Hasn't everyone, at some point in time, had the desire to fly? The easiest way to just get up into the air, with a minimum of hassle, is through the use of an ultralight aircraft. The average training time for a non-pilot is just 12 hours, and can be completed in a few days. But before you find an open field and start sky hopping, we need to cover some important tips that will prevent you from making costly and dangerous mistakes.
Aside from the ease of flight certification, ultralight aircraft have many other benefits which can quickly make this a consuming hobby. For one thing, they can be hauled in your car or truck and stored easily. Secondly, they don't require a hangar. Just find an open grass field and let 'er rip. Lastly, there is a thriving ultralight community and new clubs and organizations popping all over the place. Don't be afraid to call your local ultralight aircraft club, you will find most ultralight enthusiasts are friendly folk.
You might be wondering: What is an ultralight exactly? That is a good question that can save you a lot of money (it is no fun paying good money for an ultralight that you are not certified to fly). In the United States, an ultralight is classified as a single-seated vehicle that carries less than five gallons of fuel, weighs less than 254 pounds, has a top speed of 55 knots, and has a maximum stall speed not exceeding 24 knots. No license or training is required to pilot an ultralight, but you will want to complete the recommended 12 hours before going airborne. Your ultralight can fly only in daylight over any unpopulated area. The most common types of ultralights are trikes (similar to a hang glider with an engine), powered parachutes, gyroplanes, and one-man hot air balloons (called hoppers). But, there are also many other creative variations.
If you are considering purchasing your first ultralight aircraft on eBay or from a local dealer, here are some important tips to consider:
An ultralight only has one seat, however you will often see two-seated powered parachutes. While these are technically classified as ultralights, this will change in 2008. So don't purchase a two-seated powered parachute if you plan on flying it after 2008.
Hinge bolts on the craft should have a castle nut and a pin to prevent wear due to vibration.
Check for rust on all bolts and connections. Pay particular attention to the quality of the rudder pedal connection.
Make sure no cables are near a propeller or other moving part.
Ask the previous owner if the flight is level. You don't want to apply constant pressure to the ailerons in order to fly straight. x
How is the overall strength of the aircraft? Many ultralights are landed on rough fields and put up with strong winds. You want to make sure there is plenty of bracing.
Ask about the history of repair work. Ideally the craft should have no previous crashes.
Never buy a craft that has stressed or creased tubing or wood.
Wing support cables should not be wrapped around bolts because this will cause the cabling to chafe.
Request pictures of the aileron connection, or view the connections in person. You want minimum hardware on the aileron connection, because this leaves less chances for failure.