Ultralights – Definition, Regulations, Pilot Requirements

Curious about Ultralights definition, regulations, pilot requirements? Ultralights & flying ultralight aircraft represent one of the simplest, easiest and fastest ways to experience the pure joy of aviation.


The various types of ultralights are all fun, exciting, and in most cases, remarkably affordable. Flying ultralights is most often the first step into a completely different and exciting area of the flying community, and Sport Aviation Center is here to help you get started.

Unfortunately, being relatively unregulated, they have developed a negative image as not being airworthy due to a small percentage of improperly cared for, bad designs, or no pilot training done.

Choosing a well-known manufacturer, having the unit inspected for airworthiness, and proper training can all add up to a good alternative to light-sport aircraft.

Many people choose the single-seat ultralight after learning in a light-sport aircraft in order to avoid regulations, leave the world behind to get away on their own to fly. Or they choose it simply because of the lower price tag (of the single-seat versus the larger two-place light-sport aircraft).

Manufacturers now produce ultralight trikes along with light-sport aircraft, with the same quality in design and construction. A single-seat ultralight is an option for many.

In the U.S., flying an ultralight doesn’t require a license or a medical certificate of any kind, providing the aircraft meets the Federal Aviation Regulation called Part 103. FAA Part 103 for Ultralights defines an ultralight as a vehicle that meets the following criteria:

Definition of an Ultralight Vehicle & Regulations

According to Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) Part 103, an ultralight is any craft that carries only one person and no more than 5 gallons of fuel and is used only for recreation or sport purposes. This regulation is printed in its entirety in the FAR/AIM book, but it can be summarized as follows:

  • Unpowered free flight empty weight under 155 pounds, or powered weighs under 254 pounds, excluding floats or safety devices.
  • 55 knots maximum calibrated airspeed at full power in level flight; power-off maximum stall speed 24 knots calibrated.
  • Can be inspected by FAA to ensure it meets criteria as an ultralight.
  • Vehicle not required to meet any airworthiness certification standards.
  • Pilot not required to meet any aeronautical knowledge, age, or experience requirements to operate or to have airman or medical certificates.
  • Not required to be registered or to bear markings of any type.
  • No operation is allowed that creates a hazard to other persons or property; pilots must yield the right-of-way to all aircraft.
  • Can only be operated between sunrise and sunset unless equipped with a suitable anticollision light extending flight time to twilight periods, 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset.
  • Must not operate over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons.
  • All operations are conducted in uncontrolled airspace unless prior authorization from the ATC facility to operate within Class A, Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace, or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport.
  • Must comply with flight restrictions in the proximity of certain areas designated by Notice to airmen (NOTAM) and Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR).
  • Must be operated by visual reference with the surface.
  • Visibility and cloud clearances similar to general aviation airspace.

If the vehicle has more than 1-seat or exceeds any of the above criteria, it’s not an ultralight, and is not eligible for operation under Part 103.

Ultralight Pilot Training Requirements

These are the legal rules by which you and I fly. These privileges, however lenient, carry responsibilities. The ultralight industry successfully self-regulated the freedom to fly with relatively few government regulations and public safety limitations. While there are no specific legal requirements, ultralight pilots must be trained just like any other pilot.

Important observation: The number of ultralight pilots who cannot afford basic piloting skills to fly the ultralight somehow have enough money for ultralight repair/replacement, medical/hospital expenses and sometimes funeral costs. Getting training is a wise investment for all. Typically, you train in a two-place light-Sport aircraft to the point where you are ready to confidently solo in calm, bumpy and crosswind conditions.

Additionally, there are no time, training or FAA tests for a single-place ultralight. However, the federal laws FAR Title 14 Part 103, require the non-FAA licensed pilot to fly an ultralight with certain federal requirements for the safety of the general public -which require significant education of the federal airspace and specific requirements to fly into some controlled federal airspace.

For an ultralight pilot to think he/she is operating without any federal regulations is a misnomer. FAR Part 103, or officially Title 14 CFR Part 103 FEDERAL LAW, specifies a number of federal regulations -so some uneducated 103 pilot does not fly into a GA traffic, a commercial airliner, or create a hazard to the general public.

If you are in a remote area this will not affect you as much, but in more congested airspace flying an ultralight, this is a big factor. No one wants to get hurt flying an ultralight. It’s that simple.

Simply put, if you are going to operate an ultralight in federal airspace, you need to know the laws that affect you, your family, your friends and the general public per Title 14 CFR Part 103.

If anyone thinks that those operating an ultralight are free from federal airspace regulations, think again. It is federal airspace and you must abide by the federal airspace laws.

Again, if you want to get qualified to fly an ultralight trike, it takes about half the time as a sport pilot and one quarter the time as that of a private pilot trike.

For Ultralight pilots it is best to go through the “Learn to Fly” courses Aviation e-learning up to the solo requirements. This provides the ground school and flight lessons so you will be ready to see a flight instructor and learn the actual flying. You must take actual flight lessons or you will probably crash. Take actual flight lessons until you and your instructor feel you are ready to solo.

Specific individual aerodynamics, weather and airspace courses can also be found at Aviation e-learning.

Specific costs for training with Sport Aviation Center are here, while general costs and guidelines are listed here.