10 point system for rating ultralight aircraft

Many pilots, aviation enthusiasts are looking at ultralight aircraft, as either an entry level craft, or as just a more affordable alternative to general aviation due to the steadily increasing cost.  Two major problems facing this group are getting training and knowing how to select just what craft they should buy.

Questions include whether it should be new or used, on floats or an amphibian, the kind of engine and horsepower, should the craft be enclosed, partially enclosed, or fully enclosed. Also, consideration must be given to speed and range. Once you have decided what kind of a craft will fit the bill, the most important consideration is convincing the wife on how much money you can spend!

If you use this article correctly, it will prevent a great deal of headaches down the road and should save you money when purchasing your craft. The least it will do is prevent you from becoming a "test pilot".

The following is a simple ten point program that can be used for either new or used aircraft. In my mind a passing score is 70% or over, to completely fail would be 50% or under.

Banty Ultralight Aircraft

1. The number of years the factory has been building planes: The longer the better, 5 years gets you 10 points anything less is 2 points less for each year. 

Why must the manufacturer be in business for at least 5 years? 

Here is an example. In 1984 a new factory shows up with a brand new aircraft at a show. The craft on display is the original prototype with about 20 hours of flight time on it. The plane is well received and nearly 30 orders are taken.

The show is in April, first deliveries are about 4 months later. The craft in question takes about 250 hours to build for first time builders. The normal builder can spend about 5 hours a week on average building his plane. 5 into 250 is 50 weeks, meaning his craft is ready to fly 
approximately 1 year after receipt of kit, which was 4 months after placing his order. The kit is ready to fly in August of 1985. Now the pilot begins to fly his craft.

Backyard Flyer Ultralight Aircraft

Like anything new some problems are encountered. The average pilot flies about 50 hours a year, and lets say his problems start at this time. The year is now 1986. These problems are reported to the factory. The factory looks at the problems and begins changing the design of the aircraft. In most cases they already have material designed for the older style of craft, which they use to prepare any remaining kit orders.

The pilot checks to see what other updates the factory has put out. To his amazement there are 22 updates to his craft. After pricing the updates he calculates the cost at about $2,800. His craft is worth about $4,000 on the open market, and a new plane sells for $6,200 in kit form rather than update he decides he is better to sell and buy a new kit.

Who is he going to sell his aircraft to? YOU! 

My recommendation is if you are buying used buy an aircraft that has been in production for at least 3 years. example: If the first kit produced was in 1985- buy a 1988 or later model.

​2 points off for every year less than 5 that the manufacturer has been in business.