Is ultralight flying dangerous? How dangerous is ultralight flying?

 Ultralight Aircraft News
Covering the World of Ultralight Aviation


Airfield By Appt Only
(by appointment ONLY)

Click here For Rotax Aircraft  
Engine Information

The L'il Buzzard, L'il Hustler, and L'il Hustler SS two place ultralight trainers and light sport aircraft.

Top 10 reasons to consider a
 L'il Buzzard, L'il Hustler or
L'il Hustler SS!

The World's first Lightsport and Ultralight Aircraft weekly web video webcast!

If you have high speed internet and Windows Media Player installed you can watch our weekly Light Sport and Ultralight aircraft webcast!

Each issue is 25 to 35 minutes in length and is live on the web for 7 days.
Click here for more information!

 Click here for this months specials!


Have you updated your Bing Carb! Failure to do so could result in an engine out! Click here for more information!

Our monthly newsletter
packed full of information about ultralight aviation!

How dangerous is ultralight flying?

In the year 2000 I turned 50 years old. For 28 years of those 50 I have been flying ultralight, experimental, homebuilt aircraft. When I look back over the things that I have done, motorcycle racing, snowmobile racing, parachuting, scuba diving, boating, skiing, water skiing, or just driving my car, truck, motor home or motorcycle on the road - and consider which has brought me closer to "the woman upstairs who looks after me" - it is the sport of flying!

It is interesting when I reflect back to see at what age I became aware of my first "close encounter". I had won a contest for selling the most subscriptions to the home delivery of the Toronto Star - I was 7 years old. The Star picked a group of us up who had won and taken us down to Toronto for the train ride to Crystal Beach - an amusement park.

While waiting for a street car - I dropped something and ran out into traffic to retrieve it. I was hit by the street car and went under the "cow catcher" - escaping with just cuts and bruises.

My next encounter was in an old barn full of hay - a group of us were having a party in an barn and were jumping off the loft into a stall full of hay. I was having a great time. Then as I landed in the hay I heard my shirt rip and felt pain in my shoulder. Looking down I saw the new shirt my mother had bought me just for the party - turning red! Amazingly as I think back my thoughts were "moms going to kill me" for ripping the shirt. What had happened was that I had just landed on one of those old 5 tine pitch forks - the ones with the long thin curved tines! Two of the tines dug into my shoulder - while a third cut my ear.

Over the years I have kept a little diary of "my close encounters" - digging them out for this article. Is flying ultralights dangerous? 
For example is it more dangerous than driving a car, I have had a license since I was 16.? 
Two accidents both minor fender benders.
Driving a motorcycle - 4 accidents no injuries.
Driving a snowmobile - a number of accidents but no injuries.

Flying ultralights? - 
My first ultralight accident happened while flying a weight shift "Birdman Atlas." It was powered by a single cylinder Yamaha go cart engine of about 11 hp. I had become airborne and was flying when I noticed my climb rate was not going to allow me to clear a group of trees at the end of the runway. I made a decision to abort - landed the plane safely but on a little bit of an incline. The plane rolled back, the tail wheel dug into the ground and the two boom tubes going to the tail snapped off.

Rotec Rally Big Lifter - I had just taken off with a student on board - we were about 75 feet in the air over some very high corn - when the student inadvertently shut the engine off. Dead sticking us into the corn - no injuries just a little damage to the plane.

Quicksilver MX 11- A customer asked me to fly his plane over to my field for some training. It was about a 2 hour flight from his place to mine. During the flight I noticed that I was having to keep pushing the stick farther and farther forward to keep flying level. I decided to land and find out what was wrong - but as soon as I backed power down the plane would start to porpoise, and elevator control response was non existant. But I found with power and full stick forward I could still fly the plane. I flew it like this for about 20 minutes until I arrived at the sod fields I was using for training. Over that time I had been able to get the plane down from 1500 feet to about 800 - but every time I backed power down the plane would stall! Loosening off my seat belt I moved forward in the seat, this brought the nose down. Undoing the seat belt allowed me to move out to the very edge of the seat. I flew it down to the ground like this then chopped power and the old girl landed with a thump but landed. Investigation revealed the king post had come all the way down - because the owner had applied never seize to the threads of the adjuster.
For more information click here.

Quicksilver on floats: While doing a shoot for a bill board advertisement I was flying a Quicksilver MX on floats along the Ottawa River. As I was touching down on the water the floats separate at the seam and the plane somersaulted and sank. At the time I had a full face helmet and a chest parachute on me. Trying to undo my seat belt I couldn't get the latch released. Finally it released and I escaped from the plane and attempted to reach the surface. BUT something was holding me back - my parachute cable was attached to the airframe. I had to unscrew the connector before I could reach the surface. Breaking the surface I still could not breath, the helmets visor would not break free and the helmet was full of water, which meant I had to undo the helmet strap. According to witnesses I was under water for nearly 4 minutes. It is amazing what you can do when under fire like that.
For more information click here.

