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- Dispelling Myths and Misconceptions of Ultra-light Aircraft-
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Nearly everyone has a complete misperception on what "Ultralights" are nowadays. The biggest reasons for this are the fact that Transport Canada has not provided a new category for these rapidly advancing aircraft. What were originally referred to as ultralights are not remotely similar to most of the current 'Ultra-light' aircraft.
Referring to these aircraft as "Ultralights" at this point has almost become a misnomer, and does incredible disservice to these high performance aircraft and the aspiring pilots who may not have realized how accessible, safe, economical and enjoyable aviation can be!
Section 1: Dispelling Myths on the Types of Ultralight Aircraft
Well, mostly. We'll go through each of these one by one in the following myths.
The problem is that in Canada the term "Ultra-light" refers to a HUGE variety of aircraft. While those type of aircraft DO fall into the 'Ultra-light' category. So do so many extremely advanced aircraft.
Because the term "Ultra-light" is so broad in Canada, and covers such a diverse variety of aircraft, all of the following discussion would have to have a "it depends" appended to it. So in the interest of brevity, it will be implied in the postulated "myth" that the myth is arguing that "ALL" ultralights adhere to the myth.
More accurately, the myth is stated that "Ultralights are constructed with metal tube frames and fabric skins".
Many ultralights are now constructed using composite materials throughout.
Some are constructed primarily of metal.
Some are a combination of some or all of the materials mentioned: The fuselage may be composite, the wing may be metal, and the control surfaces may fabric - or any combination thereof.
It is true that some basic ultralights are made the way they were in 'the old days'. But they are much rarer these days. Advanced ultralights can be said to bear no resemblance to the basic ultralights of old.
Most Basic and Advanced ultralights are two-seat aircraft of conventional or even advanced appearance with enclosed fuselages and normal seating.
There are very few of the 'hanglider' style ultralights made these days.
While some ultralights are still constructed that way, most modern ultralights are tractor configuration (propeller is in the front), with enclosed cockpits, where you are protected from the elements and the noise of the wind.
They have conventional, steerable landing gear like any other conventional aircraft.
Some ultralights can cruise at speeds of 300km/h!
It is true that ultralights must have a stall speed of no greater than 45mph, however, the ultralights we fly typically cruise at between 90 - 110 mph.
It is true that the lighter the aircraft, the less gusty the winds can be - particularly when landing, but these newer aircraft have been demonstrated to land with wind speeds in excess of 20 - 25 knots! (40 - 50 km/h) with absolutely normal handling.
Modern ultralights have a lighter wing loading and usually a greater power to weight ratio than aircraft like the Cessna 172 and 152.
Ultralights can take off and land on shorter fields. And with the greater power and a lighter wing loading, can usually climb much steeper over a given distance than the common 172s, 152s, etc.
Well, it depends on the aircraft you're referring to. Some advanced ultralights allow you to carry a combined weight of almost 700 lbs of fuel, people and baggage. A Cessna 152 can't even get close to having that much 'useful load' as it is called.
In fact the with full tanks, the ultralight can beat out some 172s with full tanks for remaining load!
Actually, an ultra-light with nominal performance can fly almost 300 miles on a single tank of fuel.
The faster ultralights can fly even further. This leaves the C152 way behind!
WELL....Ultralights ARE lighter on the controls, so require a more gentle touch, but the skills are pretty much the same.
It's not like we're dealing with weight-shift hangglider type aircraft which require a lot of physical strength and ability.
Remember, we're talking about aircraft that at this point in time are nearly indistinguishable from any conventional aircraft you may have in mind.
No, we're totally joking. There are ugly aircraft all over the spectrum, but a lot of modern ultralights are anything but!
See our photos pages for some beautiful looking ultralight aircraft.
In summary, ultra-lights cover a wide spectrum of aircraft types. They are faster, better performing, better built, more comfortable, better looking, and more variable in offering than you would have imagined.
With an Ultra-light you are open to a world of aircraft types from the old tube and fabric open frame pushers to high-performance all composite sleek aircraft.
License and Limitations
Section 2: Dispelling Myths on License and Flying Limitations
Well, it's TECHINCALLY called a 'permit'. But yes, you are required to have a 'license' to fly ultralights in Canada.
If you have a 'Passenger Carry Endorsement" on your ultralight permit, you are permitted to carry passengers in an Advanced Ultralight or Certified aircraft falling under the 'Ultra-Light' guidlines.
If you have a basic ultralight, or do not have the 'Passenger Carry Endorsement', you are still permitted to have someone with you who ALSO holds a pilot permit or license.
All ultra-lights are limited to a maximum of 2 persons on board. Or, in other words, the pilot and one other person.
You can fly an ultralight solo, under the supervision of an instructor by the age of 14.
You may obtain your ultralight permit by the age of 16.
A lot of disqualifying medical conditions for the Private Pilot License are not disqualifying with ultralights.
Your eyesight also does not need to be 100%. Normally corrective lenses will qualify you to obtain your ultralight medical.
Consult your physician or aviation medical examiner for your specific situation.
Usually ultralights are less per hour than flying certified aircraft.
But getting your license is WAY less than for the Recreational Pilot Permit (RPP) or the Private Pilot License (PPL) due to requiring far fewer hours.
