www.summitppc.com
eMail: info@summitaerosports.com
City: Yale, MI 48097 USA
Phone: (810) 697-9638

 



 

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