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Taiwanese Ultralight Pilots May Get More Airspace


Ugo Ortolano
Canadian Ugo Ortolano (left) after his first ride in an ultralight in central Taiwan; photo courtesy www.Taiwanese-Secrets.com

Ultralights were first introduced to the island of Taiwan in 1987, but the government didn’t create regulations for them until 2004. The vehicle limits are similar to FAR 103 in the United States, but restrictions and requirements are much greater. Plans are underway to establish for the first time a dedicated airspace corridor for ultralights which will allow for a cross-country flight of up to 41 kilometers or 25 miles.

It’s estimated there are over 200 ultralights in Taiwan and as many as 1,000 pilots but only about 10 percent are legal. Enthusiasts estimate more than 60 airstrips are used for ultralights but none were legal until 2009 when the first ultralight airstrip was licensed in the Dapang Bay National Scenic Area in southern Taiwan. Even now almost all cross-country ultralight flights are illegal in Taiwan because of airspace restrictions and the requirement for flight permits. The proposed cross-country route extends from Dapang to nearby Saijia, both in Pingtung County. Proponents are already planning flights of one-hour round trips for $160 and up for the rare thrill of flying cross-country in an ultralight in Taiwan. The government also announced 17 other locations where local ultralight flights are now permitted.

The early days of ultralights in Taiwan (which extends nearly to the present) present an almost heroic Wild West aura. With government failing to recognize their existence ultralight pilots were forced to literally fly “under the radar.” Some achieved cross-country flights of up to three hours by threading the rugged valleys of the central mountains with peaks up to 12,000 feet where any mishap would be life threatening. Sport aviation leaders hope that the creation of more air routes will encourage pilots to participate in the system and become legal.

The ultralight regulations for the Republic of China in Taiwan limit a Class 1 ultralight to 115 kg (253.5 lbs) empty weight, fuel capacity of 18 liters (4.75 gallons), and a top speed of 101 km/hr (62.7 mph) and stall speed not more than 44 km/hr (27.3mph). Class 2 ultralights have a top speed of 220km/hr (136.7 mph), stall speed not more than 83 km/hr (51 mph) and can have a maximum of two seats. Class 2 ultralights have more stringent inspection, airworthiness, and documentation requirements than class 1 types. All ultralights must have annual inspections, flight permits, and operating manuals. All pilots must have 18 hours of dual instruction and a pilot permit issued by a recognized member association. There are fines for not having insurance, not flying in approved airspace, and not belonging to a recognized association.


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