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FAR 103 lacks training rules of FAR 105

Posted By:
Bill Berson
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#1 Posted: 4/6/2010 15:19:13

While researching the training problems and issues concerning FAR 103 (ultralight operations) I checked FAR105 (Parachute Operations).

FAR 105 has the rules concerning tandem operations for training or rides written into the law. 

FAR 103 does not include training options and needs to be updated in a similar manner, I think. The FAA could use Part 105.45 as a template guide with appropriate changes.*


§ 105.45   Use of tandem parachute systems.


(a) No person may conduct a parachute operation using a tandem parachute system, and no pilot in command of an aircraft may allow any person to conduct a parachute operation from that aircraft using a tandem parachute system, unless—

(1) One of the parachutists using the tandem parachute system is the parachutist in command, and meets the following requirements:

(i) Has a minimum of 3 years of experience in parachuting, and must provide documentation that the parachutist—

(ii) Has completed a minimum of 500 freefall parachute jumps using a ram-air parachute, and

(iii) Holds a master parachute license issued by an organization recognized by the FAA, and

(iv) Has successfully completed a tandem instructor course given by the manufacturer of the tandem parachute system used in the parachute operation or a course acceptable to the Administrator.

(v) Has been certified by the appropriate parachute manufacturer or tandem course provider as being properly trained on the use of the specific tandem parachute system to be used.

(2) The person acting as parachutist in command:

(i) Has briefed the passenger parachutist before boarding the aircraft. The briefing must include the procedures to be used in case of an emergency with the aircraft or after exiting the aircraft, while preparing to exit and exiting the aircraft, freefall, operating the parachute after freefall, landing approach, and landing.

(ii) Uses the harness position prescribed by the manufacturer of the tandem parachute equipment.

(b) No person may make a parachute jump with a tandem parachute system unless—

(1) The main parachute has been packed by a certificated parachute rigger, the parachutist in command making the next jump with that parachute, or a person under the direct supervision of a certificated parachute rigger.

(2) The reserve parachute has been packed by a certificated parachute rigger in accordance with §105.43(b) of this part.

(3) The tandem parachute system contains an operational automatic activation device for the reserve parachute, approved by the manufacturer of that tandem parachute system. The device must—

(i) Have been maintained in accordance with manufacturer instructions, and

(ii) Be armed during each tandem parachute operation.

(4) The passenger parachutist is provided with a manual main parachute activation device and instructed on the use of that device, if required by the owner/operator.

(5) The main parachute is equipped with a single-point release system.

(6) The reserve parachute meets Technical Standard Order C23 specifications.

John Eiswirth
#2 Posted: 4/6/2010 23:02:03

FAR 103 has no requirements for training, therefore no rules for the training that is not required.  You are free to decide how to obtain whatever training you think you need and you can decide when you have enough of it.  If you want more rules, more power, more speed, more fuel, more seats, all those options are available to you, just not under part 103.  You can be almost as free as a bird (but don't fly over populated areas), but your safety is your own responsibility.  That's the deal.  Other , more expensive deals are all out there for the choosing.

Bill Berson
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#3 Posted: 4/7/2010 14:02:26

Unfortunately FAA 103 does not allow tandem training as is possible under FAR 105 parachute operations. So I am not free to obtain whatever ultralight training I need.  I have a current Commercial Pilot Certificate. I would like the option to receive additional type specific training and get checked out properly in an ultralight. This does not seem to be possible because the ultralight training exemption is no longer available. 

The purpose of my original post was to suggest that regulators consider how training works under FAR 105 and decide if this would also work for FAR 103. This could be an alternative to the training exemption process the FAA wants to avoid.   

