CHUGIAK, Alaska — Airframes Alaska reports the approval and first production run of the first Ultralight Alaskan Bushwheel. The Alaska-based company worked in collaboration with French wheel-and-brake manufacturer Beringer Aero to develop the new lightweight backcountry airplane tire specifically for European light-sport aircraft (LSA).
The Ultralight Bushwheel is designed for off-field operations in France, Italy, and other European countries.
Unlike in the United States where bush pilots face fewer restrictions in backcountry flying, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) only allow LSA, or planes with a maximum takeoff weight of 1,320 pounds, to land and take off outside of established runways in Europe.
At 21 pounds a tire, even the lightweight Alaskan Bushwheel brand 26-inch Airstreaks take up too much of that limited load, company officials noted.
In May 2015 CEO Gilbert Beringer approached Airframes Alaska with a proposition: Design and build a Bushwheel light enough to run on European bush planes and Beringer Aero will conduct all the necessary performance tests before taking it to market. Less than a year later the international partnership resulted in the 15.25-pound Ultralight Bushwheel.
The 26-inch x 12-inch x 6-inch Ultralight Bushwheel features Kevlar cording, reengineered sidewalls that provide the ideal flex and energy absorption for lighter aircraft, and .150-inch tread that slows wear even during long taxis on paved surfaces, company officials said.
The first order of 20 new Ultralight Bushwheels shipped from Alaska to France in mid-March 2016. Beringer Aero is the exclusive European distributor of the Ultralight Bushwheel.
Although not yet FAA/PMA or STC approved, Airframes Alaska foresees a stateside future for the European Bushwheel: The tires are ideally rated for U.S. experimental LSA as well.
The company plans to demo the new design at the 2016 Great Alaska Aviation Gathering and Frank Knapp, winner of STOL competitions at the Valdez Fly-In and EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, will run the new Ultralight Bushwheels on his rebuilt experimental LSA through the busy summer flying season.