What is an Ultralight?

(Reprinted with permission from Alan Hunt.)

By Adam Hunt, COPA’s manager of membership services and representation

Ultralight pilots are the fastest growing group of aviators in Canada. In the past year the number of advanced ultralight aircraft increased by 10 per cent alone!

Ultralights generally cost less to buy and operate than certified aircraft. They are cheaper to licence than amateur-built aircraft.

Ultralights have always been "Owner-maintenance" aircraft. The Transport Canada Ultralight Transition Strategy currently governs ultralight flying in Canada, while we await the inclusion of the ultralight rules in the Canadian Aviation Regulations.

Ultralights may only be used for recreational purposes and for flight instruction.

Basic Ultralights

Basic ultralights are where ultralight flying started, back in the 1970s. Currently these aircraft may have a gross takeoff weight of up to 1,200 pounds and one or two seats, with a stall speed of 39 knots (45 mph) or less. There are no specific maintenance requirements for basic ultralights, although self-preservation demands that owners maintain their ultralights carefully. Basic ultralights have registrations that start with C-I . Pilots flying basic ultralights must wear helmets. Passengers cannot be carried in basic ultralights, although two licensed pilots may fly together and student pilots may fly with an ultralight instructor.

Advanced Ultralights

Advanced ultralights came into being in 1991 with the introduction of TPIOI4I, Design Standards for Advanced Ultralight Aeroplanes. These aircraft must be built from a manufacturer’s kit or purchased as a complete aircraft.

Advanced ultralights may have one or two seats with a maximum gross weight of 1058.2 pounds for two seaters and 628.3 pounds for single seaters. An additional allowance of 154.4 pounds for floats, is permitted, if so equipped. They are limited to a stall speed of 39 knots (45 mph) and no aerobatics are permitted. When an advanced ultralight is constructed, the manufacturer provides a statement of conformity (S of C) that states that the individual plane conforms to the type standard. Advanced ultralights cannot be modified without written approval of the manufacturer. The aircraft must be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s maintenance requirements. If the owner modifies the aircraft without written authority of the manufacturer or fails to maintain it as required, then the aircraft will revert to the basic ultralight category and operational privileges will be lost. Advanced ultralights registered before January 1997 will have a registration starting with C-F or C-G. Since then they have been issued C-I registrations.

Advanced ultralights may carry a passenger, if the pilot is qualified to carry passengers. These rules were under revision at the time of writing so check for new developments in Canadian Flight. Helmets are not required in advanced ultralights.

Cross Border Ultralight Flying

Because Canadian ultralights carry no flight authority document, such as a Certificate of Airworthiness, and ultralight rules are quite different between nations, flying across borders in an ultralight requires special permission. Since July 3, 2000 all the pilot of a Canadian basic or advanced ultralight has to do to fly to the U.S. is complete the Special Flight Authorization form on Page 52 and carry it with you in the U.S. The Authorization is good for 180 days. The pilot must hold a Pilot Permit Recreational Aeroplanes or higher licence or a Pilot Permit — Ultralight Aeroplanes with a flight instructor endorsement and two hours crosscountry experience. At the present time pilots who hold just a Pilot Permit — Ultralight Aeroplanes may fly their Canadian ultralights in the U.S.

Flying under FAR Part 103 rules in the United States

Canadian pilots can fly Canadian or American ultralights in the U.S. without a licence, medical or permission, provided that the aircraft is operated under the U.S. ultralight vehicle rules, FAR Part 103. U.S. ultralights are limited to recreational use, one seat, 254 lb empty weight, 25 knot stall speed, 55 knots maximum level speed and five gallons of fuel. Provided the air craft meets that definition, no licence or registration is required and no helmets are required, either.

Other aircraft that can be flown by Ultralight Pilots

Holders of the Pilot Permit — Ultralight Aeroplanes are allowed to fly any aircraft in Canada that meets the Canadian ultralight definition of a maximum 1,200 lb gross weight and a 39 knot (45 mph) stall speed. This includes certified, Owner-maintenance and amateur-built airplanes. When flying these types of airplanes the normal restrictions apply — the aircraft must be maintained as the categories require and the holder of a Pilot Permit — Ultralight Aeroplanes cannot carry passengers, even though the airplane is licensed for passengers.

When is an airplane an ultralight?

Ultralight aeroplane classification is based on meeting the definition of "ultralight aeroplane," which amounts to being small and stalling slowly — nothing more. Some of the aircraft with CF... and C-G... marks meet the definition of ultralight aeroplanes and are therefore "ultralight aeroplanes." If an aircraft weighs in at less than 1,200 lbs. and stalls at less than 45 mph, it is (by definition) an ultralight aeroplane. That means that those who can fly ultralight aeroplanes can fly it and those who can instruct in ultralight aeroplanes can instruct in it; those who received training in it from instructors qualified to provide training toward the Ultralight Permit can claim that experience toward a Pilot Permit — Ultralight Aeroplanes.

It is important that everyone recognize not only the associated opportunities, but the restrictions that are included as well.

While an ultralight instructor can offer dual instruction in an aircraft that holds some sort of flight authority if that aircraft also meets the definition of an ultralight aeroplane, the limitations inherent in the ultralight instructor’s privileges still apply.

The whole article by Alan Hunt http://www.copanational.org/FlyingUltralightInCa.cfm

More info can be found at http://www.copanational.org/files/COPAGuidetoUltralights.pdf

And also here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultralight_aircraft_(Canada)