Andrew Snedden
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#4 Posted: 4/8/2010 02:17:12


In general agreement with Bill, I wish to add the following.  Below is exemption 4274D which is part of the 23 years of proven successful regulation pertaining to optional but highly recommended ultralight flight instruction.  These exemptions were issued to the ultralight organizations of USUA, ASC and EAA.   These exemptions were prematurely eliminated, effectively eliminating ultralight flight instruction with devastating result to the American ultralight industry and community.  This exemption document contains a lot of interesting considerations and thoughts such as in the FAA analysis/summary section where it was apparently intended to incorporate some of this exemption data into FAR Part 103 by amendment.

   Finally, the FAA anticipates a rule project to amend Part 103 of the FAR. Therefore, this exemption is further amended to gather data for the rule project.”

As Bill indicates there is now a missing ultralight flight instruction system.  This is now the reality as opposed to the failed ideologies to breathe new life into general aviation by forceful assimilation or destruction of the competitor ultralight safety training system with intentional disregard for safety.

Something needs to be done since the FAA/EAA/CFI/SP/ELSA/LODA/SLSA government, mostly foreign business, organizations, etc…. have destroyed ultralight flight instruction and then failed to provide for ultralight flight instruction.

The exemptions need restored now until a subsequent amendment to part 103 pertaining strictly and only to the restoration of ultralight flight instruction can be shown to be viable.  That means no double fatal blow kill for others to feed upon.   The damage inflicted by these entities disqualifies them from further interference.

The tandem parachute regulations (small section below) shows an example of such a provision for flight training that is largely regulated by an organization recognized by the FAA.  For ultralights this would be an organization like the USUA.

Even though there may be different tandem parachute systems, it is very important to note that the instructor is required to successfully complete a manufacturer training course for the specific parachute training system used.

I ask how radically different and complex could these different tandem parachute systems be (compared to the huge variation of ultralight designs and flight characteristics), that a type specific manufacturer course and certification is required.

Likewise for maximum safety, dedicated ultralight type specific flight instructors are extremely critical to be viable, as opposed to substitute CFI instructors accustomed to airplanes and their environment; however few actually provide any ultralight training and testing.

Also note that no further FAA or any CFI rating is required for a tandem parachute instructor.  He is allowed to pack his own main chute too.

Why is there no longer an ultralight flight instructor title with so many people looking for them?


(iii) Holds a master parachute license issued by an organization recognized by the FAA, and

(iv) Has successfully completed a tandem instructor course given by the manufacturer of the tandem parachute system used in the parachute operation or a course acceptable to the Administrator.

(v) Has been certified by the appropriate parachute manufacturer or tandem course provider as being properly trained on the use of the specific tandem parachute system to be used.

The continuance of the 4274 exemptions worked.  If (optional) ultralight flight training incorporation into Part 103 is desirable for some reason as opposed to exemptions, then such incorporation could reference Part 105 for template purposes as Bill suggests.  However I would urge a most strict source of content to be drawn from the 4274 exemptions.  I would think that the continued exemptions would allow better flexibility for these critical changing times.





Exemption 4274

NOTE from Robert Comperini:

This document was scanned from hardcopy. The document has not been thoroughly checked for conversion errors.

This text is also been revised (exemption 4274E), with updated termination dates.

Exemption 4274 is the exemption granted to the United States Ultralight Association (USUA). Current USUA instructors are also given permission to operate under this exemption. The privileges of this exemption are extended to USUA instructors only by written authorization of the USUA. Each USUA instructor has a personal copy of the exemption, with a letter from the USUA granting this authorization. New students should insist on seeing this document from their prospective instructors. USUA instructors are proud of their accomplishments as instructors, and should be happy to show you these documents.

Robert Comperini, USUA AFI #A16560

Exemption No. 4274D
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
In the matter of the petition of      *
for an exemption from  103.1(a)       *
and (e)(l) through (e)(4) of the      *
Federal Aviation Regulations          *
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


By letters dated May 21, June 21, and August 10, 1990, and March 7, 1991, Mr. John Ballantyne, President, United States Ultralight Association, Inc. (USUA), P.O. Box 557, Mount Airy, MD 21771, petitioned for an amendment to Exemption No. 4274, as amended. This amendment, if granted, would allow members of the USUA to operate powered ultralight vehicles at an empty weight of 496 pounds. USUA also requests that the maximum fuel capacity be increased to 10 gallons, the maximum power off stall speed be increased to 35 knots, and the maximum air speed be increased to 75 knots.

