The future of Part 103

Discussion in 'The light stuff area' started by FritzW, Sep 24, 2018.

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  1. Sep 24, 2018 #1

    FritzW

    FritzW

    FritzW

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    This topic has kind of hijacked several other threads and it was suggested that it's best to move the discussion to it's own thread.

    So...

    What's the future of part 103? Are we in danger of losing it? Is it in danger of getting lumped into some sort of new combined Drone/Ultralight reg? How do we protect it? Is there any chance of expanding it? ie. higher weight limits, maybe getting the two seat exemption back? etc...
     
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  2. Sep 24, 2018 #2

    Topaz

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    I don't think we're in a danger of losing it. I think what we'll see is something of a return to its roots, back into the background and "fringe" where it started. The lack of dual instruction is a severe challenge. The future for "no pilot's license" seems to be in multi-copters, and I don't think Part 103 can really be stretched around that, especially for "urban" operations where multi-copters genuinely make sense. So I think you'll see true ultralights return a bit to their glider, motorglider, and "putter around the open field" beginnings. I think the vehicles themselves will be more sophisticated, and may even look more like "real airplanes" - I think the Legal Eagle and such point the way there, as more things like Graphlite rods become available to us. The worsening lack of reasonably-priced engines is going to be a challenge, too. I expect as "real" airplane-style engines dry up, someone's going to find a modern equivalent of the old MC-101, and operations will center around that for a while, until possibly electrics really become more practical, at which time they'll take over.

    In some ways, that makes me hopeful for the future of Part 103 as well. Less likelihood of the FAA having to "take notice" of the sport, and less reason to revisit what has been a very successful reg, overall.

    I've heard many different anecdotes over the last ten years or so, from people who have approached the FAA about expanding the UL definitions of Part 103: weight, speed, passengers, etc. The "under the table" replies from the FAA guys have universally been related as, "You don't want us to re-open that reg. You won't like what you end up with in the modern world."
     
  3. Sep 24, 2018 #3

    Turd Ferguson

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    What happens is mostly up to the ultralight community. Keep off the 6pm news, low profile, comply with 103 regs and I don't see much changing. Fly unregistered aircraft as ultralights, fly where you shouldn't, ignore the 103 regs and the FAA will step in and do what they like to do.....regulate.
     
  4. Sep 24, 2018 #4

    FritzW

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    I think the ultralight community can do better than just survive. And I don't think modestly higher weight limits and two seat trainers are out of the question, but...

    The first thing UL'ers need to do is quit shooting themselves in the foot. Quit cheating, or at least quit bragging about cheating on the internet (I'm guilty). If I was an FAA big wig I'd be cutting and pasting all those comments into a Power Point presentation so I'd be ready when I got called to testify the next time an idiot lands his gyrocopter on the White House lawn. :gig:

    We also need to get rid of the "lemme finish my beer and we'll go flying" reputation. The only way to do that, IMHO, is with a reputable national organization. Which is going to be tough to find:ermm:
     
  5. Sep 24, 2018 #5

    radfordc

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    There's an ultralight community? Here in the Kansas City area ultralights are close to extinct as far as I can tell. They died shortly after UL training was outlawed. There are still a few that get flown in out of the way hay fields or grass strips but the clubs are gone, the fly-ins are gone, and ultralight interest is seemingly gone.
     
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  6. Sep 24, 2018 #6

    Topaz

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    We had some. USUA, others. Not enough people wanted to pay dues, and not enough people wanted to donate time and effort, to make them a viable self-regulation authority. UL's have been typically been about anti-establishment culture, at least it was born out of those roots. I'm not saying it's impossible for a new UL organization to build up and take over the responsibilities the FAA intended, but I also don't see anyone stepping up to do it.

    The entire LA/OC Basin is the same way. There's no place to fly here that's not more than 90 minute's drive away or more. The last functioning club of which I know in the area is out at Perris airport. Last time I was there, it looked like the club was about ten years from aging out and dying. Looks like they're doing a little better these days - or at least their website is under better repair - but that's it. Skylark Field in Lake Elsinore was a big UL operations area in the 1980's, but a few jerks buzzed boats on the lake or flew out over the city, and that stopped. The airport manager prohibits UL operations there now. There's a few UL's flying out on the coast where they can get out over the water. But the entire area, hundreds of square miles, is a carpet of houses and industry. There's no "uncongested" areas left to fly, that I know of.
     
  7. Sep 24, 2018 #7

    BBerson

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  8. Sep 24, 2018 #8

    FritzW

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    Geographical region obviously plays a big role in this. In my "class G" area of the country we're entering our third 'wave' of UL enthusiasm.

    The first was the golden age of the 70's and 80's with the 'nail something together and slap a chainsaw motor on it" movement. The second was the 80's through and 90's that went from Quicksilvers to fat/two seaters. Things started to poop out after 2000, but now they're starting to get rolling again with the "why do I need a high dollar spam can that I never fly anymore" crowd.

