Ultralight aviation
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Ultralight aviation

August 10, 2019


Ultralight aviation is the flying of
lightweight, 1 or 2 seat fixed-wing aircraft. Some countries differentiate
between weight-shift control and conventional 3-axis control aircraft
with ailerons, elevator and rudder, calling the former “microlight” and the
latter “ultralight”. During the late 1970s and early 1980s,
mostly stimulated by the hang gliding movement, many people sought affordable
powered flight. As a result, many aviation authorities set up definitions
of lightweight, slow-flying aeroplanes that could be subject to minimum
regulations. The resulting aeroplanes are commonly called “ultralight
aircraft” or “microlights”, although the weight and speed limits differ from
country to country. In Europe the sporting definition limits the maximum
take-off weight to 450 kg if a ballistic parachute is installed) and a maximum
stalling speed of 65 km/h. The definition means that the aircraft has a
slow landing speed and short landing roll in the event of an engine failure.
In most affluent countries, microlights or ultralight aircraft now account for a
significant percentage of the global civilian-owned aircraft. For instance in
Canada in October 2010, the ultralight aircraft fleet made up to 19% of the
total civilian aircraft registered. In other countries that do not register
ultralight aircraft, like the United States, it is unknown what proportion of
the total fleet they make up. In countries where there is no specific
extra regulation, ultralights are considered regular aircraft and subject
to certification requirements for both aircraft and pilot.
Definitions=Australia=
In Australia Recreational Aircraft fall under many categories, but the most
common category imposes: A maximum take-off weight of 600 kg or
less for a seaplane). A stalling speed under 45 knots in
landing configuration. A maximum of two seats.
A new certification category for Light Sport Aircraft came into effect on 7
January 2006. This category does not replace the previous categories, but
creates a new category with the following characteristics:
A maximum take-off weight of 600 kg or 650 kg for an aircraft intended and
configured for operation on water or 560 kg for a lighter-than-air aircraft.
A maximum stalling speed in the landing configuration of 45 kn CAS.
Maximum of two occupants, including the pilot.
A fixed landing gear. A glider may have retractable landing gear.
A single, non-turbine engine fitted with a propeller.
A non-pressurised cabin. If the aircraft is a glider a maximum
never exceed speed of 135 kn CAS In either of the above categories, there
are distinctions between factory-manufactured aircraft, and kits
for amateur-building, as the former have to undergo more rigorous tests of
airworthiness. In Australia, ultralight aircraft are
defined as one or two seat weight-shift aircraft, with a maximum takeoff weight
of 450 kg, as set out by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. In Australia
ultralights are also referred to as trikes and are distinguished from
three-axis aircraft, of which the smallest are known as ultralights.
In Australia, ultralight aircraft and their pilots can either be registered
with the Hang Gliding Federation of Australia or Recreational Aviation
Australia. In all cases, except for privately built single seat ultralight
aeroplanes, microlight aircraft or trikes are regulated by the Civil
Aviation Regulations.=Brazil=
The Brazilian Aviation Regulation defines an ultralight plane as: a very
light manned experimental aircraft used mainly, or intended for, sports or
recreation, during daylight, in visual conditions, with a maximum capacity of 2
people and with the following characteristics:
Single internal combustion engine and one propeller;
Maximum take-off weight equal or less than 750 kg; and
Calibrated stall speed, power off, in landing configuration equal or less than
45 kn.=Canada=
The Canadian Aviation Regulations define two types of ultralight aeroplanes:
basic ultra-light aeroplanes, and advanced ultra-light aeroplanes. The US
light sport aircraft is similar to, and was based upon, the Canadian AULA. AULAs
may operate at a controlled airport without prior arrangement. Operating
either class of ultralight in Canada requires an Ultralight Pilot Permit
which requires both ground school, dual and solo supervised flights. The
ultralight may be operated from land or water, but may only carry a passenger if
