Dec 29th

Hey Gang! - New Ideas for TPSocial in 2012!

By Spencer Forman
I've been extremely excited to see how many quality video producers have "blossomed" here at TPSocial... awesome!

When I started this site back in 2001, there was no one publishing any video from trikes (at all)... and I was happy to put up postage-stamp sized low res vids.

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Fast forward to 2012, and we now have HD resolution, and studio-quality production levels... all being done by passionate individuals with no formal training. WOW!

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After trying some new things last year to expand our community offerings, it has become clear that the number-one most used feature on this site is the video hosting and commenting. As such, I'm going to "re-boot" the Trikepilot Pro side of the site in January by creating a "Featured Producer" section.

This new section will be for site members who have previously posted videos that demonstrate an incredible sense of style and production value. Once someone is invited to be a "producer" of videos on the pro-side, their videos will be featured in this new section and receive the voting of the community.

It is not my intention to be exclusionary, and no one will ever be prohibited from posting to TPSocial. Rather it is a way to focus the spotlight, and give some special attention, to those who demonstrate that they are really crazy-wild over making awesome videos. For everyone else, it is a way to have a more "cinematic" experience, with a curated menu of "top-notch" videos from which to view (if you so choose).

Let me know what you think about this idea?

Safe and Happy New Year!
Spence
Jun 16th

TrikeFest is JUST around the corner!

By Spencer Forman

Time is "Flying" (hopefully in a P&M Quik ;-) fast, and the 2011 TrikeFest will be here before you know it. Here are some images from past events that were sent to me by Mike Hudetz. Hope to see some of you guys there this year! Click for Photo Gallery: and Gallery Two

Apr 5th

TPSocial hits 2000 active members!

By Spencer Forman
We've gone from 750 members to 2000 in the last year alone, with more than 125,000 page views a month. Thanks to everyone for helping to make TrikePilot a success! Cheers, Spence
Mar 31st

Updates from Spence regarding Trikepilot VIP

By Spencer Forman
We're excited to announce a long-awaited upgrade for "passionate" Trikepilot members.

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It's called Trikepilot VIP and it will provide all those crazy-good features that you've been longing for since you first pulled-in the bar.
  1. Classifieds- Why should you have to schlepp over to Barnstormers to wade through a ton of aircraft and parts that have nothing to do with trikes? Get the attention of fellow trikers, or find what you need... right within the Trikepilot community.
  2. HD Premium Video Theater - Only the "best" videos, all in HD and shown in full width mode.
  3. HD Photo Gallery - No more "squinting" to see those small size images, the new gallery is full width and HD quality.
  4. Your OWN personal trikepilot site - Yes, it's true! Now you can branch out and launch your own personal flying site or trike business from right within the trikepilot family! Just a few clicks and you have a fully hosted, secure wordpress site with crazy cool features, to use as your own personal "corner of the web" or as a sales page for your business. No longer will you be limited to just your profile page, or a group you create... you've got it all baby... you've got it all!
  5. Exclusive offers and discounts - For some of the most sought-after products and services for trike flying, photography, or videography. The power of group-buying, curated for trikepilots.
  6. Promote your product or service - With over 125,000 pageviews a month from nearly 2000 active members, Trikepilot is the number one visited trike flying site on the Internet. Why not promote your product or service directly to other pilots? As a Trikepilot VIP member, you will be able to promote your brand or business directly to other members online and via our Trikepilot newsletter.
All of these features and more will be included as part of your Trikepilot VIP membership... just $19 bucks a month or $199 bucks a year. Never fear, all of the existing Trikepilot.com features will still be available for free... but when you are ready to step-up to the "big leagues", Trikepilot VIP is the place to be.
Dec 25th

Happy Holidays and Big Thanks to everyone at Trikepilot Social!

By Spencer Forman

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Just wanted to take a break from my family day here to give a big "thanks" to all of our friends around the world who have made Trikepilot Social a big success in 2010.

We have a ton of great ideas for new features and ways to improve the site for 2011... and we will share these with you on December 31st.

Till then... have fun and fly safe!

Spence

p.s. - Thanks to my friend Steve G. who drives the Ferrari! (I wish I had both in the hangar....!!)
Oct 28th

Electric Airplanes, Coming to a Flight School Near You - Trikes Next?

By Spencer Forman
Thanks to Wired Magazine:

Range. It seems to be the word that is in the middle of any debate about electric vehicles. As we discovered in our short flight in the E-Spyder, electric airplanes won’t be crossing the country any time soon on battery power. But there is already plenty of interest from pilots who look forward to the quiet, smooth flight, even if the early electric aircraft won’t provide anything close to the range of traditional small airplanes.

But flight schools are showing a strong interest, liking the low cost and simplicity of electric flight.