Rotec Panther 11 - This is story that is a story in itself! The long and short of it is - after take off and climb out to 1,000 feet - as soon as I backed down on the power the plane began to "porpoise" or "oscillate." After about 10 minutes I was able to keep the oscillations constant - that is I would apply pressure to the elevator "in tune" with the ocillations. This allowed me to get the plane down close to the ground where I sort of landed the plane at the bottom of an oscillation. The problem was that the elevator push pull tube was about 14 feet long with NO support - and a bend at both ends. Every time you applied elevator input the tube flexed and then unloaded.

Buccaneer Amphibian XA - I had just finished building my plane, had about 7 hours on it when I got caught in a some rough air over Lake Simcoe, when all of a sudden the plane pulled to the left and started a long slow spiral. Fighting the plane with spoilerons and rudder I was able to prevent the spiral from getting any worse BUT could not get out of it. I landed on the water sort of side ways - but with no damage. 
Inspection revealed the trailing edge spar had bent upwards about about 18 inches from the root tube. I loaded the plane up and took it back to the factory, they couldn't believe it until they checked all the six other aircraft they had sold - all had deformed trailing edge spars!
For more information click here.

Antique Parasol - While at Sun N Fun I had helped a manufacturer get his little 277 Rotax running - something no one else had been able to do for the first three days of the show. In gratitude he asked me if I would like to fly his beautiful little craft. Of course I said yes and after a very thorough preflight took to the air. After about 30 minutes of flying I decided to do a couple "S" turns - coming out of one I pressed on the right rudder pedal my foot went forward but the rudder did not respond. I was able to level the plane with ailerons and fly back using left rudder and ailerons. Landing the plane safely, and then purposely ground looping to stop from going off the runway. Inspection revealed the 4 screws securing the pedal to the wooden floor had been torn from the floor.

Lazair: My wife saw me watching video of a parachute being deployed on an ultralight that brought both pilot and plane down safely. She bought me one for my birthday. I installed in on my Lazair (also had one installed on my Challenger 11). While flying around the outskirts of Lake Simcoe I was doing some steep turns and pull ups when I flew into a flock of birds (geese I think) one hit on the engine. The plane jerked to one side, I shut both engines down and with rudder and aileron was able to fly the plane. About 15 seconds later the wing failed. Disoriented I tried to find the parachute handle, finally finding it I pulled it heard a loud bang, felt a jolt, then a few seconds later another jolt - and I was down on the ground. Two broken ankles. 
For more information on Lazair troubleshooting click here.

Chinook WT 11 single place: At an altitude of about 800 feet, while on approach to a landing I noted that there was no "feel" on the stick, no pressure, and the plane was picking up speed, moving the stick back and forth, nothing happened, the crafts speed was now over 75 mph, no matter what the dealer did with rudders, or joystick, the plane would not respond. The craft was now about 150 feet in the air and headed for the very end of the runway, when the plane experienced a sudden lifting action, the plane actually started to climb with nose down, along with the lift came a fair amount of turbulence, and all of a sudden pressure returned to the joystick. I landed the plane, several onlookers rushed to the craft, including the owner. I sat in the plane for several minutes, gathered my thoughts, then climbed out. A check of all control systems, found no problem. The elevator worked, the ailerons worked, no cables were broken frayed or, disconnected. A check of the washout on the wings revealed, a slight deviation from factory specs but only a very slight difference.

Challenger 11: While flying along at 3500 feet with a student, my trainer suddenly started to buffet, and then went into an uncontrollable porposing action. Looking back I could see that the horizontal stabilizer had failed and was flopping up and down in the wind, and thumping the elevator. The student came on the intercom to ask what was wrong - "turbulence" I replied! Slowing the plane down I found I could fly it at about 40 mph with the engine at an idle, and MOST of the "turbulence" would disappear. My first thought, once I got control back (that's right my initial reaction was to get control - I never even thought about the chute) was to deploy the chute, in fact I had already started to cock the deployment handle! Then I thought you have control, can fly the plane, so fly it! You won't believe how many things can go through your mind while coming down from 3500 feet, with a wounded bird - how many times you say "deploy the god damned chute." The panic that starts at your toes and works it's way up your legs -nearly paralyzing you! The amount of energy needed to fight it off would astound you! 
Anyways, to make a long story short, on the way down I tried several times to drop the nose to pick up a little airspeed, every time I did the plane would start to porpose violently. So I was forced to fly it in at between 35 and 40 mph into a 15 mph crosswind. At about 50 feet I had no choice the plane was about to stall, I shut off the engine,  dropped the nose, then  pulled back on the stick to try to level the plane, something let loose on the tail and the plane hit the ground. 
The plane was loaded up and trailered back to the factory - where it was found that it only required 13 lbs of pressure to break the stabilizer at the point it broke. Part of the reason was that there are about 8 rivets right in that area. The factory has since strengthened that area.
For more information click here. 

