As opposed to commercial aeroplanes or larger jets, these are small and lightweight, designed to carry fewer people and much less mass.
Have you always dreamt of piloting an aircraft, but aren’t really interested in pursuing aviation as a full-time career?
If you are the kind of person that wishes to enter the world of aviation for the purposes of recreation, then light aircraft are what you should be familiarising yourself with.
WHAT IS A LIGHT AIRCRAFT?
As opposed to commercial aeroplanes or larger jets, these are small and lightweight, designed to carry fewer people and much less mass.
They are used for sightseeing, photography, and personal use. Their uses also include aerial surveying, passenger operations, and marketing. There are different types of light aircraft, and which one is best suited to you can only be determined after an assessment of what you wish to achieve through aviation.
Within the category of light aircraft in the United Kingdom, there are two different types. The first is the traditional microlight, which is the conventional smaller aircraft designed to carry no more than two people at a time. There are various sub-types of this kind of aircraft.
A newer type of light aircraft in the UK is the light sport aircraft (LSA). This is slightly larger than a traditional microlight. The types of light aircraft will be expanded upon further in this article.
WHO CAN FLY LIGHT AIRCRAFT?
When it comes to these kinds of aircraft, the rules really aren’t as stringent. This option is open to much younger aviation enthusiasts as well.
For those hoping to fly an aeroplane or helicopter, the minimum age to apply for a Light Aircraft Pilot Licence is 17, while those wishing to fly sailplanes or balloons need to be no older than 16 in order to apply.
The light aircraft is the perfect entryway into the great big world of aviation, and if one wishes to pursue aviation as a full-time career later on, or wishes to graduate to larger aircraft, the option of upgrading your licence always exists.
All it shall require are some extra hours of training and a few exams to test your skills, both practical and theoretical.
TYPES OF LIGHT AIRCRAFT
Microlights is the name given to light aircraft in the United Kingdom. Microlights and hobbyists are the absolute perfect match!
This kind of aircraft is relatively easy to operate due to its small size and simpler controls and is also not as expensive as larger aircraft. Spending on larger aircraft seems like an unnecessary expense when it comes to recreation, which is where microlights come in.
The traditional microlight carries no more than two passengers at a time and is a very safe, modern, and affordable form of aviation. The maximum take-off mass for a 2-seat landplane cannot exceed 450kg, or 472.5kg when equipped with a complete recovery parachute system.
These current parameters, however, have been reviewed by the CAA, and on 19 August 2021, the maximum allowable take-off mass has been increased from 450kg/472.5kg to 600kg. This automatically enables a larger number of aircraft to fall under the microlight category.
The introduction of the LSA has led to the broadening of the definition of a microlight in the UK. In other countries such as the US, microlights are referred to as ultralight. There are four different types of microlights in the United Kingdom. The first three are parakites, flex-wings and three-axis, with the latest addition being the slightly larger light-sport aircraft (LSA).
The Central Aviation Authority (CAA) of the UK has various ways in which a microlight can be defined, an extensive summary of which is available on their website.
Parakites are basically powered parachutes. The parakite consists of two main parts: a trike unit for seating and navigation and a parafoil or ram-air wing. These aircraft are a great option if you are a hobbyist on a budget since they are the least expensive of the lot.
Compared to more complicated aircraft, the parakite is also relatively easy to operate, which means less time is spent trying to master it.
When it comes to take-off and landing, the performance of the parakite is excellent. However, its frustratingly slow speed is one of the main issues people face, as well as the fact that it isn’t very widely available, making it difficult to get ahold of.
The flex-wing is incredibly fun to pilot, depending on weight-shift for navigation. Much like the parakite, the flex-wing also consists of a wing and a trike unit, with the seating on the trike mostly front to back, but also sometimes side by side.
This has a good cruising speed, which makes it thrilling to fly, and it also has a very good payload capability. The fact that it's so much fun to fly also makes this a popular option among hobbyists.
However, compared to the parakite, it’s costlier. It is also not as widely available, making it difficult to find.
This fixed-wing aircraft is the most popular choice when it comes to light aircraft. It consists of a traditional wing, fuselage and tail layout, and is factory-built.
When it comes to aircraft, this is the one closest to a traditional aeroplane when compared to the previous two.
This is also faster than the last two, making it seriously fun to fly. Its popularity means there are lots of designs available on the market, and that any hobbyist can easily get their hands on one. Also, the sturdier build means it can withstand more extreme weather conditions as well.
However, while this is a great option for those looking to fly for fun, the three-axis is also more expensive. Also, the plane is harder to fly and requires more training (but the training is really worth it!)
Light sport aircraft
The newest member of the microlight family, the light sport aircraft (LSA) is larger than the traditional microlight.
The LSA has a capacity of two people, and due to its build and size, it is more powerful than the traditional three-axis. This class of microlights has a maximum take-off limit of 600 kgs and can be either factory-built or amateur-built.
Due to the ease of access of light aircraft, there are certain rules that must be followed when it comes to their operation. The most important of the bunch is that a light aircraft must not be flown in a way that threatens the safety of anybody.
It should not be flown in overcrowded or residential areas, and it is not allowed under any circumstances to drop anything from the aircraft mid-flight in a situation where the object may threaten the safety of another person.
Due to the fact that these are flown under Private Pilot Licence (PPL) or LAPL licences, it is necessary that the aircraft is only flown in the permitted jurisdiction. Without further ratings, it cannot be flown at night or at certain altitudes.
