Huntair Pathfinder Mark 1 ultralight

Ultralight aviation (called microlight aviation in some countries) is the flying of lightweight, 1- or 2-seat fixed-wing aircraft. Some countries differentiate between weight-shift control and conventional three-axis control aircraft with ailerons, elevator and rudder, calling the former "microlight" and the latter "ultralight".

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, mostly stimulated by the hang gliding movement, many people sought affordable powered flight. As a result, many aviation authorities set up definitions of lightweight, slow-flying aeroplanes that could be subject to minimum regulations. The resulting aeroplanes are commonly called "ultralight aircraft" or "microlights", although the weight and speed limits differ from country to country. In Europe, the sporting (FAI) definition limits the maximum stalling speed to 65 km/h (40 mph) and the maximum take-off weight to 450 kg (992 lb), or 472.5 kg (1,042 lb) if a ballistic parachute is installed. The definition means that the aircraft has a slow landing speed and short landing roll in the event of an engine failure.[1]

In most affluent countries, microlights or ultralight aircraft now account for a significant percentage of the global civilian-owned aircraft. For instance, in Canada in February 2018, the ultralight aircraft fleet made up to 20.4% of the total civilian aircraft registered.[2] In other countries that do not register ultralight aircraft, like in the United States, it is unknown what proportion of the total fleet they make up. In countries where there is no specific extra regulation, ultralights are considered regular aircraft and subject to certification requirements for both aircraft and pilot.


Definitions of ultralight aircraft
Country Type Capacity MTOW Time Licence Other conditions
Australia Recreational Aircraft[3] 2 600 kg (1,323 lb); 614 kg (1,354 lb) for seaplanes
Light Sport Aircraft[4] 2 600 kg (1,323 lb); 650 kg (1,433 lb) for seaplanes
Brazil Ultralight 2 750 kg (1,653 lb) Daylight visual conditions Used mainly (or intended for) sports or recreation[5]
Canada basic ultra-light aeroplane 2 1,200 lb (544 kg) Daylight visual conditions Ultralight Pilot Permit Craft may be operated from land or water
advanced ultra-light aeroplane 2 1,232 lb (559 kg) Daylight visual conditions Ultralight Pilot Permit Craft may only carry a passenger if the pilot has an Ultralight Aeroplane Passenger Carrying Rating; may operate at a controlled airport without prior arrangement[6]
Europe[7] land plane/helicopter, single-seater 1 300 kg Daylight VFR Ultralight Pilot Permit Sport or recreation only
land plane/helicopter, two-seater 2 450 kg (992 lb) Daylight VFR Ultralight Pilot Permit Sport or recreation only
amphibian or floatplane/helicopter single-seater 2 495 kg (1,091 lb) Daylight VFR Ultralight Pilot Permit where operating both as a floatplane/helicopter and as a land plane/ helicopter, it falls below both MTOW limits, as appropriate
land plane, two-seater equipped with an airframe mounted total recovery parachute system 2 472.5 kg (1,042 lb) Daylight VFR Ultralight Pilot Permit Sport or recreational use only
land plane single-seater equipped with an airframe mounted total recovery parachute system 1 315 kg (694 lb) Daylight VFR Ultralight Pilot Permit Sport or recreational use only
gyroplane 1–2 560 kg (1,235 lb) Daylight VFR Ultralight Pilot Permit Sport or recreational only
India 2 450 kg (992 lb) without parachute current permit to fly[8]
Italy ultraleggero 1–2 Max Take Off Weight MTOW

2 persons, 472.5 kg (1,042 lb) (450 kg (992 lb) without parachute)

  • Hydroplanes, 500 kg (1,102 lb)
  • Single, 300 kg (661 lb)
  • Hydroplane single, 330 kg (728 lb)

Stall speed 65 km/h (40 mph)

Daylight, minimum of 500 ft (152 m). certificate exam, insurance and a medical examination.[9] Requires a helmet only for open cockpit aircraft. Flying over populated areas and assemblies of people are prohibited.[10]
Japan Ultra light power machine[11][12]

(undefined in Civil Aeronautics Act)

1–2[11][12] Max empty weight:
  • 180 kg (397 lb) (1 seat)
  • 225 kg (496 lb) (2 seats), with extra weight allowed for emergency parachute up to 11 kg (24 lb) and for floats up to 28 kg (62 lb)[11][12]
Daylight visual conditions[13] Minister's permission carried on board for each year[13] instead of licence[14][15]

Passengers also need permission.[13]

Sports or recreational use only[12]

Other minister's permissions:

  • flight permission (for each 2 – 4 months)[12][14][15]
  • Permission of land owner for landing and for take off[14][15]

Flyable area: uncontrolled airspace over unpopulated areas, within 3 km (2 mi) from departure point and landing at another point forbidden.[13]


