Aircraft Ultralight Pilots Can Fly
In January 1997, the Ultralight Aeroplane Transition Strategy introduced a new definition of ultralight aeroplane based on a maximum take-off weight of 1200 lbs., a maximum stall speed in the landing configuration of 45 mph, and minimum useful load calculation based on the engine horsepower. This definition allows heavier airframes with larger engines to qualify as ultralights. (Remember, even though the ultralight category allows a 1200 lbs. gross weight, the manufacturer’s gross weight may not be exceeded!) This definition allows the advanced ultralight aeroplane to be included within the ultralight category rather than existing as an exemption to it.
The Transition Strategy also allows the holder of a Pilot Permit-Ultralight Aeroplane to fly any aircraft that meets the ultralight definition regardless of how the aircraft is registered. This includes amateur-built and certified aircraft as well as basic and advanced ultralights.
The category in which an airplane is registered determines the building, inspection, maintenance, operation, and paperwork requirements as well as the permitted uses. You should determine which category best fits your flying objectives before you buy or build an aircraft. Once that determination is made, you must follow the requirements for that category. For a quick determination of the eligibility of an amateur-built or certified aircraft that is already flying, check the Certificate of Airworthiness. If the maximum take-off weight is 1200 lb. or less, it may be flown with an ultralight permit provided the stall speed is 45mph or less.
Basic Ultralight Aeroplanes
The basic ultralight aeroplane is the traditional single or two place ultralight that was defined by wing loading, wing area, and launch weight. The basic ultralight is now allowed to be heavier, but there are still no government regulations that require inspections or adherence to any construction or build standards. There are also no regulated maintenance requirements. However, the practical requirements of common sense and self-preservation dictate good construction practices and materials, as well as constant maintenance! The available accident statistics show that these practical requirements are generally working well; the safety record is on a par with general aviation. There is an economic reality; the initial cost and ongoing expenses of any ultralight aeroplane represent a sizeable investment. You don?t want to write off the aircraft? or yourself!
These ultralights are not required to have instruments. However, engine instruments and flight instruments (airspeed indicator, altimeter, compass) are a good idea. Since instruments are not required, basic ultralights are restricted from controlled airspace, except control zones with prior approval.
The only commercial use allowed for basic ultralights is ultralight flight training. Two pilots may fly together, but currently the aircraft is not approved for passengers. (An approval process to allow basic ultralights to be approved for passenger carrying should be on the CARAC agenda in the near future.) Occupants are required to wear helmets; the registration letters start with C-I.
Advanced Ultralight Aeroplanes
In 1991, Transport Canada published The Design Standards for Advanced Ultralight Aeroplanes (TP10141). To qualify as an Advanced Ultralight Aeroplane (AULA), the aircraft must meet requirements in the areas of flight, structure, design and construction, equipment, and operations. The design standards allow a maximum take-off weight of 1058.2 lbs. plus an additional 154.4 lbs. for floats, and a maximum stall speed of 45 mph. The manufacturer constructs a prototype and conducts flight tests to ensure that the aircraft meets the standards. He then submits a Document of Conformity (DOC) to Transport Canada stating that fact. Transport Canada does not inspect or flight test the aeroplane, nor do they ensure compliance with the design standards. The manufacturer’s declaration is all that is required.
When the manufacturer sells either a completed aircraft or a kit, the builder/owner is not allowed to make any changes unless the manufacturer approves them; this ensures that after the builder assembles the aircraft, it still meets the design standards. (For example, if you want to add floats, you must find out which floats the manufacturer approves.) You are normally not allowed to build an advanced ultralight from drawings because the manufacturer has no control over the finished aircraft.
When the original builder/owner registers the aircraft, he is required to send a Statement of Conformity (SOC) to Transport Canada, issued by the manufacturer, which states that this particular aircraft conforms to the original design. When the advanced ulitraght is sold, each subsequent owner must provide a Fit For Flight Form (FFFF) in which he assures Transport Canada that the aircraft has not been altered and that it still meets the standards.
Transport Canada has compiled a list of ultralight aeroplanes that are eligible to be registered as AULA. If an ultralight aircraft type is on this list, it may be registered as an Advanced Ultralight. This has to be done at the time of initial registration and the words “advanced ultralight” will be on the Certificate of Registration. If those words are missing, the aircraft is not an AULA; it is a basic ultralight. If the paper trail of conformity from the manufacturer to the current owner is not in place, the aircraft has to be registered as a basic ultralight. Check with the manufacturer and with Transport Canada for more information.
