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Ultralight aviation

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Huntair Pathfinder Mark 1 ultralight

Ultralight aviation (called microlight aviation in some countries) 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 (FAI) definition limits the maximum take-off weight to Template:Convert (Template:Convert if a ballistic parachute is installed) and a maximum stalling speed of Template:Convert. The definition means that the aircraft has a slow landing speed and short landing roll in the event of an engine failure.[1]

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 February 2018, the ultralight aircraft fleet made up to 20.4% of the total civilian aircraft registered.[2] 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 of ultralight aircraft
Country Type Capacity Template:Abbr Time Licence Other conditions
Australia Recreational Aircraft[3] 2 600 kg; 614 kg for seaplane
Light Sport Aircraft[4] 2 600 kg; 650 kg for seaplane
Brazil Ultralight 2 750 kg daylight visual conditions used mainly, or intended for, sports or recreation[5]
Canada basic ultra-light aeroplane 2 Template:Convert daylight visual conditions Ultralight Pilot Permit may be operated from land or water
advanced ultra-light aeroplane 2 Template:Convert daylight visual conditions Ultralight Pilot Permit may only carry a passenger if the pilot has an Ultralight Aeroplane Passenger Carrying Rating; may operate at a controlled airport without prior arrangement[6]
Europe[7] land plane/helicopter, single-seater 1 300 kg
land plane/helicopter, two-seater 2 450 kg
amphibian or floatplane/helicopter single-seater 2 495 kg where operating both as a floatplane/helicopter and as a land plane/ helicopter, it falls below both MTOW limits, as appropriate
land plane, two-seater equipped with an airframe mounted total recovery parachute system 2 472.5 kg
land plane single-seater equipped with an airframe mounted total recovery parachute system 1 315 kg
gyroplane 1–2 560 kg
India 2 450 kg without parachute current permit to fly[8]
Italy ultraleggero 1—2 Max Take Off Weight MTOW

2 persons, 472.5 kg (450 kg without parachute)

Kg 500 Hydroplanes

Single Kg. 300;

Hydroplane single Kg. 330

Stall speed 65 km/h.

Daylight, minimum of Template:Convert. certificate exam, insurance and a medical examination.[9] requires a helmet only for open cockpit aircraft. flying over populated areas and people asseblyes is prohibited.[10]
Japan Ultra light power machine[11][12]

(undefined in Civil Aeronautics Act)

1–2[11][12] Max empty weight:

180kg(1 seat)

225kg (2 seats), with extra weight allowed for emergency parachute up to 11 kg and for floats up to 28 kg[11][12]

daylight visual conditions[13] Minister's permission carried on-board for each year[13] instead of licence[14][15]

Passengers also need permission.[13]

Sports or recreational use only[12]

Other minister's permissions:

  • flight permission (for each 2 - 4 months)[12][14][15]
  • Permission of land owner for landing and for take off[14][15]

Flyable area: uncontrolled airspace over unpopulated areas, within 3 km from departure point and landing at another point forbidden.[13]


  • powered, non-certified, propeller aircraft, including autogyro, with landing gear
  • Minimum required equipment: airspeed indicator and altimeter
  • Maximum stall speed: 65km/h
  • Minimum wing area: 10 m2
  • Maximum speed: 185 km/h
  • Maximum fuel capacity: 30L (8 US gal)[12][14]
New Zealand NZ Class 1 1 510 kg, 550 kg for seaplanes
NZ Class 2 2 600 kg, 650 kg for seaplanes
Philippines non-type certified aircraft[16][17] daytime VFR recreational and sport use
United Kingdom Sub-70kg Unregulated, Single Seat De-Regulated, Two seat Regulated. 1–2[18] Several definitions, from 70kg empty weight to 472.5kg maximum weight at take-off Daytime VFR Licence not required for sub 70kg empty weight, else NPPL licence required[19][20] Recreational. No paid work.
United States ultralight aircraft 1 155 lb (70 kg) for unpowered, with extra weight allowed for amphibious landing gear and ballistic parachute systems[21][22] daylight hours no license required less than 5 US gallons (19 L) fuel capacity, empty weight of less than 254 pounds (115 kg), a top speed of 55 knots (102 km/h or 64 mph), and a maximum stall speed not exceeding 24 knots (45 km/h or 27.6 mph). May only be flown over unpopulated areas.
light-sport aircraft sport pilot certificate
A US-made Pterodactyl Ascender ultralight on a camping flight
Canadian Lazair ultralight covered in clear Mylar
A weight-shift ultralight, the Air Creation Tanarg
Quicksilver MXII
A foot-launched powered hang glider


