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View Full Version : What happened to Ultralights?



Glocknug
06-11-2014, 12:37 AM
Growing up, i always had an interest in flying. I was able to obtain my private pilots license, but was always interested in ultralights. I was never flying to travel, it was always for fun. I remember seeing ultralights flying above me, and thinking that was what i wanted to do. There is something appealing about flying for recreation, with the wind in your face.

The ultralights I used to see have disappeared. I have read articles about sport flying destroying the ultralight sport.

Is this because they took away ultralight training? I also read that they are not really producing new ultralights. Is this true?

I looked up my local eaa chapter (511) and there hasent been activity since 2009. I called every airport i can think of to get info on ultralight flying. They all said they had to kick em out after 9/11 for insurance purposes.

Is my dream of flying ultralights doomed?

Bill Berson
06-11-2014, 01:38 AM
What killed the ultralight industry was the ending of the two seat trainer exemption. Pilots liked the extra power and the higher performance and there was lots of engine options.

You can still buy or build a single seat ultralight.
I have not heard of anyone kicked out because of insurance. Look around for another airfield. My local airport doesn't require insurance.
Another option is to trailer and store at home.

1600vw
06-11-2014, 05:52 AM
The insurance thing is a bogus excuse. The USUA offers insurance for ultralights. But who needs insrurance when you are not flying over homes or people. Its a bogus excuse.

Look at the Legal eagle. Its a good ultralight and you do not need a two stroke to operate it or for it to fly.

For training you will not find any. The best you can do is ind someone with a two seat quicksilver or something like it and have them show you what you need to fly. That will be tough.

No matter what anyone tells you this is a product of HLS. Back in the days of Sport Pilot talk radio, Roy had a man on there from the FAA. At that time HLS, wanted a shoulder launch system to bring down ultralights. They decided the best approach, just kill the idea of ultralights all together.

Sure you can fly one, just don't ask for training. Our government does this when they do not want its citizens to do a certain thing. They say , yes you can do it, but trying to do such and such to get to the point of doing such and such will be illegal. I could give a lot of examples of this but why.

Its not just your dream of flying that is doomed. Its all General Aviation away from the big iron that is doomed. HLS would prefer us all to walk and then they will give you a ticket for walking, it will be a tax thing I am sure.

I have looked at my EAA chapters for help with my EAB. I found none so do not be surprised when you find no help with an ultralight dream.

Now we will hear from those who are lucky enough to have an active EAA club that does something more then sell something to eat and just how bogus this is. If you put a number to it, I bet less then 5% of the EAA clubs do something besides sell food out of all the hundreds if not thousands of EAA clubs out in the world.

Yes they are producing new ultralights. the question is..are they selling any. I doubt they are selling much and we have uncle Sam to thank along with the members of the FAA. That means we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Tony

magpie@hwy2.com
06-11-2014, 06:11 AM
I have a Kasperwing that I refurbished and it's a legal Part 103 machine. We have an active group and though we are scattered across the country we stay in contact on the Kasperwing group at yahoo. I live in a sparsely populated area and you either grab your bootstraps and make do or you don't go flying not matter what you fly.

The Ultralight movement is nothing like the glory days of the early 80's but FAR Part 103 is still on the books and folks like me are flying under the rules. It's a smaller movement but plenty of us are enjoying the niche.

Getting one of these ready to go, again, is a ton of labor and requires standard A&P type knowledge to do safely. Once they are setup they are fragile an need to be kept inside. Frankly they are a bit impractical and given the work you might as well mess with regular airplane or a LSA. You do it despite it being impractical.

It sure is fun hanging out at 30-35mph trying to catch up to a seagull.

Mostly, the ultralight movement is fragmented into a bunch of type groups with few or no local "clubs". Expect a somewhat solo experience.

Your not doomed, you just need to revise your expectations.

John

FlyingRon
06-11-2014, 07:41 AM
I doubt HLS had much to do with it. Nothing changed in the REGS after 9/11. Besides, even if they abolished part 103, it wouldn't change the security threat. You can still by "ultralight type" aircraft as light sports and do the same things with them. Do you think that the fact that they need a pilot's license to fly one will stop a terrorist. Do you think the guys on 9/11 bothered to get their 767 type ratings before they flew the planes into the WTC? As pointed out the "ruse" people were using to operate the fat ultralights was shutdown. That coupled with the medical-less sport pilot sort of took the wind out of the sails sort to speak.

