Cheap Trike by Terry Lutke
2009-Aug-21 Review of the 4-stroke wheeled machine made out of a
This is the first in a series of review I hope to get up on various
wheeled craft I've flown including the Blackhawk Quad, Paracruiser Quad,
Paratour PPCg, Fresh Breeze, Green Eagle and Fly Flash Trike. This was
just the most recent.
The cheap trike is a 4-stroke powered paraglider trike made by Terry
Lutke of Michigan. It has a very standard configuration with slet-type
foot steering and a hand throttle with kill switch.
It is cheap to buy but the quality seems completely sufficient. It
won't win any beauty contests but it will certainly provide quick, easy,
affordable access to flight.
Being powered by a Briggs & Stratton 4-stroke has a number of
advantages. It sips fuel, is incredibly quiet, especially given the
large prop and can be worked on by most lawn mower repair shops. Just
make sure to bring the motor in separately which thankfully requires
removal 4 bolts, a fuel line, and loosening the belt. Hopefully they
won't ask what it was on.
I flew the craft in Kankakee and found everything quite standard as
far as powered paraglider trikes go. The key ignition was a nice touch,
turn the key to start it electrically just like a car. It is extremely
quiet. Low RPM from the gigantic prop is mostly how it keeps the sound
Climb rate is what you'd expect, kind of low. For me it wasn't bad at
all but then I'm 150 pounds. I did fly it on my 22 m² spice and it still
gave a couple hundred fpm worth of climb. The seat was plenty
comfortable although I did have a bit of lean under power. It wasn't
objectionable. Terry is around 200 pounds and seems to tool around on it
Throttle response was good. Not immediate but good enough that I
didn't mind going down low and playing at a few feet. Don't get stuck in
the corn, though, at just over 200 pounds you'll have your work cut out
for you extricating it. At one point I landed on an empty road and just
taxied down it. Of course that got me thinking how cool it would be to
drive it to the launch site. Somehow I think licensing the prop-drive
might be a challenge. Wouldn't that be cool, though?
I've got one of these motors in my basement as a backup electrical
generator. They're made to run, as I suppose most motors are, with
minimum fuss for over 1000 hours. The beauty is that, given their mass
manufacture and solid warrantees, its likely that they'll actually do
so. Maintenance is little more than oil changes and belt tightening.
Gotta love that!
He had this ridiculous looking chloroplast fender on the front
nosewheel that I think was for effect. It would work, of course, but was
the cheapest looking part of the cheap trike. The only real proprietary
parts are the redrive system with its unusually long belt. He did that
so the motor could be mounted low, making it tip-resistant. That is, in
fact, an excellent idea and renders the craft far more stable than other
trikes with a higher center of mass.
Handling was standard with typical, and effective steering. Any cart
pilot will feel at home.
One minor safety concern, shared with lots of wheeled craft, is that
there are no bars in front of the pilot. That open view is nice for
flying but, during an aborted launch, if a line snags in the prop after
falling around the pilots neck it could be bad. A recent incident like
that revealed this risk that I had never thought of. He has a version of
the machine with bars that go down to the feet and I would recommend
ordering with that option.
Overall it's a great way to get airborne and probably one of the
cheapest to fly.
As always, don't skimp on training. It's still an aircraft with the
many ways aircraft have of causing damage to falling bodies.
The machine on the left two pictures
was an early prototype although the drive remains largely unchanged.