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A UL with a closed cabin: Ikarus C42 , one of the best-selling models.

In Europe, ultra- light aircraft ( ULs ) are small, very light motor-powered aircraft for a maximum of two people.

What exactly is meant by an ultralight aircraft is still regulated very differently from country to country. Internationally there are different ultralight aircraft classes with nationally varying approval regulations. Accordingly, the term microlight aircraft is colloquially used more or less comprehensively for light aircraft , although the latter are subject to significantly stricter approval and maintenance regulations.

In the USA , ultralight is understood exclusively to mean very light single-seat aircraft. Numerous European ultralight aircraft fall under the term Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) in the USA .

“Ultralight”, at least in the European context, describes less an extremely light weight than a return to what a simple two-seat aircraft should be. The weight of the Piper Cub , a "normal" aircraft built more than 14,000 times between 1938 and 1947, was between that of a European microlight and that of a "light sport aircraft".

3-axis-controlled ultralight Wild Thing WT01 , photographed in flight by a wing camera
Also an ultralight aircraft: foot-launchable hang glider with minimum rear engine

Microlight pilot license

In order to be allowed to fly microlight aircraft, you need a sport pilot license (SPL) in Germany , whereby the license also distinguishes between paramotor , weight-controlled microlight (trikes), aerodynamically controlled microlight and gyrocopter .

Legal definition

In the national legislations, the different classes of air sports equipment are summarized as ultralight aircraft .

In Germany, the air sports equipment according to the Aviation Act (LuftVG) § 1 is an aircraft and is therefore also subject to the relevant aviation law. However, they form their own aircraft class , which they in the aviation law sense of z. B. aircraft differs.

Microlight types

Almost all light, flying objects can be approved as microlight aircraft : light aircraft , rotary wing aircraft such as helicopters and gyroscopes , motorized hang gliders , gliders and motor gliders , motorized paragliders , seaplanes , aerobatic planes , twin-engine microplanes and airships .

The following categories of microlight aircraft are currently (2012) approved in Germany:

  • aerodynamically controlled machines, which are similar in appearance to the larger single-engine airplanes
  • Trikes with three wheels and a movable "dragon wing"
  • Motorized hang-gliders and paragliders capable of foot launch
  • Gyrocopter

In Germany, unlike in France or Italy, for example, ultralight helicopters are still subject to the PPL (H) regulation and may not be flown with a sports pilot license. Since April 2013, however, a test program has been carried out to develop the fundamentals of technology, training and flight operations for a class of ultra-light helicopters.

Maximum weight

The maximum take-off weight (Engl. Maximum take off mass , MTOM ) of the Ultralight allowed in Europe in single seaters 300 kg in two-seaters 450 kilograms, or in Germany 600 kg and in Austria and Switzerland 472.5 kg including rescue system not exceed.

A new ultra-light class has existed since January 18, 2010: ULs up to 120 kg empty weight (including harness and rescue) are exempt from the requirement for a model and traffic license. A sample test takes the place of admission. The annual inspection is not required, but must be carried out in accordance with the information provided by the manufacturer or owner of the sample inspection. The new 120 kg class reflects all types of aircraft, such as gliders, high-wing aircraft, etc. In terms of construction, the same stability is achieved by scaling down well-known designs (+4 g / -2 g). Wood, aluminum and carbon are used as materials. Due to the low take-off weight (between 220 and 260 kg), flight times of up to 6 hours and ranges of up to 1000 km are possible. Quiet, ecological flying with comparable flight performance give this class new perspectives with regard to electric drives.

UL SD-1 minisport under 120 kg empty weight

Licenses for these light air sports equipment are granted for an unlimited period and no medical certificate is required for the issue. This step towards deregulation follows the example of the USA, as no evidence-based reference to accident statistics has yet been proven.

European harmonization

Flyke (bike with
paramotor )

A European harmonization is not in sight for the time being. Since January 2005, the European Aviation Safety Agency ( EASA ) has been working to standardize the various national legislations and definitions in aviation. The Basic Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 stipulates in its Annex II, however, that ultralight aircraft (e.g. two-seater with an MTOW of 472.5 kg) are not covered by the regulations of the ( EASA ) and therefore in national Regulation will remain.

There were efforts with the purpose of increasing the maximum take-off weight of microlight aircraft to 560 kg or, as the European Microlight Association demands, to 600 kg. The scheme should also include ultra-light rotary wing aircraft such as gyroscopes and helicopters. However, some manufacturers and countries are reluctant to increase the MTOW of 472.5 kg, pointing out that the required standard would tighten the controls and limit the previous freedoms. Since September 25, 2012 the MTOW for gyrocopter has been increased to 560 kg.