1600vw
06-11-2014, 08:05 AM
I doubt HLS had much to do with it. Nothing changed in the REGS after 9/11. Besides, even if they abolished part 103, it wouldn't change the security threat. You can still by "ultralight type" aircraft as light sports and do the same things with them. Do you think that the fact that they need a pilot's license to fly one will stop a terrorist. Do you think the guys on 9/11 bothered to get their 767 type ratings before they flew the planes into the WTC? As pointed out the "ruse" people were using to operate the fat ultralights was shutdown. That coupled with the medical-less sport pilot sort of took the wind out of the sails sort to speak.

A lot changed. or I should say nothing went forward, or nothing changed. Lets take away training for an auto and see how long before no one is driving. This is not about terrorist they care less how long they live. This is about the family man/woman wanting to do something and live longer then that evening.
From what you say transition training is bunk and who needs it. The way its written today even the FAA is saying this about Ultralights. Go training in something nothing like one then climb into a single seater. We will all watch eating our popcorn. It will be amusing.
But the FAA will tell you transition training is needed in everything but an...Ultralight...anyone can fly them..I want to see one of these none pilot FAA folks climb into one and fly it after flying an LSA of some sort. I will watch eating my popcorn.

Tony

Bill Berson
06-11-2014, 09:19 AM
The LSA morphed into something that allows 200hp, $200,000 Carbon Cubs to be the industry leader.
The cost of SLSA certification is over $250,000 and growing. Not a big deal for Carbon Cub price range, but it limits affordable lighter designs that have the same costs as the big boys.
The LSA missed the mission because nothing affordable and absolutely no single seat has passed SLSA since 2004 (10 years).
I would like to start manufacturing a light single seat SLSA, but the cost to enter is too high. There is no affordable SLSA engines, for example.

rawheels
06-11-2014, 01:34 PM
Is this because they took away ultralight training?
Yes, or more specifically that they eliminated the exemption for two-place (non-certified) vehicles used for training. The SLSA's required now are just too expensive for guys giving lessons on the side to people who are interested in inexpensive flying.


I also read that they are not really producing new ultralights. Is this true?
No, there are still ultralights being produced. The Aerolite 103 is consistently the best deal at Oshkosh for an aircraft, but there is no 2-place version to get training in.


They all said they had to kick em out after 9/11 for insurance purposes.
They had to kick out the people who were flying illegal/unregistered two-place or "fat" ultralights. We had a large ultralight community at our airport, but only one unit met the Part 103 requirements. All others registered as ELSA or are now lawn ornaments.


Is my dream of flying ultralights doomed?
It doesn't have to be. You can still fly Part 103, there just isn't going to be a large group of fellow ultralight pilots until the regs are changed (which won't happen unless the EAA or other large group starts to care about it).

If you just want the feel, you could always use your private's license as an LSA license and fly a M-Squared, Quicksilver, or similar "ultralight" type aircraft.

magpie@hwy2.com
06-11-2014, 05:41 PM
I think the best bang for buck in aviation is the money you spend getting your Private Pilots license. By the time your done you have a solid foundation in VFR flight rules/navigation and the basics of flying. It will cost you less than a used ultralight. You'll never regret it.

After you get your license you transition into ultralights or twins to what ever else you think is fun. You do need transition training but it's far easier than learning to fly AND transitioning.

John

knussear
06-21-2014, 09:33 AM
There is a new petition circulating out there to get more pilot input into the light sport rule changes. As it stands much of the discussion has been heavily influenced by manufacturing interests pushing SLSA requirements, which have put many of the instructors in our sport out of business. If you agree that we need change please consider supporting it!
https://www.change.org/petitions/faa-610-sos-save-our-sport-open-pilot-representation-in-lightsport-rule-making

FlyingRon
06-21-2014, 10:48 AM
If you're talking about ultralights, the thing that put the instructors out of business in ultralights was the general disregard for the regulations in the industry more than any imagined conspiracy by the LSA manufacturers. Ultralight regulation was almost as laughable as CB Radio.

If you're talking about LSA instruction in general, I might tend to agree with you.

Kyle Boatright
06-21-2014, 05:10 PM
There were very few true ultralights in the first place. Ultralight meaning Part 103 legal, with a <254 lb empty weight and which carried <5 gallons of fuel.

