Ultralight aircraft accidents, experimental aircraft accidents, light sport aircraft accident reports.

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Covering the World of Ultralight Aviation

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Ultralight Accident Data in Canada 1980 to 1990

When an accident of major proportion happens in commercial aviation many hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent, in trying to identify the cause, or causes of the accident. Aviation experts from many fields are called into evaluate, test, probe and diagnose, in an effort to find out exactly what happened. This information is then compiled into standard forms so that it can be digested by computers, and then printed out as statistics. Statistical data can play an important role in identifying some of the patterns associated with an accident. In Canada all aircraft accidents including those involving ultralights are investigated by the Canadian Aviation Safety Board.

The Safety Board then issues a report. The purpose of which is not to find fault, but rather to help in the prevention of further occurrences. The data from these reports can then be studied to help identify trends in aviation accidents. The following is a compilation of accident data from the Canadian Aviation Boards reports. The data is inclusive to ultralight aircraft for the years 1980 to 1990. Three hundred and four accidents were recorded by the Canadian Aviation Safety board for the purpose of this report and entered into information available through Statistics Canada. This of course does not represent all of the ultralight accidents occurring in Canada during this time period! If one were to use my field as an example I would say that for every accident that was reported 3 or 4 more went unreported. With no physical injury and little damage to the craft the pilot would simply, fold the plane down and repair it.

In an effort to make the data easier to read and understand, graphs have been included. These graphs are not percentage graphs. They are the amount compared to the total of 304. That means that if you look at the graph and one column reads 80 it means that of the 304 accidents 80 involved this part of the report. Some columns may not add up to 304. Data may not have been available on certain areas of the report.

For example: A pilot may have taken off and then experienced engine failure causing him/her to stall the aircraft, strike a tree and walk away without injury. Yet there may not of been any information available regarding pilot license or hours flown. This craft would be entered into several of the categories on the accompanying graphs or information, but not entered into the areas where information was not available.

This information is broken down into.

1. General Information 2. Pilot license
3. Pilot ultralight hours 4. Phase of flight operation
5. Cause of accident 6. Result
7. Type of kit 8. Kit generation
9. Land, Water, Skis

1. General Information:This includes the Region as designated by Transport Canada, where the accident occurred the total injuries, fatalities, year the number of aircraft registered as ultralights, and the number of pilots registered, as Ultralight Private and Ultralight Commercial.

2. Pilot license:This covers the type of license the pilot involved in the accident possessed at the time of the accident.

The categories are listed below.

1. Conventional license 2. No license
3. U/L Student pilot permit 4. U/L Private Pilot License
5. U/L Commercial Pilot License

3. Pilot ultralight hours:The amount of hours the pilot had in ultralight flight time, or on type experience.

4. Phase of flight operation :This is the phase of operation that the aircraft was involved in when the accident occurred.

5. Cause of accident :The causes leading up to the accident, stall, engine failure, weather, maintenance, structural failure, control systems failure, reduction drive failure, prop failure, airframe failure, engine modifications, medical, aerobatics, construction related problems, all fall into this category.

6. Result :What happened to the plane and pilot after the cause. For example a pilot may have lost an engine, stalled his craft, and collided with a tree, resulting in an injury or fatality.

7. Type of kit :The type of kit involved in the accident which are as follows:

  1. Assembly kits: where the craft simply had to be assembled with no building of any major parts. Normally a 50 to 150 hour operation. A Quicksilver MX, Rally or Skyseeker would fall into this category.
  2. A construction kit: where the pilot is delivered a kit that where he is required to build some of the major components. Normally a 200 to 500 hour operation. A CGS Hawk, Chinook, Bushmaster, Kolb, Lazair.
  3. A raw materials kit or a kit that is built from plans: Here the pilot is required to build all of his craft from raw materials. These materials can be purchased from one manufacturer, or from several sources. Normally an operation that takes over 500 hours. A Skypup, Mini Max, Fisher.
  4. A factory built kit: an aircraft that is completely factory assembled ready to fly. An aircraft available only as a factory built plane.

