Flying ultralights can be the quickest, simplest, and most inexpensive way to get in the air for pilots who just want to have fun. While there are a number of restrictions on ultralight activity — you can't carry passengers, your aircraft can't go too fast or weigh more than 254 pounds, etc. — there's also a great deal of freedom, as ultralight pilots aren't licensed in any way. There are no written or practical tests, and no specific medical requirements, provided that the aircraft you fly meets the very specific requirements in the relevant Federal Aviation Regulations. Even though you don't need any kind of license or certificate to fly ultralights, training should be considered absolutely mandatory.
There are different ways you can become an ultralight pilot, but these are the basic steps you will take:
There are no minimum age or language requirements when flying ultralights.
Free First Flight
If you haven't already, contact your local EAA chapter and take your free introductory flight, giving yourself a look at the freedom and fun of personal aviation. Since ultralights only have one seat, if you tell the chapter that you're interested in that kind of flying, they will do their best to get you a flight in a similar, non-ultralight aircraft.
Join a Chapter
In addition to helping arrange your first flight, not to mention the fun and camaraderie of spending time with people who love to fly, EAA chapters are great sources of advice and mentorship that can help you with every step of your journey toward becoming a pilot. You can find the chapters nearest you, including a number of ultralight-specific chapters across the U.S., here.
Pick a Type
There are multiple types of ultralight aircraft, everything from traditional fixed-wing airplanes to powered parachutes, rotorcraft, weight-shift trikes, and even hot air balloons. It's not mandatory, but it can be helpful to have an idea of what type you want to fly before you actively pursue training. Our guide can help.
Learning to fly costs money, but we can help. EAA offers scholarships to help with flight training, both directly and through your local EAA chapter. In addition, while most student pilots rent an airplane while training, in some cases, buying or even building an airplane can be a cost-effective way to get started. One of the best ways you can get affordable access to an airplane is by joining — or even starting — a flying club.
The most important thing to understand before flying an ultralight is that, no matter what the law says, you have to have training, period. This is true, of course, for new pilots, but it's also true for existing pilots transitioning into ultralight aircraft for the first time. You can learn more about how to find ultralight training here.
None required, though you can optionally register with EAA as a student or accomplished ultralight pilot.
Studying and Practicing
With no written test of any kind, you'll focus primarily on training with your instructor, both in the air and on the ground. They will guide you to written materials to study, and you can also refer to EAA's training guides for fixed-wing ultralights, powered parachutes, and weight-shift ultralights. You can also learn a lot from EAA's Ultralight Sourcebook.
This will be one of the most memorable days of your life, the first time you fly an airplane entirely by yourself.
Depending on your progress and comfort level, your instructor will likely want to spend additional time with you after the initial solo experience.
Ultralight flying is incredibly rewarding, and is one of the most affordable and accessible ways to realize the dream of flying. The costs are similar to those of owning a personal watercraft, snowmobile, or small power boat, but, call us biased, we think the views are an awful lot better.