So, you want to learn to fly ultralights. Or, you want to take a demo ride in one to see what it is like.
Since ultralights are only a single seat vehicle by definition, there is no way to provide instruction or gives rides in an ultralight vehicle*.
*Note: Prior to 2005, some organizations did have an exemption to register a two-seat "ultralight" for training use only. None of those exemptions are still valid.
Some ultralight manufacturers do make a two-seat variant of their aircraft. These aircraft would have to be licensed as a Light Sport (LSA), Experimental, or some other certificated type of aircraft and do require a pilot's license to operate. You can contact the ultralight manufacturer directly to see if they have anyone in your area that could give you a demo flight.
Flight Instruction: (Last updated Jan 2014)
First, you need to determine if you will legally be able to fly an ultralight in your area. You will notice in the regulations listed above that it is illegal to operate an ultralight "over any congested area of a city, town, settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons." If you are looking at our website, you are most likely living near the Indianapolis area. If so, you are going to have to drive a long way away from the city to find uninhabited areas large enough to safely fly your ultralight. Our club started as an ultralight group and even our home airport (Westfield, I72) now has housing off the south end of the runway and a sports complex off the north end making legal ultralight flight a bit tricky.
After you have determined that you will be able to operate your ultralight, you will need to get instruction in an aircraft that is similar to the ultralight you intend to fly. Up until 2004/2005 some organizations (like EAA) had an FAA exemption that allowed registered two-person "ultralights" to be used for training purposed only.
Unfortunately those exemptions were grossly abused. A lot of people started registering their aircraft just to take up friends. Then it got to the point where people didn't even bother registering the planes but just operated them as if they did. As the two-place "ultralights" became popular the other regulations started to get flexed, to the point that some people were flying 150mph aircraft with 15 gallons of fuel and still called it an ultralight!
So, when the FAA created the new Sport Pilot & Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) regs they voided all of those existing exemptions. As a result there are no longer any two-place ultralight trainers. The idea was that ultralight instructors would get Sport Pilot Instructor licenses and purchase certified LSA versions of the ultralights to train with. Unfortunately the price of these aircraft are considerably higher than the unregulated ultralights of the past and most former instructors found that potential ultralight customers didn't want to pay higher prices for the instruction. So without inexpensive training for each specific ultralight aircraft type, ultralights have been in a huge decline over the last decade.
So what do you do if you would like to get involved in ultralight vehicle flying? Currently the best course of action is to get training in a similar light sport aircraft (LSA) and then transition into a single-seat ultralight. Be open with the instructor that you plan to transition to an ultralight, and also be open to the idea that if you take the training you might want to go ahead and get your sport pilot's license to use in the future.
Here are our recommendations for local instructors (let them know that we sent you):
Why Fly Inc (Fortville, Indianapolis NE)
- Paul Whybrew is a long-time member of the Indy Flyers Club, and is the best PPC instructor in the state.
Davis Aviation (Eminence)
- At last report, Ron Davis was the only weight-shift instructor in the state.
Flight Training Centers (Westfield, Sheridan, Kokomo)
- FTC has an Aeronca Champ based at Westfield and can provide great fixed-wing pilot training at a more affordable price than other airports with a more "commercial pilot" training program. Most likely any fixed wing training that you will receive will be in a Champ or J-3 Cub type aircraft. These are not considered "ultralight" type aircraft, but are probably as close as you're going to find in the Indianapolis area. At last report there was only one instructor in the state flying an "ultralight" type aircraft, which was a Challenger II in Vincennes, IN.
More instructors can be located through: http://www.sportpilot.org/