Pilots around the world are aware of Part 103 Ultralights but many have a blurry view of the industry that produces these aircraft. Most are unaware how well this often-overlooked segment is doing in recent years, even during Covid 2020.
FAA refers to these lightweight flying machines as “ultralight vehicles,” a term that creative rulewriters adopted in the early 1980s to avoid heavy regulations typical for “aircraft.” This wording helped the young industry grow and develop. It worked so well the regulation has not been altered for decades.
Even ultralight enthusiasts in America and other countries may not be fully aware how popular ultralights have become in recent years. When Light-Sport Aircraft came on the scene in 2004 they knocked out the ultralight two-seater training fleet. Many believe ultralights never recovered.
How wrong they were, yet who can blame them because no one truly knows how many ultralights are being built and sold these days. That’s about to change!
Calling All Ultralights!
With this blog post on ByDanJohnson.com, I am putting out a call to identify all active manufacturers of ultralight vehicles. Below you will see a list that I’ve identified. I’m sure I missed some.
If you know of an aircraft or manufacturer not appearing on the list below, please identify it in the comments below.
Do not send email. Why? Because using the comment section may stimulate others to report an aircraft I haven’t listed below.
Before you inform all of us… see the four-point checklist below. While I’m intrigued by earlier aircraft that could qualify (like these in our Vintage Ultralight series of articles), I will limit the Part 103 List to aircraft you can buy new today. I’m interested in aircraft from anywhere in the world, but all must comply with U.S. Part 103 parameters.
Non-U.S. Readers… With one-third of all readers of ByDanJohnson.com residing outside the United States, I expect some additional entries originating in another country. They are welcome for the Part 103 List whether represented in America or not, but please only submit entries that genuinely qualify for Part 103 in the USA. Do so using the comment section; do not send email. Entries qualifying for Germany’s 120-Kilo Class and UK’s Sub-70 Class will be accepted. Others will be evaluated individually.
Counting the Fleet
In addition to this announcement, I will be writing to all producers. My request is simple: How many units did you deliver to customers in 2019 and 2020? In the interest of simplicity and accuracy, I will only ask for data on the last two calendar years.
As most readers know, we built a very accurate system to count all FAA-registered Light-Sport Aircraft, Experimental kits that Sport Pilots can fly (“Sport Pilot Kits”), and modern gyroplanes, most of which are registered as Experimental. You can check every single aircraft in lists, charts, and graphs on Tableau Public.
However, because FAA does not require registration for ultralight vehicles — a good thing, many believe — we cannot use their database to count ultralights in the fleet. The only option is to go direct to each company and ask for information.
You may ask, “Well, can’t the manufacturer just lie about his unit deliveries, since you have no way to verify their claims?” Right you are. Yet I know this industry rather intimately and believe I can detect gross exaggerations. If I keep asking year after year, I will get additional information that should help cull most errors.
This is important — Because many producers sell small numbers, they may not want to share their info publicly. I will respect that. To assure builders willing to provide their delivery numbers, I will not report them by company.
In tech terms, I will anonymize manufacturer data in reporting results. I will present these numbers in ways I believe readers will find useful as they consider purchase of a 103 ultralight.
Later, perhaps I can reveal which companies are the most successful but to encourage early responses, I will protect the data with my reputation. I will not share confidential information.
How Can Ultralights Qualify
for the Part 103 List?
Here is the criteria I established to make sure this list has value to pilots and future buyers.
1️⃣ Current production aircraft only. I do not want to include any ultralight that is no longer produced. Examples are: American Eagle, Easy Riser, Pterodactyl, and so on. If it isn’t made today, I will not include it. Later, I may include some older models as they can still be found for sale but for now, I prefer to keep it simple, reliable, and useful.
2️⃣ The aircraft must be able to make Part 103 according to Advisory Circular AC-103-7. I don’t object to a company selling Part 103-like aircraft that a buyer may register in Experimental class. However, the company must offer at least one currently-produced model that genuinely complies with Part 103 parameters. I will accept aircraft delivered either fully-built or as a kit but only if it can legitimately meet Part 103. Aircraft entries that comply with Germany’s 120-Kilo Class and UK’s Sub-70 Class will be accepted.
3️⃣ For now, I will collect info only on powered, wheeled aircraft in fixed wing, weight shift trike, powered parachute, gyroplane, or motorglider configurations. While I personally love hang gliders, foot launched powered paragliders, and unpowered gliders/sailplanes, I will not include them in this initial effort (maybe later?). A powered paraglider with wheeled carriage is acceptable.
4️⃣ I will not accept one-off, custom designs or aircraft still in an early development phase. I only want aircraft that a customer can buy for delivery within a reasonable time. At this time, neither will I include any multicopter designs, such as Kitty Hawk’s Flyer or others as they have not entered the market.
List of Ultralight Producers
The Part 103 List
This list is not in any particular order. Please attach no significance to the position in the list. An American flag after the aircraft signifies both the origin of the design and the location of its manufacture is the United States. This is just for illustration and carries no particular meaning. Articles about most planes in the list below can be found on this website; use the Search bar at the top.
As the the Part 103 List develops, I will add web addresses and email addresses for all companies plus links to all articles on this website about that aircraft or company. For now, we begin with this draft list …to be expanded with reader input:
- U-Fly-It Aerolite 103 ??
- Kolb Firefly ??
- Quicksilver Sprint / Sport ??
- Better Half VW Legal Eagle ??
- Aeromarine-LSA Merlin Lite
- Aeromarine-LSA Zigolo
- Badland Aircraft F-series ?? formerly Kitfox Lite
- Just Aircraft 103 Solo (in development) ??
- Hummel Aviation UltraCruiser ??
- TEAM MiniMax, multiple models ??
- Fisher Flying Products, multiple models
- Aero Adventure Aventura UL ?? formerly Buccaneer
- JH Aircraft Corsair
- SD Planes SD-1
- AVI/Modern Wings Swan 120
- Quad City Ultralight Challenger 103 ??
- CGS Hawk 103, Ultra ??
- Phantom Classic (X-1) ??
- Innovator Technologies Mosquito Helicopter
- M-Squared Breeze SS ??
- Ekolot Elf KR-01A
- Earthstar Gull 2000, Soaring Gull ??
- Carlson Sparrow (market reentry underway) ??
- Sherwood Kub
- Eurofly Minifox
- Lazair Nouveau
- Thunderbird SNS-8 Hiperlight ??
- Airsport Song UL, Song SSDR
- North Wing ATF, Solairus, Maverick ??
- Evolution Rev ??
- Fly Hard Trikes Skycycle ??
- Air Creation Pixel
- AirBorne Australia T-Lite
- Airtime Aircraft Explorer 103 ??
- Infinity PPC Challenger ??
- Six Chuter P3 Lite ??
- Fusioncopter Nano gyroplane
- Star LSA Star Bee Gyro ??
- Blackhawk LowBoy III, Quad ??
Please remember… if you know of another aircraft that should be included, please tell me (and everyone) using the comment system. I will approve uploaded comments as quickly as time allows. THANKS!