Because Transport Canada has assurances from the manufacturer and each owner that the AULA meets the design standards, it is approved to carry a passenger (if you have an PPR or higher license). As long as the aircraft owner complies with the requirements of the manufacturer, the aircraft can be operated as an AULA.
Advanced ultralights can be used for ultralight flight training. The requirement for the pilot to wear a helmet does not apply, and if the AULA meets the Day VFR Equipment requirements (CARs 605.14), it is allowed access to controlled airspace. The letters of an AULA registered before January 1997 start with C-F or C-G, after January 1997, they start with C-I.
If unauthorized changes are made to the AULA, or if the manufacturer?s maintenance or repair requirements are not met, the AULA reverts to the operational limits of the basic ultralight aeroplane, that is, the approval to carry passengers and operate in controlled airspace is lost.
An aeroplane that fits the ultralight category can, in most cases, also qualify as an amateur-built aircraft. The material, construction, and building requirements for the Amateur-Built category apply. The builder must construct and assemble the majority of the aircraft (the 51% rule). There are at least two inspections; a pre-cover inspection is done before the airframe and wings are covered, and a final inspection when the aircraft is ready to fly. If you are purchasing an amateur-built and want to fly it with an ultralight permit, make sure it meets the ultralight definition. Check with the Recreational Aircraft Association of Canada or Transport Canada for information on the requirements for this category.
Amateur-built aircraft may not be used for commercial purposes. The owner may use his amateur built aircraft for his own flight training. An amateur built aircraft that meets the ultralight definition can be used for anything that an ultralight aircraft is used for, including flight training for the PP-UL. This means that it can be used as an ultralight trainer by an ultralight flight school. To avoid confusion because of the registration (it will not be C-I), make a note in the pilot’s logbook that the aircraft meets the ultralight definition and is being used as an ultralight aeroplane.
Amateur-built aircraft are approved for passenger carrying; the occupants are not required to wear helmets; the aircraft is required to meet the Day VFR Equipment requirements. Amateur-built aircraft are subject to the requirements to carry an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT), an emergency first aid kit, and a fire extinguisher. Annual Airworthiness Reports must be filed with Transport Canada and journey and maintenance logbooks are required. Amateur-built aircraft have registration letters starting with C-F or C-G.
The type certified aeroplane is built and fully assembled by the manufacturer. To obtain a type certificate, the manufacturer must prove that the aircraft meets the design and performance standards; the manufacturing process is also certified. To maintain the type certificate, an Airworthiness Maintenance Engineer (AME) must do all maintenance. Journey and technical logbooks are required and an Annual Airworthiness Report must be filed with Transport Canada. The aircraft must meet the Day VFR Equipment requirements and is allowed into controlled airspace. The aircraft must be equipped with an ELT, a first aid kit, and a fire extinguisher.
This aircraft is approved for commercial use and for passenger carrying. Type certified aircraft are used for conventional flight training. Type certified aircraft that meet the ultralight definition can be used for anything that ultralight aircraft are used for, including flight training for the PP-UL. They can be used as an ultralight trainer by an ultralight flight school. To avoid confusion because the registration letters will not start with C-I, make a note in the pilot’s logbook that the aircraft meets the ultralight definition and is being used as an ultralight aeroplane. There are only a few certified aircraft that meet the ultralight definition; most are too heavy or stall too fast. Check the Certificate of Airworthiness for the maximum take off weight and the pilot operating handbook for the stall speeds and useful load.
Helicopters and Rotary-wing
Helicopters and rotary-wing aircraft (gyro copters) are NOT ultralights in Canada and cannot be flown or registered as such. A helicopter’s pilot permit or a special rotary-wing permit is required to fly in Canada.
Decide what you want kind of flying you want to do before you choose an aircraft category. If you want to carry a passenger and have a pilot document that allows this, or if you want access to controlled airspace, choose an AULA, an amateur-built, or a certified aircraft. If you want to fly for fun, either alone or with another pilot, a basic ultralight may be the most cost-effective route.
The above discussion is a summary of the differences among the aircraft categories. For detailed information on each category, check with Transport Canada. Further information is also available in The UPAC Ultralight Information Manual. Whatever aircraft you choose, fly safely and enjoy!
Note: When the proposed Special C of A ? Owner Maintained category is in place, ultralight pilots will be able to fly aircraft in this category that meet the ultralight. The maintenance and operation requirements will parallel the amateur-built rules.