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Home > Blog > Light Aircraft Flying Safety

Light Aircraft Flying Safety: Essential Tips and Practices

Posted 15 May 2023

Light Aircraft Flying Safety

In this guide, we will learn all the essential tips and practices for flying light aircraft and the importance of following SOPs in critical situations.

Flying aircraft is a wonderful experience so long as one adheres to the rules and regulations of aviation.

Aviation has come a long way since the Wright brothers took the first successful manned flight in 1903. Back then, aviation was in its infancy and there weren’t any strict rules or regulations outside of the basic safety instructions developed by the pilots.

Unsurprisingly, this also led to a few accidents which prompted aviators to eventually standardise all flight-related operations to minimise risk – and light aircraft played a huge role in this!

Aviation was born out of light aircraft, and while they remain one of the best ways to fly, they can be quite dangerous, especially if you don’t follow the SOPs of flying.

This standardisation was accomplished by establishing aviation authorities in every country. In the UK, the Civil Aviation Authority is responsible for keeping the skies safe for all. The CAA has outlined all the essential practices that every pilot needs to adhere to in order to minimise or eliminate risk when flying.

In this guide, we will learn all the essential tips and practices for flying light aircraft and the importance of following SOPs in critical situations.

Flying Light Aircraft

Light aircraft are at the heart of aviation, and for good reason! All early aircraft designs had two things in common: a compact size and a low weight.

When we talk about light aircraft, we refer to specialised aircraft that are designed to be compact, efficient, and much lighter compared to commercial aircraft.

Commercial aircraft are designed for transport, be it humans or cargo. These aircraft have dual engines and can accommodate anywhere from 200 to 850 passengers.

Of course, this means that the plane weighs more too. On average, commercial planes can weigh up to 50,000 kgs while large airliners like the Airbus A380 or the Boeing 747 can go up to 600,000 kgs!

However, when it comes to light aircraft, they can weigh anywhere from 1600 kgs to 12,000 kgs. Their relatively light weight gives them a huge advantage in terms of manoeuvrability and fuel efficiency – and the best part is that they usually only require a single high-output engine to fly.

Light aircraft are available in two forms – and both have different safety features:

Fixed wing – Flying Experience and Safety

Fixed-wing aircraft are one of the most well-known airplane designs in the world. As their name suggests, these aircraft are built with a fixed wing made from either aerospace-grade aluminium or carbon fibre. These aircraft can be thought of as miniature versions of large aircraft, except that they have a single engine and can seat anywhere from 2, 4, or, 6 people at a time.

The reason why these aircraft are so iconic is that they are the preferred choice for pilots that want to advance their careers in aviation. Fixed-wing aircraft provide somewhat the same experience as larger aircraft due to how they are designed. These aircraft have an enclosed cockpit with an instrument cluster that hosts a range of important gauges that can help pilots learn how to fly even without visual aid.

For example, fixed-wing aircraft are the default choice for pilots who want to improve their Night Rating, a certification that enables pilots to navigate the skies using nothing but the information from the onboard instruments.

Fixed-wing aircraft tend to be the heaviest in the lightweight category, as they can weigh anywhere from 1000 to 3000 kg. This added weight is due to the wing system and the design of the fuselage that can carry both passengers and cargo.

The design of fixed-wing aircraft also makes them safer than other light aircraft. The reason why is that these aircraft are built with sturdy materials and are rated for various weather conditions. For example, these aircraft can easily navigate through rain, hail, or other unfavourable flying conditions.

The enclosed cockpit also provides a safe space for the pilot where they remain protected from the environment. Although rare, pilots can encounter sudden bird strikes, or in even rarer instances, they can be impacted by oncoming debris like small rocks or sand that got picked up by the wind.

As explained above, fixed-wing aircraft have a comprehensive list of onboard instruments which also includes radar and radio, two extremely important instruments that can help a pilot in tough situations. Communication is key during emergencies and the pilot can use these tools to land the plane quickly and safely before things go awry.

Flex-wing – How Safe Are They?

Flex-wing aircraft are extremely popular among enthusiasts and pilots that only want to take up aviation as a hobby. These aircraft are designed with a fabric-based wing system that flexes with the wind, hence the name! Flex-wing aircraft are beloved due to their compactness and design.

These aircraft usually feature a trike-like body composed of just one or two seats, a flex-wing system, and a propellor at the back, but perhaps the biggest reason why these aircraft are so popular among private pilots is that they are a breeze to fly, quite literally!

Flex-wing aircraft feature an open cockpit where the pilot is either exposed to the elements or mildly protected using a windshield. This design gives the pilot a view that is unbeatable in aviation!

Not only this, but since most flex-wing aircraft don’t have a propellor at the front, the pilot gets to enjoy an unobstructed view of their surroundings, and they can even turn their head to view the world (all 180 degrees of it) from the skies!

Flex wings are even lighter than fixed-wing aircraft. In fact, they are known to be one of the lightest aircraft weighing in at about 450 kg! Their light weight is due to the compact size of the cockpit and the lighter wing system.

