The Weedhopper ultralight is an American high-wing, tractor configuration, tricycle gear, two-axis control ultralight aircraft originally developed by John Chotia during the height of the 1970s ultralight boom and introduced in 1977.
The aircraft is available as a kit for amateur construction and can be assembled in 25-30 man-hours.
Many of the early ultralights used a “weight shift” method of control, requiring the pilot to push a control bar to shift the center of gravity of the aircraft. The Weedhopper differed from most other ultralights of the period in that it has a control stick which moves the rudder and elevator, giving it two axis control in pitch and yaw. The pronounced dihedral of the wings, along with the swept leading edge causes it to bank into the turn, and results in a very stable, easy-to-fly aircraft. The Weedhopper differs from many of the other early ultralights in that it had a strut-braced wing, whereas most period ultralights have wire-braced wings.
The Weedhopper is constructed from aluminium tubing and covered with Dacron pre-sewn envelopes.
The early versions of the aircraft developed a poor reputation due to the lack of reliable engines available in the 1970s. This was rectified with the adoption of the Rotax 277 28 hp (21 kW) and later the Rotax 447 40 hp (30 kW) powerplant.
Over 13,000 Weedhoppers have been sold. It was popular because it offered people an inexpensive way to fly for pleasure. The aircraft could be easily disassembled and put on a trailer for home storage. It was not necessary to rent an expensive hangar. It could also be flown from just about any field because of its short takeoff and landing requirements (about 100 feet (30 m) with no obstacles). The kits originally sold for $2,000, and are still available today, but today’s Weedhopper model 40 sells for US$8,495.
In its home country versions of the aircraft are eligible for the FAR 103 Ultralight Vehicles category, the experimental amateur-built category and the light-sport aircraft category.
Length: 18 ft 6 in (5.64 m)
Wingspan: 28 ft 0 in (8.53 m)
Height: 6 ft 97 in (4.29 m)
Wing area: 168 sq ft (15.6 m2)
Empty weight: 250 lb (113 kg)
Gross weight: 550 lb (249 kg)
Fuel capacity: 5 US gallons (19 litres)
Powerplant: 1 × Rotax 447 twin-cylinder, two-stroke aircraft engine, 40 hp (30 kW)
Propellers: 2-bladed Powerfin ground adjustable
Cruise speed: 55 mph (89 km/h; 48 kn)
Stall speed: 20 mph (32 km/h; 17 kn)
Never exceed speed: 65 mph (105 km/h; 56 kn)
Rate of climb: 1,000 ft/min (5.1 m/s)