The Aerolite 103 has long been one of the leading truly legal (part 103 in the U.S.) ultralights on the scene. Pilots have been attracted to its exemplary handling, tricycle gear and control wheel configuration. The Aerolite 103 has been available fully assembled and as a wildly popular kit. Kit sales are currently backlogged for a period of 4 months. The kit is available with a variety of Hirth and MZ engines. Dennis Carley, the head honcho at Aerolite, tells folks that his 6’1″ frame and 220 pounds does nicely with the 28-hp Hirth F-33 engine. The airframe kit currently sells for $13,700 and the Hirth F-33 adds $5,700.
Aerolite has entered the green energy world with its Sun ‘n Fun debut of the all-electric Aerolite 103. Dennis Carley worked with an engineering firm to design and produce a brushless electric motor so small that it looks like a slightly enlarged prop hub. The motor runs off one to four lithium-ion battery packs, each weighing about 35 pounds. The specially designed motor is built in China, but the battery packs are made in the U.S.
The gas powered Aerolite 103 requires only 40 hours of construction from crate to taxi. This is not a pie in the sky claim from the manufacturer and scores of first time builders have proven it to be true. The new all-electric Aerolite 103 will require even less time, because the motor and battery assembly is literally plug and play. All of the components are pre-wired with connectors affixed.
After the engineers were through with the prototype, Dennis test flew the all-electric craft and he declares that it exceeded all of his expectations. Flying with three battery packs, Dennis observed that it performed similarly to the Hirth F-33 powered 103. Of course the aircraft is somewhat quieter, especially to those on the ground.
The big question is endurance. A lot depends on how much you push the aircraft and how much energy you conserve. Dennis states that a typical ultralight flight profile, with a full power take off, a reasonable climb and a 40-45 mph cruise will result in about an hour of flight time.
Another major question is whether the extra weight of the batteries will make the 103 ineligible for the exemptions granted to ultralight part 103 aircraft. Dennis sees this as uncharted territory. FAA regulations deal with gas powered aircraft. No regulations have been issued regarding electric-powered craft.
What does all this cost? Let’s just say that early adopters will have a premium to pay for being the first on their block to achieve powered flight without the assistance of dead dinosaurs. The airframe kit will presumably remain the same price, $13,700, and the electric motor package will set you back $4,650.
Correction 4/18/2021: We heard from Dennis Carley who provided this pricing information:
“The complete electric propulsion system, which includes the motor, motor mount, 2 batteries, 2 battery chargers, controller, throttle, cables, etc (everything you need to install and run the system) is $9,750. The complete system with 4 batteries and 4 chargers is $13,950.”
Dennis Carley is scheduled to fly the all-electric Aerolite 103 at Paradise City at 7:15 am on Wednesday, and hopefully other times thereafter.