  • powered, non-certified, propeller aircraft, including autogyro, with landing gear
  • Minimum required equipment: airspeed indicator and altimeter
  • Maximum stall speed: 65 km/h (40 mph)
  • Minimum wing area: 10 m (33 ft)2
  • Maximum speed: 185 km/h (115 mph)
  • Maximum fuel capacity: 30 L (8 US gal)[12][14]
New Zealand NZ Class 1 1 Single seat 510 kg (1,124 lb), 550 kg (1,213 lb) for seaplanes; Stall speed 45 kn (83 km/h; 52 mph). Daytime VFR Microlight Licence required[citation needed] Part 103 Microlight Aircraft Operating Rules,[16] Part 103 advisory circulars[17]
NZ Class 2 2 2 Seats 600 kg (1,323 lb), 650 kg (1,433 lb) for seaplanes; Stall speed 45 kn (83 km/h; 52 mph) Daytime VFR Microlight Licence required[citation needed] Part 103 Microlight Aircraft Operating Rules,[16] Part 103 advisory circulars[17]
Philippines non-type certified aircraft[18][19] Daytime VFR recreational and sport use
United Kingdom Sub-70 kg (154 lb) Unregulated, Single seat deregulated, 2-seat regulated. 1–2[20] Several definitions, from 70 kg with full fuel to 650 kg (1,433 lb) maximum weight at take-off Daytime VFR Licence not required for Sub-70 kg, NPPL licence required otherwise[21][22] Recreational. No paid work.
United States ultralight aircraft 1 Empty weight of less than 254 lb (115 kg) [23][24] Daylight hours no license required less than 5 US gal (19 L) fuel capacity, empty weight of less than 254 pounds, a top speed of 55 kn (63 mph; 102 km/h), and a maximum stall speed not exceeding (24 kn (28 mph; 44 km/h)). May only be flown over uncongested areas.
light-sport aircraft 2 1,320 lb (599 kg); 1,430 lb (649 kg) for seaplanes. Daytime VFR sport pilot certificate
  • Max. Speed (CAS) in Level Flight 138 mph (120 kn; 222 km/h)
  • Max. Stall Speed 51 mph (44 kn; 82 km/h)

Must have fixed landing gear, and a single engine with fixed pitch propeller.

Pegasus Quantum 145-912 ultralight trike
Flight Design CTSW
A powered paraglider
A US-made Pterodactyl Ascender ultralight on a camping flight
Canadian Lazair ultralight covered in clear Mylar
A foot-launched powered hang glider


In Australia, ultralight aircraft and their pilots can either be registered with the Hang Gliding Federation of Australia (HGFA)[25] or Recreational Aviation Australia (RA Aus).[26] In all cases, except for privately built single seat ultralight aeroplanes,[27] microlight aircraft or trikes are regulated by the Civil Aviation Regulations.


Main article: Ultralight aircraft (Canada)

United Kingdom

Pilots of a powered, fixed wing aircraft or paramotors do not need a licence, provided its weight with a full fuel tank is not more than 75 kg (165 lb), but they must obey the rules of the air.[28]

For heavier microlights the current UK regulations are similar to the European ones, but helicopters and gyroplanes are not included.[29]

Other than the very earliest aircraft, all two-seat UK microlights (and until 2007 all single-seaters) have been required to meet an airworthiness standard; BCAR Section S.[30] In 2007, Single Seat DeRegulated (SSDR), a sub-category of single seat aircraft was introduced, allowing owners more freedom for modification and experiments. By 2017 the airworthiness of all single seat microlights became solely the responsibility of the user, but pilots must hold a microlight licence;[31] currently NPPL(M) (National Private Pilots Licence).

New Zealand

Ultralights in New Zealand are subject to NZCAA General Aviation regulations[32] with microlight specific variations as described in Part 103[33] and AC103-1.[34]

United States

Main article: Ultralight aircraft (United States)

The United States FAA's definition of an ultralight is significantly different from that in most other countries and can lead to some confusion when discussing the topic. The governing regulation in the United States is FAR 103 Ultralight Vehicles. In 2004, the FAA introduced the "Light-sport aircraft" category, which resembles some other countries' microlight categories. Ultralight aviation is represented by the United States Ultralight Association (USUA), which acts as the US aeroclub representative to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.


There are several categories of aircraft which qualify as ultralights in some countries:


Advancements in batteries, motors, and motor controllers has led to some practical production electric propulsion systems for some ultralight applications. In many ways, ultralights are a good application for electric power as some models are capable of flying with low power, which allows longer duration flights on battery power.[35]

In 2007, the first pioneering company in this field, the Electric Aircraft Corporation, began offering engine kits to convert ultralight weight shift trikes to electric power. The 18 hp motor weighs 26 lb (12 kg) and an efficiency of 90% is claimed by designer Randall Fishman. The battery consists of a lithium-polymer battery pack of 5.6kWh which provides 1.5 hours of flying in the trike application. The company claimed a flight recharge cost of 60 cents in 2007.[35][36]

A significant obstacle to the adoption of electric propulsion for ultralights in the U.S. is the weight of the battery, which is considered part of the empty weight of the aircraft despite efforts to have it considered as fuel.[37] As the specific energy of batteries improves, lighter batteries can be used.

