Would you buy a $13,700 Chinese Aerolite 103 Clone (Ready-to-fly)?

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qchen98

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Oct 8, 2021
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The Chinese seller quoted a price range from CNY 20,000 to 100,000 ($3,106 to $15,530) for this aircraft. According to him, CNY88,000 will buy you a ready to fly aircraft(unknown engine option), plus includes a 3-hour flight training session and free shipping to most area in China.

Well, it is still debatable whether the mysterious aircraft is indeed a genuine Chinese copy of the Aerolite 103. Maybe they are the genuine ones. I couldn't reach the technical team even when I was pretending to be an interested buyer. Hence, your input will be much appreciated (especially if you are an aerolite builder).

A few theories about the mysterious origin of the Aerolites:

Theory A:

They are in fact the genuine ones - the seller imported the a bunch of kits from the U.S. and assembled them in China. The seller does not want you know about the actual make and model of the aircraft, so you don't just buy the plane by yourself.

Some evidence supporting this theory: the distinctive three-spoke main landing gear wheel, the fuel tank and the bucket look very similar to the ones straight from the kit. Correct me if I was wrong.

However, this does not explain the mere $13,700 price tag, since a quick-build airframe kit alone costs more than that.

Theory B:

They bought a full kit and reversed-engineered a bunch of Aerolite 103.

The team did a 4.5G loading test on the wing with sandbags. However, why would they do that to a proven airframe kit that costs $15,000? Just for marketing purposes?

But that doesn't explain the three-spoke wheel, fuel tank, and bucket seats found in all four production aircraft.

Theory C:

There is a stolen blueprint of the Aerolite 103 somewhere on the internet (maybe on the darknet).

Anyway, if I was to reverse-engineer an aerolite without a reference to the actual plane, I'll just use the model in X-plane as a reference - they are detailed down to most bracket and screws and probably accurate enough in the sense of practical engineering.

Theory D:

Aerolite 103 kits are secretly made in China. You've lived a lie your whole lifetime.

Quality pre-manufactured ultralight kits(without engine) indeed only would only cost you $3,000.


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Correction:
The guys told me that $3,106 is for the fuselage kit (for anyone who wants to build a aerolite 103 blimp and therefore does not need the wing). The full kit without engine is $7800.
 
Last edited:

TFF

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Memphis, TN
The Chinese are good at copying and labor and materials can be subsidized by the government to test out ideas. They can make stuff cheaper.

Quality control is a hard concept for them. To stop production to fix an issue might bring the death trucks. Safer to fix when no one is looking like when worn out tooling needs replacing. Without a westerner ridding shotgun you don’t know if it will fall apart or be fine until it’s in your hands.
 

Kiwi303

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En Zed. Aka The Shire.
Theory B seems the most logical for me, through reality oftimes does not conform to logical conclusions it is the occams razor option of choice there.

As to the wheel specs and bucket seat design, I'm SURE you could find an almost identical wheel on Alibaba somewhere with enough looking, maybe from an existing power wheelchair or toy go-kart.

I'd probably buy it bare without covering, and have someone with an ultrasonic weld checker go over all the welds. Then have someone I trust locally make the covering for the wings and tail. Also have a scrap of pipe sent off for checking with a spectroscope, there are companies who can tell you precisely what alloy the pipe is made from, so you know it's proper chrome-moly not cheap brittle furniture tube.

It's simply a case of doing your due diligence before flying it.
 

pfarber

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Dollywood
Since there is no such thing as civil aviation in China you better have the guanxi to pull it off.

As far as the cost, for comparison, the Bede BD-4C kit is $30,000+. The BOM can be assembled for less than half (less engine/interior that the kit also does not provide). So if you take away the US cost I can see an assembled airframe for a few grand.

I would go over it with a fine tooth comb as the Chinese are notorious for cutting corners to save a buck, but if it passed inspection I would have no issue flying one.
 

Aerowerx

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Marion, Ohio
The Chinese are good at copying ....
Beware of anything from China with a bargain basement price! If it is anything like the cheap electronics I have dealt with, I would run the other direction.

