Thinking of starting and ultralight build and looking for advice.


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New Member
Jan 21, 2015
I'm thinking of starting a simple ultralight build. I enjoy building projects like this. I have always wanted to fly and hope to get my license sometime. I stumbled across a guy flying an ultralight online and began researching them but I had a few questions so I thought I'd ask them here. Cost is definitely an issue and i am going for a very simple design. If it'snot absolutely necessary I don't plan on spending extra time and money putting it on such as an in closed cockpit. II'm basically wanting a more recreational aircraft for short flights around my land just for fun and the joy of building it.
1. What are the best materials to use? I was thinking of using mostly metal but I'm concerned about weight I want this to be FAR 103 legal. I will be welding all of the joints and had thought about going all aluminum, but i dont have a real tig welder i just have a scratch start tig so aluminum would be a bit more complicated. I would prefer to use mild steel if possible. I was wandering what the minimum gauge tubing I should use would be?
2. What material should I use to cover the wings?
3. Is there any simple plans I could get or purchase that would help me understand the staring and elevator cables and such? I believe I can effectively design the overall frame and wings I'm still just a little confused on all of the flaps and controls. ( I'm still researching)
4.I'm planning on putting putting a 13 hp gas engine from harbor freight or something similar on this craft will this be sufficient?
5. What safety measures should I take. I will not be flying this until I'm %100 sure I'll be safe.
thanks for any help ya'll can give.


Well-Known Member
Feb 10, 2011
Columbus, GA and Albuquerque, NM
1. Then it won't be an ultralight.
2. Search here for fabric covering.
3. You should buy/use plans for the entire thing if this is your first aircraft build.
4. Not if you are using steel pipe.
5. Then you will never fly.


Super Moderator
Staff member
Apr 3, 2007

1. There is no "best" material. Aluminum tubing (with bolted or riveted connections) is the most common, but ultralights can and have been made from wood, steel, fiberglass, and almost anything you can name. Fuselages are sometimes made from welded thin wall steel tubing (.035 and thinner, and 4130 alloy, not mild steel), but the wing structure is more commonly aluminum or wood. Welded aluminum is rarely used because the heat treatment is lost in the welded areas.

2. Wing covering is nearly always polyester (Dacron), either unpainted sewn "envelopes" slipped over the wings and tensioned with straps or such, or glued on and shrunk and painted afterwards. In either case, there are very specific procedures and materials to use. Sewing an envelope is not a job for an amateur.

3. There are plans available, and if you don't start with a kit or used plane, you should use plans for the entire plane, not just some details.

4. No. Although some very efficient and light planes have flown with 13HP, they are either dangerously underpowered or built so light as to be very flimsy. 30-40HP is more realistic. To keep the weight reasonable, it will likely be a 2-stroke engine.

5. Get flight instruction first, and fly a proven design. Do some googling, then when you see some you like, come back here and ask more questions... like everything, there are some good designs and some questionable ones.

Now for what you didn't ask: Ultralights look deceptively simple, but they require engineering just as careful as any larger aircraft... more, in many cases, because they push some things to the limit. The lack of careful engineering is why there were so many fatalities in the early days. From the questions you're asking, you don't (yet) have the knowledge to design a safe aircraft, so start with a proven design (kit or plans).

From a cost standpoint, the least expensive is nearly always a used plane or a partially completed kit. You can often pick up half finished kits or used planes needing work for less than their worth as scrap metal (you can also buy junk). Hook up with some local flyers-- there are quite a few in Texas-- and look, and ask questions. You're going to need training anyway, and locals may know of available planes.

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Well-Known Member
Apr 28, 2010
Memphis, TN
Build a Legal Eagle. Why? Because you have a real chance of building one. Not every step is clear on the plans, but they are not 100% clear on any plans. What it has going for it is people finish them. The ground work to be different and safe is really advanced degree and years of work away if you even get that far. It is best for at least your first plane to play follow the leader. If you finish and fly yours, you are 98% farther a head than everyone who has talked about wanting to finish a plane.


Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
Apr 10, 2007
Fresno, California
First of all, you'll never get anything in the air with 13hp (and there is a whole big debate going on in another thread about whether a Harbor Freight motor is reliable enough). You would be well advised to consider a used Rotax in the 35-43 hp range.

Legal Eagle is a great suggestion for a plans-built plane.

When you say "build", are you talking about a kit, or from scratch with plans, or designing your own? For a first-time builder and pilot, I would recommend going with a kit. A suitable kit would be the Dream Classic from Airdrome Aeroplanes.

Airdrome Aeroplanes ~ Holden, MO

The Classic can be ordered with wire braced or strut braced wings (strut would be the easier to build and break down for storage). They also offer other Part 103 aircraft, but they are more costly and more complicated to build, and I think that meeting the Part 103 specs would be difficult with those other models. Keep in mind that (I think) the Airdrome prices are WITHOUT engine, but everything elso should be included.

One last thing... take some lessons before you fly. Don't try to self-teach. Self-teaching is almost always a disaster and often fatal.


Well-Known Member
Jun 8, 2013
Cayce, SC / USA
For steel construction check out the Skylite or Legal Eagle .
Ragwing has ultralight designs. The combined RW9 & RW16 plans are $75 and $20 extra for the video. They are wood,tube construction with fabric covering.
The BJ Enduro claims to be 103 compliant and fly with a 16hp B&S engine, but I don't know of any ever built or flying.
As for safety get flight training and build a proven design and build it to the designers specs.


Well-Known Member
Log Member
Jan 30, 2011
Las Cruces, NM
Ragwing plans are only $25 (and downloadable) here.

edit: I'm going to download the RW9/16 combo and see what Roger means by "bolt together fuselage and tail". Sounds interesting.
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