Getting Started in Ultralight and
Sport Plane Flying

By: John W. Davis

It's a shame when people put off something they always wanted
to do such as flying or any other dream that may be put aside.

Why do most people put away their dreams ???


But after most people get over their anxiety and take the plunge,
more often than not, they are very happy they did.

First of all we'll address some basic questions on ultralight and sport
pilot flying that we hear all the time from would-be pilots.


(1) An ultralight is a small, very light, single-seat aircraft which is
solely for recreational and sport use only.

(2) An ultralight must have an empty weight (no fuel, no occupant)
of less than 254 lbs.

(3) An ultralight aircraft may have only one seat.

(4) An ultralight can carry no more than 5 gallons of fuel.

(5) And ultralight can have a full-power speed of no more
than 55 knots in level flight

(6) The stall speed of an ultralight can be no more than
24 knots (about 28 mph).

As long as an ultralight is in compliance with Part 103 of the Federal Aviation
Regulations, there is no need to be registered or meet any kind of airworthiness
standards, and the pilot does not need a license to fly.

Is Ultralight flying Dangerous ???

No, not at all. In fact, in some ways ultralight
flying is among the safest ways to fly.

They are very light and they fly slowly. They are well-designed
and are constructed of very high-quality materials.

And while the engines used on ultralights are not perfect, a well-maintained
engine is a reliable machine which provides more than enough power to do
the job. And if an engine should fail ( They sometimes do. ), ultralights
glide very well and can land slowly on very short landing strips.

Is there any such thing as an ultralight license ???

No, not really.

You CAN just jump into an ultralight and take off into the wild blue yonder
if you have the nerve to do that, but of course, flying without training is a
very unwise thing to do.

In fact, many people die each year trying to teach themselves
how to fly. Because of this, the FAA has established a waiver to
allow two-seat ultralights to be used for instruction.

This waiver does not allow these two-seat ultralights to be used for any other
purpose other than giving instruction. But after receiving an adequate amount of
dual instruction, a student can, under the eye of an approved instructor, solo
in a two seat ultralight.

Where can I get lessons ???

Even though you don't need a license to fly an ultralight, you will need to take
instruction to fly one safely. Go to the website of an approved ultralight
organization, such as the United States Ultralight Association (USUA), the
Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), or Aero Sports Connections (ASC).
They will provide you with an instructor in your local area.

What gives an ultralight instructor the right to give instruction ???

He has taken test upon test and is approved by one of the organizations to give
instructions in a two-seat ultralight. He has an exemption from the FAA to give
this instruction. (If he does not have this exemption, then he is illegal.)

Can someone sign up for an ultralight ride ???

Yes, but it will be a training ride called an introductory flight.
It's the only way to do it legally.

How much does it cost ???

Well, that all depends.

A 10 hour flight course that includes around 6 hours of ground
school, with books and all, will run anywhere between $800 and
$1,500 depending on where you live.

How long will it take until I am ready to solo ???

Well, that depends on many things. Students with no prior
flying experience are usually ready at around 10 to 15 hours.
Some take less time and some take more.

Can I carry a passenger in an ultralight ???

No way. Even though there are two-seaters out there, unless
they are used for instruction with an exemption, you may not
carry a passenger in an ultralight type aircraft.

How much will an ultralight cost ???

Here again that all depends on whether you buy a new or used plane.
You can find planes ranging from around $3,500 used, all the way up to
the high thousands for new. You CAN spend $25 to $30,000 depending
on the type you build and how many extra toys you put on them.

What's the difference between ultralight and FAA training ???

To get an FAA private pilot's license, you must get a medical, pass an
FAA written test, and have at least 40 hours of flight time( dual plus solo).
Also you must take a check ride with an FAA examiner as the very last
step before getting your "ticket."

Ultralight training will take about 10 hours, depending
your rate of progress of course, around 6 hours ground school,
and a written test. However, no medical is involved.

Ultralight lessons: What, when and where ???

Make the call to an instructor and set up a date and time to take an intro flight.
Don't be scared to ask questions. That's what an instructor's for.

Your first flight will be anything from a short joy ride to one
where you will be flying the plane, depending upon how serious
the instructor thinks you are about flying.

What can I expect ???

This is what to look for in your lessons:

Preflight inspections, preflight checklist, and engine start procedures.
Taxi technique.
Straight and level flight, coordinated turns.
Collision avoidance and clearing turns.
Airspeed control and altitude control.
Transitions from cruise to climbs, glides, etc.

Climbing turns, descending turns, and steep turns.
Flying at minimum-controllable airspeed.
Power-off stalls and power-on stalls.
Normal takeoffs.
Glide path control, normal approach and landings.
Cross wind techniques.

Emergency descents and go-around landings.
Crabbing into the wind, and ground-reference maneuvers.
Traffic pattern procedures.
Wake turbulence avoidance.
Cross country planning and flying.

And then Solo !!!

These are in no certain order and your instructor
will tailor the lessons to fit your needs.

John W. Davis