The Cost Of Owning and Flying an Ultralight Aircraft
We often talk here how affordable is to fly an ultralight airplane. It is indeed. It's affordable compared to owning and flying a LSA for example. But it's far away from free. Let's see what is the cumulative cost of owning an ultralight, because there's a lot more than just buying or building the airplane.
Cost of The Aircraft
There is huge margin here depending on the aircraft type and whether you buy it used or new. Or even whether you build it yourself from a kit or from scratch, using plans. Depending on all this you can expect to pay somewhere from $5,000 on the lower end to $100,000 on the higher end.
$5,000 - $100,000 one-time
Cost of Pilot Licensing (Optional)
Pilot licensing not required toi fly an ultralight airplane in USA accordingly to Part 103. Similar rules exist in many countries, but not in all. So if you are not in the USA you have to check your local aviation laws. Even without licensing it's useful to take flying lessons if you have no friend or relative who can teach you to fly your aircraft. Remember, your safety is far more important than money. Even if you are short on money. In case you choose to take a license, my recommendation is to qualify for LSA pilot because this will also let you fly a light sport aircraft.
$5,000 - $10,000 one-time
Cost of Hangaring and Airports
Unless you own a nice flat piece of land you won't be able to keep your airplane with yourself or fly out without an airport. A nice exception of this rule are the ultralight trikes which can be stored in a garage and take off from a road. If you have a fixed wing ultralight or no good space you should foresee at least the ongoing monthly cost of hangar.
$100 - $500 monthly
Taxes and Insurance
These vary a lot from country to country and from state to state. In some places you may not owe any taxes, and insurance is optional. But most countries will have some tax for owning a vehicle and will require insurance. We can't give any estimates here because these expenses vary really a lot. They won't be huge, but are still costs to have in mind.
Even the best airplane needs repair and maintenance. Fortunately ultralights do not require yearly inspection at least in most countries. If you are good with these things and have the equipment you can do most of the maintenance yourself. If you have to use qualified help, the costs will be 2-3 times higher.
$100 - $3,000 yearly
Cost of Flying (Fuel)
Let's not forget that you own the airplane for flying :) There is no point to pay all the costs associated with it and keep it in the hangar all the time. The cost of flying will depend of course on its fuel consumption and how much you fly. The efficient ultralights can fly with less than 10 litres per hour so depending on where you live this could cost you $10 - $20.
$10 - $20 per hour of flight
Now, let's do a rough yearly estimate of all of the above making the following assumptions:
- Using your ultralight for 30 years
- Flying 100 hours per year
- No professional training or professional maintenance.
On the lower end (cheapest aircraft and hangar) this would make around $2,500 total expenses per year. Not that much really considering how much you probably spend on all kind of stupid things. Of course if you buy a more expensive aircraft, use it less years and pay more for hangar and maintenance the expenses can easily go up to about $5,000 per year or more.
Any Way To Make It Cheaper?
Actually yes. The answer to this is co-owning the aircraft with someone else. This leads to splitting the aircraft price, maintenance and hangaring costs between the owners. The cost of fuel and the optional education / licensing won't be split of course. This option is not for everyone as people prefer to own their airplanes, but some find it good because it's affordable. This has led to forming aircraft clubs where several pilots own a single airplane and use it to fly at selected times. The downsides are obvious so think well before investing into such venture.
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