40 years ago I cut lawns to take flying lessons and got my license at 17. I got into hang gliding a couple years later, built an Easy Riser for hang gliding and then put one of John Moody's first engine kits on it after he did his famous Oshkosh flight. So I've been around GA and ultralights for a good part of my life.
I've always felt it's unfortunate that the basic ultralights like the Quicksilver MX have never been seen by the aviation community for what they could do for the growth of fuure of aviation participation.
The MX got literally thousands of adults safely flying in spite of the relative unavailability and/or low utilization of decent instruction. The accident rate of early ultralight designs caused by "self-teaching" masked the fact that a design like the Quicksilver MX was probably the most successful basic aviation trainer ever built. It got more people aviating at a lower investment of time and money than any other aviation trainer ever produced.
What I have longed believed is that aviation misses the potential of entry-level ultralight designs like the Quicksilver MX to build the next generation of aviation enthusiasts.
Many yacht clubs on the inland lakes of the upper Midwest have dingy fleets to teach teens how to sail. Designs like the MX could be aviation's "dingy" with it's simple 2-axis controls and docile dihedral. If a 14 yr old can solo a glider with proper 2-place instruction, they can certainly learn to fly a 2-axis MX.
I think we've missed the mark not using some simple basic ultralights to get teens doing entry level, basic aviating. The focus seems to be on producing licensed pilots when we could be producing a lot of teenage aviators.
I'm one of the rare kids that was so bit by the aviation bug that I actually got a license as a teen. However, I would have jumped at the chance to learn to fly an ultralight instead. I would have started earlier because I would have been legally able to at a younger age in an ultralight. It would have been a much smaller, easier step for me.
For every kid like me that does go from a "Young Eagle experience" to a license, there could be hundreds of kids that could go from Young Eagle to entry level aviator with a well organized youth program based around an entry level ultralight design. [I was "Young Eagled" by an EAA member next door that took me flying in his Mooney.]
The aviation community might argue it would not be worth the effort to support a youth program around learning to fly ultralights because ultralight aviators don't transition to GA. I would argue differently. Not every ultralight flying teen would transition to the GA level, just as every kid doesn't move up from dingys. But I think the allure of begin able to carry a passenger would get a lot chasing at least the LSA license at a future date.
I believe the stat I calculated it's an average of 5.4 years from when the average Young Eagle takes their flight until they could actually become an aviator going the GA route. With the number of other activities or pursuits that could capture their interest in the interim, I believe that's too long to convert YE's into aviation participants. I think we need to convert them from "Young Eagle spectator" to "aviator" faster. And I think the basic ultralight designs hold that promise with a well organized youth aviating program.
My thoughts. Would be interested in what others think.