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Home > Blog > Microlights Vs Light Aircraft

Microlights vs Light Aircraft

Posted 05 May 2022


Microlights vs Light Aircraft

Read on if you wish to find out more about light aircraft and microlights, the differences between the two, the benefits of each type, as well as licence requirements.



Figuring out what aeroplane is best-suited to your flying needs is one of the most important steps of your aviation journey. For the beginner as well as the seasoned recreational pilot, chances are the light aircraft has already been recommended due to its affordability and simplicity of controls.


Light aircraft are indeed the standard option for trainee pilots as well as pilots who want to fly as a hobby. The main reason behind this is that the light aircraft is much easier to fly as compared to a larger, more complex aircraft. While a larger aircraft may stress out flyers, a recreational pilot is looking to maximise enjoyment, for which a light aircraft is best.

However, there is another class of aircraft that is favoured by several general aviation enthusiasts. These are smaller than the traditional light aircraft and are referred to as microlights. While microlights aren’t the default choice for pilots-in-training, they nonetheless offer a unique set of benefits that make the aircraft well worth exploring.

Read on if you wish to find out more about light aircraft and microlights, the differences between the two, the benefits of each type, as well as licence requirements:

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIGHT AIRCRAFT AND MICROLIGHTS

The key difference between microlights and light aircraft comes down to the weight of the two aeroplanes. As is obvious from the names of the two aircraft, the microlight is smaller and lighter than the traditional light aircraft.

While the microlight is opted for mostly by recreational flyers who are looking for a safe, fun and affordable option when it comes to aircraft, the light aircraft is used to train pilots for both the Private Pilot Licence (PPL) as well as the Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL).

It is much easier to graduate to more complex aircraft from the light aircraft as opposed to the microlight. However, moving from the microlight to bigger aeroplanes is not impossible.

Here is a full breakdown of what each of these aircraft has to offer so that you can make an informed decision about which type of aircraft is best suited to your needs.

WHAT IS A LIGHT AIRCRAFT?


A light aircraft is a fixed-wing aeroplane with a maximum take-off weight of no more than 5,670 kgs. This makes them much smaller than most multi-engine aircraft.

These are mostly single-engine aircraft, with aeroplanes containing multiple engines often belonging to the heavier variety. These are designed to carry fewer people, with most light aircraft having a seating capacity of no more than four people at one time. The light aircraft is the aeroplane of choice for most beginner pilots owing to their simplicity of controls and industry-standard design.

Apart from being used for training, light aircraft are also used for sightseeing and during experience flights, such as those offered at Sherburn Aero Club. They are also used by pilots to embark on longer solo flights, even those that are cross country.

Example of light aircraft

There are many different types of light aircraft available in the United Kingdom. The most popular models for trainee pilots and hobbyists are the Piper PA 28 and the Cessna Skyhawk.

 

WHAT IS A MICROLIGHT?

 Microlights are smaller than light aircraft and are known for providing a fun and safe flying experience to recreational flyers.


The maximum take-off weight of a microlight cannot exceed 450kg, or 472.5kg when equipped with a complete recovery parachute system. However, a recent update by the Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom has led to the limit being exceeded to 600 kgs.

This development has helped the microlight tread closer to light aircraft territory, offering an experience on par with that of the Piper or the Cessna.

The fixed-wing microlight has a seating capacity of no more than two people at one time. 


Examples of microlights

There are many different types of microlights available in the United Kingdom. Not all microlights are fixed-wing aircraft. Some, such as the parakite and flex-wing, have more in common with gliders than they do with aeroplanes.

Microlights such as the three-axis are part of the fixed-wing variety. These aircraft are fast and sturdy and provide a flying experience close to that of a light aircraft.

A new 560 kg microlight, the EuroFox, is very popular with microlight flyers in the UK. It provides a safe and affordable flying experience with a design that is modern and fun.

 

MICROLIGHTS VS LIGHT AIRCRAFT

When it comes to comparisons between microlights and light aircraft, which one comes out on top is rather subjective.

Each aircraft comes with its own share of benefits and drawbacks. Here is a comprehensive list of what makes both the microlight and the light aircraft stand out.



Benefits of flying microlights
 

Affordable:



The price point of the microlight is one of its most attractive features. The relatively lower costs associated with purchasing and maintaining a microlight make it the perfect aircraft for beginners, as well as recreational flyers who do not wish to invest too much money into purchasing an aircraft.

Light aircraft and larger, multi-engine aeroplanes generally come with a higher price tag. For those who are in it for fun, the microlight is a perfectly affordable and safe option.

Fewer hours of training:

In order to fly the microlight, the total number of hours required for training are much less than that required for a Light Aircraft Pilot Licence (LAPL) or the Private Pilot Licence (PPL).

For aviation enthusiasts who can’t wait too long to take to the skies, the microlight is a great option, since you can take off after registering just a few hours of training.

The fact that the training requirements aren’t as stringent means it can also be a relatively stress-free experience to fly a microlight.

An amateur pilot can experience the thrill of flying for themselves before committing the long hours to get a more advanced pilot licence.

Low licence maintenance fee

Not only is it cheaper to obtain a permit to fly a microlight, but the ongoing maintenance fee is also much less compared to other more advanced licences.

On average, maintaining the microlight licence is 30% cheaper than maintaining the licence required for a light aircraft.

While hiring a microlight will cost you around GBP 120 per hour, hiring a light aircraft can bring you down by anywhere between GBP 150 to GBP 250 per hour, depending on the complexity, make and model of the aircraft.

Lower speeds

While this feature of the microlight may feel like a drawback to those hoping to travel long distances in an aeroplane, this is actually a great feature for those who fly for the sake of scenery and enjoyment.

