# Why the animosity towards ultralights?

Discussion in 'General Experimental Aviation Questions' started by fusionfab, Nov 5, 2019.

1. Nov 5, 2019

### fusionfab

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Hey everyone

I’m curious in hearing your thoughts as to why there’s such a high amount of animosity towards ultralight pilots, their aircraft and their instructors, specifically from individuals who are perhaps licensed higher and/or own certified aircraft?

Myself, I started out on ultralights where I progressed and acquired my PPL over the years. I still own my Avid Flyer Ultralight as well as a share on a certified 150. I fly both, and I love both. But I’ve never been able to really figure out this “good side / bad side”.

I recently attended a meeting at the club for a presentation where about 15 of us attended, including a couple newer guys who are into ultralights. One discussion led to another and next thing I know the majority of the room is completely criticizing these two ultralight guys like it was high school all over again. So this is why I ask.

Hopefully I didn’t trust throw fuel on the fire.

Thoughts?

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2. Nov 5, 2019

### Topaz

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First off, I don't think there's really as much "animosity" as you might think. Sounds like you hit one of the isolated incidents but, overall, it seems as if people who fly things with wings pay more respect to other people who fly things with wings, in general.

You just answered your own question. It's exactly like high-school all over again. And, while you're at it, you could ask why guys on sportbikes criticize those with Harleys (and vice-versa), why boaters with sails on their hulls are critical of those with motors (and vice versa), why those with iPhones are critical of those with Android phones (and vice versa), and those who drive one brand of car criticize those who don't (and vice versa).

If you or what you're doing is different, you're apparently an open target.

I'm firmly of the opinion that we don't ever "grow up"; we just get legal permission to do more things the more times we've been 'round the sun. Beyond that, I can't see much difference in human behavior, in this particular area, between so-called "adults" and kids in school.

As for throwing fuel on the fire, I'm sure our membership will be maintaining their usual high standards of behavior in this thread, and no moderation will be needed at all. This place is good like that.

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3. Nov 5, 2019

### Dana

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I see you're in Canada, where the definition of "ultralight" is different than it is here in the US Here, you Avid would be an experimental, not an ultralight. But... here, Part 103 requires no pilot certification, no aircraft inspections, and minimal flight regulations. In the early days of ultralights, there were a few ultralight pilots who flew (and crashed) with no training, ignored the rules, and generally caused havoc at any airports they went to. Those few gave the rest a bad name which hasn't been forgotten even today. And yeah, there's a class snobbishness thing, too, "my $200,000 airplane is better than your$5000 ultralight." But for the most part, if you fly responsibly, other pilots are accepting of ultralights, even if they have no desire to fly one themselves.

Of course not; we're pilots.

Last edited: Nov 6, 2019
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4. Nov 6, 2019

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Even though fusionfab has a different definition of "ultralight",due to his location,I will agree with his observation.
There tends to be a lot of ridicule towards ultralights in my location that comes from GA pilots mostly.
It ranges from the snide comments of "ultra-fright" or "flying lawn chair" all the way to banning them from the airports entirely.
The incidents arent as isolated as you might believe....myself and other ultralight owner/flyers have seen it quite a few times.
On a few occasions over the years we have been refused fuel/bathroom facility and even asked to leave the property because we were flying ultralights.
It does happen....and it always seems to occur from GA pilots and facilities.
Never once have I or the group that I fly with been on the receiving end of a harsh look,rude comment or refused anything by the GENERAL PUBLIC when we land in a field and walk into a store/restaurant or we land on the road and pull right up to the fuel pumps.
Quite the opposite actually.....we get questions asked of us,people want to look at the planes and they actually seem to be interested in conversing with all of us.
The general public doesnt seem to be the issue anymore.......the animosity comes from GA pilots in general.

I love flying ultralights but the Stork that I'm building will require it to be registered and I must hold a PPL to legally fly it.
Even though I am going through the motions of flying my Tomahawk and earning my PPL presently....as soon as i have my PPL i will be flying the Stork and getting back into the realm of ultralights with it.....and as far away from GA as possible.

Kevin

5. Nov 6, 2019

### samyguy

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I think alot of it is lack of training, ignorance of the law/rules.
So ultralights have alot more incidents with other pilots and FBO's !!!
Then there is the reliability of 2 stroke motors with neophytes operating them.
Engine outs, and crashes.
I have owned several ultralights, so first hand. I love them, but.

6. Nov 6, 2019

### Dana

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They're just jealous.

