No Longer Lightweights, LSAs and Ultralights Command Heavy Interest at AirVenture 2021
To me, “Ultralight” used to mean a non-traditional type of aircraft… usually a single seat variety with a little engine and a structure that didn’t instill a lot of confidence. Over the past few years though, my thoughts have changed a lot, for a number of reasons.
At the EAA’s AirVenture Oshkosh 2021, For me, ultralights and newer light sport aircraft (LSA) groups used to be a small segment of the annual convention, tucked away towards the south end of the airport. Now, it is now a mainstream and must-see destination at the huge event.
RANS S-7S LSA
The Fun Fly Zone contains a dedicated grass airfield for ultralights and LSAs, and was busy place during all hours except when the afternoon and evening air shows occurred. An amazing variety of designs, from powered parachutes to modern composite airframes take to the sky. No speed demons here though, as the rules for ultralights and LSAs dictate certain slower airspeeds.
Volocopter’s Volocity electric air taxi at EAA AirVenture 2021
What is this segment of aviation all about? Well, there are at least two paths to follow… what follows in italics is from the EAA’s (with the FAA’s definitions and references) website, with their insights.
BlackFly III is an ultralight
“Ultralight flying represents one of the fastest and purest ways to experience the joys of aviation. From powered-parachutes and trikes to traditional fixed wings and even amphibians and rotorcraft, ultralights are fun, exciting, and in most cases, remarkably affordable. Flying ultralights is not a step up or down, but a step into a completely different and exciting sector of the flying community.
In the U.S., flying an ultralight doesn’t require a license or a medical certificate of any kind, providing the aircraft meets the Federal Aviation Regulation called Part 103. Part 103 defines an ultralight as an aircraft that meets the following criteria:
Maximum empty weight for powered aircraft: 254 pounds
Maximum empty weight for non-powered aircraft: 155 pounds
Maximum fuel capacity: 5 gallons
Maximum speed at full power: 55 knots
Maximum stall speed w/ power off: 24 knots
If the aircraft has more than 1-seat or exceeds any of the above criteria, it’s not an ultralight, and thus not eligible for operation under Part 103.
These are the legal rules by which we fly; they are the most lenient in the world. These privileges, however, carry responsibilities: while there are no specific legal requirements, ultralight pilots must be trained just like any other pilot.”
“Whether you’re completely new to aviation or are already an experienced pilot, light-sport aircraft (LSA) and the corresponding sport pilot certificate make flying easier, more affordable, and more accessible – not to mention fun!
The sport pilot certificate enables new pilots to learn to fly half the time and for half the cost of previous alternatives, while existing pilots can transition to a simpler world of recreational flying that’s free from hassles and red tape.
The LSA category encompasses a wide variety of aircraft including two-seat ultralight-type designs and powered parachutes, antiques and classics, and the latest composite aircraft. Whether you want to buy or build, you’ll find an aircraft that’s right for you!”
“In addition to fixed-wing airplanes as pictured, light-sport aircraft also include powered parachutes, weight-shift control aircraft, balloons, airships, gliders and gyroplanes.
Any aircraft that meets the definition of a light-sport aircraft as called out in 14 CFR Part 1.1 is eligible to be operated by a sport pilot. These aircraft can be certificated in any category, such as standard, experimental amateur-built, experimental exhibition, experimental light sport aircraft (E-LSA), or special light sport aircraft (S-LSA).”
Aeroprakt 32 LSA
Here are a few photos from the Fun Fly Zone at Oshkosh this year (2021), with some examples of old and new ultralight and LSA aircraft: