Category : Science and Education
Archive   : ULTRAFAQ.ZIP

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From: [email protected] (Dan Grunloh)
Date: 18 Nov 92 08:40:06 GMT
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.answers
Subject: Ultralights FAQ

Original-from: [email protected] (Dan Grunloh)
Last-modified: 18 Oct 1992 by [email protected] (Dan Grunloh)
Archive-name: av-ultralight-faq

This regular posting was last revised October 18, 1992. Changes since the
last posting are marked by a vertical bar ("|") in the left margin. ("rn"
and "trn" users may search for new materials using "g^|".) It answers
frequently asked questions about ultralights. This posting was written by
Dan Grunloh ([email protected]), with input from other netters.
The author takes full responsibility for any omissions or errors. (Use of
this posting in flight is prohibited. 🙂 ) Comments and questions are most
welcome. This article is now being automatically posted twice per month.

This document attempts to answer the most common questions from newcomers
about the sport of ultralight flying. Questions about the best engine,
prop, oil, etc. are not considered. The answers are short generalizations
heavily mixed with opinion and are not intended to be the complete
definitive reference.

The questions which are answered include:

Q201: What is an ultralight (or microlight)?
Q202: Are there any regulations on these things?
Q203: How can I locate ultralights flying in my area?
Q204: Are ultralights more dangerous than other aircraft?
Q205: What does it cost to build, buy, learn, fly?
Q206: Don't most ultralights in the USA exceed the allowable legal
weight and speed limits?
Q207: Why would anyone want to fly these marginal machines when they
could be flying *real* airplanes?
Q208: I fly regular airplanes so why should I need any training to fly
these simple machines?

You can search for the question you're interested in in "rn" or "trn"
using "g^Q201" (that's lower-case g, up-arrow, Q, and a number) where "201"
is the question you wish. Or you may browse forward using to
search for a Subject: line. Please send comments on this format to
[email protected]


~Subject: What Are Ultralights and Microlights

Q201: What is an ultralight (or microlight)?

In the U.S.A. an ultralight is defined in the Federal aviation regulations
(Part 103) as a *single* seat powered flying machine which weighs 254 lbs
or less, has a top speed of 63 mph, lands at 28 mph or less and carries no
more than 5 gal. of fuel. Thats it ! There are some operating limitations
(see question 2) but no mandatory license or registration. Special 2-seat
exemptions are granted to instructors for training purposes only.
Regulations vary outside the USA but many nations allow more weight,
speed, fuel, and 2-seat operations at the expense of more safety
requirements. Some call them microlights. The limits for ultralights in
the USA are being reviewed and may be revised upward sometime in the


~Subject: Ultralight Regulations

Q202: Are there any regulations on these things?

Yes! Aside from the vehicle definition (see question 1) there are strict
operating limitations (USA) designed to limit the dangers to the
non-particpant. (You are permitted to risk your own neck.)

1. No passengers allowed
2 No flying over towns or settlements
3. No flying at night or above (or in) the clouds
4. No flying in certain airspace around airports with control towers
without prior permission.
5. No commercial operations (for hire) except instruction.
6. Ultralights must yield right-of-way to ALL OTHER AIRCRAFT.
7. No! You don't have to have a pilots license (yet).


~Subject: Where can I find Ultralights?

Q203: How can I locate ultralights flying in my area?

The U.S. Ultralight Association is an organization of ultralight pilots
and flying clubs in the USA. They administer the ultralight instructor
program and the voluntary pilot and vehicle registrations. A monthly
magazine _Ultralight Flying_ is available through USUA. Contact them at
USUA, P.O. Box 557, MT. Airy, MD 21771 or phone (301) 898-5000 to get
details about flying clubs, instructors, and flight parks in your area.

The Experimental Aircraft Assn. (EAA) is an organization for all types of
homebuilt, antique, warbirds, rotorcraft, and ultralight aircraft. They
have a very large network of local chapters. Several magazines are
available. Also, a week-long annual convention and airshow is held in
Oshkosh, Wisconsin each summer. The next convention is July 29-August 4,
1993. Write to EAA Aviation Center, P.O. Box 3086, Oshkosh, WI 54903 or
phone (414) 426-4828

Find a small airport in your area (not a major hub), go there in person
and ask around. There are independent clubs and airparks that are not
part of the above organizations. Make every possible effort to locate a
flying club because a group of pilots can provide invaluable help choosing
an ultralight and finding a place to keep it.


~Subject: Ultralight Safety

Q204: Are Ultralights more dangerous than other aircraft?

No. Not necessarily. They have a tremendous advantage over regular
aircraft due to their low weight and speed. Minor accidents cause little
damage and major accidents are less often fatal. As with hang gliders,
when they were first being invented, there were many poorly designed
ultralights being flown by untrained pilots. Hang gliders and ultralights
are now well understood and we know how they should be built and flown.