A lot of the GA pilots I hang out with also fly ultralights, especially paramotors, or have, so they're cool with it. And when I had my FIsher (not an ultralight in the US, but would be in Canada), I used to delight in telling Bonanza drivers how my entire plane cost less than their annual, and then there was my 2 GPH fuel burn...

7. Nov 6, 2019

### fusionfab

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That is a great way to look at it regarding your examples of the motorcycles boats etc.

As far as it being an isolated incident I am hoping that is the case. I do hear comments from time to time regarding ultralights from other pilots at the club and in passing at shows. It may also be the crowd, because when I moved my Avid to a small airport when I was getting my hangar spray foamed pretty much all of the guys there were excited to see it and seemed genuinely interested....this was also a smaller airport. So hopefully was isolated.

About 10 years ago when I was training with an ultralight instructor I had heard of a presentation happening at a nearby airport so I asked if he was going and rapidly answered “no we’re not too welcome there” sounding like a teenager afraid to go to prom.

I have the utmost respect for any person involved in aviation from all levels of training and it’s unfortunate that the odd or occasional circumstance negatively impacting the ultralight community is all that is used to represent them.

I appreciate everyone’s input/experience.

8. Nov 6, 2019

### BBerson

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I think it's the snobbery of those with some sort of a certification or degree.
"You are not a true pilot without a government private pilot certificate" (or ATP)
" You can't design an airplane without an engineering degree"
" You can't build a house if not a contractor"
" You can't inspect an airplane without a mechanic certificate" and on and on...

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9. Nov 6, 2019

### miraclepieco

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Watch virtually any YouTube video and you'll see UL fliers behaving like idiots, buzzing wildlife etc. Obnoxious behavior has earned us a bad rep.

10. Nov 6, 2019

### choppergirl

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Read any Crashes in the News thread, and you'll see most crashes are metal general aviation airplanes by pilots with pilots licenses.
The most recent new trend being, crashing into people's homes and setting them on fire.

I may be wrong, but I don't recall a single ultralight crash being posted in the Crashes in the News thread... yet.
Nor any airplane crashes due to quadcopters or drones. Not saying they don't happen. Just saying, they are way overblown.
I doubt any ultralight or quadcopter in the entire history of aviation has crashed into someone's home AND set it on fire.

If you think GA pilots talk vitriol about ultralights, bring up the idea of flying quadcopters and drones or RC at airports and watch them bust a *** and get all kinds of livid.
Because, well, the airspace and airports belong to them. Not any other kind of flying things. Never mind that birds were there first. From my point of view, slower moving vehicles have the right of way over faster moving vehicles. A hot air balloon is not going to be able to get out of the way of a jet fighter. And believe it or not, just like any other pilot, I would argue a quad or RC pilot does not want to run into your GA plane, and will be doing their best to look out for you avoid you, for the simple reason if they don't, it means a total 100% loss of their vehicle.

I've physically sat next to pilots in a plane looking at nothing but their tablet and instrument while flying. All those nifty black dials and enclosed cockpit that take up 70% of their field of view are an incredibly tempting and powerful distraction. In fact, some of them fly instruments only, wearing blinders, as some kind of sport (they call it flying IFR), and I'm thinking, are you crazy? It's a neat trick, arguably very useful to learn to be able to do should you find yourself having to fly through a hail or thunderstorm cloud with zero visibility, but which instrument shows you how many birds I'm seeing right now out side my right window, as well as their heading and direction? Because the skies are clear, and you're trying to scroll around a map on your ipad...

I'm finding the people who do the kind of flying I like, down on the deck in ground effect, between and around objects and hazards, beeline to paramotors and quadcopters.

Some of the most gorgeous flying footage (and skillful flying - watch youtube camera footage of racing quads from an FPV point of view) I've seen has been done by quadcopter pilots.

For the most part, paramotor and quadcopter folks eschew airports because of the unwelcome vibe the get from the aviation community. Yep, the aviation community shuns whole groups of people who love flying. Hard to believe, but true!

I myself don't hate metal airplanes, but I do dislike the heavily regulated rule based mindset that seems to come with them, and the exclusive staid old boy network surrounding them. People seem to be more inclusive and friendly to you where new trends and innovation in aviation are happening. The older and more mature a group gets, the more set in it's ways it gets, and the more hostile and dismissive and intolerant it comes to new people who think different, proposing new ideas or asking naive questions or wanting to make their own stupid mistakes by trying or doing in real life.

Last edited: Nov 6, 2019
11. Nov 6, 2019

### rdj

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I suspect it depends a lot on whose neighborhood you're in.

