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Home > Blog > Fixed Wing Vs Flex Wing Microlights

Fixed-Wing vs Flex-Wing Microlights

Posted 13 Feb 2023

Fixed-Wing vs Flex-Wing Microlights

Microlights are divided into two main types: fixed-wing and flex-wing – and each of these aircraft has its pros and cons that we will discuss in this comprehensive guide.

Microlights are lightweight and relatively simple aircraft that are designed for shorter flights and are an essential part of flight training. But even these smaller aircraft have multiple types!

Microlights are divided into two main types: fixed-wing and flex-wing – and each of these aircraft has its pros and cons that we will discuss in this comprehensive guide.


Fixed-wing aircraft are exactly how they sound. They have fixed rigid wings and a three-axis control. For example, the aircraft can go up and down, bank left to right, and even smoothly change direction using the rudder at the back.

Fixed-wing aircraft are part of the microlight family and are usually the best option for people who are looking to learn how to fly. Fixed-wings have an enclosed cockpit and a control dashboard and the aircraft is great for mimicking the basic controls of larger aircraft.

The fixed-wing is usually powered by a single high-performance propeller engine at the front unlike the dual or multiple-engine setup found in larger aircraft. This engine design along with a compact cockpit and lighter body is the primary reason why this kind of aircraft is termed a microlight.

As per the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the maximum weight of a microlight must be 450kg but in some countries, a microlight can be as heavy as 600kgs, but they will usually average around 250-400kgs.

Furthermore, since fixed-wing microlights are designed to be like traditional aircraft, they also require a proper storage space where the aircraft can be parked or worked on during maintenance tasks.

Since fixed-wing aircraft don’t share the same complexities as larger aircraft, they can be relatively cheaper to own and can even be cheaper to learn on too!

Here are some of the primary pros and cons of fixed-wing microlights.


Relatively Better Performance

Fixed-wing aircraft are designed to be a smaller and compacter version of large aircraft. This is why they are designed with complex controls and can provide greater manoeuvrability than flex-wing aircraft that we will discuss below.

Fixed wings have a powerful propeller motor that allows the aircraft for longer and even cross-country flights. These small aircraft can reach maximum speeds of up to 87 knots (160 km/h or 99 mph) which also happens to be the speed limit for these kinds of aircraft as per the CAA.

It is important to note however that the performance of these aircraft will vary from one aircraft design to another, but in most cases, fixed-wings will provide better performance for flight training purposes.

Optimal Flights

Due to the weight and performance of fixed-wings, they are also much more efficient, especially when it comes to fuel efficiency. One of the key reasons for this is that fixed-wings are designed for longer flights which conserve fuel instead of shorter and high-speed flights.

Flight Stability

As mentioned above, since fixed-wings have rigid wings, they provide far better control and stability during flights. Their 3-axis control allows pilots to navigate the skies smoothly. These aircraft primarily use a yoke to steer the plane but they can also be equipped with a control stick depending on the type of fixed-wing aircraft.

Even in the event of turbulence, a fixed-wing will provide better stability and control compared to an even smaller aircraft, like a flex-wing. Also, thanks to its rudder, fixed-wings can easily execute complex manoeuvres at various speeds.


Can be Complex

One of the key things that make fixed-wing aircraft a great alternative to flying larger aircraft is that it mimics the complex systems found in bigger aircraft, however, if you are a new pilot, then fixed wings may be complicated for you.

There are a lot of controls and measurements that a pilot needs to keep in mind while flying any fixed-wing aircraft like the rudder, ailerons, flaps, and various engine controls.

Can be Costly

Even though microlights are generally cheaper, between fixed and flex-wing aircraft, fixed-wings tend to be the more expensive option due to their complexity and relatively high maintenance costs.

They can be too Compact

Even though the entire point of microlights is to be lightweight and compact, some pilots may find the cockpit to be a bit too small. While most pilots will adapt to smaller spaces and overcome claustrophobia, some pilots may find it difficult to adjust to a hot and compact cabin.

If a pilot doesn’t feel comfortable in the aircraft, then it is likely that they won't be able to perform at their best. The good news is that multiple fixed-wing microlights are designed to be larger with slightly more spacious cockpits.


Many people consider flex-wing aircraft to be the best type of microlight with many comparing it to flying “like a bird”.

The reason for this is that, unlike fixed-wing microlights, these even smaller aircraft have an extremely simple design with a wing made out of fabric which allows it to flex, hence its name.

Flex wings are commonly found in an open-cockpit trike setup where the wing is attached to a 2-person trike via a moving control bar. The propellor is located at the back which adds to the visibility of this compact aircraft.

Some flex-wing microlights can also be folded up to take up less space. This feature can be crucial for people who don’t have large storage space and can make these aircraft a relatively portable option over fixed-wing microlights.

Although the cockpit is designed to be extremely compact, the pilot and passenger are still able to move their upper torso to look around and even turn! It is one of the best ways to fly because it allows the pilot to feel the air and the environment. It truly makes for one of the most exhilarating flights!

Meant mainly for recreational flying, flex-wing microlights are a popular choice among private pilots and enthusiasts but there are a few pros and cons that you need to keep in mind before opting for a flex-wing microlight.


Straightforward Flying

If simplicity and openness are what you are after in aviation, then we can’t recommend flex-wing microlights enough. This aircraft has the simplest setup in aviation and is designed to fulfil the thrills of anyone who enjoys aviation.

Compared to the complex systems found in fixed-wing and larger aircraft, a flex-wing will usually only have a simple dashboard that shows the speed, altitude, and other gauge-based flight information (usually with a handy compass!)