See also


  1. ^ Boric, Marino, Spoilt For Choice, Bayerl, Robby; Martin Berkemeier; et al (editors): World Directory of Leisure Aviation 2011-12, page 10. WDLA UK, Lancaster UK, 2011. ISSN 1368-485X
  2. ^ Transport Canada (February 2018). "Canadian Civil Aircraft Register: Number of Aircraft by Category Result". Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  3. ^ An overview of the legislative framework enabling sport and recreational aviation Archived 2011-12-23 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 7 January 2012
  4. ^ Kiehn, Chris (15 July 2013). "Synopsis: the Light Sport Aircraft category". Archived from the original on 19 August 2006. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  5. ^ "RBHA 103A regulation, in Portuguese" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 January 2011. Retrieved 21 September 2009.
  6. ^ Transport Canada (30 December 2007). "Canadian Aviation Regulations, Part I - General Provisions, Subpart 1 - Interpretation". Retrieved 22 March 2009.
  7. ^ Joint Aviation Authorities (1 November 2004), JAR 1, Archived 26 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 7 February 2015
  8. ^ Microlight Aviation (2008). "Microlight/ultralight FAQs". Archived from the original on 5 January 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2008.
  9. ^ "Laws and regulations on ultralight aviation in Italy" (in Italian). 2011. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
  10. ^ "Presidential decree 9 July 2010, n.133" (PDF) (in Italian). 2011. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
  11. ^ a b c "航空:超軽量動力機とは - 国土交通省". Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  12. ^ a b c d e f "サーキュラー No.1-007 超軽量動力機又はジャイロプレーンに関する試験飛行等の許可について" (PDF). 航空:超軽量動力機等の安全確保について - 国土交通省. 2015-03-20. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-01-28.
  13. ^ a b c d "超軽量動力機等に関する航空法第28条第3項の許可の手続き等について" (PDF). 航空:超軽量動力機等の安全確保について - 国土交通省. 2007-09-03. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-03-23.
  14. ^ a b c d "航空:超軽量動力機等の安全確保について - 国土交通省". Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  15. ^ a b c "航空法 / Civil Aeronautics Act". 日本法令外国語訳データベースシステム Japanese Law Translation. 2009-04-01.
  16. ^ a b "Part 103 Microlight Aircraft Operating Rules |".
  17. ^ a b "AC103-1 - Microlight aircraft operating rules |".
  18. ^ Angeles City Flying Club, Excerpt from part 11 of the Civil Aviation Regulations.
  19. ^ Civil Aviation Authority Philippines Archived 2009-04-22 at the Wayback Machine, download page for all regulations.
  20. ^ "The British Microlight Aircraft Association, new page 3786". Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  21. ^ British Microlight Aircraft Association. "[1]". Retrieved 24 July 2015
  22. ^ British Microlight Aircraft Association. "Licensed Flying, so you want to be a pilot?". Retrieved 24 July 2015
  23. ^ Federal Aviation Administration (January 2007). "Title 14: Aeronautics and Space, Part 103 - Ultralight Vehicles". Archived from the original on 19 January 2011. Retrieved 4 February 2011.
  24. ^ United States Ultralight Association (2009). "Frequently asked Questions". Retrieved 4 February 2011.
  25. ^ Hang Gliding Federation of Australia (n.d.). "The HGFA". Retrieved 25 May 2008.
  26. ^ Recreational Aviation Australia Inc (August 2007). "About the RA-Aus association and our mission". Archived from the original on 19 May 2008. Retrieved 25 May 2008.
  27. ^ Legal Services Group Civil Aviation Safety Authority (July 2007). "PART 200 Aircraft to which CASR do not apply". Retrieved 25 May 2008.
  28. ^ "The British Microlight Aircraft Association, new page 3852". Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  29. ^ British Civil Aviation Authority Aircraft Types
  30. ^ CAP 482 British Civil Airworthiness Requirements Section S - Small Light Aeroplanes, Archived 26 February 2021 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 8 December 2020
  31. ^ "The British Microlight Aircraft Association, new page 3852". Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  32. ^ Civil Aviation Rules, Accessed 1 October 2022
  33. ^ Part 103 - Microlight Aircraft - Operating Rules, Accessed 01 October 2022
  34. ^ Advisory Circular 103, Archived 17 February 2022 at the Wayback Machine, Accessed 7 October 2021
  35. ^ a b Grady, Mary (April 2008). "Electraflyer Flies Trike, Motorglider On Battery Power". Retrieved 13 April 2008.
  36. ^ "ElectraFlyer Technical details". Electric Aircraft Corporation. 2007. Archived from the original on 16 October 2007. Retrieved 13 April 2008.
  37. ^ "Experimenter". epubxp. February 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2015.

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