Chipper Leaps Into the Air

New two-seater offers easy, lightweight construction and exceptional short-field performance.

James Wiebe and his Belite Aircraft team wanted to build a strong, lightweight airplane that would demand a minimal amount of labor to complete. In the early days of 2017 he created a clean-sheet aircraft with great short-field performance that he called the Chipper. It moved from the CAD system he and his team used to design it to a working prototype in just 90 days, barely missing North American’s 88-day record for creating the P-51 Mustang.

The new Chipper completed its first flight yesterday in Wichita, Kansas, with designer James Wiebe at the controls of the side-by-side seating taildragger.

The light sport aircraft category Chipper weighs 440 pounds empty and 926 pounds at its maximum takeoff weight. It sports a takeoff run of less than 400 feet and offers a top speed of 100 mph compared to a stall speed of less than 40 mph.

Powered by an 80 hp Rotax 912UL that drinks just four gallons of fuel each hour, the Chipper’s 28 gallon tank means it can stay aloft longer than most of the pilots who’ll fly it.

Belite kits use a light, yet strong honeycomb aluminum design created from a hexagonal structure that connects one panel to another. A square foot of honeycomb material weighs between .6 to one pound depending upon the thickness. Belite Aircraft also pre-cuts many of the major honeycomb parts to the correct shape to ease the building process.

Belite Honeycomb
One square foot of Belite’s honeycomb material weighs between .6 to one pound depending upon the thickness. Belite Aircraft

The Chipper’s covered in Oratex that looks a bit like standard Dacron, but offers many advantages. Oratex is simply glued in place and tacked with an iron to create the bond. The fabric is later shrunk to shape using a final process similar to building an RC airplane. Best of all, Oratex comes pre-painted.

The prototype demanded about 1,000 to 1,200 building hours to complete, including a number of modifications added along the way. Wiebe thinks an experienced builder may be able to complete a new Chipper in something closer to 800 man-hours.

Belite Aircraft will fly the Chipper to next month’s AirVenture.


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