Belite factory fire

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Chris In Marshfield

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Sad event for the Wiebe clan

https://www.facebook.com/172640762799863/posts/2370087636388487/

Good morning,

Last night, about 11:45pm, we received a call from emergency services that our building had been in a fire. Arriving a few minutes later, the scene was filled with fire trucks and emergency vehicles and swarms of firemen and water hoses.

It appears that the fire started at our CNC router dust collection system. Intense smoke filled the building, and my office and much of our building contents was destroyed. The back area of the building (in the production area), everything higher than 6' off the ground was melting or burned. Much of our raw inventory and all of our older collections of parts for older aircraft designs (for instance, procub and ultracub) was upstairs.

It appears that almost all raw inventory and most if not all Work In Process for aircraft kits was destroyed. The team had just shipped 4 airframe kits and was getting ready to ship another batch this month, along with many back ordered parts for customers. I have been working hard on an air force contract and my IP along with my sole working sample were found in the debris of my office.

We had been working very hard this year. I had just checked our sales for the year earlier in the day, and they were at a record company level. We were showing a nice year to date income level.

Sadly, tragically, our office cats, Lucky and Daphne, did not survive.

We do not know what is next. While I've been writing this, Kathy has been on the phone with the insurance person.

James & Kathy Wiebe
 

BJC

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Sad.

I hope that their insurance is sufficient for them to recover.

There may be a safety lesson in this for our workshop practices.


BJC
 

TerryM76

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Sad.

I hope that their insurance is sufficient for them to recover.

There may be a safety lesson in this for our workshop practices.


BJC
Fortunately it did not consume their home. Very sad for the loss of their pets. Everything else is replaceable except for the memories. Coming back from a total-loss fire is a difficult task and could take many years.....over 35 years for me. Haven't thought about it for many months until now.

Glad James and Kathy are still with us and hopefully will be back in business in a few months.
 

BJC

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.. Coming back from a total-loss fire is a difficult task
Yup, my parents lost almost everything when I was 8. Pre Civil War plantation home in the country, no fire protection (which meant no insurance), burned to a hole in the ground on Thanksgiving. Only thing salvaged was a turkey from the chest freezer, perfectly cooked.


BJC
 

Pops

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Hate to hear this. Pray for a quick recovery. A fire or flood is a terrible lost.
 

Pilot-34

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Everything else is replaceable except for the memories. Coming back from a total-loss fire is a difficult task and could take many years.....over 35 years for me. Haven't thought about it for many months until now.

Glad James and Kathy are still with us and hopefully will be back in business in a few months.
Let’s hope so but more than once in the aircraft industry fire has consume things that can never be replaced.
 

Dana

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An old thread gets new life after being resurrected by a spammer...

Regardless, it looks like the company did not survive.

Hi Chipper Fans,

We're glad you're reading this message. We have important news to share with you concerning our Chipper Aircraft.

On June 6, our facility was burned in a severe fire. It destroyed 10 years worth of accumulated inventory, tooling, office equipment, CNC machines, and so forth. Our business insurance has provided us with a partial payback on what we owned.

We did not receive enough insurance proceeds to continue to operate. We did not have business interruption insurance. The life savings of James and Kathy were invested in the business, and it is gone now, without recovery. Therefore, James is focused on creating current and future income through electronics work.

Our Radiant Instrument store is up and running. Click Here

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We prioritized insurance proceeds to pay the debts of the business and, to the best of our abilities, the obligations to our customers.

We are seeking a serious buyer for the Chipper 2 design.

The Chipper 2 Aircraft is, and was, a spectacular STOL performer. It was glowingly reviewed by Kitplanes and EAA Sport Pilot. The senior editor of Flying Magazine was a fan (although he hadn't yet printed an article!)

We have maintained and improved our CAD database since the fire, keeping a full time employee on staff to manage customer builder questions and add details to the CAD.

We offer:
a) A demonstrator aircraft with 130HP new engine
b) 2 additional partially completed aircraft
c) CAD design
d) A community of approximately 25 builders
e) An additional community of interested future builders
f) A Facebook community of approximate 45,000 fans
g) Parts
h) Low cost manufacturing resources for machined components

Are you interested?
Direct serious inquiries to [email protected], and we'd enjoy talking to you.
 

ToddK

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He never found a buyer. If I remember correctly he had never made a profit, but was trending that direction. As a creator of all things avation and airplane designer, the guy is brilliant and relentless. A real inspiration. As a business man, I don’t get him at all. Anyone willing to buy was going to go way in the hole with no solid track record of profit. It was a terrible deal. He seems like a very clever guy, but instead of relentlessly refining a single good design, he jumps around from one thing to another. The chipper really seamed to hit the mark, with a pretty good track record of kit sales. Great design. Instead of getting that back into production he is building a single seat version. Makes no sense. Had he also designed a 4130 steel tube fuselage option and offered it as plans, or even prewelded it would have opened up the design to a broader audience who tends to be a bit skeptical of home bonded aluminum. Real shame.
 

Victor Bravo

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James Wiebe was not a typical businessman. I believe he had a company that did high tech !(#* REDACTED &$& for the CIA, sold the company, and was more or less able to retire. So (I suspect) he decided to be wildly inventive and innovative in aviation just for the sake of innovation, having the freedom to try out a hundred different ideas to see if they worked.

I'm guessing the income from Belite didn't have to make the same kind of traditional profit level that a normal startup company does. So other than paying his employees and his rent, I think that Wiebe was not nearly as focused on what the market wanted as he was creating and testing new solutions to difficult problems... like cost, manufacturing, supply chain, etc.

To boldly go where no ultralight manufacturer has gone before !!

This is an un-informed guess, but it would answer a lot of questions about why certain strange-looking things were done.
 

TFF

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Most of these types of small businesses succumb to the five year hobby rule with the IRS. Can’t write off stuff; shut the doors. Make $100 one out of every four years and you can nurse the doors to stay open for another run.
 

Pops

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Most of these types of small businesses succumb to the five year hobby rule with the IRS. Can’t write off stuff; shut the doors. Make $100 one out of every four years and you can nurse the doors to stay open for another run.
A good CPA is worth every penny.
What amazed me is there is very little information about running a small business. What helped us the most when we first started was the classes the state small business administration sponsored. Wife and I took every class.
 
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Dana

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...(I suspect) he decided to be wildly inventive and innovative in aviation just for the sake of innovation, having the freedom to try out a hundred different ideas to see if they worked.

I'm guessing the income from Belite didn't have to make the same kind of traditional profit level that a normal startup company does. So other than paying his employees and his rent, I think that Wiebe was not nearly as focused on what the market wanted as he was creating and testing new solutions to difficult problems...
He had some nice looking conventional aircraft, then some positively weird stuff like the Skydock ultralight, which he tried to sell off even before the prototype was tested. His instruments looked nice, though.

I totally get the hobby inventor mentality, but sinking your life savings into a business you're going to run that way is a bad idea. But as I said, two different skill sets.

What amazed me is there is very little information about running a small business. What helped us the most when we first started was the classes the state small business administration sponsored. Wife and I took every class.
Mostly, the government makes it as hard as possible to start a new business.
 
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