When the feds went after the fat ultralights (most of which were flaunting the rules), the entire industry collapsed because there was no market for true ultralights and the fat ultralights had been the industry's bread and butter.

Jim Heffelfinger
06-21-2014, 07:24 PM
OP, As you can see here there is much interest in this topic. A few points to consider. When the FAA phased out the 2 seat trainer exemption (long abused by owners who were not instructors and not using them for training but a 2 seat plane) the intent was to allow the now ELSA ( converted 2 seat trainers) to operate under a LODA ( Letter of deviation authority) to continue to offer type specific training. This LODA mechanism was delayed for years - offering the training facilities that were active to either shift to SLSA aircraft (commonly not anywhere close to a UL type aircraft) or go out of business. Many taking the latter direction. The current LODA holders have found it very difficult to get this status for training in an experimental aircraft even though they were the same aircraft that operated under the exemption just a few years ago.
https://www.eaa.org/en/eaa/aviation-communities-and-interests/pilot-resources/letters-of-deviation-authority-holders-loda-holders
There are now a few SLSA aircraft that are UL type aircraft including the just approved Quick Silver.
DHS ( http://www.dhs.gov/) had little to no influence on the FAA's lack of action re LODA. ( conspiracy interested bloggers disregarded)
What was apparent was the near universal disregard of the CFRs - part 103 ( http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=&SID=63acd98a92cf778e4f53828009869fb2&n=14y2.0.1.3.16&r=PART&ty=HTML) including the aforementioned training exemption.
RE : Airports throwing ULs off the fields. If receiving federal dollars they can not exempt part 103 vehicles from the airport but they can have FSDO come out to inspect aircraft to assure compliance. The common maverick attitude of many UL operators ( it takes but a few to label them all in the eyes of public and agency) had poor standards of airmanship and noisy overflights over homes that brought too may eyes on their aircraft.
The days of wild west 80s for part 103 aircraft are gone - there is now a continuum of regulation from part 103 up through 12,500 #
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rr3zCq8JYxI
Great video if you take the time........

Buzz
07-18-2014, 08:33 PM
I have a Kasperwing that I refurbished and it's a legal Part 103 machine. ...

The Ultralight movement is nothing like the glory days of the early 80's but FAR Part 103 is still on the books and folks like me are flying under the rules. It's a smaller movement but plenty of us are enjoying the niche.

Getting one of these ready to go, again, is a ton of labor and requires standard A&P type knowledge to do safely. Once they are setup they are fragile an need to be kept inside. Frankly they are a bit impractical and given the work you might as well mess with regular airplane or a LSA. You do it despite it being impractical.

It sure is fun hanging out at 30-35mph trying to catch up to a seagull.

Mostly, the ultralight movement is fragmented into a bunch of type groups with few or no local "clubs". Expect a somewhat solo experience.

Your not doomed, you just need to revise your expectations.

John
I agree with John, except for maybe the point that you need A&P type knowledge to get an ultralight ready to go. Buy something like the ubiquitous used everyman Quicksilver on Barnstormer.com and download the assembly manual from Quicksilveraircraftowners group on Yahoo. You'll have everything you need to get the thing ready to fly.

As pointed out previously, you'll need to figure out how to get some training.
-Buzz

zaitcev
07-18-2014, 09:21 PM
The SLSA's required now are just too expensive for guys giving lessons on the side to people who are interested in inexpensive flying.

Coincidentially, Quicksilver started offering an S-LSA, which is basically one of their strut-braced kit designs. They are trying to lure someone to instruct for ultralights in it, wiith the target price of something like $45k. We'll see how well it goes.

BTW, U-Fly-It offers transition training in a Quicksilver to the buyers of Aerolite 103. I presume they do it under a LoDA.

martymayes
07-20-2014, 03:34 PM
The ultralights I used to see have disappeared. I have read articles about sport flying destroying the ultralight sport.

I'd say the 20/20 exposť had more to do with it than sport flying.



I called every airport i can think of to get info on ultralight flying. They all said they had to kick em out after 9/11 for insurance purposes.
Sounds like a crock. Exactly what are they insuring?

FlyingRon
07-20-2014, 05:18 PM
Sounds like a crock. Exactly what are they insuring?

