Build Easy to Assemble Low-Cost Ultralight Aircraft From Kits

Building light, low-cost ultralight aircraft that are easy to fly and assemble from a kit. Includes ultralight history, aircraft information and ultralight photos.

| February/March 1997


Twin-powered parachutes such as this Paracenter ($6,300) are used for training.


Low-cost ultralight aircraft are cheap, easy to fly and assemble . . . and you don't have to be a pilot to own one. 

It starts with a gentle rumbling in the seat of your pants, and a sudden burst of wind and speed that causes the skin on the back of your neck to tighten and your hand to firm on the stick. Tires pitch and shake for a moment over clumps arid irregularities in the grass strip and any local dogs come bounding. The small engine mounted just ahead of the pilot's seat winds up and sends vibrations through the cab as the ground, barely a foot from your shoes, gradually and then suddenly fades away. The same engine that appeared so small on .the ground, pulls you into the sky with amazing certainty. Nerves quickly ease, replaced by a spreading grin . . . whether it's your first flight or fiftieth. Almost impossibly, it seems, local cornfields and pumpkin patches that you've only seen from the stunted view of the highways suddenly become a mosaic of colors and details. Once you get to just over a thousand feet from the fields, the kid in you takes over and you throw the aircraft into some tight turns and steep descents over the pine trees.

Ultralight aircraft just shouldn't exist in a country in which you are no longer permitted to go without a seatbelt, in which insurance costs for an average car regularly exceed $2,000 a year. The freedom to fly an airplane that you build yourself, maintain yourself, and take absolute personal responsibility for is so redolent of the visions we had for this country in the first place . . . that it is simply too good to be true.

The Private Pilot Maze

There is arguably no industry in the world as heavily regulated as powered flight. Becoming a private pilot typically requires 50-60 hours of flight instruction as well as ground school, which combined take five to seven months to complete. Lesson expenses vary, but graduating with a license for less than $4,000 would constitute a miracle. Completing a Class-3 medical exam is also mandatory, which weeds out, of course, any candidates with major health problems or those who've had procedures such as by-pass surgery. Vision acuity of no worse than 20/40 is also required. Of course, costs of the licensing procedure are dwarfed by the daunting prospect of actually affording a plane. Recently, Cessna announced that they were re-releasing their venerable 172-class small airplane, at the industry-shattering cost of just $170,000. Burn 40 or 50 gallons of "av-gas" (aviation fuel) a crack and see the lifetime costs escalate further, both for yourself and the environment you pour the exhaust into.

Once in the air, much of a private pilot's time is spent adhering to the rules of the road. Takeoff, landing, and flight path patterns must be rigidly adhered to, meaning that significant amounts of time must be spent simply plotting position and correcting course, speed, and altitude.

It's difficult to fault the government for these regulations; they are all intended to keep planes safely in the air, but many pilots have suggested to me that somewhere along the endless line of well-intentioned, sensible rules, all the fun has been taken out of flying. The industry is and always will be at odds with itself. Flight is freedom, a temporary compromise with air and gravity, and the more we weigh it down with earthly considerations, the less enjoyable it becomes. My dream of flying ended when an eye exam revealed, even with corrective lenses, that my vision was 20/60 or thereabouts. After a lifetime of dreaming of model planes, graduating to casual study and then to endless hours hanging around at the local airport in Burlington, VT, I was forced to turn tail and move on. There has been an alternative to this dilemma, though much maligned, for over a generation, however.

7/19/2017 5:44:18 AM

I have more interested to build the small solar aircraft.

7/13/2017 1:32:53 AM

Stalker06 I did see a kit that sold entire plane and also pallet sections to help cost. But,each section "pallet" has an additional $250 each and I think there were 6-7 sections. For ex. Landing gear then fuselage then fabric and so on

7/13/2017 1:29:01 AM

I would also like to go that route. Can't remember where I saw it. It was a fixed wing with multiple crates ordered as you go or more like in my situation as can afford. MM

7/13/2017 1:28:58 AM

Stalker06 I did see a kit that sold entire plane and also pallet sections to help cost. But,each section "pallet" has an additional $250 each and I think there were 6-7 sections. For ex. Landing gear then fuselage then fabric and so on

7/15/2016 3:30:15 AM

I am not rich, to say the least, but would be able to purchase the parts as I go... Is there a possibility of doing this? I'm and old Army pilot, who misses flying very much, and this is the only way I can see myself getting back in the air. My wife are just now relocating to TN, and the scenery is absolutely beautiful. I pray that there may be a way to purchase as I go. Many Thanks

3/3/2015 6:53:07 PM

I am interested in building a low-end priced ultralight plane.

3/3/2015 6:51:21 PM

I am interested in building a low-end priced ultralight airplane.

9/21/2013 6:59:01 AM

very interesting article. visit for the travel tips :

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