Petitioner requires relief from the following sections of the Federal Aviation Regulations, (FAR):

Section 103.1(a) and (e)(l) through (e)(4) define, in pertinent part, the term "ultralight vehicle." For the purposes of this part, an ultralight vehicle is a vehicle that: "Is used or intended to be used for manned operation in the air by a single occupant; . . . If powered, weighs less than 254 pounds empty weight; . . . has a fuel capacity not exceeding 5 U.S. gallons; . . . is not capable of more than 55 knots calibrated airspeed at full power in level flight; and . . . has a power-off stall speed which does not exceed 24 knots calibrated airspeed."

The petitioner supports its request with the following information:

The petitioner states that its current exemption provides for the operation of a two-place ultralight vehicle to be used for the purpose of flight instruction. For the past five years, two-place vehicles have been operating under the terms of its exemption with relatively high success. USUA states that it has issued 200 current two-place ultralight training exemptions. However, USUA states that it has learned that these vehicles could be made substantially more reliable and thereby provide greater public safety if the changes it requests were made to the terms of the exemption.

USUA contends that the limitation of 350 pounds empty weight in its current exemption for two-place ultralight vehicles has been the major deterrent in developing a more useful and reliable vehicle. The petitioner states that the use of improved and proven aircraft quality materials in the construction of the airframe and wing covering could enhance the overall structure airworthiness if this weight limitation were raised. Additionally, the use of spring type landing gears and brakes could be incorporated into the design thereby reducing pilot fatigue, and the number of landing and taxiing incidents. Engines of improved design incorporating such safety features as dual ignition, increased horsepower, and improved engine/propeller combinations could be utilized, thereby improving the operational characteristics of the vehicle. USUA states that rates of climb could be improved and operation at reduced power and at reduced noise levels could be obtained. The petitioner contends that this would greatly improve the safety reliability of the powerplants and provide the vehicle with performance that equates to added safety both for the occupants as well as those on the ground. USUA states that under the current limitations there is a potential for engine failure due to the necessity of operating the engines at maximum power for extended periods of time. The petitioner adds that engine failure is one of the major enemies of all phases of aircraft operations.

The petitioner states that it seeks to bring about an improved training vehicle that will enhance overall flight safety with resultant benefits to society in the prevention of injury or death in the event of an accident. Therefore, USUA requests that the empty weight limitation be raised from 350 pounds to 496 pounds. The petitioner states that with this increase in weight comes a need for increased fuel capacity because higher horsepower engines will consume more fuel. USUA states that it would be short sighted to neglect increasing this fuel capacity. USUA recommends the maximum fuel to be ten gallons. The petitioner states that this will prevent the imminent increase in forced landings due to fuel exhaustion especially in adverse regimes of flight.

In its amended petition dated August 10, 1990, USUA states that two other increased limitations are associated with the higher weight requested. They are an increase of maximum power-off stall speed by eleven knots, from 24 to 35 knots, and an increase in the maximum air speed at full power in level flight by 20 knots, raising it from 55 to 75 knots. USUA states that these are modest increases that are directly related to weight/horsepower and will result in the vehicle performing more realistically in a training environment.

In its supplemental petition, USUA states that over the past decade many two-place ultralights have been prohibited from use in instruction because they have outgrown the exemption requirements even though their operating characteristics have remained similar to those of exempt ultralights. Ultralight trainers have gained weight as they have improved over the years. The petitioner contends that stronger landing gear, more reliable power plants, wheel brakes, and instruments have proven valuable in the training role. USUA states that each item adds weight, however, and the cumulative effect has driven many of them outside the parameters of the exemption.

