Sometimes you’re in the right place at the right time. Well, OK, I’m biased but I think pretty much any time at Wallaby Ranch — the iconic hang gliding facility south of Disney Orlando — is a good time. When it also happens to be “Demo Days,” Wallaby is a jumping place!
Demo Days is a longstanding activity where the California manufacturer, Wills Wing, brings its newest hang gliders by the truckload so that any qualified pilots can fly them for purchase evaluation. Lots of other folks show up because it’s fun and exciting, but also because organizers hold the event right before Sun ‘n Fun starts.
Wallaby customers compose the perfect crowd for introducing a lightweight trike that can be flown for soaring fun. Airborne Australia is the Down Under manufacturer of both hang gliders and a successful line of trikes; it owns SLSA status for its XT-912 and XT-912 Outback.
“We are pleased to showcase our new Part 103 trike, the Thermalite (or TLite) with also-new Core wing,” Airborne announced. Company director Russell Duncan said TLite’s most distinctive feature is the Bailey 4V-200 engine from England. A 200cc SOHC four-stroke puts out 22 horsepower at 8200 rpm via a Poly-V belt reduction drive. Thanks to a low weight of just 43 pounds Bailey engines have seen wide use on powered paragliders. “These are beautiful engines purpose built for ultralights,” clarified Russell. Airborne also notes that the wing has been tested to Light-Sport standards assuming a pilot weight of 242 pounds.
On my recent visit to Wallaby, I got a chance to take a flight in the Thermalite/Core. What a sweet little machine! Even without hearing protection and at full throttle noise is modest. Engine shut down and restart is simple. Climb isn’t fast but more than sufficient. Handling on the Core wing was light and effective, a one-handed flyer if conditions permit. Both wing and trike carriage fold up for transport by pickup or trailer and since it weighs only 238 pounds empty (well under the Part 103 weight limit of 254 pounds), Thermalite won’t be too much to handle.
Thermalite will cost $18,300 plus shipping, making a U.S. total of just under $20,000. That is a complete price with four-stroke engine, electric start, and a ready-to-fly weight shift trike. Thermalite carries just three gallons of gasoline yet several folks flew the machine throughout the day on a single tank. I took off with a gallon and a half on board and couldn’t tell I used any on landing (which I did engine off). Can you tell I enjoyed Thermalite?
Dan Johnson, president of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA), is an expert on Light Sport Aircraft. For more on Sport Pilot/LSA: ByDanJohnson.com