the pilot has an Ultralight Aeroplane Passenger Carrying Rating and the
aircraft is an AULA.=Europe=
The definition of an ultralight according to the Annex II of the
EU-Regulation 216/2008 based on the Regulation 1592/2002 and this on Joint
Aviation Authorities JAR-1 is: (e) aeroplanes, helicopters and powered
parachutes having no more than two seats, a maximum take-off mass, as
recorded by the Member States, of no more than:
(i) 300 kg for a land plane/helicopter, single-seater; or
(ii) 450 kg for a land plane/helicopter, two-seater; or
(iii) 330 kg for an amphibian or floatplane/helicopter single-seater; or
(iv) 495 kg for an amphibian or floatplane/helicopter two-seater,
provided that, where operating both as a floatplane/helicopter and as a land
plane/ helicopter, it falls below both MTOM limits, as appropriate;
(v) 472,5 kg for a land plane, two-seater equipped with an airframe
mounted total recovery parachute system; (vi) 315 kg for a land plane
single-seater equipped with an airframe mounted total recovery parachute system;
and, for aeroplanes, having the stall speed or the minimum steady flight speed
in landing configuration not exceeding 35 knots calibrated air speed;
(f) single and two-seater gyroplanes with a maximum take off mass not
exceeding 560 kg; Italy
In Italy, the category for this class of aircraft is ultraight.
Requires flying with a helmet. Maximum weight requirements excludes
seat belts, parachute and instruments. Single-seat maximum weight of 300 kg,
and 330 kg for amphibious, stall speed must not exceed 65 km/h.
Two-seat maximum weight of 450 kg, and 500 kg for amphibious, stall speed must
not exceed 65 km/h. Aircraft may be used for instruction or flown by pilots with
a valid private license, and at least 30 hours flight time.
Intended for use at private fields. Use at civil airports requires prior
permission. Airspace restrictions – Must remain
within the territory of the state from the border of another state was
abolished by the law 24 April 1998, n. 128 “Disposizioni per l’adempimento di
obblighi derivanti dall’appartenenza dell’Italia alle Comunità Europee” –
communitary law 1995/97- art.22 comma 20-, published on the Gazzetta Ufficiale
n.88/L of 7 May 1998). It is forbidden to fly over cities.
All aircraft must have a metal plate with the identification number issued by
the AeCI. The same number must be fixed onto the underneath of the wing with
letters that measure a minimum of 30×15 cm, in contrasting colour.
From 30 min before dawn till 30 min after sunset, flight must be below 500
ft On Saturday and holidays flight must be
below 1,000 ft with 5 km separation from airports not located within ATZ .
Ultralight operation requires a certificate exam, insurance and a
medical examination. United Kingdom
The current UK regulations describe a microlight aeroplane as limited to two
people, with a Maximum Total Weight Authorised not exceeding:
300 kg for a single seat landplane. 390 kg for a single seat landplane for
which a UK Permit to Fly or Certificate of Airworthiness was in force prior to 1
January 2003 450 kg for a two seat landplane
330 kg for a single seat amphibian or floatplane
495 kg for a two seat amphibian or floatplane
A microlight must also have a stalling speed at the maximum weight authorised
not exceeding 35 kn calibrated speed. Earlier UK legal microlight definitions
described an aeroplane with a maximum weight authorised of 390 kg, with a wing
loading at the maximum weight authorised not exceeding 25 kg per square metre. No
airspeed limitations were defined. All UK registered aeroplanes falling
within these parameters are microlight aircraft.
Other than the very earliest aircraft all 2-seat UK microlights have been
required to meet airworthiness standard BCAR Section S
In 2007 a sub-category of aircraft was introduced which allows owners more
freedom for modification and experiments. Single Seat De-Regulated
aircraft were to weigh less than 115 kg without fuel and pilot with a wing
loading not more than 10 kg per sq m. Other single seat microlights remained
regulated In 2015 the SSDR rules changed. The
definition of a single seat microlight was adjusted to effectively de-regulate
all single seat microlights for airworthiness purposes. In addition it
became possible for some 2-seat arcraft to be re-classified as SSDR single seat
microlights. There is no airworthiness requirement or
annual inspection regime for SSDR microlights although pilots who fly them
must have a normal microlight licence, and must observe the rules of the air.