Is engine reliability a factor? Gliders have no engine and the operators
do not consider that a safety factor. Hot air balloons can only barely
control their direction. Skydivers only go down! Each type of aviation
activity must be conducted within its design limits. Accident statistics
are difficult to evaluate. Should it be expressed as accidents or
fatalities. Do you want it per mile, per hour, per flight, or per pilot.
Airlines use seat-miles to get the best possible numbers. All the various
types of *established* recreational flying are reasonably safe if you
follow good practices.


~Subject: Costs of building, buying, learning, flying

Q205: What does it cost to build, buy, learn, fly?

You can build a variety of safe very serviceable ultralights costing from
$3000 to $6000. A raw materials kit or construction kit without the engine
is the cheapest way to start. Plan on spending at least 6 months to 2
years on the project. An assembly kit has all the parts prebuilt and you
just bolt it together in a few weekends. Cost of these kits starts at
about $6000. You can buy a used or new machine ready to fly for anywhere
from $2000 to $12,000. Older models must definitely be inspected by a
knowlegeable friend. If you build one yourself, you will naturally be
better qualified to maintain it.

There are many ways to learn to fly ultralights. Formal flight training
in a 2-seat ultralight from a real instructor can cost $600 to $1200 or
more. You could take a few lessons from an instructor or a friend in a
conventional aircraft but the speeds and handling characteristics are
quite different. It's better than the third option which is no training at
all. In the USA it is legal but very stupid to attempt flight with no
training whatsoever. Any experience in regular aircraft, sailplanes, hang
gliding, or even RC-models is helpful. Much of the ground school such as
weather, navigation, engines, safety, and regulations can be learned on
your own simply by reading.

Actually flying the ultralight is usually very inexpensive. The engines
burn only 2 to 3 gal per hour. Routine maintenance and even a complete
engine rebuild is minimal. You could damage a prop ($150) or wipe out
your landing gear ($300). Almost all ultralights must be stored under a
roof protected from sun and weather. Direct sunlight will destroy some
types of fabric coverings ($1000) in as little as 2 years! If you cannot
disassemble the ultralight or fold the wings and trailer it home, you will
need to rent hangar space if you can find it. Hangar rent can be the
largest single operating expense at $30 to $90 per month.


~Subject: Weight limits

Q206: Don't most ultralights in the USA exceed the allowable
legal weight and speed limits?

Many ultralights do exceed the limits though most of them are only a
little heavy or fast. Manufacturers design ultralights which just barely
qualify so they can offer the most performance and features possible. Some
owners then add bigger engines, more streamlining and other options which
take it over the limit. The government relies on more or less voluntary
compliance because they will never have the resources to hunt down every
ultralight that is slightly over the limit. They realize that a little
extra weight or speed does not significantly increase the risks involved.
However, if you violate the operating limitations (see question 2), and
someone reports it, you WILL be fined $1000 for each occurence. Exceeding
those operating limitations very greatly compromises safety.


~Subject: Ultralights vs. "real" airplanes

Q207: Why would anyone want to fly these marginal machines when
they could be flying *real* airplanes?

First they are not marginal. Ultralights are designed to have the same
structural strength as regular normal category aircraft. A major reason
people fly them is the lower cost. In spite of what critics might say by
comparing the cost of an old worn out conventional aircraft with a new
ultralight, the average cost of owning and flying an ultralight is much
less than conventional aircraft. Also, some people can never fly *real*
airplanes because they can't pass the medical requirements. The most
important reason people fly ultralights is because they are FUN ! The
slow flight, often open cockpit, and light responsive handling make them
more like a motorcycle of the air than car in the sky. One final reason
(in the USA) is freedom from excessive regulations.


~Subject: Ultralight training for pilots of certificated aircraft

Q208: I fly regular aircraft so why should I need any training to fly
these simple machines?

Conventional pilot training is a tremendous asset when learning to fly
ultralights but some habits will have to be changed. They have much less
mass and inertia and thus do not retain airspeed as long as other
aircraft. Control response time is often quicker so the regular pilot may
tend to flare for the landing much to early. Also, headwinds and
crosswinds have a much greater effect and can more easily spoil your
navigation and use up all your fuel. Ultralights really should always be
flown such that there is a safe emergency landing area within gliding
distance. Regular airplane pilots do not always follow that practice.
You should get at least a few flights in a 2-seat ultralight and some
ground school covering 2-strokes engines and ultralight regulations.


-End of FAQ about ultralights.

Dan Grunloh - Research Specialist in Life Sciences at the
Univ. of Illinois - Rm 222 An Sci Lab
Internet: [email protected]

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  3 Responses to “Category : Science and Education
Archive   : ULTRAFAQ.ZIP

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