In France , the continuous engine power of two-seater UL aircraft must not exceed 60 kW (82 PS), and 45 kW (60 PS) for single-seat aircraft (gyroplane: 74 kW, 100 PS). 74 kW (100 PS) (gyroplane: 88 kW, 120 PS) are accepted as take-off power, but twin-engine aircraft such as the CriCri can also be licensed as microlight aircraft. In Italy and France even ultra-light helicopters can be flown with an ultra-light flight license. In Switzerland, only aerodynamically controlled ultralight aircraft with a MTOW of 472.5 kg and a total rescue system are permitted.

License plate in Germany

An aircraft registration number is assigned to microlight aircraft that are subject to registration and labeling, and also only voluntarily registered upon application . German ultralight aircraft are given the national letter D and four other letters as registration marks (e.g. D-MABC). In Germany, the first letter of the registration mark for motorized air sports equipment according to LuftVZO Anl. 1 (to § 14 and § 19) to use an M.

United States of America

Ultralight Vehicle

The single-seat version of the Quad City Challenger can meet the FAA's FAR-103 rules, provided it has a small engine and is otherwise very economical.

In the USA , the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses the term ultralight vehicle for very light air sports equipment in its regulations . The regulations for the design of these single-seat devices are not detailed and allow manufacturers and pilots a lot of freedom. The Ultralight Vehicles can be flown without a pilot's license. They may only be used for non-commercial purposes, due to their design, they cannot fly faster than 55 kt (102 km / h), the stall speed must be less than 25 kt (46 km / h), and must not exceed 5 gallons (18.9 l) Carry fuel and your curb weight is strictly limited to 254 lbs (115 kg) plus floats and rescue systems. Without a motor drive, the curb weight must not exceed 155 lbs (70 kg).

No flight training, driver's license or registration is required for these microlight aircraft in the USA. Associations, e.g. B. The United States Ultralight Association, and schools offer training in the air sports equipment and certify flight instructors.

The low level of regulation leads to the following restrictions:

  • Flight operations only under visual flight during the day with constant ground view
  • No flight operations in controlled airspace
  • No overflights of towns and crowds
  • Obligation to give way to all other participants in air traffic

In terms of construction and regulations, Ultralight Vehicles are comparable to German light air sports equipment .

Light Sport Aircraft

Cessna 162 Skycatcher as LSA

The Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) is a new class of aircraft established in the United States around 2003. Contrary to regulations for type certification of aircraft, the airworthiness requirements according to ASTM define the rules for the LSA class . The rough rules stipulate a maximum speed with maximum engine power of 120  kts (222 km / h) and a maximum take-off weight of 1320  lbs (600 kg). Further cornerstones of the class are a piston engine , no pressurized cabin, propellers with a fixed pitch angle, a maximum of two seats and a fixed landing gear. The US regulations were largely adopted in 2011 by the European Aviation Safety Agency as part of the standardized certification rules for light aircraft ( European Light Aviation 1 , ELA 1 ), which resulted in the CS-LSA certification standard . Although similar in design to German microlight aircraft, it is not an aerial sports device, but a light aircraft for which a pilot's license and registration with the FAA is required. The comparison in Germany with aerodynamically controlled ultralight aircraft is therefore fundamentally wrong.


A basic distinction is made between aerodynamically controlled and weight- controlled ultralight aircraft.

Aerodynamically controlled microlight aircraft

Cruising speed around 230 km / h: the Flight Design CTSW

Aerodynamically controlled ultralight aircraft are rotated around the longitudinal, transverse or vertical axis for steering by means of rudder deflections, which is why one also speaks of three-axis steering . The seating arrangement here is usually next to one another; Tandem arrangement is also possible for speed-optimized models (e.g. Shark ) and double-deckers.

These "three-axle vehicles" have undergone an enormous development boost and are now in some cases more powerful than small light aircraft . Travel speeds of 250 km / h are no longer uncommon. The maximum speed can be up to 330 km / h and is limited in some ultralight aircraft, depending on the country, only by the maximum release speed of the overall rescue system .

They are used now also for aero tow launch of gliders , agricultural flights and towing of banners .

Ultralight aircraft are offered with a front engine and front propeller as well as with a rear engine and rear propeller. This variant is also known as a pusher . Pushers enable aircraft configurations with very good visibility for the occupants.