They have ranged anywhere from cheap copies that just barely meet specs to outright counterfeit items with a counterfeit OEM label.
 

qchen98

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Oct 8, 2021
Messages
60
Theory B seems the most logical for me, through reality oftimes does not conform to logical conclusions it is the occams razor option of choice there.

As to the wheel specs and bucket seat design, I'm SURE you could find an almost identical wheel on Alibaba somewhere with enough looking, maybe from an existing power wheelchair or toy go-kart.

I'd probably buy it bare without covering, and have someone with an ultrasonic weld checker go over all the welds. Then have someone I trust locally make the covering for the wings and tail. Also have a scrap of pipe sent off for checking with a spectroscope, there are companies who can tell you precisely what alloy the pipe is made from, so you know it's proper chrome-moly not cheap brittle furniture tube.

It's simply a case of doing your due diligence before flying it.
It seems that the aerolite design doesn’t use any welding (not even the engine mount) - only 6061 aluminum tubes and CNC brackets. Both are extremely cheap to obtain in China.
 

qchen98

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Oct 8, 2021
Messages
60
Since there is no such thing as civil aviation in China you better have the guanxi to pull it off.

As far as the cost, for comparison, the Bede BD-4C kit is $30,000+. The BOM can be assembled for less than half (less engine/interior that the kit also does not provide). So if you take away the US cost I can see an assembled airframe for a few grand.

I would go over it with a fine tooth comb as the Chinese are notorious for cutting corners to save a buck, but if it passed inspection I would have no issue flying one.
I do not think that those guys have any incentives to cut corners. $7,800 for a complete airframe quick-build kit is still not cheap.

There is little competition. The only other quick build aircraft kit available is the MiniMax, with a staggering price tag of $40,000 (sold by the first minimax builder in China).
Even if a crash is 100% due to pilot error, the manufacturer is can be sued for selling a " dangerous flying machine" that is not crashworthy.

Then, if the wing suffered a structural failure in mid-flight, it will clearly be your fault, and your "social credit score" will be gone immediately. (no more commercial air travel for you and an ultralight is the only option).

Due to the reasons above, the builder is probably compelled to add more margin of safety to the aircraft than the original design.

It might save the builder pennies, if say example, use a thinner 6061 sheet for the bracket. However, the reverse is also true - you can spend a few extra pennies for a thicker 6061 sheet and save yourself from a law suit.
 

GeeZee

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Speaking of gussets, the pictures don’t seem to show any gussets anywhere. The entire empennage seem to be gusset free. I don’t see any on the fuselage either.
 

David L. Downey

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157
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Harleysville, PA
While I have lots of experience with "cheap Chinese stuff", when I was there for my job at Boeing, I saw stuff that was phenomenally reliable...but it was all domestic only market! And, some of it was truly ubiquitous commodity stuff. When I asked about it all I got from my handlers was we built it right for ourselves because we want it to not fail. But Americans buy it cheap so we make it cheap.
I have no idea if that is true...but they made it seem very likely!
 

Cy V

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455
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Quality control is a hard concept for them.
Chinese manufacturers can make very high-quality stuff...when they want to. And therein lies the problem -- they are usually fine with cutting corners to make a quick buck.
 

qchen98

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Joined
Oct 8, 2021
Messages
60
Is there a link to the Chinese website or seller ?
No website is available yet. It seemed to me that they do not want any unnecessary attention.

They already rejected my request to join their secretive guilt of aircraft builders.

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At the meantime, have yourself a coaxial heli for 30k.
 

Lucky Dog

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Joined
Aug 4, 2021
Messages
37
The Chinese seller quoted a price range from CNY 20,000 to 100,000 ($3,106 to $15,530) for this aircraft. According to him, CNY88,000 will buy you a ready to fly aircraft(unknown engine option), plus includes a 3-hour flight training session and free shipping to most area in China.

