Other Options & Accessories
By: Art Freeman

The following article is being written due to the many questions being posed as to what accessories are available for the Challenger, what they do and what performance could one expect if an after market accessory is used.

First of all, we would like to state or remind all who read this web page that Dave Goulet's own CH II would routinely out perform those he was flying with on the long distance cross country trips where he would fly to places to display his plane. Dave has not used much of the after market parts and accessories a lot of builders put on their planes. Remember, "Keep it light". If it is added to the outside of the plane, it will produce drag and reduce performance. If it is heavier, it will reduce handling, increase fuel consumption and also reduce performance.

So, with this said, let's look at several of the after market accessories.

Throttle Quadrants:

The factory supplies all the needed items for the throttle, including the levers (two on the CII) with the cables. Also the lever and cables for the choke as well. The friction control for the factory throttle quadrant is just to tighten the nut that secures the lever to the backplate. Dave Goulet uses the throttle controls he supplies, on his own airplane.

There are after market quadrants that have a better friction control, but is that required? Not really as most builders use the factory supplied throttle quadrants. However, if you would like smoother responding throttle quadrants, there are many suppliers out there which sell them. If this is the case, Bob Robertson in Canada makes very good throttle quadrants.

Fuel System, What Comes With The Rotax 503 Engine & Challenger Kit

The Rotax engine comes with a Mikuni pulse pump for the fuel. The factory adds a squeeze bulb for filling the float bowls prior to starting the engine. They also supply enough fuel line for all this. If you want a backup pump, such as the Facet, you have to buy that from somewhere else. The Facet fuel pump is used by many builders as both a backup for the Mikuni and for filling the float bowls. This will mean you will have to buy additional fuel line and fittings. (See our web page on Fuel Systems)

Incidentally, the oil pump for an oil injection system also comes with the Rotax engines in case the builder/owner prefers not to use an oil/gas mixture system. However, you will have to buy an oil bottle/reservoir and oil lines separately. Understand, using the oil injection system will cost you more on initial set up, but there is no oil/fuel mixing you will have to do with this system. If you plan on using an electric starter, you will have to either create your own modification to adapt the oil injection system or buy the modification from someone who makes it. To my knowledge, Bob Robertson in Canada is the only dealer who makes this modification for sale.

There are dual Bing carburetors that come with the Rotax engines. (See our web page on Fuel Systems)

Electrical System

Almost none of the electrical system comes standard with the Challenger kit. The only thing which comes with the kit is the ignition off/on switch that gives you Off, Left Mag, Right Mag, Both and the wiring for it. All gauges, wiring, hotbox or regulator, and battery will be purchased separate from the Challenger kit or as an accessory to the kit. The electrical system, though not too complicated, is also too entailed to cover as basic construction. For a full description of fuel systems, go to the "Kit Building" section under "Engine Related Articles" and you will find an article called, "Fuel Systems".

Strobe Lights:

There are a lot of opinions on strobe lights. What brand? Where to mount them? And so on. And most of all, controversial!

Take some time and look around. How many ultralights do you see with strobe lights? You will notice a mixture of ultralight planes with strobes and without strobes. This is not to say that Challenger BTT or any of its advisory staff members sanction this practice as the more visible you are, the better. We are just pointing out what you will see on ultralights and the fact that the FAA does not require strobe lights on our class of airplane. This is your decision to make! However, I for one, have wing tip strobe lights on my Challenger and would not fly without them.

Strobe lights come in many shapes and sizes and placement of the strobe light(s) is pure preference, not a legality. I have seen strobe lights mounted on the top, center of the wing and bottom of the fuselage near center of gravity. Have seen them on the wing tips, located in several positions and on the top of the main tail fin. There is just no set placement for where to mount your strobe light(s) like on GA and commercial aircraft, which are required by law.

Brakes & 5" Wheels vs 6" Wheels:

Drum Brakes:

Sold as an accessory with the Challenger kit, QC will provide drum brakes for the standard 5" wheel. Over the past year, several dealers have noticed they have been having more problems with the factory supplied drum brakes. In a recent conversation with QC, they told one of the dealers that they knew this was true. About a year ago, QC had to find a new supplier of the 5" wheels and break drums, which unfortunately are not as good as the former supplier. However, they do work and work pretty well, but sometimes require additional time to adjust and in few cases, have needed some milling work done on them.