8. Kit generation : This is whether the craft is controlled by:

  1. Weight shift: where the control system for pitch and bank required the pilot to move his weight fore and aft or side to side.
  2. 1st Generation:where the craft has a seat, and control system, but is in most cases wire braced, with high dihedral and equipped with spoilerons. With a cruise speed of between 30-35 mph. MX, Rally, Skyseeker.
  3. 2nd Generation :where the craft is enclosed or semi enclosed, is generally equipped with ailerons or some kind of wing warping system. These craft have a cruise speed of between 35 to 55 mph. Lazair, Chinook etc.
  4. 3rd Generation:where the craft is enclosed, conventional looking in appearance, equipped with ailerons, and standard aircraft controls. Cruise speed usually above 55 mph. Pelican, Kolb, Beaver, Bushmaster, Renegade Challenger etc.

9. Land, Water, Skis: whether the craft was equipped with wheels, floats, or skis.

1 General Information:

According to informed sources, Canada had in 1990, approximately 3100 register ultralight aircraft.

Ontario 873
Quebec 675
Pacific region 558 includes British Columbia and parts of Alberta
Western Region 532 covers the rest of Alberta and the Yukon
Central region 341 Manitoba, Saskatchewan and part of Northern Ontario
Atlantic region 134 the Maritime provinces

Figures as of January 1 1988 indicated there were a total of 1674 ultralight private pilots licenses issued, with 40 of these being female. Also as of January 1 1988 there were 775 Commercial Ultralight Pilots registered in Canada, with 17 of those being female. For the purposes of this report, in Canada during the period 1980 to 1990 there were 304 recorded ultralight accidents, resulting in 129 injuries, and 42 fatalities.

The accidents recorded started at a low of 3 in 1980 , rose to 7 in '81, 24 in '82, 61 in '83, 64 in '84, 51 in '85, 55 in '86, and 39 in '87. The first recorded fatalities were in 1981 with 2, 11 in '82, 6 in '83, 9 in '84, 7 in '85, 3 in '86, and 4 in '87. Please note that two of the fatalities involved a float plane accident where the pilots survived a structural failure of the floats, but drowned while trying to swim to shore. Neither pilot was equipped with a life jacket, and the craft had remained afloat.

In three other separate cases, aircraft were involved in accidents three years in a row. The first two years the planes were reported to have suffered serious damage, and the pilot serious injuries. The third year that these same three craft were involved in an accident they were destroyed and their pilots were listed as fatalities.

Another interesting fact, one aircraft was involved in 2 accidents, resulting in 4 fatalities. In different years and provinces.
4 fatalities also occurred on original prototype aircraft that later entered production.
The first ultralights in Canada were weightshift control, a system that most conventional pilots would not be familiar with. Yet of the 10 fatalities involving weight shift aircraft half involved conventional aircraft pilots with no ultralight experience of any kind.

There are 10 Provinces and 2 Territories, in Canada. No reported accidents occurred in the Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland.

Location of Reported Accidents:

Ontario 87 British Columbia 59
Quebec 55 Alberta 50
Nova Scotia 15 Saskatchewan 14
New Brunswick 10 Manitoba 9
Yukon 5

The first recorded injuries also occurred in '81 with 7, '82 with 24, '83 with 33, '84 with 17, '85 with 24, '86 with 24 and '87 with 16.

Province: Accidents: Injuries: Fatalities:
Ontario 87 39 9
British Columbia 59 19 10
Quebec 55 24 8
Alberta 50 28 10
Nova Scotia 15 1 1
New Brunswick 10 1 0
Manitoba 9 5 2
Yukon 5 0 1

2 Type Of License Held:

Number of Accidents: Type of License: Number of Fatalities:
80 Conventional Pilots 10
53 Not Licensed Pilots 12
26 Ultralight Student Pilots 2
36 Ultralight Licensed Pilots 4
25 Ultralight Instructors 8
6 Unknown Status

In one case an individual with no pilot license or flight experience, purchased a weight shift craft at a household auction sale, started it up and attempted to fly it home. Luckily he only sustained minor injuries although the plane was written off.

In one of the fatalities involving a student pilot the student apparently stalled on take-off from about 150 feet. Eye witnesses indicated that the student made no attempt to recover from the stall. Investigation later revealed that the student had never been taught proper stall recovery.

In another case involving a fatality the student pilot was sent up on his second solo flight, some 3 months after his first flight. His initial training had been done on tractor configuration aircraft powered by a twin cylinder 45 hp engine. Which had a windshield, and tip rudders. The student was taught from the left hand seat which meant his throttle was on the right and the joystick on his left. The student had no ground to air communication with his instructor on either flight. His solo aircraft was a PUSHER, completely enclosed, with a wing warping system for roll control, powered by a 28 hp single cylinder engine the throttle control was located on the LEFT, and the joystick on the RIGHT. (Completely opposite to what he was use to). He was sent up in a mild 90 degree crosswind. On landing the student had to clear a set of hydro lines before touching down on the airstrip, which was approximately 60 feet wide. In addition the student had never flown from this airstrip before.

