FAA Prohibits Wheeled Powered Paragliders Under Training Exemption
The FAA has issued an official letter clarifying the intent of the exemptions that have been granted for training in two-place powered paragliders. While everyone agrees that wheeled tandem training would be safer, the letter (designated Regulatory Docket No. FAA-2001-9032) states that all exempted two-place operations must be foot-launched. If it has wheels, the craft is considered to be a two-place powered parachute and must meet the requirements of the sport pilot and light-sport aircraft regulations. Read more
Veterans of the early years of ultralights will remember a time 30 years ago when the FAA allowed wheeled operations under the foot-launch rule for powered ultralights. For a time, you could fly any aircraft with no regulations or limits as a powered hang glider if it had a hole in the floor and if at least once, after numerous tries, a superb athlete managed to launch it in a brisk headwind by running with it. That decision eventually forced the development of the FAR 103 ultralight regulations we have today. Toward the end of the foot-launch era (circa 1982)the hole became mostly symbolic and didn’t even have to be large enough to accommodate a pair of legs.
Perhaps due to that time long ago, the current FAA letter cuts off the possibility of wheels on two-place powered paragliders and two-place powered hang gliders operating under the training exemption. These aircraft aren’t prohibited, but as two-place they’re expected to be certified as light-sport aircraft. Note that single-place versions of such craft aren’t limited to foot-launch if they meet the other requirements of the FAR 103 ultralight vehicle regulations. This move reinforces the basic principle of single occupancy in our ultralight regulations.
Jeff Goin, president of the U.S. Powered Paragliding Association (USPPA), requested the clarification after some debate arose within the community about the specific requirements of the training exemption. The request also asked about the possibility of a training craft where the engine was mounted on a two-wheeled cart that trailed behind the running pilots on takeoff, but even that configuration was rejected by the FAA. The letter states that any support of the motor unit is acceptable only when static. Launch and landings must be solely by foot. Read more discussion of the issue and see a copy of the FAA letter on the USPPA website.