The petitioner states that both registered ultralight instructors and FAA certificated flight instructors (CFI) rarely confuse the "fat" ultralight trainers with traditional light aircraft trainers like the Cessna 152 regulated by Part 91 of the FAR. USUA adds that ultralight students expect to receive flight training in a two-place trainer rather than a general aviation aircraft and CFIs largely agree. Therefore, USUA requests that these ultralight craft be allowed to operate within the exemption as ultralights of the same category rather than in Part 91 of the FAR where they are otherwise required to operate.

USUA states that the use of two-place ultralights for training has increased in many parts of the world, especially in France, West Germany, the United Kingdom, and Canada. USUA states that it has conferred with microlight aviation leaders, and it has found strong similarities internationally in the identification of two-place craft which are being used for sport and recreation and which require pilot skills similar to single place ultralight vehicles.

With its letter dated March 7, 1991, the petitioner enclosed a USUA chart which lists the definitions of ultralights around the world. USUA places emphasis on the number of countries which allow two-place ultralights and what weights and speeds are permitted. USUA contends that the indicated countries permit ultralight trainers that are a little heavier and faster than allowed in the U.S. without needing the more complex restrictions of traditional aircraft. The petitioner adds that this information implies to U.S. citizens that the rules in Part 103 of the FAR are more appropriate for these craft than is Part 91 of the FAR.

USUA recognizes that there is some point at which an aircraft's weight and speed (wing loading) increase to the point of losing ultralight characteristics. But, USUA does not believe that it has reached that limit in the United States. According to USUA, a survey of the Ultraliqht Flying magazine Buyer's Guide for 1990 shows two-place ultralights exhibiting average empty weight of 411 pounds. The petitioner states that almost all of those ultralights are over the present maximum speeds as defined in its exemption. USUA adds that the average two-place ultralight trainer of today has only 1/2 of the wing loading of a Cessna 150, but that it often cannot meet the tight restrictions of USUA's exemption and cannot, therefore, be used for flight instruction.

The petitioner states that based on its experience with the ultralight program, it believes the quality of education for ultralight pilots, and thereby safety, is enhanced by permitting in-flight instruction in two-place vehicles that operate similar to the one place vehicles. USUA states that it has found wide agreement that the two-place ultralight is the preferred trainer for students who are in training for single and two-place ultralight flight.

However, USUA contends that the weight, speed, and fuel restrictions contained in the exemption are prohibiting the use of these ultralights for training. The petitioner asserts that this dilemma has developed over the years as a result of many incremental improvements to the ultralights. USUA states that it has never before asked FAA for such an increase to the exemption, but during the past years the ultralight community has better defined ultralight trainers. USUA states that it feels confident that the proposed increases serve to itemize those limits and that it means very much to those who fly ultralights.

Finally, the petitioner states that as a non-safety issue, but one that is very important to the economy of the U.S., these changes will make the resultant ultralight vehicle more competitive in its international marketplace. USUA states that this will improve the balance of payments and will make the U.S. manufacturing industry more viable.

A summary of the petition was published in the Federal Reqister on July 2, 1990, (55 FR 27325). A total of 22 comments were received. All comments were favorable.

The FAA's analysis/summary is as follows:

As stated in Exemption No. 4274, as amended, the FAA has not yet chosen to promulgate regulations regarding pilot certification for powered ultralight vehicles. The intent was to provide for safety with a minimum amount of regulation. The ultralight community was expected to take positive action for developing and administering, under FAA guidelines, a national pilot certification program.

The FAA has determined that the powered ultralight community in conjunction with organizations such as the USUA has 6uccessfully developed and administered such a program. This is specifically true with USUA's flight instruction program under the provisions of Exemption No. 4274, as amended. The FAA recognizes that through these efforts, safety has been enhanced in the powered ultralight industry. The FAA agrees that the amendments requested by USUA will not adversely effect safety for the powered ultralight industry.