GA in general isn't very welcome at the big three-letter airports the airliners land at. Homebuilts of any sort are eyed suspiciously at the larger airports with the jet-set FBOs. Ultralights are given the evil eye at the airports where they mess with the status of the Bonanza drivers. And glider pilots, in general, are just in everyone's way.

The answer is to hang out in a better 'hood

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12. Nov 6, 2019

### TFF

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The human species is a comparator species. Looking for better. Kind or color of car, type of golf clubs, hat, school attended or not, food, hair... everything. Most are taught to suppress it and some can transcend it. Groups of like things means they can rest their equal liking within the group. They get a break from competition. More time to pick on other groups.

Most GA pilots find a benchmark of flying a Bonanza as the gold standard. Expensive, tank, heritage, and a good flying plane for what it is. Attain or not flying a Bonanza, show a US103 UL to one of those pilots and there is an immediate mistrust of structural safety. In their mind they want to fly through a tree and walk away, not get stuck in the top of one. Their reaction is panic for their safety. Realistic or not. It’s just the way the Dewy Decimal Airplane system is. Ask a skydiver and they will say what a quaint way to spend a day.

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13. Nov 6, 2019

### n3puppy

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Goofy as it sounds - the issue at our little airport was radios.

No matter how well the ultralights flew the pattern, obeyed the rules, the fact they couldn't announce their intentions ticked off the rest of the general aviation folk. And some of them were flying without radios anyway.

In the 80's handhelds just couldn't deal with the radio interference of the two strokes. Got better over time but the stigma was still there.

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14. Nov 6, 2019

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I may be the one that is wrong with this statement and if I am...I'll take the repercussions from it.
I think your viewpoint on the use of airport airspace is a little bit skewed choppergirl.
While I agree that we should all play nice together....ultralights,experimentals,GA,paramotor,sky divers,ballons,etc....there is no place for quads & rc aircraft in an active traffic pattern at any airport.
Almost every town has a dedicated rc field and that is where the rc drones,planes and helicopters should operate from.
That whole situation is reminiscent of the jack*sses that walk and jog in the middle of the road,creating safety hazards for motorists and themselves,when there is a sidewalk 10 feet to their side.
Everyone should be allowed to participate in aviation no matter what form it takes,however,there is a time and place for each.....

Kevin

15. Nov 6, 2019

### bmcj

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True. There was apprehension among the pilots when we started adding ultralights to the mix. Some were concerned about no radios, but to be honest, a large share of the regular aircraft there were vintage ‘nordos’. The main concerns were the difference in speed and how they would mix in the pattern. We had a flight school with both aircraft and ultralights, and our policy was to fly a smaller, lower pattern inside the normal pattern and to give way to regular aircraft to avoid being overtaken from behind. To give way, we simply made our final turn prior to reaching the extended centerline and flew parallel to the runway but far enough offset that we were not perceived as a conflict. Arrivals and departures were handled in ways to avoid crossing the paths of planes that were in the pattern, such as climbing out well above the pattern before crossing out.

The local power pilots soon realized that the ultralights (flown mostly by pilots too) understood the rules and went out of their way to mix in without issue, and became accepted as part of the normal field operations.

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16. Nov 6, 2019

### BBerson

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RC and drones are banned from the entire class D five mile radius of towered airports, not just the pattern.
Some have a special permit, but just a few.

17. Nov 6, 2019

### Topaz

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Well said. To the extent that I've run into it (not a lot) you sum it up pretty succinctly. I found it amusing to see the reactions I got to mentioning "homebuilt" at the soaring club. From some of the reactions, you'd think I'd grown a third eye in the middle of my forehead.

People are people are people. You just brush it off and move on.

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18. Nov 6, 2019

### Dan Thomas

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There it is. As a Canadian and a former flight instructor. I used to see some silly stuff done by ultralight pilots. It seemed that there was a real lack of training regarding airspace rules, airport pattern procedures, and basic aerodynamics. The average PPL has little enough grasp of AoA and what happens to it during various maneuvers, and an ultralight pilot with the minimum training has even less of it and the accident stats prove it.

There was a guy not far away that edited an ultralight magazine. In one column in a national aviation paper he ran through a long list of really crazy UL accidents, including some of his own. It made many of us cringe, and sure didn't make the ultralight community look good. Surely didn't attract too many new participants.

19. Nov 6, 2019

### Rockiedog2

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Lots of us are jerks; highly impressed with our selves.
Just give em a big grin and say “kiss my a*s”. Then laugh and walk off.

20. Nov 6, 2019

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