AirVenture 2022: Where have all the Ultralights gone?

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Dana

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... We were using a very
dangerous combination of a keel mounted Soarmaster with a Hang
glider called the Wills Wing SST , that had no real fixed tips for
stability. I racked up near 300 hours on that devise .
Otherwise known as the "Sawmaster"... :fear:
Based on all the interest we received back then ; I thought for sure
that powered ultralights would be the wave of the future for a poor
man to get airborne. I was wrong ! :(

No, you were right... for a few short years.
 

rv7charlie

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Some time in the late -80s-early '90s at the peak of UL's popularity, one of the three (!) TV networks broadcast a segment on one of those prime-time 'news magazine' format shows that was basically an Unsafe At Any Speed (a reference from 20 years earlier than that) style 'hit piece' detailing shoddy kit quality and the dangers of learning to fly one. Popularity decreased almost overnight. It was pre-internet, and apparently I haven't found the right search terms to convince any search engine to locate a record about it. But EAA & the other homebuilt oriented magazines in the early '90s mentioned it often as the reason for the quick decline in UL popularity.
 

rv7charlie

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My reference was to the Ralph Nader book, which effectively killed the Corvair. He conclusively demonstrated that if you ran the rear tires really low on air, the sidewall could fold under and the swing arm rear suspension (basically a bigger version of the VW Beetle rear suspension) would flip the car. (Well, duh...) But the PR damage was done, and Corvair sales never recovered.

Nader has done some good consumer protection before and since, but that one was protecting consumers from themselves.
 

BJC

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The NTSB had some conclusions / recommendations that, thankfully, the FAA did not implement. Read down here: Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations for 1987

Sometime around 1987 or 1988 the numbers of new designs of ultralights increased tremendously. Their participation at Oshkosh was huge. Then the “news show” that Charlie mentioned was aired. Much of what was in the show was factual, but it was much dramatized for the TV audience.

On a personal note: I spoke to the designers / owners / pilots of five new designs at Oshkosh, hoping to get them to reconsider some of the glaring flaws in their aircraft. All basically told me what I should go do to myself. A friend’s sister was the publisher of the only national ultralight periodical, at the time, so I was able to track those five new designs. All five designers were killed in crashes within a couple of months. The industry went through a painful “sobering up” period.

While I find all of the news media, then and now, to be the second most disgusting group of people in the country, second only to professional politicians of all parties, the safety record of ultralights was abysmal.


BJC
 

Dana

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It was a show on 20/20. They wanted to do a sensationalistic piece. They got a Pterodactyl ultralight and a GA pilot who'd never flown an ultralight but thought "a real pilot will have no problem flying one of those toys." They told him to "make it look scary." He neglected to fasten his seat belt, got into a series of PIOs, was ejected from the aircraft, and fell to his death... and it was shown on network TV.
 

TFF

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I thought the wing folded. I remember watching it but that was a long time ago. Hugh Downs, who was a glider pilot, was put on the spot.
 

jedi

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Then the “news show” that Charlie mentioned was aired. Much of what was in the show was factual, but it was much dramatized for the TV audience.
The reference show did kill the industry but it did recover nicely and then Sport Pilot replaced the training exemption and that was what finished it off. There was an agreement to increase empty weights by approving additional weight credit for safety items including brakes, electric starter, etc. but it never happened.

EAA was on a mission to “get rid of those bothersome Ultralights”.
 
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Airporthound

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Trailering an ultralight to Airventure is standard practice. In the past, maybe a decade ago EAA had free trailer/vehicle storage area but not anymore. There is a private campground across the street with reasonable rates. ($20/day) They will let an ultralight on a trailer thru the gate for a limited time to unload then vehicles and trailers are removed. You can still camp with your ultralight in a tent if you want, but no car.
The ultralight runway isn’t even open for early arrivals. It opens for the week only by Notam. Read the Notam and attend the 6am ultralight flight operations meeting every morning if you intend to fly.
During the ultralight flight briefing at AirVenture 2022 we were informed that the required possession of a copy of the Notam has been replaced with Notice. Notam refers to airmen. Notice is gender neutral. So it’s now inclusive to space aliens, animals and vegetables. What a relief…..
 

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Bille Floyd

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... There was an agreement to increase empty weights by approving additional weight credit for safety items including brakes, electric starter, etc. but it never happened.
...
Are reserve parachutes , included or excluded , from the total
weight for an ultralight ?

Bille
 

scramjetter

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The term NOTAM was renamed effective 2021-Dec-02, from Notice To Airmen, to Notice To Air Missions. The same order changed a few other little items, like FICON and ALS phraseology to bring them up to ICAO standards. It will take some time for it to percolate through the community, like the "Position and hold" to "Line up and wait". I'm a little surprised the air bosses didn't get that at Airventure.

During the ultralight flight briefing at AirVenture 2022 we were informed that the required possession of a copy of the Notam has been replaced with Notice. Notam refers to airmen. Notice is gender neutral. So it’s now inclusive to space aliens, animals and vegetables. What a relief…..
 

antimarx

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There seems to be very few Ultralight aircraft at AirVenture in Oshkosh this year, anyone know why? as🤔


FAA has made it difficult to get training in a 2 seat ultralight, which now must be registered as light sport a/c, & only flown or instructed in by a licensed "Light Sport" pilot/instructor. Most light sport a/c now are certified, factory built, and much different [heavier, faster, with a higher stall speed than 2 seat "ultralight" looking/types.
It has been estimated about 10,000 2 seat ultralights were not registered as light sport, & thus grounded, & 1000's of low cost/free instructors stopped instructing.
Many, many ten's of thousands of people started flying in U/L 's - one U/L company sold 14,000 U/Ls, and there used to be 50-100 U/L companies.
 
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