The United States Ultralight Association (USUA) was formed in 1985 when ultralights were becoming quite popular in the United States. It has become the primary voice for ultralight pilots and manufacturers, encouraging knowledge and safety. The USUA has regional chapters, as well, to help bring together ultralight pilots and those who want to know more about this fun way to fly.

Ultralights are smaller aircraft, designed to be light and easy to fly. With the exception of two-seat ultralight training aircraft, most ultralights are single-place aircraft that weigh under 254 pounds without the pilot. Think of them as flying motorcycles.

Ultralights are built and flown under their own federal rules, called "Part 103," referring to CFR-103 (also known as FAR Part 103) covering "Ultralight vehicles." In the United States, the major group for ultralight flyers is the United States Ultralight Association (USUA). In Canada, it's the Ultralight Pilot Association of Canada (UPAC). Europe, too, has ultralight aircraft and associations with slightly different rules and requirements.

Contrary to some rumors, the sport-pilot certificate does not exclude ultralight pilots. The new sport-pilot designation was established to fit an expanding market between the ultralights and the private pilots. Ultralight pilots who want to move to light planes can use their flight experience to get the new sport-pilot certificate faster. Private pilots who are looking for lower-cost aircraft or have medical restrictions that keep them from flying can easily become sport pilots. The recreational pilot certification program of a dozen years ago attempted to do this, but included some self-defeating rules that stunted its growth. The new sport-pilot certificate was designed to overcome these limitations while offering safe flying opportunities to newbie, ultralight, and noncurrent private pilots. Thus far it is succeeding.

Wing Tips

If you're interested in flying ultralights or would like to know more about them, visit the USUA online at or call 301-695-9100. The mailing address is United States Ultralight Association, PO Box 667, Frederick, MD 21705. The EAA also has information and resources for ultralight pilots.