Flight times for two-seat electric aircraft in development already exceed 90 minutes. That might not be enough for a long cross-country flight, but it’s longer than the typical flight lesson lasts. And this is what has caught the attention of flight schools.

The commercial side of electric airplanes may be less about going places, and more about teaching student pilots how to fly. And the first electric student pilot has already flown solo, learning the basics entirely in a battery-powered airplane.

The history of electric aircraft is a relatively short one. At least the list of aircraft is short. Sure, the Tissandier brothers flew an airship flying under electric power in the 1880s. But it wasn’t until the late 1970s that electric airplanes started to take flight, and it was far from commonplace.

Many of those early electric airplanes flew on solar power, such as Larry Mauro’s Solar Riser, Paul MacReady’s Solar Challenger and Eric Raymond’s Sunseeker, which he flew across the United States in a series of 121 flights during the summer of 1990.

But these aircraft were pioneering, experimental airplanes, not the kind of airplane an average pilot could hop into and take off for an easy flight.

The short history of electric aircraft aimed at pilots who could buy one and fly only started in 2007 when Randall Fishman first flew his battery-powered trike hang glider and unveiled it to the world at Airventure Oshkosh.

Randall Fishman's ElectraFlyer-X

Since 2007, Fishman has gone on to build and fly an single-seat electric airplane based on a motor glider design and is currently finishing the design and construction of a two-place composite airplane he believes will compete with similarly sized light sport aircraft.

And Fishman isn’t alone. EADS, the parent company of Airbus, has converted the tiny Cri-Cri to electric power. And an Italian team flew the electric SkySpark at more than 150 miles per hour in 2009.

Airplanes closer to production include the E-Spyder ultralight we described yesterday and its big brother, Yuneec’s E430.

With a serious commitment of funds, China’s Yuneec appears poised to be the first company to sell an electric powered airplane to the public. Five of the two-seat E430s undergoing flight testing already include a pair here in the United States.

The company recently opened a 270,000-square-foot factory near Shanghai dedicated to electric aircraft manufacturing and will add another 200,000 square feet this spring.

Yuneec’s managing director Clive Coote says after first unveiling the E430 in Oshkosh last year, they received a lot of interest from pilots and flight schools. The company listened to the feedback and made several changes to the design.

The updated E430 includes easily removable wing tips that allow it to be stored in standard aircraft hangars, and the batteries can easily be swapped in less than four minutes. Coote says several flight schools were impressed by the design and, perhaps more importantly, the operating costs he says will be less than $10/hour.

“I think the flight school side in the states is going to be very, very big for electric.”

Coote says the two-seat E430 will sell for just under $90,000, tens of thousands of dollars less than many traditional gas-powered light sport aircraft. He says Yuneec is set to begin production next year and deliver the first models to customers in early 2012. With the swappable battery, Coote believes a flight school can operate the airplane all day with just two batteries. A boost charger can refill the electrons in less than 90 minutes and he adds the batteries can be balance-charged every night to increase longevity.

With more than 1500 cycles per battery, each battery pack should last between 2,000 to 3,000 flight hours, more than the typical gasoline engine the electric-power system replaces. An additional battery pack isn’t cheap though, they cost around $20,000 each.

The Federal Aviation Administration currently does not have any rules in place for electric aircraft. The FAA says before regulators could recognize electric propulsion systems for certification, several standards including performance, installation and maintenance would have to be developed in order to certify an electric airplane.

ASTM International, the standards organization that oversees the light-sport-aircraft industry is in the process of drafting documents for electric light-sport aircraft that it will present to the FAA. These standards could cover aircraft such as Randall Fishman’s ElectraFlyer-X and Yuneec’s E430.

The E-Spyder is able to fly under the regulations outlined for ultralight aircraft weighing less than 254 pounds empty that have been in place since the ultralight boom of the 1980s. And the small airplane has already served as the learning platform for the first student pilot flying electric.

Tom Peghiny who has been flying ultralights for more than 25 years began carefully instructing one of his employees in the E-Spyder during the past month. Mathew Fortin is an experienced pilot of remote-controlled aircraft and competes at the national level in r/c aerobatics.

Before his first taxiing lessons down the runway in the E-Spyder, Fortin had only flown a few times in small aircraft with no formal instruction.

“This is my first real experience with takeoffs and landings,” he said of flying the E-Spyder.

Student pilot Mathew Fortin learning to fly in the E-Spyder

With Peghiny’s instruction and supervision, Fortin made several trips up and down the runway before making his first small hops off the ground. In the end, he estimates he made around 25 trips up and down the runway without flying more than just a few feet above the runway.

With this experience under his belt, Fortin made his first flight to altitude last Thursday and says it was an incredible feeling to pilot an aircraft for the first time. And he does think the electric motor makes learning to fly more enjoyable.

“It was less intimidating having the electric motor, not some loud clanky gas engine” Fortin says. “It really makes it easy to focus on flying.”