Ultralight gliders and motor gliders can also be viewed as special 3-axis aerodynamically controlled forms . In Germany, however, the former are not legally classified as microlight aircraft, but as gliding planes form a separate category of air sports equipment . Gliders with folding engines and motor gliders up to 472.5 kg MTOW are considered to be ultra- light motor gliders.

After electric motor gliders like Lange Antares 20E or Pipistrel Taurus were developed, there are also electric planes like the PC-Aero Elektra One .

In Germany also can since May 2004. Moreover gyroplane be admitted as ultralights. Since September 25, 2012, these may have a maximum take-off weight of 560 kg and are exempt from the obligation to be equipped with a total rescue system.

Weight-controlled ultralight aircraft

Trike, type ASO Viper 582
Silent Racer P, a motorized hang glider optimized for gliding performance

Weight- controlled ultralight aircraft have no rudders, they are controlled by shifting weight or pivoting the entire wing surface.

This class includes trikes and foot-launchable microlight aircraft . The technical basis for these types of ultralight aircraft are in principle motorized hang gliders and paragliders in some form . Apart from these two basic types or the type of take-off, a classification can also be made according to whether it is basically a compact aircraft with a fixed engine installation or whether it is an engine and / or the trike are alternatively not permanently connected to the actual aircraft and this could, if necessary, also be operated as a hang glider or paraglider without a motor. Due to these different, partially overlapping classification criteria and the variety of models, a clear system is ultimately not possible.

The use of the term for weight-controlled ultralight aircraft is therefore not always clear and depends on the differentiation criterion that is considered to be essential:

Only “heavier” and more powerfully motorized compact trikes based on hang-gliders are often referred to as trikes , while “paramotor trikes” together with the foot-launchable paramotor i. e. S. (paraglider with backpack motor ) can also be referred to collectively as paramotor . For hang - gliders equipped with a motor, it is not usual to have a specific name or the trade names of the special motors used for this purpose are used as a substitute.

In the case of foot-launchable microlight aircraft, the cruising speed is generally no higher than 50 km / h. Internationally, definitions of the various types of microlight aircraft can be found at the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). Throughout Europe, neither the international civil aviation organization ICAO nor the Joint Aviation Authorities have stipulated regulations on the subject of microlight aircraft licenses. The recognition of licenses is regulated very differently from country to country, which is why you are not allowed to fly into every country with an ultralight aircraft.

Use in ornithological species protection

Wild geese and cranes flying in formation with Christian Moullec .

Since weight-controlled UL in particular are small and quiet and can fly very slowly (around 50 km / h), they can be used to accompany migratory birds . This has already been used successfully to teach rebred specimens of endangered bird species to migrate to wintering areas. The Canadian artist and inventor Bill Lishman paved the way for this UL use in October 1993: he led a troop of Canada geese from Canada southwards over several thousand kilometers . This pioneering act was the model for the movie Amy and the Wild Geese .

The “ Waldrapp ” project by the Austrian biologist and pilot Johannes Fritz has been in use successfully since 2004. About 1,250 kilometers accompanied his team regrown black ibises from Austria and Bavaria to the coast of Tuscany in the Tuscan Reserve Laguna di Orbetello.

The similar project of the French animal rights activist Christian Moullec wants to show the threatened dwarf goose the way from Finland to Central Europe, but according to research by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, it had to struggle with unsecured funding for years.

Environmental aspects

For ultralight aircraft, there are stricter noise protection requirements than, for example, for light aircraft : The flight noise of a UL must not exceed a value of 60 dBSPL when flying over a measuring point 2.5 km from the take-off point . The motors are light, but still powerful, as a gear reduces the motor speed from 5000 min −1 to about 2200 min −1 on the propeller. This allows a larger diameter and thus the propeller is highly efficient.

Modern two-seat, three-axle ultra-light aircraft require between 4.8 and 16 liters of unleaded premium gasoline per flight hour at cruising speeds of over 160 km / h, depending on the type, and are therefore in the range of modern diesel cars in terms of consumption per km.

With the eSpyder from Yuneec , a purely electrically powered ultralight aircraft with German type certification has also been available since 2013. With a maximum of 51 dBA, the UL noise limit of 65 dBA is undercut.