Beaver RX 550 - A student and I were training on a Beaver RX 550 - we had flown for about an hour and landed for some more fuel. After fueling we did a quick preflight and took off. We had done another 2 or three circuits, and were starting down the runway for another take off. As we started our climb out at about 25 feet the elevator control stick came back into my lap and the planes nose dropped. I chopped power the nose leveled and we pancaked into the ground. Bent landing gear and nose wheel nothing major. A check of the elevator control system revealed the elevator cable had broken. Several years later I told the story to an RX 550 owner, we checked his cables - but could see no indication of wear. Two days later he phoned to say that on landing after a two hour flight he inspected the cable and found the cable had failed and only 7 strands were left connected to the elevator.
Click here for more information.

Kitfox: A customer had recently finished building his Kitfox and asked me to take it for a test flight. The plane had taken him about 4 years to build and he had done an excellent job. 
I had done half a dozen take offs and landings, stalls, climb outs, etc. putting the plane through its paces. Everything had checked out. The plane was a dream to fly, cruise came in at 80 mph at 5800 rpm. All the temperatures were normal I was having a very enjoyable flight. Setting up for a landing on final I dropped the flaps. Just as I did the plane started to shudder violently. If you have ever had a tire on your car go out of balance that was what it was like, but it was getting worse. I released the flaps - it got worse - down to about 50 feet now and the plane felt like it was going to shake itself apart, in fact one aileron had separated from the wing. I got the plane down. The vibration was "aileron flutter" the factory has since installed weights on the ailerons to prevent this.

SeaRey: Setting up for a landing on Lake Simcoe with a friend on board we had just touched down and were skimming across the water, at about 45 mph. When the center hull "exploded." As the plane dove into the water nose first my hand was on the throttle and it went wide open. I yelled at my passenger to get her seat belt off, she screamed back that she couldn't. I reached over and yanked with all my strength on the belt - it came free. But we were now under water - the doors wouldn't open because the rails the doors slide on were no bent. I heard the engine roaring and chopped power -  I was nearly out of breath, my passenger was in front of me, but seemed to be unconscious. Bracing myself against the seat and with every ounce of strength I had I pushed on her with my feet. The windshield broke free from the plane and we were able to get out. A fisherman came by in his boat and picked us up. 
The factory has since strengthened that section of the hull - in fact they have completely changed the hull on new models.

Last but not least: A customer brings his two place trike up to my field to do some training. I fly the plane but am not comfortable with the way it flies. Every time I do a turn to the right it wants to come back to the left. While flying requires input all the time to fly straight and level. I call a couple of friends up who also fly trikes and ask them to give me their opinion. They report the same findings - the plane is not flying right. 
We disassemble the wing and check all the nuts and bolts - but can find nothing wrong. We then check all the battons and tension straps etc. Still we can find nothing. I again take a couple of flights with them in the plane it seems better but still doesn't feel just right. 
I decide that the best way to find out what is wrong is to take the plane up first thing in the morning in no wind conditions and see if I can locate the problem. The next morning I get up at 5:30 to a beautiful sunrise. No wind, no clouds perfect flying whether. I do have a dozen take - offs and landings but every time I turn to the right the plane wants to bank back to the left. I land and decide that I will do one more take off - go to altitude and shut the engine off and see if that makes a difference. I apply power take off climb out to about 90 feet start a gentle turn to the right. The plane plunges back to the left, I manage to bounce off the top of a fuel truck parked on the side of the runway, drop under some hydro wires and come to rest between two trees. Broke every rib in my body, punctured both lungs, broke my left leg and ankle, fractured my pelvis, broke my back - and had to wait for nearly an hour before someone found me. Now when I go thorough an airport security check I set off more bells and whistles than you can imagine. Problem turned out to be an incorrect nico press fitting, allowed a wing support cable to slip.

So what is the purpose of this article - if you have read this far then the following should be of some use to you.

There are several areas that you deal with every time you go flying.

You are the first thing you have to deal with.
Then there are the weather conditions.
Then there is the plane you are considering flying.
Your flight plan or flight itinerary.
Then there is your preflight.
Which should include engine, airframe, control systems.
Your take off procedure
Your cross country procedure
Your landing procedure.

Your thanks to the woman upstairs for getting you through another day of life!

Ms. Dorothy Jean before.
Ms. Dorothy Jean after.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28  Index for this section.

Make yourself visible to others when your flying...... Strobe lights make you visible! Click here for more information!

Ultralight News
Covering the World of Ultralight Aviation

Click here to contact us via email.

Use this box to search our sites or the web!


Ultralight Aircraft News Web Magazine Covering the World of Ultralight Aviation . You may link to these pages or print them out for your own personal use, but no part of this publication may be copied or distributed, transmitted, transcribed, stored in a retrieval system, or translated into any human or computer language, in any form or by any means, electronic,  mechanical, manual, or otherwise,  without the written permission of Ultralight News. By copying or paraphrasing the intellectual property on this site, you're automatically signing a binding contract and agreeing to be billed $10,000 payable immediately. Copyright Ultralight News