    The next generation of UL'ers are the young guys who want to fly but can't afford an RV and the old guys that don't want to pay $1,400 for a new kanutzer valve for their Bonanza that they never fly anymore. ...I think the glass is half full ;)
     
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  9. Sep 24, 2018 #9

    addicted2climbing

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    Topaz,

    Yes here is Socal our options are limited. With the Zigolo, I had 2 options Bryan Ranch or Camarillo. I chose camarillo since it has more favorable flying conditions and a larger weather window. In fact Camarillo seems ideal and the club members fly pretty much all day as opposed to Bryan ranch which is relegated to mornings and dusk. Also once away from KCMA, the landing out options are far more favorable than any in Los Angeles. The club is about half young and old and it has it quirks. There is an instructor on the field but its pretty much the only option. Also KCMA being class D there are a few rules that must be followed but so far it all works. Currently the only fear is a proposed site cleanup by the army corp of engineers is on the books and once they start and worse yet finish the land might be up for grabs for the Jet center to expand. As it is now the UL runway is on an old landfill that has no value; until its cleaned up...

    I would like to see part 103 thrive. There seems to be a resurgence in older Part 103 designs being revitalized; CGS Hawk and Aerlite 103 for example. The Hawk is not 103 legal, but seems most just fly a bit overweight anyhow. The legal eagle is also a very nice airplane and there is one in the Camarillo club.
     
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  10. Sep 24, 2018 #10

    TFF

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    I think the first wave of ULs that were mainstream was because new 152s and 172s doubled in price during the Carter years. A 152 went from about $20,000 to almost $40,000 in less than five years. The die out in the early 2000s was because those planes on the used market were cheap again. The minimalist geeks are a whole different crowd. They are the ones who never waver in wanting to fly ULs. Most of the answers here are about wanting a regular plane but cant. The Mark Sull group are rarely vocal. The Legal Eagle and the MiniMax are the closest to being airplane airplanes. Very minimalist airplane airplanes. As for the FAA, they like perfect regulations. If there are no squawks, they think they have it perfect. If they dont think so, they will fix it their way. The only way they dont fix it their way is if Congress tells them to open a hole for business. ULs are not big business so people should shut up or they will learn the old statement, "The FAA is not happy until you are unhappy." If you are unhappy now, wait until they finish with you. Another thing on ULs. It takes a little more guts to fly one. Open, light weight, underpowered, slow. There is not a lot of security in one. It takes either skill or ego to really have a go, along with a bunch of trust in a true crate of a machine. They are high performance machines in a low performance way. They dont coddle you like a certified airplane does. If you dont like flying in a 150, doubt you will in a UL. If you cant fly a 150, definitely you cant fly a UL. Its not about like or want.
     
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  11. Sep 24, 2018 #11

    Victor Bravo

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    Part 103 could have a stronger resurgence from the Millennials and 40 year olds who want to fly but cannot afford the rental rate on any of the $150K light sport airplanes. The availability of inexpensive carbon fiber mat'l and better small 2-stroke engines like the Polini create a very good environment for the development of higher technology ultralights.

    There is one very good example in the UL glider world, Greg Cole's Sparrowhawk. It comes in at an astounding weight of under 155 pounds (Part 103 limit for gliders) but it can compete head to head against the European racing sailplanes under certain conditions. The cost is high for an ultralight, but a small fraction of the European competition gliders. The "airchair" movement has also sparked interest in ultralight gliders on the cheapskate end.

    So the way I see it, there is a very good possibility that homebuilt ultralights made with the carbon pulltrusions can create legal 254 pound "real airplanes" that have some advantage over the small handful of exissting "legal" 103's like the Legal Eagle and Firefly.

    But there will have to be some real-world advantage that is gained by using composites that you cannot get with wood, aluminum or steel tube. The cost will be a little or a lot higher. So you would have to get some real advantage, like the aircraft fgolding down smaller, or it being much lighter, or it having much better takeoff/climb/glide performance in ordedr to justify it.

    So one example of it being worthwhile could be a motorglider that meets 103, but has enough wingspan to actually be soarable in light weather. Like a smaller single seat version of the Pipistrel motorglider, or a powered Marske Monarch with 15 meter span. That kind of capability, in a 103 legal UL, would justify the extra money or build time compared to the Firefly or Legal Eagle.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2018
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  12. Sep 24, 2018 #12

    addicted2climbing

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    Here is what can be done in the part 103 world with composites and a lot of money....

    https://www.jh-aircraft.de/english/corsair/
     
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  13. Sep 24, 2018 #13

    lr27

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    You're going to need a speed limiting device on that Corsair, I think. Also, I'm very skeptical the stall speed requirement can be met, except possibly with split flaps or something else more sophisticated. Even then, it would be a close thing.