Several injuries were reported involving licensed ultralight pilots who for one reason or another simply walked into their propellers.

Others involved U/L pilots who despite being told that they were low on fuel and should fuel up. Headed out on flights where they simply ran out of gas and had to make forced landings, sometimes into some inhospitable terrain.

3. Pilot Ultralight Hours

Number of Pilots: Flight Experience:
105 None
53 1-5 hours
24 6-10 hours
19 11-19 hours
19 20-29 hours
23 30-50 hours
35 51-100 hours
26 101 hours

4. Phase Of Operation:

  • 120 accidents happened during take off
  • 95 during flight
  • 89 on landing

5. Cause Of Accident:

  • Engine failure or engine problems contributed to 80 of the 304 accidents.
  • Weather related problems contributed to 45.(but no fatalities a possible indication pilots were able to land in areas where a conventional aircraft might not)
  • Maintenance was a contributing factor in 30 cases.(Included in the maintenance figure is accidents involving reduction drives, although most reduction drive failures were design related).
  • Structural failure of airframe or floats was a contribution factor in 25 accident. (5 structural failure accidents involved failure of floats). No reported structural failures on third generation aircraft manufactured since 1985.
  • Control system failure was a factor in 21 of the 304 accidents.
  • Reduction drive failures contributed to 16 of the accidents. (With one brand of reduction drive involved in 12 of the failures.)
  • Propeller failure or damage contributed to 10 of the accidents. Several cases involved the air cleaner coming off the carburetor and hitting the prop.
  • Airframe modifications contributed to 9 of the accidents.
  • Engine modifications contributed to 6 of the accidents.
  • Medical considerations were a factor in 5 of the accidents.
  • Aerobatics contributed to 3 of the accidents.
  • Construction related problems were reported a factor in 2 of the accidents.

6. Result Of Accident Cause:

  • As a result of the above, 106 accidents reportedly involved the aircraft stalling which was a contributing factor in 10 fatalities.
  • 120 of the aircraft collided with something on landing, contributing to 5 fatalities. Several of these collisions could have been avoided had the craft been equipped with brakes.
  • Structural failures of airframe or floats was a contributing factor in 16 fatalities.
  • Engine failure was a factor in 9 accidents involving fatalities.
  • A control system failure of one kind or another contributed to 3 accident fatalities.
  • The pilots medical condition contributed to 4 of the accident fatalities.
  • Aircraft maintenance was a factor in 4 fatal accidents.
  • Reduction drive failures were a factor in 3 fatal accidents.
  • Engine modifications, airframe modifications, and prop failure were factors in 1 fatal accident each.
  • Despite the fact that weather was the second highest contributing factor to accidents it was not responsible for any fatalities.

7. Aircraft Generation involved in accidents

  • 32 of the accidents involved weight shift aircraft
  • 72 of the accidents involved 1st generation aircraft
  • 113 of the accidents involved 2nd generation aircraft.
  • 79 accidents involved 3rd generation aircraft.

8 Aircraft accidents by kit type

  • 192 of the accidents involved assembly kits
  • 90 of the accidents involved construction kits
  • 14 of the accidents involved raw materials or kits built from plans
  • 2 of the aircraft involved factory built planes

9 Aircraft :

19 of the aircraft involved in accidents were equipped with floats, only 5 of the aircraft involved in accidents were on skis the balance of the aircraft 280 were on wheels.

Fatalities Breakdown:

Birdman Atlas 6 Birdman Chinook 6
Skyseeker 6 Lazair 6
Beaver 3 Eagle 2
Vector 2 Bushmaster 2
Skyrider 2 Toucan 2
Skypup 1 Terratorn 1
Hummer 1 Sunburst 1

Structural Failure Breakdown:

Eagle 2 Chinook 4
Atlas 4 Toucan 1
Quicksilver MX 1 Hummer 1
Skyseekers 2 Loneranger 1
Lazair 2 Vector 1
Unknown 1 Various Craft 5 float failures

Aircraft with Reduction Drive Related Breakdowns:

Tierra 6 Skyseeker 5
Atlas 2 Skyrider 2
Chinook 1 Wizard 1
P 38 Lighting 1

Aircraft with Engine Failure:

Lazair 14 Quicksilver MX 8
Beaver 6 Skyseeker 6
Atlas 5 Chinook 5
Tierra 5 Eagle 2
Skyrider 2 Pelican 2


The initial purpose of the research for this report was

  1. To try and identify whether any particular aircraft or designs were more prone to accidents.
  2. To attempt to identify some of the causes of ultralight accidents.
  3. To see whether there were solutions that might be undertaken to make ultralight aviation safer.