Hydraulic Brakes:

Hydraulic brakes are quite a bit superior in effective stopping power and is the choice of many Challenger builders. There are a few high quality makers of hydraulic brakes for the Challenger. (See "Landing Gear, Brakes, Custom & Specialty Items" on the Parts & Accessories web page.)

5" Wheels vs 6" Wheels:

Like most things, there will be pro's & con's on just about all subjects.

PRO: Stop to think about what I am about to say. A 6" wheel will provide far more cushion upon landing then will a 5" wheel. Why? You are quite literally landing on a slightly larger balloon which cushions the shock of initial touch down and also provides less shock to the airframe and passengers. As to take off and landing performance, both are equally as good as the other, but the 6" wheel will roll better on rough ground. Throwaway Cessna nosewheel tires from a local FBO are also the same overall size as the 6" ultralight tire but fit the 5" drum. They are free and last us many, many years. They are thrown away usually because they won't make annual inspections due to treadwear.

CON: However, here are two of those negative items I mentioned at the beginning of this article. First, "If it is on the outside of the plane, and it is larger, you will have more drag and slightly slower speeds. Second, "You also increase the weight a little which in turn also decreases performance slightly. Now, there is one way to help reduce the drag on the larger wheels and that is by adding wheel pants. QC now sells both 5" & 6" wheel pants and would be highly recommended for either wheel size. If you noticed the photo of Dave Goulet's CH II on our main page, you will note he uses the 5" wheel and wheel pants.

Main Landing Gear:

Alternate Main Landing Gear:

Should the new builder take this into consideration before ordering his kit and save some money up front by not ordering the factory main landing gear with his new kit? It needs to be stated that there is nothing wrong with the kit landing gear the way you get it from the factory. The aluminum gear legs are made to bend in the event of a hard landing or excessively rough surfaces. Thus, protecting the main landing gear weldments from bending or braking loose. In the event of a "crash landing", the aluminum legs will fold back, requiring replacement, but usually the weldment seats will be OK. There are a lot of guys who are flying with the factory aluminum gear legs without problems.

Fiberglass Landing Gear:

PRO: The fiberglass legs will give some added protection against bending the legs during hard landings, are a bit smoother on bumps and will reduce drag slightly. Although there are several suppliers of the Fiberglass Landing Gear, most suppliers obtain their gear package from Mike Harrison of Phoenix, AZ.

CON: No known disadvantage having fiberglass landing gear.

Spring Aluminum Landing Gear:

There are just as many good reports on using Spring Aluminum Landing Gear as there are bad, it all depends on what surfaces you plan on using for a runway. Due to its design, will also decrease drag over that of the stock aluminum gear from the factory. This gear weighs in at 22.5 pounds.

There are a few hollow fiberglass gear legs in use but one has to make them on their own as nobody produces them for sale. The hollow gear legs have not been responsible for any weldment damage to date inspite of some landings hard enough to break the crosscables.

PRO: If you are flying out of a landing strip which is smooth and hard, there is nothing better for ride and cushion when taking off or landing. This gear is crafted to spring and give during hard landings and reduces the possibility of damage. Of all three types of landing gear, the Spring Aluminum Landing Gear is without a doubt the softest and nicest riding gear on the market and will last the lifetime of your Challenger.

CON: If you are flying out of a runway which is rough, like a pasture, or subject to bumps and pot holes, this is not the gear for you. Yes, it will still give you a superior ride, but within a year or two, you will notice the torque on the gear from takeoff's and landing's will start bending your longerons and I was directly told by a Spring Aluminum Landing Gear user, his longerons finally broke completely in two from the torque placed on the longerons from the very rough field he normally used as a landing strip. The longerons could be repaired, but was a real hassle. Would also like to mention it is also the most expensive landing gear on the market for the Challenger at about $850.00 base price. This price does not include the Axles at about $60.00 extra or mounting brackets and if you wish to have the gear Gun Drilled for the brake lines, this would be an additional $100.00. So, you are looking at this landing gear costing a little over $1,000.00 before adding the cost of your wheels, brakes and tires.