Yeah, I've never heard of an airport taking out insurance for any operation: small aircraft, ultralights, skydiving...
In fact, I suspect it's not legal for anybody who took AIP funds to exclude people even if it was "hard to insure."

Most of the UL operations I am aware of died for the lack of customers more than any other compelling reason. Of course, the cancellation of the training exemption pretty much put the nails in the coffin of an otherwise moribund industry.

Buzz
07-21-2014, 08:28 AM
I'd say the 20/20 exposť had more to do with it than sport flying.
I started out with a Eipper hang glider in 1974 [after already have my Private], put an engine on an Easy Riser I built for hang gliding and then started flying Eipper/Quicksilver ulralights. I'm also an hour south of Oshkosh. So I've been watching the ultralight industry for a long time.

IMHO, the 20/20 piece actually saved the ultralight segment at the time from killing off Part 103.

Early on there were a lot of adrenalin seekers that viewed getting into u/l as just another recreation vehicle like a motorcycle. Buy it, teach yourself to takeoff/land and then have-at-it. I think the "20/20" piece cooled off this Wild West factor.

No one that did their homework on getting into u/ls got scared off by the 20/20 piece. It scared away the uniformed that just looked at it as "no training required" everyman flying. Put enough of those in the air and you'll some things big enough to really get the FAA to re-think Part 103. Some near misses with some commercial aircraft, some goof trying to land in Yankee Stadium during a game or ?

Granted, there's no longer a viable commercial industry around Part 103. "20/20" did cause that.

But it's still great Part 103 is on the books for those who dream of simple, personal and reasonably affordable fun flying. It takes more of a will than it did 25 years ago when instructors were common, but there is still a way via Part 103 for those with a large enough will.

One last thought. While it's a lot harder to find local information about ultralights today, the nice thing for people today is the Internet and forums like these. At least you can find people with information to share on getting into the activity.

My thoughts.

-Buzz

martymayes
07-21-2014, 09:52 AM
Granted, there's no longer a viable commercial industry around Part 103. "20/20" did cause that.

Yes, some ultralight manufacturers of the day saw their order books with 100+ vehicles evaporate overnight. Doors closed and ultralight fire sales were common. That news piece, accurate or not wiped out the commercial side of the industry as we knew it.


But it's still great Part 103 is on the books for those who dream of simple, personal and reasonably affordable fun flying. It takes more of a will than it did 25 years ago when instructors were common, but there is still a way via Part 103 for those with a large enough will.

I agree completely. Not much personal involvement with ultralight vehicles, but a fan since the '70's. When Part 103 showed up, I thought it was a good thing. One day I plan on building or rebuilding an true ultralight and flying it from my backyard. So many projects, so little time.....

deckofficer
01-19-2015, 03:59 PM
Hi all, my name is Bob and this is my first post here. I was around prior to the UL boom, flying my old Seagull 3, then later the new Seagull Seahawk 200 in the below picture.

http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/ff452/deckofficer/Travel/003.jpg (http://s1236.photobucket.com/user/deckofficer/media/Travel/003.jpg.html)

OK, fast forward 30 years and the itch for simple, cheap, and minimally regulated flight is still with me, however, the fitness of my body is no longer the same.

This is all I want, the freedom of flight without the hassle of intrusive government intervention and I believe 103 is still the way to go. Because of lack of training available, this segment of recreational aviation will never support a large base because about the only viable customers are the limited numbers of folks like myself that have previous experience. During my time hang gliding I also picked up some PPL training in a Cessna 150 with 15 solo hours and also flew the Waspair Tomcat UL.

This is how I hope to get back to recreational flight with minimum fuss. I'm retired and currently looking to sell my California home for a modest airpark home with hanger. This eliminates the transport and set up for a UL. My choice of flying is back country camping, flying to just my air fix, and now the big one, at least twice a year a long cross country for AirVenture and Sun and Fun.

The planes that have my interest are the Earthstar Gull, Belite ProCub lite, and the Song powered glider. All but the Song would be a good candidate for back country flying. I have zero taildragger time so would need some dual in a J3 before flying the Belite.

It really is too bad that so many folks abused the twin seat UL trainer concept for non training because IMHO part 103 will over time just atrophy and die when old timers like me are no longer around.