ALSO, your time in ultralights is virtually free if you go onto the RPP or PPL as many or all of the hours can be credited to the upgraded license.
Finally, it is likely going to be similar in cost - per year - to any other higher end hobby like golfing, boating, etc.
While we do hope our students are keen and motivated to learn to fly and some skill and knowledge is required, it is much easier to obtain your UPP than your Private Pilot License or Recreational Pilot Permit.
You do have to put in the time and effort, but it's not as difficult as you might think.
At Silverwing Aviation we are hyper focused on safety and pilot proficiency.
Our goal is to provide you with the best training possible.
While it is true that the requirements for an Ultralight Pilot Permit are much lower than other pilot licenses - and many ultralight schools abuse that laxness - we are going to ensure you have the skills and experience necessary to be a safe pilot.
Provided your ultralight is equipped with a transponder, you can fly anywhere any other Non-IFR certified aircraft can fly, including virtually all civil aviation airports and aerodromes across the country.
And in many cases we can get into and out of airstrips that most certified aircraft are incapable of.
Ultralights are even permitted to fly across the border to the United States, and back.
Ultralights can fly in the exact same weather conditions as any other Non-IFR equipped aircraft.
The only exceptions may be a slightly lower wind speed at the surface, or avoiding moderate to heavy turbulance.
But, given all other weather conditions, the limitations are no different. Whether it be visibility or rain, etc.
Unfortunately, Canada has not kept up with the advances of aircraft in the ultralight category. While many of these aircraft are equipped to fly at night in the U.S.,
they are not permitted to fly at night in Canada.
In practical terms, in comparison to any other general aviation aircraft, there really are no limitations on where you can fly an Ultra-light aircraft.
It is the most affordable, and easiest flying permit to achieve and can be accomplished by people of all ages and diverse ranges of health.
All this, while flying true aircraft, to high standards anywhere you wish!
Safety and Reliability
Section 3: Dispelling Myths on the Safety and Reliability of Ultra-Light Aeroplanes
Many ultra-lights are factory built to high standards mandated by Transport Canada.
The materials and construction methods are engineered to withstand high load forces, making some ultra-lights able to withstand greater forces than many certified aircraft.
Often the very same components used in certified aircraft are employed in ultra-light construction.
It is true that a portion of ultra-lights are built by the owner, and can therefore be built to lower standards, but it is usually quite easy to spot poor workmanship.
It is extremely rare that ANY aircraft will suffer a structural failure leading to loss of control, and this is true of Ultra-lights, as well.
In fact many certified aircraft use the EXACT same engine as many current Ultra-Lights use. The difference is that usually the engine does not have the 'certification' paperwork that accompanies the certified engine.
The engines used nowadays are mainly four cylinder, four-stroke, dual ignition engines using redundant fuel systems. The dual ignition is likely the single greatest contributing factor to engine reliability.
It is true that in the past ulta-light engines were exceedingly unreliable, this was due to being two-stroke, two-cylinder, single ignition engines of poor design and inferior materials and engineering.
While those types of engines are still manufactured, they are much harder to find in use as ultra-light powerplants.
Or, could we say, "Exponentially false times two!"? Follow along here:
Survivability of any crash is based on energy dissipation. If you start with low energy to begin with, then survivability is higher.
Since kinetic energy is the result of HALF the mass times the SQUARE of the velocity, then the slower you are moving, the exponentially lower your kinetic energy.
The formula is this: Ke = (m/2)*v^2
Since ultralights have a lower stall speed AND have a much lower mass, they have double times exponentially less energy to dissipate. Nearly all forced landings in ultralights are ones from which the occupants walk away.
Even just stepping up to a 172 increases your risk of injury in a forced landing by enormous factors. But any forced landing is extremely rare.
Many ultra-light owners maintain their aircraft to MUCH higher standards than their certified aircraft counterparts.
While it is true that ultra-lights are not REQUIRED to adhere to maintenance standards that certified aircraft require, nor are they required to use certified parts,
many ultra-light aircraft are maintained and cared for to a much higher degree than certified planes found on most airports.
They will also use the exact same items and quality of materials, just without the certification paperwork to accompany it.
Unfortunately, many owners of both categories of aircraft will allow their aircraft to become derelict, or ignore proper maintenance.
It is true, that certified aircraft can't 'get away with it' as easily, therefore you may find high ratio of poorly maintained ultra-lights flying.
At Silverwing Aviation, well above any other goal, we are adamant our aircraft are maintained to the highest standards and levels of safety.
The major factor in any crash is pilot error. NOT a mechanical fault in the aircraft.
Since ultralights are primarily flown for pleasure, they are not forced to "get there."
Therefore, pilots are less likely to be pressured to fly in, or into conditions of marginal weather.
The pressure to "press on" IS one of the greatest factors in general aviation accidents, caused by pilots flying into weather they are not skilled or qualified to fly in.
We hope you can see from this that the greatest component to safety in aviation is the PEOPLE, not the machines.
If the aircraft is built and maintained to high standards they are incredibly safe and reliable.
If the pilot is well-trained, skilled, does thorough inspections before flight, and makes appropriate decisions, the chances of any sort of mishap are exceedingly rare.
By the nature of their lighter mass, and lower stall speed, they are an extremely safe way of experiencing the joys of aviation.