Self-made microlight aircraft

Ultralight aircraft may be built and approved as a single piece in the so-called self-construction and as a replica of an approved model in the so-called amateur construction. The builder does not have to prove any training himself, but supervision by a class 5 supervisor is recommended since the start of the construction phase. The construction supervisor's duty is to ensure that the aircraft built conforms to the model. Many types of microlight aircraft have type approval in Germany, see list of device data sheets. If a known sample is to be copied, a building permit must be obtained from the sample supervisor (from the device identification sheet) and the building project must be registered with DAEC or DULV . The type supervisor provides the construction and flight documents and often also a material kit. As a rule, assembly according to plans takes two to ten person- years, but assembly from a prefabricated kit can be done much faster. During this time, the structural acceptance and final acceptance by the responsible site supervisor take place. After applying for and receiving a preliminary traffic permit, flight testing can begin. After completion of the flight test phase, the final traffic permit is issued. As a rule, the traffic permit does not contain any additional restrictions compared to the series-produced sample.


In recent years there has been a boom in microlight aviation. On the one hand, this is due to the rapid technical development that has made microlight aircraft an interesting alternative for many pilots with private pilot licenses (PPL-A and PPL according to JAR-FCL). On the other hand, ultralight flying is significantly more cost-effective than flying with the larger light aircraft .

Many airport operators have already reacted to this, because an airport in Germany must be expressly approved for microlight aircraft. Also on many major airfields with controlled airspace (eg. As Mannheim City and Westerland) and some international airports (z. B. Münster / Osnabrück Airport , Hannover Airport ) Ultralight aircraft are now approved.

See also

Web links

Commons : Microlights  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Ultralight aircraft  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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  2. 1 Announcement of airworthiness requirements for aerodynamically controlled microlight aircraft. (pdf) LTF-UL. In: News for Aviators . German air traffic control , January 15, 2019, accessed on June 12, 2020 .
  3. Mike: "German champion in the flying weight." | The really easy flying. Retrieved on May 26, 2019 (German).
  4. Training of pilots for light three-axle vehicles (up to 120 kg empty weight) | Deutscher Ultraleichtflugverband eV Accessed on May 26, 2019 .
  5. undefined undefined: Lightness of the bill: License for light air sports equipment up to 120 kg empty weight. September 11, 2015, accessed May 26, 2019 .
  6. a b Announcement of the change in the announcement of building regulations for ultralight gyroplanes (single-engine). ( Memento of July 14, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 83 kB). (= News for pilots. NfL II 67/12). October 18, 2012.
  7. a b 14 CFR Part 103 - ULTRALIGHT VEHICLES. In: www.law.cornell.edu. Retrieved April 2, 2020 .
  8. General Information. In: www.usua.org. United States Ultralight Association, accessed April 2, 2020 .
  9. TL 2000 Sting Carbon Retractable - Technical data. ( Memento of March 21, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
    SHARK - Technical Specifications.
  10. a b c Help with bird migration - Ibises with a migration background. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . September 26, 2018, archived from the original on October 3, 2010 ; accessed on May 26, 2019 .
  11. Overview of the landing site noise protection ordinance. (PDF) In: lba.de. Luftfahrt-Bundesamt , January 6, 2004, accessed December 27, 2014 .
  12. ^ BRP-Powertrain GmbH & Co KG (ed.): Operating manual. For Rotax engine types 912 series. ( Memento of December 27, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Sept. 2012, p. 24. (PDF)
  13. Composit Airplanes (Ed.): VIVA Technical Data. ( Memento from December 30, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  14. Technical data of the Shark ultralight aircraft. (No longer available online.) In: shark-europe.eu. Flugsportzentrum Bautzen GmbH & Co. Sales and Training KG, archived from the original on January 6, 2015 ; accessed on May 26, 2019 .
  15. Average fuel consumption of cars. Time series. In: de.statista.com. Statista GmbH, accessed on December 27, 2014 .
  16. pat: eSpyder: Elektro-UL from China is approved. In: aerokurier.de. Motor Presse Stuttgart GmbH & Co. KG, July 16, 2013, accessed on December 27, 2014 .
  17. ^ A b Ronny Wittkopp, Mathias Gutzmann: Airworthiness - From the idea to the approval of an ultralight aircraft. (PDF) In: daec.de. Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, January 31, 2010, accessed November 30, 2016 .
  18. All examiner class 5. In: www.dulv.de. Retrieved November 21, 2016 .
  19. Kremena Ivanova: Downloads fifth for inspector (no longer available online.) In: www.dulv.de. Archived from the original on November 22, 2016 ; accessed on May 26, 2019 .
  20. All three-axis data sheets. In: www.dulv.de. Retrieved November 21, 2016 .