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Texas-Flyer

FAQ


Question: Where can I get training "around here" to fly an ultralight?


Answer:  

Training is critical if you expect to safely fly an ultralight.  Unfortunately, the new FAA rules have all but done away with ultralight (UL) training aircraft.  

If you're reading this prior to January 31, 2010, then there are still some legal 2-seat ultralight trainers out there... somwhere... but I doubt seriously you'll find one.  Instructors that owned a UL trainer had a choice: either convert the UL trainer to an experimental LSA, or continue to use it as a UL trainer until 2010.  On February 1 of 2010, that trainer becomes a lawn ornament.  (Or, if the owner is saavy about the ways of the FAA, they can get it re-inspected and re-certified as an E-LSA.)   Still, there's a major financial dis-incentive for those owners to continue the aircraft as a UL trainer. Consequently, to be trained to fly ultralights, your only realistic choice is to take lessons in a Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) as a student Sport Pilot.

Minimum hours that most UL training required was 10 hours.  Sport Pilot (SP) training takes a minimum of 20 hours, so to get a full SP license would be roughly twice what you were going to spend on UL training.  And, renting an LSA during training will probably cost more than what a UL instructor would charge for using his UL trainer, so, maybe the cost is 2.5 times more. But even if the financial requirements were the same, there's another problem.

The FAA rule, by essentially eliminating 2-seat UL trainers, has also eliminated most of the trainers that would provide you with training in an aircraft with the same flight envelope and characteristics that you'll find with most ultralights.  In other words, you can get trained in an LSA, but the chances are that LSA won't fly anything like a Quicksilver or Phantom.  And this is the biggest hole in the new FAA rules.

So, what can you do?

Good or bad, here are the most realistic choices:

1) Get your student SP certificate; it's free at your local FSDO.
2) Find a local SP instructor (see links below, and try the yellow pages for all the local flight schools))
3) Inform the instructor your primary interest is in flying ULs and ask if they have a UL-style trainer.
4) If they don't, then your can continue to ask around at other schools, troll the Internet UL email lists for possibilities, or, most likely, just accept the training as they offer it.
5) If you get trained in a slippery LSA, then keep in mind that, upon completing that training, you will need to find someone who owns a 2-seat experimental LSA (i.e., an ex-2-seat UL trainer) with flight characteristics similar to the UL you're interested in, and try to get them to let you go fly with them.  Maybe they'll even let you take over the controls a bit.

You don't even have to finish the SP course... just take the ground school, then take enough hours until you solo.  At that point, you will have had at least as much training as you would in the UL schools of the good-ol'-days.  Extra training is -never- a bad thing, and you'll be more than half-way to a Sport Pilot certificate, so I would encourage you to finish.

This process isn't the quickest, but it's probably the safest approach for learning to fly a UL in today's regulatory environment..

The best sources for instructors are the EAA, ASC and USUA websites:

    http://www.sportpilot.org/instructors/index.html
    
http://www.aerosports.org/instructor_lists.htm
    http://www.usua.org/SportPilot/FAA.html

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