Ultralight Trike: Personal Air Vehicle (PAV)

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.

Ultralight Trike Flying over the desert in the Southwest USA

What is Aerotrekking?

Imagine an Outlaw Motorcycle Gang, roaming freely from town to town – well it’s sort of like that – only in the air. Find out more about this new sport at http://aerotrek.us/ or check out Adventure Magazine’s article about Aerotrekking the Southwest

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.

Airborne XT-912 flying over the water

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.

Flight Training

Airborne XT-912 Ultralight flying over an island

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:

Airborne XT-912 landing on the Beach

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:

Certification Required

  • Australia – CASA
  • USA – Sport Pilot
  • France – DGAC
  • South African – CAA
  • Israel – CAA
  • Germany – DULV

How Much is it Gonna Cost Me?

Airborne Outback XT-912 brochure
Click image to download Brochure

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:




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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.

Three Ultralight Trikes parked in a remote camping location


Pilot Organization


  • 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


Flying Periodicals / Magazines / Web Sites

About the Author

CM Burns
CM Burns
CM Burns has been a music video director, a cameraman for Nat Geo, has recorded ancient Tibetan chants in India and swum with whales in Baja, California. Currently living in the Philippines you will find him anywhere Adventure happens.
CM Burns
CM Burns
CM Burns has been a music video director, a cameraman for Nat Geo, has recorded ancient Tibetan chants in India and swum with whales in Baja, California. Currently living in the Philippines you will find him anywhere Adventure happens.
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