Well, it is still debatable whether the mysterious aircraft is indeed a genuine Chinese copy of the Aerolite 103. Maybe they are the genuine ones. I couldn't reach the technical team even when I was pretending to be an interested buyer. Hence, your input will be much appreciated (especially if you are an aerolite builder).

A few theories about the mysterious origin of the Aerolites:

Theory A:

They are in fact the genuine ones - the seller imported the a bunch of kits from the U.S. and assembled them in China. The seller does not want you know about the actual make and model of the aircraft, so you don't just buy the plane by yourself.

Some evidence supporting this theory: the distinctive three-spoke main landing gear wheel, the fuel tank and the bucket look very similar to the ones straight from the kit. Correct me if I was wrong.

However, this does not explain the mere $13,700 price tag, since a quick-build airframe kit alone costs more than that.

Theory B:

They bought a full kit and reversed-engineered a bunch of Aerolite 103.

The team did a 4.5G loading test on the wing with sandbags. However, why would they do that to a proven airframe kit that costs $15,000? Just for marketing purposes?

But that doesn't explain the three-spoke wheel, fuel tank, and bucket seats found in all four production aircraft.

Theory C:

There is a stolen blueprint of the Aerolite 103 somewhere on the internet (maybe on the darknet).

Anyway, if I was to reverse-engineer an aerolite without a reference to the actual plane, I'll just use the model in X-plane as a reference - they are detailed down to most bracket and screws and probably accurate enough in the sense of practical engineering.

Theory D:

Aerolite 103 kits are secretly made in China. You've lived a lie your whole lifetime.

Quality pre-manufactured ultralight kits(without engine) indeed only would only cost you $3,000.


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Correction:
The guys told me that $3,106 is for the fuselage kit (for anyone who wants to build a aerolite 103 blimp and therefore does not need the wing). The full kit without engine is $7800.
I think those uncovered airframe pics are original Aerolites due to the copper pipe fittings in the tail and wing trailing edge corners. It's a no brainer for the Chinese to make them, though. Google Chinese Lycoming engines. The inside info is that China is relaxing her ban on private aviation.
 

rc-rotorhead

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Messages
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Harker Heights, TX/USA
China has allowed private aviation for the past few years, albeit heavily restricted. The Chinese can make quality products. If you are a business spec'ing parts or assemblies from them they will ask you what level of quality you want to buy, the Chinese don't usually put in more quality that is demanded. Would I buy an "Aerolite" from them? No, I'm not gambling with my life.
 

mcrae0104

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Oct 27, 2009
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KBJC
Would you buy a $13,700 Chinese Aerolite 103 Clone (Ready-to-fly)?
Take China out of the equation. I'm not sure I'd buy a ready-to-fly ultralight of German manufacture at that price. If the materials alone cost more than the complete article, it calls both the materials and the quality of assembly into question. I'd rather spend the $14k rolling my own, or on 100+hours of Cessna (or similar) rental.
 

Aerolite jack

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Oct 3, 2021
Messages
28
Why not build these aircraft in the USA Bert howlands arcraft are far better than the Chinese ultralite I have all of his tooling to build all of his aircraft and his prototype aircraft I am now too old to start a new business .Do I have to sell it to the Chinese they are looking at present searey in now owned by the Chinese. They are not cheap now ! The USA needs to beat them at their own game mark my words China is going to be expensive once they have killed the completion and that is not far from happening .
 

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GeeZee

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Feb 25, 2019
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Indianapolis, IN
Why not build these aircraft in the USA Bert howlands arcraft are far better than the Chinese ultralite I have all of his tooling to build all of his aircraft and his prototype aircraft I am now too old to start a new business .Do I have to sell it to the Chinese they are looking at present searey in now owned by the Chinese. They are not cheap now ! The USA needs to beat them at their own game mark my words China is going to be expensive once they have killed the completion and that is not far from happening .
Jack welcome to HBA! I really like the honeybee and was very disappointed when I found that I couldn’t get plans. Are you interested in selling the rights to build Berts aircraft? There may be members that would be interested (Calling addictedtoclimbing calling addictedtoclimbing….. );
 
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