Very Light Aircraft usually have more restrictive operating conditions than general aviation aircraft (for example, they can only be operated during daylight hours in visual meteorological conditions), but fewer safety and licencing requirements. This makes them cheaper to operate than they would be if they were registered as full light aircraft.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, many people around the world sought to be able to fly affordably. As a result, many aviation authorities decided to define very lightweight, slow-flying aeroplanes that could be subject to "light touch" regulation. The definitions used are most commonly called ultralight or microlight, although the actual weight and speed limits are rarely the same between any two countries. In the UK the microlight limit is 450 kg. The US Light-sport aircraft limit is 1,320 lb (600 kg).
The safety regulations used to approve light aircraft vary between countries, the most strict being the United Kingdom and Germany, while they are almost non-existent in France and the United States. The disparity between regulations is a major barrier to international trade and overflight, as is the fact that these regulations are invariably sub-ICAO, which means that they are not internationally recognised.
In most affluent countries, microlights or ultralights now account for about 20% of the civil aircraft fleet.
Definitions of Very Light Aircraft
Transport Canada has defined two categories of very light aircraft; basic ultra-light aeroplane (BULA) and advanced ultra-light aeroplane (AULA).
Very Light Aircraft
The Federal Aviation Administration has defined two categories of very light aircraft; ultralights and light-sport aircraft.
Regulation of ultralight aircraft in the United States is covered by the Code of Federal Regulations Title 14 (Federal Aviation Regulations) Part 103 or 14 CFR Part 103, which specifies an "ultralight" as a single seat vehicle with an empty weight of less than 254 pounds (115 kg) capable of a top speed of 55 knots (102 km/h), a maximum stall speed not exceeding 24 knots (45 km/h), a fuel capacity of less than 5 US gallons (19 L), and are only allowed to fly during daylight hours and over unpopulated areas. Weight allowances can be made for two-seat trainers, amphibious landing gear, and ballistic parachute systems.
In the United States no license or training is required by law for ultralights, but training is highly advisable.
Light Sport Aircraft
The Federal Aviation Administration defines a Light-sport Aircraft as an aircraft with a maximum gross takeoff weight of less than 600 kilograms (1320 pounds; with some exceptions for seaplanes), a maximum airspeed in level flight of 120 knots (222 km/h), either one or two seats, a fixed-pitch or ground adjustable propeller, and a single reciprocating engine, which includes diesel engines and Wankel engines. These aircraft require only a sport pilot certificate, not a private or recreational pilot certificate as with other certificated aircraft.
Published - July 2009
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