Since microlights such as the three-axis and the EuroFox are generally slower than light aircraft, they allow for a more relaxed experience, allowing the pilot to take in the views and appreciate the scenery to the fullest.

Slowly flying through the sky can be quite an enjoyable and liberating experience, and it is a must-try for all aviation enthusiasts out there!

A fast aircraft isn’t always the best option out there, and what speed works best for a pilot is highly relative to their needs and wants from the aeroplane and the flying experience.

Less medical restrictions

For those pilots who are unable to clear the medical requirements for a Class 2 certificate, which is necessary in order to apply for the PPL and the LAPL, then flying a microlight is a great option. There is a “self-declaration” option available for microlight pilots, which means they can save the money that would go into a medical exam with a licenced doctor.

This leads to flying becoming much more accessible, making microlights the aircraft of choice for several hobbyists. 

Benefits of flying light aircraft

Greater skill involved


Since light aircraft are larger than microlights, navigating the skies in one is also relatively more difficult. Flying a light aircraft arguably has more skill involved, which helps provide a boost to a pilot’s confidence and allows them to excel in the field of aviation.

If you are a pilot who enjoys the rewarding nature of mastering a complex task, then you will enjoy flying light aircraft more than a microlight.

While a microlight is suited to beginners and recreational pilots, the light aircraft is also flown by professionals, and learning how to fly a light aircraft is a mandatory part of obtaining your Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) or the Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL).

More accessible


The fact that light aircraft are the industry standard means they are rather popular. Their popularity makes these aircraft highly accessible and easy to find. The Cessna Skyhawk and the Piper PA 28 aircraft are two of the most popular general aviation aircraft, and their appeal and popularity extend well beyond the UK.

If you are a globetrotter and are looking for an aircraft that can easily be maintained anywhere in the world, you would be much better off opting for a light aircraft.

Suitable for longer flights

Another feature of the light aircraft that makes it better suited to international and long-distance travel is the speed of the aircraft. Compared to microlights, these aircraft come with higher speeds.

If you are looking to get to places as opposed to taking in the scenery alone, then a light aircraft may be the better option for you. The fact that it can seat up to four people also makes it good for when you need to travel with company or a small crew. It is far more spacious than a microlight and is also sturdier, which means it can fly safely through rain and strong winds.

The small size of the microlight may result in passengers experiencing extreme turbulence when flying through strong winds, and the aircraft can sustain damage if the weather is rough.

Light aircraft, on the other hand, are built to withstand relatively more extreme weather.

Switching to more complex aircraft

For pilots who wish to graduate to more complex aircraft eventually, it is a good idea to start off in a light aircraft due to the fact that they are relatively more complex as compared to the microlight.

As mentioned above, those hoping to obtain a CPL or an ATPL are also required to train on a light aircraft, so it is more efficient to begin your training on a light aircraft right off the bat.

 

WHAT LICENCE WILL YOU NEED?

To fly a light aircraft or a microlight, you will need a general aviation licence. For the light aircraft, a pilot will need either the Private Pilot Licence (PPL) or the Light Aircraft Pilot Licence (LAPL).

 
The LAPL is easier to obtain as compared to the PPL, with the PPL requiring a total of 45 hours of training and a LAPL requiring a total of 12. However, you can exclusively fly light aircraft and lower category aircraft with the LAPL, whereas with additional ratings, you can fly much more complex aeroplanes with the PPL.

For the microlight, a pilot should opt for the National Private Pilot Licence (NPPL), which is a UK-specific licence and is only valid within the country’s airspace.


ACCESSING AIRCRAFT

Where can you fly light aircraft?



Here at Sherburn Aero Club, we have a dedicated fleet of light aircraft available for hire by the club members. The aircraft can be rented out by both experienced pilots as well as trainees. The light aircraft in Sherburn’s fleet include the Piper PA 28 Cadet, Piper PA 28 Warrior, Aero AT-3 and the Robin 2160.

Members who wish to fly the aircraft are charged an hourly rate, which means they only pay for the amount of time that they fly. However, for more invested pilots looking to purchase a light aircraft of their own, Sherburn connects buyers and sellers within its community of over 900 aviation lovers. The option to buy shares of an aircraft and thus engage in fractional ownership, or the option to privately own an aircraft are both available.

The jointly-owned aircraft are stored in Sherburn’s airfield, with the club’s dedicated engineering facility offering pre-buy inspections so that pilots can rest at ease knowing the aircraft they are investing in is in good shape.


Where can you fly microlights?

You can access microlights at Sherburn’s microlight training facility, Breeze Aviation, which houses the state-of-the-art EuroFox. The facility also provides NPPL training for a microlight rating.

Breeze Aviation also offers conversion training between glider-type microlights such as the flex-wing and the fixed-wing variety such as the three-axis and the newer 600 kg models. 

 

WHY CHOOSE SHERBURN AERO CLUB


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. 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.

We offer dedicated CPL training as well as comprehensive PPL (A) training and the required experience for operating aircraft at night.

In addition to this, the club also offers simulators for various training needs and to help new pilots gain confidence before the real deal.

Breeze Aviation, our microlight training facility, is based at Sherburn in Elmet and has a unique training environment based at a licenced airfield.

It integrates seamlessly with large scale GA training and hire, helicopter training and charter, commercial and advanced flight training, and classic tiger moth experiences.

With an extremely special aircraft fleet that consists of brand-new, high-performance microlights such as the latest factory-built Eurofox 3K, Breeze Aviation is one of only two microlight flight schools in the UK to offer training on the amazing Eurofox

Call us on 01977 682 674​​​, email us at flightdesk@sherburnaeroclub.com, or message us via our online contact form for more information on training, our fleet of light aircraft, and the microlight facility at Sherburn!

 

Photo by Zhenyu Ye on Unsplash 


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