Looking for some feedback on these choices. Mark Beierle has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt his Gull is capable of cross country flights. I don't know much about the Belite and its Polini engine and know even less about the Song with the screaming 4 stroke Baily V5.

martymayes
01-20-2015, 09:47 AM
This is all I want, the freedom of flight without the hassle of intrusive government intervention and I believe 103 is still the way to go. Because of lack of training available, this segment of recreational aviation will never support a large base because about the only viable customers are the limited numbers of folks like myself that have previous experience.

Bob, a training operation could be set up with an two-place LSA that has ultralight like qualities, no? I just don't see any demand and would bet it will be a money losing proposition.
Part of the problem is the overall decline in aviation popularity. The large support base like the late '70's early '80's was more fad like so I don't see a repeat of that for sure. But there are still some new entrants that find their way into ultralight flying for the reasons you list. It's not just the old recycled guys (like Buzz, lol). I am planning to build an ultralight as I get closer to retirement.

deckofficer
01-20-2015, 10:23 AM
Bob, a training operation could be set up with an two-place LSA that has ultralight like qualities, no? I just don't see any demand and would bet it will be a money losing proposition.
Part of the problem is the overall decline in aviation popularity. The large support base like the late '70's early '80's was more fad like so I don't see a repeat of that for sure. But there are still some new entrants that find their way into ultralight flying for the reasons you list. It's not just the old recycled guys (like Buzz, lol). I am planning to build an ultralight as I get closer to retirement.

i agree Marty. Active pilots in 1980 around 830k, today 600K and flight schools have seen a 45% drop in students. Up side is the airpark homes I've been looking at reflect the drop in demand with more attractive prices.

You mentioned that in retirement your plans are to build an UL, so maybe that is the light at the end of the tunnel for 103, the population bubble of us baby boomers embracing 103. Which one are you considering? There is a used Earthstar Soaring Gull (28' wing span) for sale in Florida that was built by Mark the designer in 2011 and flown from California. The guy that is selling it is doing so as a 103 legal, but with the HKS 60 hp and loaded panel I find it hard to believe it isn't over the weight limit.

Dana
01-20-2015, 11:49 AM
Yeah, I have a real hard time believing that's even close to 103 legal...

An ultralight training operation using a 2 seat LSA is certainly possible, but it has to be either an expensive SLSA (the only real "ultralight like" one I'm available is the M-Squared Breese at around $45K) or an ELSA operating under a LODA (which seems to be almost impossible to get). Either way, a substantial investment that pretty much eliminates any part time instructors.

Dana

martymayes
01-20-2015, 12:40 PM
Quicksilver has the new 2SE for ~$40k. If you crunch the numbers, should be able to make about 10 cents for each dollar invested. The number of investors looking to make a small fortune in aviation should be all over it.

martymayes
01-20-2015, 12:47 PM
but with the HKS 60 hp and loaded panel I find it hard to believe it isn't over the weight limit.
maybe it has helium in the wings?

I would really like to design and build my own 103 legal ultralight based on heavily borrowed technology from previous designs (a.k.a. copying). However, I may save that for my 2nd project. Need to get feet wet first.

deckofficer
01-20-2015, 01:50 PM
The Gull with 20' wingspan is 248 lbs with the Hirth 33 that is 45 lbs., the Soaring Gull with 28' wingspan is 254 lbs.

The weight of the HKS 700E is 121 lbs, so just can't be done and still be 103.

That sweet panel is probably 10 lbs over standard, but that weight could be easily negated by switching from the Odyssey PC680 AGM battery at 16 lbs to lithium at 2 lbs, so transponder, VHF, and all the goodies in that panel could stay and still be weight compliant.

But the engine, well who wouldn't want a 60 hp 4 stroke in a 103? Even with the weight savings of a more modest panel (10 lbs), lithium battery (14 lbs) and hand thrown parachute instead of ballistic (16 lbs), that is a 40 lb allowance for an engine that weighs 76 lbs more than the spec engine.

However could still have that panel with the increased performance of the Polini 250 engine and save 2 lbs over the Hirth 33.

Hirth 33 28 hp @ 6500 rpm 45 lbs

Polini 250 36.5 hp @ 7500 rpm 43 lbs.

Rate of climb at standard conditions sea level for the Hirth 33 is 850 fpm, I would guess the Polini might nudge 1000 fpm, not bad for a 103.