Light Sport Aircraft Modifications
Mike Stephens

Challenger Cargo Pods

Experimental Aircraft


Cargo Pods for a Challenger Light Sport Aircraft
by Mike Stephens Corpus Christi, Texas


I started with a ¾” x ¾” x 1/8” thick aluminum angle, 6’ long (4 each)


I cut a jig in the shape of the pod out of an old piece of ¾” shelving


The jig worked a lot better than I had expected, I was surprised…..


Three more to go!


I’m using nuts and bolts to hold the frame together (no welding necessary!)


All done with the frames. The skin comes next (next weekend!)


Here’s the basic idea (and shape). It’s 7”H x 8”W x 33”L.


Two of these should hold quite a bit of cargo…enough for an extended visit!


Marking the sheet metal and ready to cut.


Cargo Pod sides complete


Something like this …sort of


Installing the main skin


A sleeping bag, a tent, and a cooler


Roomy huh?


Pod’s installed


I used stage lighting “o-clamps” with aluminum brackets


I couldn’t find piano hinges locally, but these worked okay


Ready for camping gear, fly-ins, etc.

See comments (below) from Mike about how the Pods changed the stall characteristics of his plane
I originally decided to fabricate cargo pods so I could transport those things that would be needed to spend several days at the SWRFI fly-in, in Hondo, TX, this coming weekend (things like a tent,
sleeping bag, air mattress, duffle bag, etc.). Well, the pods are complete, and installed. Today I took it all for a test flight.  All in all, everything went very well, as planned. However, there was one interesting development that I wish to share with others that intend to add these kinds of things to their wing struts.

"It changed the stall characteristics of the airplane".

I mounted the pods on my struts, with a horizontal attitude level with the planet earth, with the nose gear planted firmly "on the ground". This appeared (to me) to be in line with QCU's published "cruise" attitude. The installation required that I fabricate the rear bracket 3/4" taller than the front bracket, creating a sort of "nose down" pod attitude (key point). This installation revealed no noticeable increase in drag. The airplane took off, climbed, and cruised at the same speeds that I have been accustomed to. But it stalled much differently than it used to...

At 3000' AGL, during several power-off stall attempts, my C1LW simply refused to break over into a full stall. It just wouldn't fly any less than 37 MPH (sluggishly, as expected). Regardless of how much I pulled back on the stick (and I think I bent the damn thing), the nose would drop, and continue to maintain 37 MPH. It sort of reminded me of a Piper Warrior's stall (for those of you who
are familiar with them).

"Without the pods attached, my airplane stalls "normally" at 32 MPH".

So, I kind of don't mind how it stalls, based on what I've learned. And, it's very temporary. The pods will come off after the SWRFI.

The only thing that I might add to my report would be the fact that the inability to achieve a full forward stall could be because of the reduced effectiveness of the elevators due to the wash created by the pods. I don’t know if that is true, but I’d sure hate to see someone else add pods that cause “ill effects” on their aircraft’s flight characteristics.

Tis’ all about safety!!!

See you at Hondo....I hope!!!

Mike Stephens
Corpus Christi, Texas


Hondo Texas FlyIn

Well, the SWRFI was a complete success this year. Lots and lots of airplanes…all kinds (they're getting better every year)! The little town of Hondo was so very hospitable to us pilot types this year. The EAA has signed a contract that has Hondo Airport booked for the next three SWRFIs. And they're talking about extending it!

I chose to fly in using the ultra light procedures, due to my airplanes performance (for safety reasons). I was a very frightened when I saw the intended runway they had set aside for UL's… was a very short, north-south taxiway at the approach end of runway 26. I went for it anyway (damn fool), and was able to make a full stop after actually only using half of it.

The pods worked as expected, but many thought that they were fuel cells.

I met a few FlyChallenger folks there too. Hello Bud, Mike, and Tom. Nice meeting you! Bud got the dollar that I had promised. The other two didn't read my pre-SWRFI post! Too bad :-)

Mike Melvil, the civilian astronaut that piloted Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne to win the 10 million dollar prize was the guest speaker on Saturday night. If you ever get a chance to hear this guy, you
should. He'll be at Oshkosh this year.

I can easily state that I had the finest Challenger at the fly-in! Unfortunately, it was the only Challenger at the fly-in :-( however; my little airplane got a huge number of visitors, more so than all of the other aircraft around me (many more!). Boy, these things sure do turn a lot of heads. That made it all worth while.

Anyway, there are plans in place for next year. So, for those of you within a few hundred miles or so, plan on joining us… pod plans if you need them for hauling tents and stuff!

Mike Stephens
Corpus Christi, Texas




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