Other than foot-launched aircraft a licence is required to fly a microlight
in the UK. In the UK the microlight licence is
currently called NPPL. It can be upgraded to an LAPL licence with few
hours training in Cat A aircraft=India=
In India an ultralight is an aircraft that has the following characteristics:
Two seater aircraft having an all up weight of not more than 450 kg without
parachute and 472 kg with parachute A stall speed of less than 80 km/h
A maximum level speed of less than 220 km/h
1 or 2 seats A single engine, reciprocating, rotary
or diesel A fixed or ground adjustable propeller
Un-pressurized cabin Wing area more than 10 square metres
A fixed landing gear, except for operation on water or as a glider
Indian ultralights require aircraft registration, periodic condition
inspections and a current permit to fly which has to be renewed annually.
=New Zealand=In New Zealand ultralight aircraft are
separated into two classes, basically single and two seat aircraft. All
ultralights are required to have a prescribed endurance testing period when
they are first flown, and all ultralights must have a minimum set of
instrumentation to show airspeed, altitude and magnetic heading.
NZ Class 1 Single place aircraft with a maximum
gross weight of 510 kg or 550 kg, and a stall speed in the landing configuration
at maximum gross weight of 45 knots or less. Requires aircraft registration,
and annual condition inspections, but does not require a permit to fly.
NZ Class 2 Two place aircraft with a maximum gross
weight of 600 kg or 650 kg, and a stall speed at maximum gross weight of 45
knots or less in the landing configuration. Must meet minimum type
acceptance standards which may be foreign standards which have been deemed
acceptable, or via a temporary permit to fly and flight testing regime. Requires
aircraft registration, annual condition inspections, and a current permit to
fly. Ultralights are subject to NZCAA General
Aviation regulations with microlight specific variations as described in Part
103 and AC103.=Philippines=
The Civil Aviation Regulations define “non-type certified aircraft”, under
which ultralights and microlights fall, as:
An aircraft that does not possess an aircraft type certificate issued by any
country/state. It is, of simple design and constriction, either a homebuilt or
a kit built variety and for recreational and sport use, day VFR condition only.
A class of non-type certificated aircraft is applicable to all
classifications, including powered parachutes, gyrocopter, fixed-wing
aircraft and helicopters.=United States=
The United States FAA’s definition of an ultralight is significantly different
from that in most other countries and can lead to some confusion when
discussing the topic. The governing regulation in the United States is FAR
103 Ultralight Vehicles, which specifies a powered “ultralight” as a single seat
vehicle of less than 5 US gallons fuel capacity, empty weight of less than 254
pounds, a top speed of 55 knots, and a maximum stall speed not exceeding 24
knots. Restrictions include flying only during daylight hours and over
unpopulated areas. Unpowered “ultralights” are limited to a weight of
155 lb with extra weight allowed for amphibious landing gear and ballistic
parachute systems. In 2004 the FAA introduced the
“Light-sport aircraft” category, which resembles some other countries’
microlight categories. In the United States no license or
training is required by law for ultralights, but training is highly
advisable. For light-sport aircraft a sport pilot certificate is required.
Ultralight aviation is represented by the United States Ultralight
Association, which acts as the US aeroclub representative to the
Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Types of aircraft
While ultralight-type planes date back to the early 1900s, there have been
three generations of modern, fixed-wing ultralight aircraft designs, which are
generally classed by the type of structure.
