Here’s the sharp new Solairus (yes, that’s the right spelling) from North Wing, the premiere American producer of weight-shift trike ultralights and Light-Sport Aircraft. Solairus easily qualifies as a Part 103 ultralight vehicle meaning no license is needed. The fresh design is a departure from the usual trike and the one we examine is powered with a four stroke engine with electric starting. You’ll want to watch the video to get all the details.
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Here’s another in our growing series of mini pilot reports where you get some of the benefits of a full-length pilot report in a video format. This time it’s the new Solairus from North Wing. Any weight shift enthusiast could love it but for those of us who enjoy soaring flight, here’s a dream come true… even more so for those who don’t live near mountains or an airpark where they can tow you aloft.
UPDATED (again!) 12/11/20: Still refining the list. —DJ
A great many of you read the article about the new Part 103 List. Your enthusiasm plus lots of comments reflect the strong interest generated by these lightest, most-affordable, and fun-to-fly aircraft.
With input from readers and through more research, I have increased the draft list to the one you see below, now 53 producers strong! Honestly… I expect even more.
Many readers were surprised by the number of producers of these aircraft that too many pilots thought were dead and buried by Light-Sport Aircraft and FAA’s requirement that previous two-seat ultralight trainers had to leave paid flight instruction and become private aircraft.
As the list shows — and as my plan to attempt counting the number of aircraft built every year proves — Part 103 Ultralight Vehicles are indeed alive and thriving.
Keep Helping, Please!
If these aircraft interest you, please review the list and tell me of any additional producers I did not include.
Pilots around the world are aware of Part 103 Ultralights but many have a blurry view of the industry that produces these aircraft. Most are unaware how well this often-overlooked segment is doing in recent years, even during Covid 2020.
FAA refers to these lightweight flying machines as “ultralight vehicles,” a term that creative rulewriters adopted in the early 1980s to avoid heavy regulations typical for “aircraft.” This wording helped the young industry grow and develop. It worked so well the regulation has not been altered for decades.
Even ultralight enthusiasts in America and other countries may not be fully aware how popular ultralights have become in recent years. When Light-Sport Aircraft came on the scene in 2004 they knocked out the ultralight two-seater training fleet. Many believe ultralights never recovered.
How wrong they were, yet who can blame them because no one truly knows how many ultralights are being built and sold these days.
If you flew better than 9,000 hours solely to give trike instruction, you would tend to develop ideas about how an aircraft can better fit the type of flying lessons you want to give. That’s exactly what Wild Sky owner Denny Reed reports.
Denny has an enviable position to some. Imagine any fixed wing instructor saying, “I wish the aircraft would do some operations differently for my teaching. I can’t find one that exactly matches what I seek, so, you know what? I’ll just design what I want.”
Yeah, sure. Most of us never have that chance. Instead, we learn to adapt to the aircraft. As an example, what if you wanted the throttle in a different place, or any number of possible changes.
In a long career that has included talking to CFIs from around the world, I have never met a fixed wing flight instructor who set about making the airplane he truly wanted.
Some pilots are wary of taildraggers. This is hardly surprising since only tricycle-gear aircraft have been used in primary flight instruction dating back into the 1970s. Most pilot have no experience with taildraggers but nearly all have heard of the dreaded ground-loop tendency such gear configuration can allow.
Indeed, when investigating insurance for a taildragger, you will have to prove you have some experience or get training from a suitably-experienced instructor — and you won’t find many able to help you.
How about if an aircraft went both ways? What if an affordable aircraft allowed you to fly with tricycle gear but permitted you to practice your taildragger technique yet still use the nosewheel’s self-straightening capability if you start to get a little “sideways” (literally or figuratively)?
Kolb Aircraft has an answer.
Producers of Part 103 aircraft, such as Kolb Aircraft report consistently strong business for the last few years.
Recently I had an exchange with Australian Flying magazine editor, Steve Hitchen. He asked some great questions and after giving my responses I realized some of his question were common ones I hear being discussed. So why not share our give-and-take? Steve’s questions are in blue.
I’d like to talk about power. With LSA restricted to 120 KIAS, it seems unlikely we’ll get much engine development to increase power unless regulations change to either allow an increase in speed or gross weight.
LSA are getting more power, to wit, Rotax’s new 915iS with 135-horsepower and the Continental Titan line with 180 horsepower. I do not think this is the end of the horsepower boosts …plus LSA speed and/or weight changes could conceivably follow in the USA but are currently not limitations in other countries that accept the ASTM standards as a basis for approval or certification.
North Wing is America’s leading manufacturer of weight shift LSA and Part 103 ultralight trikes. The company’s wing designs are so good that most other trike manufacturers use them. Aircraft prices are highly affordable by all.
North Wing makes more trikes than you might think. We also have a video on the sweet little Solairus, a soaring trike. In this video we review the Maverick, a more deluxe single seater with a beefier engine from Kawasaki. Yet even with the additional features, Maverick still fits into Part 103 where no pilot license, airman’s medical, or N-numbers are needed.
I’ve been writing about very affordable aircraft•, specifically about Part 103 ultralight vehicles. I know some readers prefer speedier or fully enclosed aircraft. Those people are fortunate as many choices are available and, of course, I will continue writing about them frequently. However, many pilots in the USA and around the world do not have a budget for a magnificent carbon fiber personal aircraft that costs $150,000. Even among those who can afford such aircraft, I’m amazed at the renewed interest in these simplest of aircraft.
In addition, aircraft as shown in the nearby photos have seen considerable development since the early days of weight shift trikes. In my view, America invented these aircraft back in the late 1970s but as three axis ultralights developed, interest from American pilots drew away from weight shift and the best new ideas seemed to come from Europe, Australia or other countries. However, I now see the freshest developments coming from U.S.