WHAT LICENCE DO YOU NEED?
In order to operate a light aircraft, you need either a Private Pilot Licence (PPL) or, more specifically, a Light Aircraft Pilot Licence (LAPL).
These are licences awarded to hobbyists and those looking to fly for recreational purposes. You will not be compensated for flying with this licence. However, if you wish to pursue a career in aviation, the Commercial Pilot licence (CPL) is the way to go.
The PPL requires the applicant to be at least 17 years of age and proficient in nine subjects, all of which are tested in theoretical exams. These include meteorology, air law, navigation, principles of flight.
In addition to the exams, the applicant is required to provide proof of training, with at least 45 hours of flight time with an instructor. 10 hours out of the 45 but be of solo flight.
In order to qualify for the licence, the applicant must score at least 75% marks in the aforementioned theoretical exams.
The PPL is a great option for people who want a licence that isn’t UK-specific, like the restrictive National Private Pilot Licence (NPPL), which only allows pilots to fly in UK airspace.
This licence is perfect for those who wish to operate a light aircraft like the three-axis or light-sport aircraft.
It is more restrictive than the PPL since the types of aircraft that can be operated are limited. However, if you are a hobbyist who does not wish to upgrade to a commercial licence or is interested in flying bigger aircraft, the Light Aircraft Pilot Licence (LAPL) should suffice.
The LAPL is divided into 4 categories:
- LAPL (A) for aeroplane operation,
- LAPL (B) for flying balloons,
- LAPL (H) for helicopters, and finally,
- LAPL (S) for sailplanes.
For this licence, the applicant must have a total flight time of 12 hours, which makes it much easier to obtain as compared to the more stringent requirements of the PPL.
Upgrade from LAPL to PPL
The best thing about these licences is that they can easily be upgraded. If you do not wish to directly acquire the PPL and instead want to test the waters (or should we say skies!), the LAPL is a great option due to relaxation when it comes to requirements.
However, if you wish to broaden your horizons, you can simply add extra hours or training and upgrade to a PPL. The PPL can then also be upgraded to a CPL if you wish to pursue aviation as a full-time career.
What can you do with a PPL?
While the PPL may seem restrictive as compared to the commercial licences, there’s so much you can do with it in your wallet!
Firstly, you can make a statement every time you travel by doing so in style! While you may not be making your daily commute in an aircraft, you can always take your friends and family to exotic locations via air! Other than this, you can also put all that flight training to good use and pass on the knowledge by becoming an aviation theory instructor.
With a PPL in hand, you’ll probably know the ins and outs of the subjects tested before an applicant is allowed to get a licence, which makes you a great candidate for the position of instructor!
You can also volunteer with non-profits and offer your flight skills to help those in need. Your ability to fly an aircraft may make the difference between life and death for someone stuck in a dangerous situation.
While you may not make money through these endeavours, they are bound to make you feel like a valuable member of society.
USES OF LIGHT AIRCRAFT
Since you operate these aircraft with the PPL or a LAPL, you won’t really be able to earn any money off of your aviation adventures.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun flying! You can use it to take your loved ones on a joyride in the sky, or you can help.
Other than recreation, light aircraft are also used for marketing purposes when it comes to skywriting or waving banners across the sky. They are also used for minimal cargo operations.
To operate a light aircraft, you will need a Class 2 medical certificate which is needed in order to get a PPL or LAPL.
These are less stringent as compared to the Class 1 medical certificates, and also cost relatively less. A Class 1 certificate is needed if you wish to pursue more serious aviation pursuits by obtaining a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL).
The medical assessment for the Class 2 certificate is performed by an aviation medical examiner appointed by the CAA who performs a physical exam to ensure that you are fit to take to the skies.
The exam includes a colour vision assessment, blood and urine tests, as well as heart evaluations. However, the qualification criteria aren’t as strict as those for Class 1. Reflexes are also rested during the medical exam to ensure you are neurologically healthy and ready to take off. A detailed medical history will also be taken by the AME.
Medical exams for LAPL and PPL holders are performed at Sherburn Aero Club by our in-house Dr Mark Bellamy, who himself is a fixed-wing PPL holder.
SAFETY OF LIGHT AIRCRAFT
While light aircraft are relatively safe compared to motor vehicles, they aren’t quite as fool-proof as larger aeroplanes. This is mainly because, due to the minimal training requirements for the licence needed to operate smaller aircraft, the chances of pilot error increase.
Smaller planes are also more susceptible to turbulence and bad weather conditions as compared to larger aircraft. There are also more incidents of wildlife strikes when it comes to light aircraft due to the lower altitudes that they operate at.
WHY CHOOSE SHERBURN AEROCLUB
Sherburn Aero Club, which has been operational since 1964, is the ideal place for most of your training and flying needs. 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.
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!
All of our training aircraft are extremely well maintained and equipped with the latest design options. As per standard, our Eurofox training aircraft have Digital Avionics and Ballistic Chutes, are fast, comfortable, and safe, and cater perfectly to basic flight training and advanced pilot training alike.
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.
If you wish to begin your career in aviation or wish to take to the skies as a hobby, Sherburn also offers pilot medicals to ensure a smooth journey going forward.
Call us on 01977 682 674, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or message us via our online contact form for more information on light aircraft, as well as the PPL and LAPL in the UK!
Photo by Simon Hurry on Unsplash