How To Get Started Flying Ultralight Aircrafts

Ultralight flying signifies one of the fastest and surest ways to experience the joys of aviation. From powered-parachutes and trikes to conventional fixed wings and even rotorcraft and amphibians, ultralights are enjoyable, exciting, and typically, remarkably affordable. Flying ultralights isn’t a step-down or up, however, a step into a totally different and thrilling sector of the flying community.

In the U.S., Flying an ultralight does not need a medical certification or license of any type or a permit, providing the aircraft in compliance with the Federal Aviation Regulation called Part 103. Part 103 defines an ultralight as an aircraft that meets the following criteria:

  • Seats: 1
  • Maximum Empty Weight For Powered Aircraft is 254 lbs
  • Maximum Empty Weight For Unpowered Aircraft is 155 lbs
  • Maximum Fuel Capacity is 5 Gallons
  • Maximum Speed @ Full Power is 55 knots
  • Maximum Stall Speed in Power Off is 24 knots

If the aircraft has over 1-seat or surpasses any of the above criteria, it is not eligible for operation under Part 103, and not an ultralight.

These are the rules by which we fly; they’re the most lenient in the world. These privileges, however, carry duties: ultralight pilots should be trained like any other pilot, while there are no specific requirements.

Getting Started

Flying ultralights is an exhilarating and exciting sport when done safely. It is not a step-down or up, but a step into a wholly different and exciting sector of the flying community

Ultralights Types

What kind of ultralight do you want to operate? Explore the distinct types of ultralights to decide what is right for you.

  1. Lighter than Air

blimp lighter than air ultralight

While not nearly as widespread as some of the other forms, you will find them lighter-than-air ultralights also, such as “backpack balloons” and even powered airships, so long they meet different ultralight standards.

  1. Powered Fixed-Wing

This is far and away from the broadcast category, running the gamut from basic open-frame layouts at one point of the spectrum to completely enclosed cockpits and compact designs at the other.

ultralight fixed wing

Fixed-wing ultralights can be built from fabric and wood, aluminum, or advanced complex structure, and can be made from kits or plans, or acquired complete and ready to fly.

  1. Powered Parachutes / Powered Gliders

Powered Parachutes (PPC’s) and Powered Paragliders (PPG) are precisely what you think: wings using a gasoline engine or electric motor to provide forward propulsion.

powered chute ultralight

In the case of a PPC, the motor is typically positioned to a frame with wheels and a chair (non-ultralight two-seaters exist at the Light Sport class as well), even though a PPG takes a much simpler approach — the motor is worn in a harness on the pilot’s back.

PPCs and PPGs represent some of the available and most inexpensive kinds of flying available.

  1. Rotorcraft

Rotorcraft can usually be classified into two categories:  gyroplanes (frequently known as gyrocopters or autogyros) and helicopters. A helicopter uses one or more rotary wings or powered rotors to fly and maintain control, though a gyroplane utilizes a traditional engine and propeller for thrust and an unpowered rotor for lift.

While helicopters and gyroplanes look apparently similar, there are main differences between the two.

As their main rotor is powered helicopters can navigate and, take off and land vertically, and though a gyroplane usually needs a little space of runway for both landing and takeoff, and can’t drift unless there is a modest wind.

Gyroplanes tend to be simpler, both concerning structure and operation, but both types can be built from kits or plans or bought complete.

  1. Trikes / Weight-Shift

Starting as a simple union of a hang glider with a chair, engine, and three wheels, trikes have steadily become more elegant and more prevalent as pilots first tinkered with the concept in the late 1960s.

Modern trikes are available from several manufacturers in both versions single-seat ultralight versions and two-seat Light Sport aircraft.

Additionally, there are a few more ultralight designs in which the pilot sits suspended in gear and controls the aircraft by shifting their body back and forth. These aircraft are called “weight-shift” types.

  1. Unpowered (Gliders/Sailplanes)

While ultralight aircraft are, by definition, a single-seaters, in some instances there are similar two-seater types available for demonstration flights or instruction. You can directly contact the manufacturer of a particular type right

Not every aircraft should have an engine. There are several popular unpowered designs for those pilots searching for serenity and the joy of flight.

glider ultralight

Ultralight gliders, like any aircraft, can be pulled over by another aircraft, a winch, or a car or in many circumstances they can be started off a hillside, by merely rolling — or running — down a slope.


The most important thing to recognize before flying an ultralight is that, regardless of what the law says, you must get training. This is correct, definitely, for new pilots, but it’s also valid for current pilots shifting into ultralight aircraft for the first time.

Based on what you decide to fly, there are things to research:

  • Find flight instructors and Find flight training centers and flight trainers that are ready to teach sport pilot students.
  • Fixed-Wing Training
  • Powered Parachute Training
  • Weight Shift Training


When the FAA Issued Part 103, a division of the FARs that concerns to ultralight flight, they did so with the statement that participants could self-regulate. By providing free registration programs for students, EAA is helping the ultralight community to meet that commitment to self-regulation. The FAA is going to be forced to do it for us if we do not regulate ourselves.

Student Registration- By registering as a student learning to fly Part 103 ultralights, you’re showing your interest in learning and safely operating ultralights. Participation in this voluntary enrollment program shows your support of self-regulation intent of Part 103.

Pilot Registration – Although registration is not required by the FAA, your involvement supports our ongoing commitment to self-regulation.

Vehicle Registration – This can help to get access to shows and airports you’re complying with the self-regulation concept which FAR Part 103 embraces.

Regulation 103-7 – The Ultralight Vehicle AFS-820


Presents guidance to the operators of ultralights in the United States. It discusses the components, which form the definition of ultralight vehicles to operate under Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 103. Additionally, it outlines when an ultralight must be operated as an aircraft under regulations applicable to certified aircraft.

Ultralight Manufacturers

Several manufacturers report that they have a kit or plans that may comply with the requirements of Part 103 as an ultralight vehicle.

Care should be taken to confirm the manufacturer’s claims of Section 103 compliance of the manufacturer. Manufacturers can claim Part 103 compliance; however, you as the operator must have to be able to prove to the FAA it meets Part 103 requirements.

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