Finally, the FAA anticipates a rule project to amend Part 103 of the FAR. Therefore, this exemption is further amended to gather data for the rule project.

In consideration of the foregoing, I find that a grant of exemption is in the public interest. Therefore, pursuant to the authority contained in Sections 313(a) and 601(c) of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, delegated to me by the Administrator (14 CFR 11.53), Exemption No. 4274, as amended, is hereby further amended to permit individuals authorized by the United States Ultralight Association to give instruction in powered ultralights that have a maximum empty weight of not more than 496 pounds, have a maximum fuel capacity of not more than 10 U.S. gallons, are not capable of more than 75 knots calibrated airspeed at full power in level flight, and has a power-off stall speed which does not exceed 35 knots calibrated airspeed. The exemption is subject to the following conditions and limitations:

  1. Each operation must comply with all sections of Part 103 of the FAR except 103.1(a) and (e)(l) through (e)(4).
  2. Each ultralight operated under this exemption shall permanently display the following placard: "To be used for instruction only." This placard must have letters at least 1/2 inch in height and be displayed in a location easily visible and legible to all persons entering the ultralight vehicle.
  3. All flights carrying two occupants shall be for the purpose of instruction only, and one occupant must be either an FAA certificated flight instructor or a person recognized by the United States Ultralight Association as qualified to give instruction in an ultralight.
  4. All single-occupant flights are restricted to those associated with instruction, such as ferrying the vehicles between locations where instruction will be conducted, and must be operated by a person authorized in Condition No. 3 to give flight instruction.
  5. Prior to all two-occupant flights, the instructor must inform the student that the flight is conducted under an exemption granted by the FAA and that the FAA does not establish certification standards for powered ultralight vehicles, pilots or instructors.
  6. For identification purposes, the United States Ultralight Association shall issue an individual authorization to each person allowed to conduct operation under this exemption. Each authorization shall include an identification number and a copy of this exemption. The United States Ultralight Association shall also have a procedure to rescind this authority when needed.
  7. Each individual authorized to operate under this exemption shall provide USUA with a list (including the manufacturer, model, type, specifications and registration/identification number, if any) of the ultralight(s) he or she owns and expects to use for instruction under this exemption. The individual shall update this list every six months. An individual authorized to operate under this exemption may operate an ultralight covered by this exemption that is owned by another, provided that the ultralight displays the placard required by Condition No. 2.
  8. Each individual who operates an ultralight under the authority of this exemption must be familiar with its provisions and must have in his or her personal possession, for each operation, a copy of the authorization issued by the United States Ultralight Association and a copy of this exemption. These documents shall be presented for inspection upon request by the FAA.
  9. Each individual who operates an ultralight under this exemption and is involved in any incident, accident or mechanical malfunction as defined in Condition No. 10b shall promptly provide to USUA the information identified in Condition No. 10b.
  10. Six months from the date of this exemption and every six months thereafter, USUA will provide the Director of Flight Standards Service, AFS-l, with:

a. The name, address, telephone number, qualifications, and flight experience of each flight instructor who is currently authorized to conduct training under this exemption. This information shall also include the manufacturer, model, type, specifications and registration/identification number (if any) of the ultralight(s) which the individual owns and expects to use for instruction under this exemption.

b. A listing of any incident, accident, or mechanical malfunction of the airframe, drive train, or engine involving training under the terms and conditions of this exemption. That listing will include the ultralight's manufacturer, model, type, specifications and registration/identification number, if any; ultralight owner, address, and phone number; date of the incident/accident/malfunction; number and description of injuries, if any; number of fatalities, if any; and any information on the possible cause factors.

Unless sooner superseded or rescinded, this exemption terminates on July 31, 1993.

Thomas C. Accardi, Director, Flight Standards Service Issued in Washington, D. C., on July 26, 1991.