    I don't think you really need a 45 foot span for acceptable soaring, though of course it would be nice. The 1-26 is significantly heavier and has only 40 feet of span. The 2-33 has a similar span squared loading. Both have been quite popular.

    I suspect some of the longer winged existing designs would soar reasonably well with a bit of cleanup. Mike Sandlin's Goat, which has a wingspan of 36 feet, has been motorized. Given an aerodynamic cleanup, maybe it would soar well, though I'm not entirely sure, considering all those wires.
     
  14. Sep 24, 2018 #14

    pictsidhe

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    The corsair has suspiciously huge ailerons. Could very well be flaperons.
     
  15. Sep 24, 2018 #15

    jedi

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    Can any of the old coastal sites be used for gliders, motorgliders, or powered ULs assuming you had a suitable takeoff and landing area.

    The Hawk Ultra was legal but required extra work to make it so. The Ultra that was offered used the same spars as the heavier Hawks. Using lighter spars would have helped a lot but would have required a special mill run for the lighter wall tubing. That would be expensive and would require a high production rate to justify. Chemical milling would be an other option but how smart is it to make a weaker air frame solely to meet an artificial FAA specification? This is an example of where a waiver is logical if the market and manufacturer would ask for it. Chucks solution was to drill holes everwhere he could and use old worn tires.

    The result is that the current Hawk Classic is a better design compromise for cost and utility but it is also an opportunity to expand the envelope of legal ultralights if the issue were adequately presented to authorities.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2018
  16. Sep 24, 2018 #16

    Toobuilder

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    That was a question forming in my head as well. With all the discussion on the forum concerning UL's, I had to stop and think of the last time I've even seen an ultralight. Some time ago I could count on seeing a couple buzzing around on weekends, but I'll bet I have not seen a 103 type (flying or parked) in 15 years. I was wondering what all the discussion was about... I figured 103 was dead.
     
  17. Sep 24, 2018 #17

    Hot Wings

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    Need to read the last half of this thread up to this point - just no time right now.

    Part 103 is one of the greatest things we in the US have for cheap. simple. flying and getting 'commoners' interested in aviation. 2 of my 3 projects are part 103.

    Part 103 is dead ....... and will remain dead for anyone living in a major urban area. I think that is fact, not just my opinion.

    As for my opinion about its future?

    It's bleak at best but there IS interest.

    It will still be there for those that can take advantage of it for quite some time.

    The vehicles themselves will develop into two different classes of vehicles. One will remain much as they are today, a collection of aluminum tube and sail cloth built and flown by pilots with no desire to get a license, or instruction,
    The second class will develop for pilots (PPL and lost medical) that just want to fly without having to talk to anyone, push a lot of buttons, or pre-plan the flight. That group of ultralight vehicles will develop to look more like real airplanes taking advantage of newer technology, not for the sake of using same, but to make the flying even simpler, safer and more efficient. Performance of these advanced ultralights will be right at the maximum allowed by the regulation. They may or may not be factory built. If they are the FAA will love them because they know that the plane they are inspecting will have a factory specification sheet and basic equipment list - documents they can inspect for compliance. Simple for them. Security and peace of mind for the pilot.

    IMHO - we shouldn't be spending so much time talking/debating part 103. It is what it is and if the FAA ever decides to change it - it WILL be bad for us. We need to be putting pressure on the powers that be to give us something more like the other countries microlight aircraft - maybe with a private organization given oversight. It seems to work in other countries. It could here.
     
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  18. Sep 24, 2018 #18

    Dana

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    Don't tell the PPG guys that....

    And PPGs are all LEGAL 103...
     
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  19. Sep 24, 2018 #19

    blane.c

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    I agree with the just leave well enough alone sentiment. And I still say the best way to get the 254lb limit to work for you is go on a diet. Guilty.
     
  20. Sep 24, 2018 #20

    Victor Bravo

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    Part 103 is not actually dead here in Los Angeles, there are two major hang gliding sites within the general city limits. There are two or three 103 powered UL sites just outside of the greater LA area, but because of the size of Los Angeles this can mean that it's a two hour drive for someone on one end of the city to go through the city and out the other side to reach their desired site.

    But within the big yellow blob on the sectional chart, there are no real 103 operations and there should not be any. This airspace is no place whatsoever for a non-licensed pilot without the training to deal with it. Heck I've been flying here for !(#*% years and some of it freaks me out (because I'm not a professional pilot who uses the system all the time). I can only imagine that every other big yellow blob (NYC, Chicago, Sea-Tac, ATL) is the same way.

    So it is not fair to day 103 is "dead" here any more than saying that "mountain biking is dead" in the middle of the ocean. It's just not appropriate to fly 103 here within the dense city area. So the people flying 103 (or stealth illegal 103) just have to go outside the yellow blob by 20-30 miles to do it.
     

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