ultralights were basically hang gliders with engines, but which looked
a bit like normal aeroplanes, with a body and conventional tailplane.
However, the most successful approach basically added a motor to a hang
glider. In most 1970's attempts, the motor was mounted to the wing itself.
Many positions were tried. On top, on the keel at the rear, and even twin
engines on booms either side of the pilot (the rear mounted versions were
affectionately known as "toe cutters"). However, most ultralights
from the mid 1970's onward have tended to be traditional wing and tail
designs, with aerodynamic controls. So, enter the "Trike". In
the late '70s, French and British designers realised there was no reason
why a powered hang glider needed to be foot-launched, and the best place
for a motor was on the pilot. The built a tricycle undercarriage with
a pusher prop, suspended from the normal hang point on the glider. The
"trike", as it became known, quickly became popular in Europe.
Of course, it was only a matter of months before someone decided to put
a second seat on one. Weather-frustrated hang glider pilots have since
flocked to trikes as a way of getting airtime using existing skills.
Trikes are no longer just converted hang gliders, but are designed specifically
for power. The performance of modern trikes compares favourably with conventional
ultralights. Cruise speeds range from 60 to 110kph, and trikes have among
the best climb rates of all ultralights. Partial enclosures (pods) keep
the worst of the wind and cold away. In Europe, the trike remains the
most common and popular form of ultralight, although it is slightly less
popular in Australia. New trikes are generally cheaper than new ultralights
and have an enviable safety record. There are less moving parts to go
wrong, and they are spin and over-speed resistant. They can stored in
your garage and still have room for the car, be assembled or dismantled
within half an hour and are easily transported on a trailer. Once flying,
you can do anything or go anywhere a conventional registered ultralight
can. Certified trikes are usually limited to maximum pitch angles of plus
or minus 45degrees to the horizon. Bank angles are normally limited to
60degrees. Trikes are not certified for aerobatics. Loops are not sanctioned
by any manufacturer. A failed loop which results in the trike stalling
upside down will invariably result in a very high descent rate.
schools offer Trial Introductory Flights where you will get a taste of
the way a trike flies and a chance to try the controls. When you take
a course, each lesson will begin with a briefing on the skills to be learnt,
and solo flight is usually achieved after about 10hours dual instruction
and completion of a basic aeronautical knowledge exam. Another 10hours
or so are required before you will receive your licence to fly unsupervised.
Additional ratings, cross country navigation flight, a radio operators
endorsement, passenger carrying endorsement, and formation flying ratings
can all be gained later. All new commercially available trikes are registered
as Civil Aviation Order 95.32 category aircraft and are required to have
been certified to an acceptable standard. All legal 2-seaters belong to
this category. Owner-builder category trikes (CAO 95.10) may be re-sold
subject to special provision. Trikes can be registered with either the
AUF (Australian Ultralight Federation) or the HGFA (Hang Gliding Federation
of Australia). Both associations issue Pilot Certificates and endorsements
for after appropriate training.
Where do you get a Trike?
There is only one commercial certified trike builder in Australia - AirBorne
Windsports, Newcastle, NSW, which makes the Edge 2-seater. Pre-built,
certified trikes are also imported from the UK. These trikes include the
two-seat Quantum, Quasar and XL models, and the single-seat Chaser-S.
Second-hand trikes are available from about $6000 for a serviceable machine
or you can build your own from plans for about the same amount. You should
note that although some second hand or imported machines have 2 seats,
many cannot be legally flown two-up, or may not have been approved for
use. So always check before forking out the readies!
is available at many ultralight airfields around Australia. At present,
the majority of trike instructors operate under the HGFA, but the list
of trike-qualified AUF instructors is growing. If you are a GA (General
Aviation) three-axis pilot thinking of converting to weight-shift, conversion
courses are available, but it is important to remember trikes have reverse
sense controls compared with 3-axis aircraft. This means you pull the
control bar toward you to speed up, and push away from you to slow down.
You move the control bar to the right to turn left and vice versa. When
nosewheel steering, push right, go left - none of which is instinctive
to a GA trained pilot. Many instructors say 3-axis pilots are their most
difficult students, especially when cockpit load is high and a fast reaction
is required. Basically, be prepared for your instructor to take a bit
longer to solo you due to concerns over this instinctive response aspect.