Price: $20,000 – $100,000 (depending on options and instrumentation)
Sitting somewhere on the Aeronautical food chain between a Hang Glider and a Cessna, the Ultralight Trike is an exciting new class of aircraft which is set to bring the joy of flight to the masses – or at least the ones with $50,000 to spare.
Also known as Personal Air Vehicles (PAVs), Weight-Shift Ultralights, or just plain Trikes, these high-tech aircraft are safe and relatively easy to fly. They’re powered by a rear propeller and steered with a bar at the pilot’s fingertips.
New materials and technologies have made these craft incredibly airworthy, fast (up to 110 mph) and maneuverable
Most Trikes have been tested for forces exceeding 6 G’s – that’s much higher than most conventional airplanes. And if the engine ever cuts out you can still glide safely down to earth.
Because of their incredible nimbleness Ultralight Trikes are being used for a new sport called Aerotrekking in which pilots skim over predetermined routes, sometimes just 10-20 feet off the ground.
Aviation Wild West
The best thing about Ultralight Trikes is that a pilot’s license is not required to fly one. Trikes are regulated under the Federal Aviation Regulations Section 103, so, in essence, triking is a self-regulated sport without all the rules and regulations associated with flying something like a Cessna.
Because of this lack of regulation Trikes can take off and land in spots that no regular aircraft ever could, all you need is a relatively pot-hole free dirt road and you’re airborne in seconds.
With a range of over 300 miles, or roughly 5 hours airtime, your Trike can access those inaccessible spots that you could never reach in your 4×4. This makes it the perfect vehicle for a weekend camping trip to the middle of nowhere. Add some pontoons and your Trike becomes the ultimate island hopping machine.
Okay, so just because the FAA doesn’t license these things that doesn’t mean you can just jump right in one and start flying.
To stop overanxious newbies from killing themselves and to keep the sport self-regulated, pilots and instructors alike adhere to some strict policies and guidelines laid out by several Aviation organizations. In the USA they are:
- The Aero Sports Connection (ASC)
- The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA)
- The United States Ultralight Association (USUA)
To fly solo in an Ultralight Trike you’ll need to get certified by an instructor licensed by one of these associations. In the USA a Sport Pilot Certificate requires at least 20 hours of flight instruction at about $200 an hour.
In other parts of the world the certification has various names:
- Australia – CASA
- USA – Sport Pilot
- France – DGAC
- South African – CAA
- Israel – CAA
- Germany – DULV
How Much is it Gonna Cost Me?
A new ultralight trike will cost somewhere between $20,000 to $80,000 depending on which model and options you chose. Radio and navigation equipment can add another $2,000 – $20,000 onto that price.
The XT-912 Outback (pictured right) is a pretty good representation of a mid to high range Ultralight Trike. It’s made by an Australian manufacturer called Airborne. Click on the image to download the Outback Brochure.
If you want to get a better idea of the variety of trikes out there check out the websites of the four main manufacturers:
How Do I Get Started?
The best way to start is with a tandem introductory flight. This gives you a taste of flying. Once you have seen what it is like then you can sign up for tandem lessons until you’re ready to solo. Then once you solo, you build up time and experience to become a pilot. The basic techniques of ultralight triking — takeoff, turning, landing — are fairly easy to learn. The length of the course is designed to compensate for weather constraints and different learning curves. You must be 16 years of age.
- FAA – Federal Aviation Administration
- EAA– Experimental Aircraft Association
- USUA – United States Ultralight Association
- ASC – Aero Sports Connection
- SportPilot.org – EAA Sport Pilot & Light Sport Aircraft
- FAI – Fédération Aéronautique Internationale
- Microlight Aviation of South Africa – South Africa