Things You'll Need
- Large ventilated hanger
- Ultralight helicopter kit with instructions and DVD
Helicopters are complex machines. Also referred to as "rotor aircraft," helicopters work on the same basic lifting principles as fixed-wing aircraft. Because of the complex helicopter design, building any form of helicopter, ultralight or otherwise, is a challenging affair. When building an ultralight helicopter, break the construction down into three portions; concentrate on the engine, airframe and controls. Make sure to have an adequate hanger space fully equipped with the necessary tools. Keep the hanger ventilated when working with epoxies or adhesives due to the fumes.
Watch the ultralight instructional DVD numerous times and read the directions/instructions several times. The more you study the plans, the easier the construction becomes.
Concentrate on the airframe construction first. Follow all assembly instructions. Many ultralights use a combination of metal frame, reinforced fabric like mylar or a carbon fiber shell. Begin with the frame, and add the fabric or carbon fiber panels after constructing the frame.
Assemble the engine, or if the engine comes prebuilt, hang it on the engine crane and place it through all necessary safety tests. Consult the Federal Aviation Administration's current rules and manuals to bring the engine up to the legal requirements. The FAA-AIM is updated yearly; be sure to have the most current set of regulations when assembling the engine.
Wire the controls and instrument panels onto the airframe according to the ultralight kit's instructions. Mount the engine onto the ultralight and finish the assembly by adding the rotors onto the power plant on top of the helicopter.
Hire an inspector or certified helicopter mechanic to inspect your work prior to test flights. Helicopters need redundancy safety checks due to the complexity of their designs. Undergo all FAA helicopter flight training before attempting any rotor aircraft flights.
A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.