Introduction to Ultralight Airplanes

Ultralight Airplane - What Do You Need To Know?

You don't have to be rich to own an aircraft

Do you dream for affordable way to fly - at a time and place chosen by you? Owning an ultralight airplane is the way to achieve this reverie. The ultralight aviation was the answer of the aircraft industry to the constantly exploding interest of people for affordable flying.

What exactly is an ultralight airplane?

The definitions vary in the different countries and jurisdictions. You will find the term also mixed with the term microlights (learn more about the microlight airplanes) - again depending on where you live. But in general an ultralight aircraft is a flying machine having 1 or 2 seats, very low weight, low fuel usage, low requirements for registration and... low price of course!

In the USA, an ultralight aircraft is considered a vehicle with weight under 254 pounds (115 kg) and fuel capacity not exceeding 5 U.S. gallons (19 L). The maximum calibrated airspeed has to be 102km/h (55 knots)

The European definition of ultralight airplane is a lot more "democratic". The vehicle can weight 300kg - 450kg and have 1 or 2 seats with same allowed maximum speed.

The definitions vary, but you don't really need to remember them - when you are buying an ultralight airplane you will be informed what category it belongs to (microlight or ultralight, or experimental homebuilt), as this matters when you register the vehicle. Again, depending on your local law you may or may not need to register your airplane as an ultralight.

Some of the ultralight airplanes are also known as experimental homebuilt. Yes, this basically means that you can build one at home... well, for example in your garage. Many enthusiasts build new models themselves. If you are not an engineer, don't be disheartened. For addicts who are interested in building their planes themselves there are thousands of airplane kits available. [read more about the kits]. Building your vehicle from a kit can take quite some time and efforts, but it is a true enjoyment and can make the final cost much lower.

Did you just hear the word "cost"? Sure, you are asking yourself how much an ultralight airplane could cost. Well, here is the greatest aspect of the ultralight aviation - it is affordable! The prices of the new machines often are under $25,000 (see "Are Ultralight Airplanes Right For Your Budget?) and the fuel usage slightly exceeds the usage of your car.

Do you still think it's expensive?

Here are some more good news - you can buy used aircraft. There are plenty of sites [for example check our resource center] where people offer their old vehicles for sale. The prices are different, but we have seen used ultralights at $15,000 and microlights starting as low as $6,000! If you like Ultralight Trikes (known also as flex wing airplanes) you can even find some at $3,000. That's like an old car, but so much greater :)

There are many cheap options for flight training, for example you can check many sites with online classifieds. But again, it depends what are the requirements in your country to get sport pilot license. It's important to practice at least 10-20 hours with instructor before you try flying on your own.

How safe is to fly an ultralight airplane?

In the past incidents with ultralights and microlights were happening often. Nowadays, most countries require ultralight pilot's license for flying. The quality of the aircrafts has to meet the requirements for certification. Therefore, it all depends on you. The safety of the ultralight aviation has dramatically improved in the last years and the future is bright.

Flying with an ultralight airplane is easy achievable, low cost and extremely exciting venture

The number of pilots from the General Aviation who own ultralights is increasing every day. The vehicles and training are getting more and more affordable to anyone. Have you only dreamed to fly on your own aircraft? Now is the time to seriously consider it.

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User comments:

Jose Kral at Aug, 15 '08 07:05
Good article,gives a first view to who doesn't know or have an idea of what is a ultralight/very light aircraft.
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Bob at Aug, 18 '08 23:25
Thanks, Jose, glad that you liked it.
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Sabrina at Jan, 08 '10 19:36
I spent the last half hour reading several of the introductory articles on ultralight flying, and found that they would answer almost any question that someone new to the sport might have. I have been flying since 1964, and have been flying ultralights since 1987. My personal favorites are the HM 293 Flying Flea which I currently own, the Spitfire, which I also currently own, and a Roger Mann design, the RW-6 which is a replica of the Heath Parasol, which I am currently building from plans.
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Bob at Jan, 08 '10 19:38
Thanks Sabrina! Nice to see ladies in aviation too :)
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BILL at Jan, 01 '12 13:57
I to own a spitfire and currently restoring back to flight a very rugged well built aircraft. I am looking for a operation manual do you know where I could get information?
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