There are still no electric airliners on the drawing boards, or even an airplane capable of a long cross-country flight. So, until the much dreamed of super batteries are developed, student pilots learning to fly in an electric airplane will of course need some transition training to fly normal gas-powered aircraft.

But in the near term, there could be a generation of pilots who not only learn to fly, but learn to enjoy the pleasure, and challenges, of flying with only the flow of electrons powering their flight.

Photos: Yuneec International, Electric Aircraft Corporation, Mathew Fortin

 

Jul 22nd

Astra 103 details published in EAA Light Plane World

By Spencer Forman
Courtesy of Dan Grunloh - LightPlaneWorld

New Astra 103 Trike – and Solo Fixed Wing

Astra 103 Trike

Allistair Wilson, the creator of the Astra line of trikes, has begun test-flying a new single-seat trike design called the Astra 103. The news was revealed on the trike enthusiast website Trikepilot Social by Spencer Foreman, who provided the photo for this report. In an interview, Allistair says, “The Astra 103 is designed to be a stable cross-country-capable trike. It is not a nanolight trike with a hang-glider wing. It is a real trike wing designed to be safe and stable in turbulence. I have flown it in 15-mph turbulent wind conditions, and it behaves just like the larger Astra two-seat trikes. It is a fun trike to fly.”

The Rotax 503-powered trike has a 13.5-square-meter 40percent double surface wing. The trike frame is built from the same materials as the larger Astra trikes, 6082 AL, which is stronger and more fatigue resistant than 6061 AL. Although the Astra 103 won’t be at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2010, Allistair will be exhibiting his new single-seat metal/composite fixed wing, the Solo, which is powered by a Hirth F-33.

The Astra 103 trike base tube is “ventilated” to reduce weight. It has steel wishbone main landing gear legs and lightweight main shocks. The front suspension is mild steel, with drag links and high-density butyl shock discs. The wheels are Zytel, 12.5-inch-diameter rear with 10.5-inch-diameter front, and a front drum brake is built into the wheel.

Stall speed is 27 mph, and the velocity never to exceed is 68 mph with a speed range of 30 to 63 mph. Cruise is 45 mph burning 1.8 gallons per hour at 4,400 rpm on a four-blade 59-inch Ultraprop. The climb rate is approximately 900 feet per minute at 40 mph. The trike body is a lightweight carbon fiber reinforced composite, with pod, instrument panel, composite seat, and lightweight wheel pants. The 5-gallon-capacity fuel tank is welded aluminum. The MGL Flight-2 instrument system provides digital airspeed indicator, vertical speed indicator, and altimeter, as well as fuel computer, volts, flight timers, dual exhaust gas temperature/cylinder head temperature, and many other useful functions.

The price for the Astra 103 is $15,495, and Allistair is taking orders now for delivery in September. The Astratrike.com website will soon be updated with new information about the Astra 103 trike and the new Solo fixed wing. Work is progressing on a special light-sport aircraft version of the Astra HKS. The two-seat trikes on the website are still available as amateur-build kits, and spare parts are still available for the existing fleet of E-LSA Astra trikes. For views of the Solo fixed wing, watch this video of the Solo test flight. And anyone who loves flying will enjoy this fun video of Allistair hands-free flying the Astra 103. Contact Sportflight International LLC at Sportflight@aol.com or call 812-384-4760.

Jul 15th

The Global Reach of Trikepilot Social

By Spencer Forman
I just installed a new analytics program, which has a pretty neat set of features, including a desktop client that allows me to monitor the site and offer tech-support to any visitors in real-time. Fun!

While exploring the output from just a day or so of use, I was gratified to see just how GLOBAL our trike flying community really turns out to be (although I think I always knew it from the member profiles). Check out the chart below:

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Jun 11th

Spy shots of new 103 legal single-seat trike from Astra

By Spencer Forman
Our sources in the field have sent us these never-before-seen shots of the new 103 Legal single-seat trike from Astra. We don't have all the details, but understand that this flying version has a Rotax 503, single-surface wing, and bears some lineage from the classic "Chaser" design. More to come...

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May 31st

Trikepilot Social is going to "Admin Approval Required" to join

By Spencer Forman
Well, I never thought I'd have to do this... but I'm turning on the "admin approval required" to join option on Trikepilot Social. Why? Mainly because there is a group of scammers and spammers that basically cause me to have to spend more time "deleting" them on this current platform we use, than it would take to "deny" them from ever getting an account.

We are in the process of getting our new (third time the charm?) home ready for you on our new platform, where this will not be required. But in the meantime, it's simply too much clicking around for me to "fix" what they do, than it would be to stop it from happening.

This is probably of no relevance to any of you existing members, other than to say... you will no longer be receving messages asking you if you want a new girlfriend... sorry ;-(

Safe Flying!
Spence