These aircraft are powered by a single high-output engine that is usually located at the back. The benefit of flying flex-wings, apart from the flying experience, is that they are generally very fuel efficient and are easily accessible to private pilots.

If you are someone who wants to fly planes as a hobby, then flex-wing aircraft may be the quickest way for you to reach the skies! However, you will still have to obtain a valid private licence and prove your skills according to the standards set by the CAA.

In the context of safety, flex-wing aircraft have a few disadvantages but thanks to a few smart regulations for these types of aircraft, they can be extremely safe to fly, even solo!

As mentioned above, since these aircraft have a lighter design, with some even featuring an open cockpit, there are a few inherent risks involved in flying flex-wing aircraft. However, the CAA has set strict standards for these types of aircraft which bring down the risk level to near zero.

For example, flex-wing aircraft are only allowed to take off under VFR (Visual Flight Rules) conditions. VFR is a set of rules set by the CAA that govern the specifics of flight for light aircraft.

Bad weather, rain, fog, or anything that compromises visual accuracy during flight is considered to be a no-go in the context of flexed-wing aircraft, meaning that pilots will only be allowed to fly when the sky is fully clear and the weather conditions are favourable. This greatly reduces the risk of accidents and makes flex-wing aircraft safe to fly.

Light Aircraft Safety: Essential Tips and Practices

Apart from visual rules, several other factors can increase the safety of pilots during flights. Let’s look at a few safety essentials:

Pre-Flight Checks

Flying planes isn’t just about getting inside the cockpit and taking off! There are several checks that a pilot must perform before they can even taxi the aircraft. These checks are known as pre-flight checks and are one of the most essential steps in ensuring flying safety.

These checks are basic but can help a pilot diagnose any issues with their aircraft on the ground. Things like checking fuel and oil levels can go a long way and can guarantee the safety of the aircraft while flying.

Aircraft have several indicators inside the cockpit that show the status of the equipment on the aircraft. For example, if the engine light is blinking red, this would indicate that there is something wrong with the engine – and the aircraft will not be allowed to take off until the issue has been addressed.

Weather Monitoring

There is a reason why meteorology is so important in aviation. Monitoring the weather may seem like a simple task but it is absolutely necessary in ensuring safety. If you look at it, everything in aviation can be quantified and controlled, except for the weather.

Weather remains one of the most important variables in aviation which can drastically impact the quality and safety of a flight. Even small weather changes can spell disaster which is why pilots must monitor the weather at different times before they fly.

Thanks to modern science and advanced instruments, it has become easier to predict the weather. For example, using weather data pilots can determine the weather on a particular time and day with quite a lot of accuracy. However, weather can still be very fickle which is why pilots are also trained to navigate through bad weather by following SOPs.

Flight Planning

Flight planning may seem like a tedious task but it is one of the best ways to minimise risk before flying. A flight plan includes details like the flight route, terrain type, altitude, and much more. The flight plan also includes the weather! By summarising everything, a pilot can then assess the specifics of their flight plan and determine if it is viable to execute on a particular day.


Communication is just as powerful in the air as it is at ground level. By keeping in contact with air traffic control, pilots can always be in the know about other aircraft or important updates. The ground crew constantly monitors the sky and ensures that every aircraft flies in its intended path without crossing the path of another.

If a plane goes off course or if there is an important weather update, the ATC will convey these details to the pilot so that they can take corrective measures if needed.

Safety Kit

Keeping a safety kit handy is a great way to further reduce the risk of complications while flying or when flying in unfavourable conditions. Safety equipment like life jackets, extinguishers, and a first aid kit are rarely needed but if you do come across an emergency, these tools can be used to mitigate disaster.

Picking the Right Flight School

If you want to have a track record for conducting successful flights then you will have to focus on the fundamentals. Start with picking the right flight school for your training. Flight schools don’t just help you obtain a pilot licence, but they are also responsible for training pilots about flight safety.

Flight schools, like Sherburn Aero Club, have dedicated flight instructors that are well-versed in a range of unfavourable situations. Their experience is extremely valuable and pilots can learn a great deal about what to do in unexpected situations and how to address issues while under stress.

Following Regulations

In aviation, rules and regulations are always set in stone and the CAA expects all pilots to adhere to them without fail. These regulations are put in place for the pilot’s safety and breaking them can put the pilot, the aircraft, and the passengers at risk.

Regulations related to airspace restrictions, flight procedures, and general SOPs are key in keeping the skies clear. Failing to follow these rules can result in immediate disqualification or worse, disaster, which is why pilots are held to such a high standard.

Even after fulfilling all the essential safety requirements, pilots are expected to remain alert at all times. This way they can quickly react to unexpected situations and take corrective action before things get worse.


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.

If you wish to begin your career in aviation or wish to 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, we cater 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 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.

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. 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.

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 at 01977 682 674​​​, email us at flightdesk@sherburnaeroclub.com, or message us via our online contact form for more information on light aircraft flying safety, training requirements, licencing procedures, as well as experience flights and pilot training at Sherburn.

Photo by Rinald Rolle on Unsplash 



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