Buying an Ultralight Aircraft? 3 Things You Need to Know!

By Jason Zilberbrand

September 30, 2020 Educational

Are you looking for a new hobby? If you're thinking of getting into aviation, an ultralight is an affordable and fun way to get involved.

Most don't require a pilot's license, and they come in kits with directions to put it together yourself. Most buyers build them in a dedicated garage or other space. While there are many operating regulations you must adhere to, flying one is much easier and obtainable then you think.

As you look into buying and operating an ultralight aircraft, here are a few things you should know about the plane, the rules, and the training required.

1. What Qualifies as an Ultralight Aircraft?

If you're considering buying an ultralight aircraft, you may be surprised at what counts as an ultralight. The FAA defines them as any hang glider that weighs less than 155 pounds, or a powered vehicle that weighs less than 254 pounds. They also have other requirements to qualify as an ultralight:

  • Must have 5 gallons or less of fuel
  • Must have a max speed of 55 knots
  • Must have a solo occupant
  • Must only operate during daylight hours

Piloting an aircraft that exceeds these specifications means that you're technically operating an aircraft, not an ultralight vehicle. If that's the case, you have to fulfill all the certifications of a pilot, including flight training. Your plane also has to pass inspection.

When you're shopping for ultralights, keep these restrictions in mind. Ensure that the one you're hoping to buy fulfills the requirements before you purchase because you don't want to be cited for failing to comply. Restrictions also apply to two-seat ultralight vehicles.

Any time you have a two-seat ultralight, you fall under the aircraft category. That means you need a license, like a recreational pilot's license or a private pilot's license.

Keep in mind that while there is plenty of freedom when you fly an ultralight, you still shouldn't fly without training. The FAA may not regulate them, but it's still essential that you take a training course to help you learn how to operate your new ultralight.

Did you know that an Ultralight is everything from a Lighter Than Air backpack balloon to an Unpowered Glider? There are six categories in total and even include rotorcraft. Popular manufacturers of some ultralights include Hummel Aviation, Kolb Aircraft Company, Quicksilver Aircraft, and Aerolite 103.

2. Do You Want to Build It?

You can buy ultralight aircraft that are already assembled. You can also purchase ultralight aircraft kits and put the plane together yourself. Both options can work well, but it all depends on what experience you want.

Before you buy an assembled aircraft, find out if it was a kit that someone else put together or if it came from the factory already put together. You may trust a trained professional to put the ultralight together. Yet it's another thing to trust someone who may or may not have any experience building ultralights.

If you decide to build your ultralight yourself, you can buy a quick kit that takes 50 hours to build. You can also build a more complicated kit, which can take up to 1000 hours to build. Either way, make sure you get plenty of training before you get started.

3. How to Buy an Ultralight

There are plenty of places you can go to purchase an ultralight. Yet if you want to make sure you're getting a good one, it's vital that you follow some guidelines. A low-hour ultralight may not mean that it's good quality. We want to know if it was professionally built or not.

Questions to Ask

When you see an ultralight aircraft for sale, you should talk to the owner. Get general information from them and find out how long they've had it. Ask about the previous owners if they have any information about who the original builder was.

Research the Manufacturer

You need to make sure you do your research. The manufacturer should have a good history of making aircraft or ultralight aircraft kits. This means they should have a high number of kits they make in a year and the number of years they've been in business. Check with the EAA and other owners of similar kits. Worse case, call me, and I can help!

Get an Appraisal

Before you make a purchase, make sure that you're getting a fair price. Get an appraisal from a verified company you can trust. They will tell you how much the ultralight aircraft is worth and whether you're paying too much or too little.

Flying High

There's nothing more exhilarating than recreational flying. Having the wind in your face and soaring over the earth is an activity few people get to try. If you're ready to buy an ultralight aircraft, get ready for the ride of your life.

Following the tips above can help make sure you get a quality aircraft that will keep you safe in the air. Find out more from VREF, the official aircraft valuation company of the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association).

If you need help acquiring or appraising an Ultralight contact Jason Zilberbrand, ASA to help.