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Ultralight (or microlight)


Ultralights usually refer to self-made planes and FAA recognizes them in FAA Part 103. There is no FAA license for this category. As such there is no training requirement!!! USUA (United States Ultralight Association) helps in bringing structure to this sector. They recommend that training is required as well as necessary to operate Ultralights.

Lets clarify what Ultralight is and how much it costs to get up in air…

Definition of an Ultralight (or microlight)

An Ultralight plane is defined in FAA part 103.1 as:

  1. Is used or intended to be used for manned operation in the air by a single occupant;
  2. Is used or intended to be used for recreation or sport purposes only;
  3. Does not have any U.S. or foreign airworthiness certificate; and
  4. If un-powered, weighs less than 155 pounds; or
  5. If powered:
    • Weighs less than 254 pounds empty weight, excluding floats and safety devices, which are intended for deployment in a potentially catastrophic situation;
    • Has a fuel capacity not exceeding 5 U.S. gallons;
    • Is not capable of more than 55 knots calibrated airspeed at full power in level flight; and
    • Has a power-off stall speed, which does not exceed 24 knots calibrated airspeed.

Please note that FAA's definition of an Ultralight is significantly different than that of most other countries and can lead to some confusion when discussing the topic. In 2004 the FAA introduced the "Light-Sport Aircraft" category, which closely resembles other countries' Ultralight categories.

Different types of Ultralights - Several types of aircraft qualify as ultralights, which include:


  1. Weight Shift - Weight shift ultralights use a hang glider-style wing, below which is suspended a three wheeled pod which carries the engine and aviators. These aircraft are controlled by pushing against a horizontal 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.
  2. Powered parachutes - Cart mounted engines or motor scooters with parafoil wing, similar to parachutes used in skydiving.
  3. Powered paragliding - Backpack engines with parafoil wing, which are foot-launched.
  4. Gyroplane - Rotary wing with cart mounted engine (see autogyro), 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 Gyrocopter.
  5. 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 USA's more restrictive ultralight category. One of these is "Mosquito."
  6. 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.

Requirements for flying Ultralight

However, it is highly advisable. A typical USUA Ultralight flight-training course will include 10 - 15 hours of dual flight instruction and a similar amount of ground instruction. Completing the course may take a couple of months if you fly every weekend.

How much will it cost?
Approximate costs = $1,500
The average charge for dual flight instruction is $60-$90/hr and $20-$35/hr for ground instruction.

Relevant links and flying schools

Source: FAA regulations, USUA, Wikipedia, www.georgiasportflyers.com

Partner sites: Shimply.com