The first generation of modern ultralights were actually hang gliders
with small engines added to them, to create powered hang gliders. The wings
on these were flexible, braced by wires, and steered by shifting the pilot’s
weight under the wing. The second generation ultralights began
to arrive in the mid-1970s. These were designed as powered aircraft, but still
used wire bracing and usually single-surface wings. Most of these have
“2-axis” control systems, operated by stick or yoke, which control the
elevators and the rudder — there are no ailerons, so may be no direct control of
banking. A few 2-axis designs use spoilers on the top of the wings, and
pedals for rudder control. Examples of 2-Axis ultralights are the “Pterodactyl”
and the “Quicksilver MX”. The third generation ultralights,
arriving in the early 1980s, have strut-braced wings and airframe
structure. Nearly all use 3-axis control systems, as used on standard airplanes,
and these are the most popular. Third generation designs include the CGS Hawk,
Kolb Ultrastar and Quad City Challenger. There are several types of aircraft
which qualify as ultralights, but which do not have fixed-wing designs. These
include: Weight-shift control trike: while the
first generation ultralights were also controlled by weight shift, most of the
current weight shift ultralights use a hang glider-style wing, below which is
suspended a three-wheeled carriage which carries the engine and aviators. These
aircraft are controlled by pushing against a horizontal control bar in
roughly the same way as a hang glider pilot flies. Trikes generally have
impressive climb rates and are ideal for rough field operation, but are slower
than other types of fixed-wing ultralights.
Powered parachutes: cart mounted engines with parafoil wings, which are wheeled
aircraft. Powered paragliding: backpack engines
with parafoil wings, which are foot-launched.
Powered hang glider: motorized foot-launched hang glider harness.
Autogyro: rotary wing with cart mounted engine, a gyrocopter is different from a
helicopter in that the rotating wing is not powered, the engine provides forward
thrust and the airflow through the rotary blades causes them to autorotate
or “spin up” to create lift. Most of these use a design based on the Bensen
B-8 gyrocopter. Helicopter: there are a number of
single-seat and two-place helicopters which fall under the microlight
categories in countries such as New Zealand. However, few helicopter designs
fall within the more restrictive ultralight category defined in the
United States of America. Two examples that do are the Mosquito Air and XEL
designs from Innovator Technologies, Inc.
Hot air balloon: there are numerous ultralight hot air balloons in the US,
and several more have been built and flown in France and Australia in recent
years. Some ultralight hot air balloons are hopper balloons, while others are
regular hot air balloons that carry passengers in a basket.
=Electric powered ultralights=Research has been conducted in recent
years to replace gasoline engines in ultralights with electric motors powered
by batteries to produce electric aircraft. This has now resulted in
practical production electric power systems for some ultralight
applications. These developments have been motivated by cost as well as
environmental concerns. In many ways ultralights are a good application for
electric power as some models are capable of flying with low power, which
allows longer duration flights on battery power.
In 2007 Electric Aircraft Corporation began offering engine kits to convert
ultralight weight shift trikes to electric power. The 18 hp motor weighs
26 lb and an efficiency of 90% is claimed by designer Randall Fishman. The
battery consists of a lithium-polymer battery pack of 5.6kWh which provides
1.5 hours of flying in the trike application. The power system for a
trike costs USD $8285. to $11285. The company claims a flight recharge cost of
60 cents. A significant obstacle to the adoption
of electric propulsion for ultralights in the U. S. is the weight of the
battery, which is considered part of the empty weight of the aircraft despite
efforts to have it considered as fuel. As battery energy density improves, this
will be less of a problem. By mid-2015, progress is being made to construct an
electric air vehicle that complies with Part 103 requirements.
Notable microlight/ultralight manufacturers
See also Aerosport
Backpack helicopter Jetpack
Nanolight Experimental Aircraft Association
Recreational Aviation Australia United States Ultralight Association
United States Powered Paragliding Association
Volksflugzeug References
External links Ultralight regulations in various
countries Type Acceptance information for New
Zealand microlights

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