In Australia, ultralight aircraft and their pilots can either be registered with the Hang Gliding Federation of Australia (HGFA)[23] or Recreational Aviation Australia (RA Aus).[24] In all cases, except for privately built single seat ultralight aeroplanes,[25] microlight aircraft or trikes are regulated by the Civil Aviation Regulations.



United Kingdom[edit]

Paramotor and powered hang-glider pilots (including those flying aircraft with wheels) do not need a licence, provided the weight of the aircraft is not more than Template:Convert, but they must obey the rules of the air.[26]

For heavier microlights the current UK regulations match the European ones, except that helicopters and gyroplanes are not included.[27]

Earlier UK microlight definitions described an aeroplane with a maximum weight of (finally) Template:Convert, and a maximum wing loading of Template:Convert per square metre. Other than the very earliest aircraft, all two-seat UK microlights (and until 2007 all single-seaters) have been required to meet an airworthiness standard; BCAR Section S.[28] In 2007, Single Seat DeRegulated (SSDR), a sub-category of single seat aircraft was introduced, allowing owners more freedom for modification and experiments. By 2017 the airworthiness of all single seat microlights became solely the responsibility of the user, but pilots must hold a microlight licence;[29] currently NPPL(M) (National Private Pilots Licence).

New Zealand[edit]

Ultralights in New Zealand are subject to NZCAA General Aviation regulations[30] with microlight specific variations as described in Part 103[31] and AC103.[32]

United States of America[edit]

Template:Main 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. In 2004, the FAA introduced the "Light-sport aircraft" category, which resembles some other countries' microlight categories. Ultralight aviation is represented by the United States Ultralight Association (USUA), which acts as the US aeroclub representative to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

Types of aircraft[edit]

There are several categories of aircraft which qualify as ultralights in some countries:

  • Fixed-wing aircraft: traditional airplane-style designs.
  • Weight-shift control trike: 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.
  • Powered parachute: fuselage-mounted engines with parafoil wings, which are wheeled aircraft.
  • Powered paraglider: backpack engines with parafoil wings, which are foot-launched.
  • Powered hang glider: motorized foot-launched hang glider harness.
  • Autogyro: rotary wing with fuselage-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" thereby creating lift.
  • 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.
  • 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[edit]

Advancements in batteries, motors, and motor controllers has led to some practical production electric propulsion systems for some ultralight applications. 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.[33]

In 2007, the first pioneering company in this field, the Electric Aircraft Corporation, began offering engine kits to convert ultralight weight shift trikes to electric power. The 18 hp motor weighs Template:Convert 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 company claimed a flight recharge cost of 60 cents in 2007.[33][34]

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.[35] As battery energy density improves lighter batteries can be used.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

  1. Boric, Marino, Spoilt For Choice, Bayerl, Robby; Martin Berkemeier; et al (editors): World Directory of Leisure Aviation 2011-12, page 10. WDLA UK, Lancaster UK, 2011. Template:ISSN
  2. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}
  3. An overview of the legislative framework enabling sport and recreational aviation Template:Webarchive Accessed 7 January 2012
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  7. Joint Aviation Authorities (1 November 2004), JAR 1, retrieved 7 February 2015
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  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}
  16. Angeles City Flying Club, Excerpt from part 11 of the Civil Aviation Regulations.
  17. Civil Aviation Authority Philippines Template:Webarchive, download page for all regulations.
  18. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}
  19. British Microlight Aircraft Association. "[1]". Retrieved 24 July 2015
  20. British Microlight Aircraft Association. "Licensed Flying, so you want to be a pilot?". Retrieved 24 July 2015
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  27. British Civil Aviation Authority Aircraft Types
  28. [2]
  29. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}
  30. Civil Aviation Rules, Accessed 7 January 2012
  31. Part 103 - Microlight Aircraft - Operating Rules, Accessed 7 January 2012
  32. Advisory Circular 103, Accessed 30 May 2018
  33. 33.0 33.1 {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}
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