Belite SkyDock - Advanced, Fun, Simple Aviation

If you're like me, the (Lancair) Evolution would be a dream to fly, but it's a little out of your price range and it's a little more airplane than you need for your primary flying mission. I think aviation journalism has a bad habit of getting carried away with big, fast, sexy, expensive aircraft and forgetting about how great flying can be closer to the other end of the spectrum. In hopes of avoiding that pitfall, I'm excited to report that Belite Aircraft just successfully completed the second short test flight of the redesigned version of their new airplane, the SkyDock.

Belite was founded to make simple, affordable, fun aircraft that could fly under Part 103 Ultralight rules. Many pilots cringe when they hear the word "ultralight." They picture crazy contraptions involving a lawn chair nestled precariously into a mess of tubes, cables, and lose fabric. They think dangerous and incapable. Thankfully, I think companies like Belite have elevated ultralight construction to a whole new level of performance and safety. Belite offers factory-built aircraft and kits designed with modern computer software and built with composites and aircraft grade aluminum. They offer two aircraft inspired by the Piper Cub. The ultralight compliant UltraCub costs less than $25,000 with options. The Part 103 ProCub Lite is sophisticated enough to command a price of $42,995.

The SkyDock seems like it's aimed at a slightly different segment of aviation. It's being offered as a Part 103 compliant ultralight with a 36 hp motor, but there's also going to be an LSA version with a 65 hp 4-stroke motor and possibly an electric version as well. With its open cockpit and low-wing design, it reminds me a little of the Bowers Fly Baby. The Fly Baby is an older kit design that is economical and fun to fly with an open cockpit and low wings. Fly Babies look really cool, but they're known for having issues with bracing wires and dry rot on key parts of their wooden frames. It seems like the SkyDock's modern, strut-less, metal and composite construction should solve many of those problems.

Personally, I've always loved the Mooney M-18 Mite and thought that it'd be fun to redesign it using composites rather than fabric and wood. Based on the performance numbers Belite is expecting and once it gets an enclosed canopy, the SkyDock seems like it might be able to make a bid for becoming the Mooney Mite for a New Millennium.

The SkyDock will never be a long-range cross country cruiser, but that's not the point. If you think about the General Aviation flying you do, or that you'd like to do, I suspect you'll find that a lot of it is just going up and flying around for a while. Maybe doing some steep turns or wing-overs and maybe just checking to make sure you can still find your house from the air. The SkyDock will be an outstanding airplane for that mission. It'll be cheaper to fly than even most LSAs out there. Buying it, as a factory new aircraft built with modern technology, will cost you about the same as a beat up, 40+ year old C-152 or C-172. You can't take any passengers with you, but you could just find a friend to buy a second one and make sure you always go flying in formation....

If you don't think you'll want to invest so much money in an around-the-flagpole-only airplane, this would also be a great option for a flying club. Four pilots could go in together on one and pay less than you would for a used car. You're not going to be chipping in huge amounts of money for fancy avionics upgrades because it doesn't need them. This would also be a great additional aircraft for a flying club that owns one or more aircraft with the capability for cross country. A fast airplane with long legs might be gone on trips every weekend, leaving you without a decent way to spend your Saturday. Adding something like a SkyDock to the club would give the pilots back home a way to enjoy flying even when the club's other aircraft are far way. At the very least, it's worth looking into....

Congrats to Belite on your successful testing so far! I'm excited to hear more about the SkyDock and your other aircraft models in the future.