It is my conclusion, based on 20 years of very in depth participation in the ultralight industry, that although there were some designs in the early stages of ultralight aviation that might have been considered "unsafe", the majority of ultralights produced from 1983 to 1988 are safe.

In fact the structural failure data indicates that no aircraft of third generation manufactured since 1985 has been involved in a structural or control system failure, in Canada.

This is not to say that some improvement can not be made on all models, by all manufacturers. (There are still one or two designs, and manufacturers that I myself would not fly or deal with).

It is interesting to note that although many people might describe the early craft as "lawnchairs with wings", or "flying clotheslines", the majority of these craft have a very good safety record. ( It is hoped that time permitting future issues will see a list of ultralight aircraft and their manufacturers with ratings.)

It was not the designs that were causing the craft to be involved in accidents or fatality statistics. It was the pilots lack of knowledge into the type of aviation they were involved in, and manufactuers lack of knowledge to powered ultralight flight.

In the reports that I was able to obtain craft with possible structural problems of the type that might be contributed to the aircraft were: identified as Vector, Eagle, Skyrider, Sunburst, Atlas, (and possibly Chinook) research suggests that these craft may have or may have had structural problems, of one kind or another.

In several other reports the pilot, apparently exceeded the VNE of the aircraft. (This is not a structural failure of the craft in my mind, but a failure of the pilot to properly understand the limitations of the craft he was flying.)

The number of failures of float equipped ultralights would indicate that the structural integrity of float systems, used on ultralight aircraft,( possibly due to the weight restrictions placed on them), should be looked at.


The causes of ultralight accidents, are two fold.

Pilot Education

  1. Pilot education into
  1. the different type and feel of control systems in ultralight aviation verses other forms of aviation, the different speeds, control ability, flight parameters, flight envelopes and required pilot inputs. In other words conventional pilots should require some kind of training in most cases to be competent on ultralight aircraft.
  2. the differences in each ultralights limitations
  3. its maintenance requirements
  4. the live expectancy of its airframe, engine, redrive system, and materials.

It is quite evident that the majority of pilots having ultralight accidents are those with limited exposure to ultralight aviation.

It would be better for the industry as a whole if more information was made available from manufacturers, pilot associations, and governments on the aforementioned subjects. This information could be in the form of training requirements, educational material, whether video, classroom instruction or written form.

It should better outline ultralight aircraft material life expectancies, protective measures, hazards, and suggested maintenance requirements.

Also more information should be made available on aircraft, pilot associations, manufacturing associations, insurance, flight training facilities, accessory manufacturers,and ultralight publications.

As well some sort of ongoing forum should be established to aid instructors, mechanics, pilots, and others involved in the ultralight industry of new techniques, innovations, and problems and solutions associated with ultralight aviation.


  1. The education of the manufacturer into proper
  1. selection, of and installation of, fuel, engine, propeller, exhaust and reduction drive systems.
  2. and implementation of a more rigorous flight testing program including all engine and airframe components under actual rigorous flight conditions.

Many times the phrase "ultralight test pilot", has been used. That is what the ultralight buyer of the past was, (and in some cases still is).

Craft that had proven "structural strength and integrity, in, in house testing", had failed "the test of time" in " infield operation and application".

If the manufacturers had put their craft through a 400-500 hour inflight testing program, in an environment closer to that found in a training school. They would have eliminated over 90 per cent of the problems encountered by the pilots who had purchased their craft. (Going broke in the process for lack of product to sell).

If the manufactures had done this type of testing they would have endured the gut wrenching feeling one gets as the powerplant driving his craft fails because of the manufacturers inadequate knowledge of powerplant , reduction drive, and control system installations.

If the manufacturers had spent more time educating themselves into the type of materials being used, their life expectancies, and maintenance requirements, many of the headaches, and bad press associated with powered ultralight flight failures could have been avoided.

The ultralight movement has grown in North American. Grown from babe in arms to blushing young bride. Let us hope that the experiences encountered in youth will act as solid building blocks of knowledge for the future.

Dave Loveman

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