Cheaper than Fixed-Wing

Another great reason why one might want to opt for flex-wings is their cost of maintenance. Since they don’t have complex systems or even a complex motor, they are cheaper to purchase and maintain. Although they are usually fuel-hungry machines, they will still be cheaper to own than fixed-wing aircraft.

Flight Experience

One of the primary advantages of flex-wings is that they are designed for pilots that want to “feel the air” and take in the environment as they glide across the skies. Since this aircraft has an open cockpit, the pilot feels the elements!

Also, pilots can turn their heads around and see all around them. Their field of view is particularly enhanced due to the lack of a propellor at the front. In many cases, aviation enthusiasts also like to mount cameras around the aircraft, especially on the control bar to try to capture the open skies and share their experience with others online!


Susceptible to Flight Conditions

Flex-wing aircraft, although lightweight and fun to fly can also be uncomfortable for pilots and passengers, especially when it comes to turbulence.

Air pockets or high winds can cause the fabric material on the wings to contort which can affect flight controls and feedback. While it isn’t dangerous, it certainly can cause stress for inexperienced pilots and passengers.

Furthermore, landing and taking off flex-wings can also be challenging. If the pilot comes in too fast or abruptly lands the trike, they will likely feel a jolt that can, in some cases, destabilise the aircraft.

Only Suitable for Short Flights

Flex wings don’t share the same performance capacities as their fixed-wing counterparts. Although they are equipped with a very capable engine, it isn’t powerful or efficient enough to sustain long-distance flights.

Flex-wings are also understandably slower than fixed-wing aircraft. Their low speed combined with their relatively inefficient engine (and usually a smaller fuel tank) makes them a bad choice for long-distance travelling and can limit the flying experience for pilots who want to push the limits of their training.

Can Have a Learning Curve

While most aircraft have a simple navigation system that is based on tactile controls, in some flex-wing microlights, the pilots might also have to use their weight to change the direction of the aircraft.

This is one of the reasons why flex-wing microlights are also referred to as “weight-shift” microlights. When the pilot shifts their weight, they essentially affect the centre of gravity which helps the aircraft steer, much like on a bike at high speeds.

This type of flying and control will likely require the pilots to develop the right “feel” for the aircraft.


If you want to learn how to fly microlights then there is no better place to start than the nearest flight school.

According to the CAA, pilots who want to fly microlights will need to apply for a National Private Pilot's Licence (NPPL). They will further have to obtain a Microlight Pilot Licence which requires a minimum of 25 hours of flight training and up to 10 hours of solo flight. The flight school will also provide all the necessary ground training to ensure maximum safety for the pilots.

Flex-wing and fixed-wing aircraft don’t require special licences or training. So, the benefit here is that if you train on one type of aircraft, you will likely have access to the other. Additionally, people with a PPL will also be able to enjoy either aircraft, provided that they have the right training for microlights.

Top flight schools, like Sherburn Aero Club, have their own fleet of flex and fixed-wing microlights.

Breeze Aviation, Sherburn’s microlight training facility, has extremely capable and experienced flight instructors that can not only train a pilot on how to fly microlights but can also help them train for unforeseen events, which may occur when flying a microlight since these aircraft are more susceptible to weather conditions and turbulence.


If you are confused about where to start, then we highly recommend that you first assess your expectations to figure out the best type of aircraft to fulfil your thrill of aviation.

If you want to experience a traditional flying experience in an aircraft that somewhat mimics the complex controls of larger aircraft then we recommend going with fixed-wing aircraft. Not only are these aircraft designed for longer and smoother flights, but they are an essential part of any flight programme and the experience that you gain from flying a fixed-wing microlight will likely pass over to other types of larger aircraft too.

However, if you want to experience the open skies with the wind and sun in your face then there is no better aircraft than flex-wing microlights! These aircraft are compact, less powerful, and can’t fly long distances – but they offer something that no other aircraft does: pure thrill.  

With an open cockpit, simple controls, and an extremely wide and open field of view, flex-wing microlights are perhaps the best choice for aviation enthusiasts that want a cheaper and quick flight experience!


Whether it's flex or fixed-wing, Sherburn Aero Club is the best place for all your aviation needs.

For those who wish to experience the thrill of a flight for fun or to help fuel their aviation dreams, Sherburn offers experience flights for the newbie, as well as the veteran.  If you don’t know where to start then you need a flight school like Sherburn to guide you through the entire process of any type of flight programme.

With us, you can begin your career in aviation or even take to the skies as a hobby. Sherburn’s flight training school offers private and commercial licences, along with pilot medicals to ensure a smooth journey going forward.

With a large fleet of new aircraft and an airfield refurbishment with new runways, hangars, and an extended clubhouse, Sherburn caters to brand-new flyers who have just started their journey to the skies, as well as seasoned flyers who have been operating aircraft for decades.

Sherburn Aero Club, which has been operational since 1964, is the ideal place for most of your training and flying needs. It is one of the largest flying clubs in the North of England and also one of the largest in the country.

The flight experience option is also available for people who wish to take to the skies for special occasions, even if they aren’t into aviation in the long run.

Sherburn also offers a dedicated day-long Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) course for those wishing to get the certification, running the first Sunday of every month.

In addition to that, if you are looking for a hangarage for your own aircraft, need servicing or repairs, want to buy a new aircraft or aviation equipment, or are just looking to enjoy and watch the aircraft, Sherburn Aero Club is the place to be.

Call us on 01977 682 674​​​, email us at flightdesk@sherburnaeroclub.com, or message us via our online contact form for more information on learning how to fly microlights or any type of aircraft!



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