Ballina aircraft builder Howard Hughes (rear), of Australian LightWing, with French Air Force Academy students Benjamin Gans (front) and Fabien Moffat, who have been helping design and build the revolutionary LightWing SP-6000.
Ballina aircraft builder Howard Hughes (rear), of Australian LightWing, with French Air Force Academy students Benjamin Gans (front) and Fabien Moffat, who have been helping design and build the revolutionary LightWing SP-6000. Jay Cronan

Build your own ultralight plane

FOR about $250,000 you could soon build your own six-seater plane, thanks to the vision of Ballina-based ultralight manufacturer Howard Hughes.

For three years Mr Hughes has been designing a kit for a bigger plane without the hugely expensive price tag.

“Usually a plane with six seats is only bought by very, very rich people,” he said. “But this will be something that families might be able to buy, or a retiree looking for a project.

“You spend about $250,000 to buy the kit, but then at the end of it you get a million-dollar plane.

“It’s probably going to be the first kit aircraft of its type in Australia.”

The LightWing SP-6000 will have a carbon fibre body and includes a small toilet and galley.

Powered by a V8 car engine, it will be able to travel at speeds of up to 250km/h.

Helping Mr Hughes along the way have been several international and Australian university students.

“I like having them, particularly the aeronautical students, because there is a mutual benefit,” he said.

Currently he has Benjamin Gans and Fabien Moffat, from a French aero academy, designing the wings and the body of the plane.

“We are here for three months and we are really enjoying it,” Benjamin said. “Normally we don’t get to do so much hands-on work.”

Mr Hughes hopes the SP-6000 will be flying some time next year.

But it is not his only invention.

An environmentally friendly electric car, named The Roadie, is also in the pipeline.

“Just because it’s green doesn’t mean it has to be boring,” he said. “It has three wheels and a top speed of about 100km/h. It uses a 15kW electric motor.”

Mr Hughes said he hoped the finished product would be able to take someone from Ballina to Coffs Harbour, or a distance of about 250km, on a single charge.

“Anything further would be abonus,” he said. “It’s not designed for incredibly long distances – it would be for the urban commuter.”

Mr Hughes and his team of students are also investigating the possibility of charging The Roadie using a low-speed wind generator. That would make it “completely green”.

“We started working on this car in 2008,” he said. “I’m hoping to have some of the parts ready within about three months.”



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