Click here for the original ASCII version.

Back to the Ultralight home page

Jon N. Steiger / jon@ultralighthomepage.com



Bill Berson
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#5 Posted: 4/8/2010 13:10:47

Andy, Thanks for posting the exemption documents, I was looking for them but did not find it.

The exemption process apparently worked according to the FAA, I wonder what is the current reason given for exemption denial.

I guess I will need to disagree with you and the FAA and others that focus only on flight instruction. In order to operate a proper and safe business and provide instruction, a small profit is required. This requires rides in my opinion.

America has a network of parachute centers that provide training and rides. I don't believe these businesses would exist if FAR 105 prohibited rides. FAR 105  does not prohibit rides, it actually defines "passenger" in the rule:

"Passenger parachutist means a person who boards an aircraft, acting as other than the parachutist in command of a tandem parachute operation, with the intent of exiting the aircraft while in-flight using the forward harness of a dual harness tandem parachute system to descend to the surface."

Because of this freedom, former President George Bush was able to get a proper parachute ride on his 85th birthday. Why can't President Bush do the same if he wanted an ultralight ride? This is unbelievable to me. 

Tim Autry
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#6 Posted: 5/13/2010 04:54:27



The training you ask about in your posts is actually available...just not as much.  Before LSA came around ultralight instructors were a dime a dozen.  Anyone who could buy a two-seat machine and was able to pass a BFI/AFI test were able to give instruction.  Some of these guys were really good and some were really bad...sometimes even bordering dangerous.  The FAA realized that they had opened a can of worms by using the exemption above to allow anyone and everyone to flight instruct.  There was not much regulation, oversight, training of the trainer, etc.  It was a setup for a bad situation from the beginning.  Did it work....yes.  Only because the FAA and most individuals shyed away from the bad apples and let them continue to hurt the industry, themselves, and even passengers along for the ride/instruction.

You still want to fly true Part 103 and you want type specific training.  Can this be done...well yes and no.  First there are very few aircraft that meet Part 103 by definition.  Of these "true" ultralight aircraft very few of them have a comparable two-seat version.  Now if you want to go fly a legal Part 103 Quicksilver then find someone who has a Quicksilver two-seat version that is similiar in flight charachteristics.  If the person had thier wits to them they would have transfered the machine over to ELSA before the deadline.  Most guys that have the two-seater will allow you to fly to get your proficiency up to speed before you go fly the single-seat.  Can they charge money for this service.....not in an ELSA, yet.  Now if you can find an SLSA with a flight instructor....then yes they can charge.

I have been flying ultralights and experimentals since before I even got a Private pilots license.  I am currently a Commercial/ATP pilot and still actively flying for a living.  I am all for type specific training but less so in the ultralight end of the spectrum.  Most small airplanes that meet true Part 103 specs are fairly easy to fly with only a few differences.  I am in process of purchasing an "ultralight-ish" type two seater that will be SLSA.  I see a need in the market to offer the type specific training you speak about or moreso a differences training.  I will offer full LSA training with the two seater and also offer differences training for those wanting to go fly true Part 103.  I am developing the syllabus for this training and have a few other training ideas I want to implement into the program.  I will forward more information once I am up and running.


Tim A.

Bill Berson
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#7 Posted: 5/13/2010 16:48:42


I hope your "ultralight-ish" SLSA training business works well. I have a commercial level certificate as well with a background in glider rides and was looking at the legalities of starting an "ultralight-ish" "ride" business rather than instruction. After researching the FAR's (mostly FAR 21) I found that Special Light Sport Airplanes (SLSA) are not approved for rides. This limits the potential business. On the other hand sport parachuting seems to thrive because both rides and instruction are available under current law.

It might be possible to give commercial ultralight-ish "rides" while advertising it as "intro-instruction", but this practice seems to be a gray area that could cause problems for a business.