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Best Ultralight Aircraft for the Money 2020

Best Ultralight Aircraft for the Money 2020

There is a certain mystique and allure about ultralight aircraft. They are reminiscent of the early days of aviation when would-be pilots built their own aircrafts and took to the skies for their own test flights. Ultralights are affordable and exciting. Building them from a kit evokes a sense of accomplishment and pride.

With all the brands and models on the market, it can be hard to sift through the noise and zero in on the best options for your ultralight purchase. Keeping that in mind, we have put together a list of the top 3 single place (seat) and two place ultralight aircraft currently available. Read on to discover the wings that will take you on your next adventure.

Top 3 Single Place Ultralight Aircraft

Single place ultralights have just one seat for you – the pilot. To qualify as an ultralight, your prospective aircraft must meet certain weight requirements. To fly under FAA Ultralight Rules (FAR Part 103), the single place aircraft must be used for recreational flights and have an empty weight of less than 254 pounds. Training for pilots operating under FAR Part 103 is self-regulated and you need not obtain an FAA pilot certification.

If your aircraft’s empty weight is over 254 pounds, you will be flying under GA Rules (Part 61 & 91). Under these rules, your aircraft must be registered and have a current airworthiness certificate issued by an FAA inspector. You will also be required to obtain a minimum of a sport pilot certificate.

Now, let’s reveal our top 3 single place ultralights:

1.      Earthstar Gull 2000

The Gull 2000 is designed for pilots who want a lightweight aircraft that can fly under the Part 103 FAA rules. The Gull may be light on weight, but it delivers on performance with smooth flight and phenomenal fuel economy.

  • Empty weight: 248 lbs.
  • Gross weight: 550 lbs.
  • Useful load: 302 lbs.
  • Engine: Hirth F33
  • Fuel capacity: 5 gallons
  • Fuel Consumption:7 gph
  • Cruise Speed: 63 mph
  • Stall Speed: 27 mph
  • Ceiling: 14,000 ft.
  • Take-off distance: 125 ft.
  • Landing distance: 75 ft.
  • Rate of Climb: 700 fpm
  • Wingspan: 20’
  • Wing Area: 95 sq. ft.
  • Length: 18’3”
  • Build time: 150 hours
  • Kit price: Contact manufacturer for most current pricing

2.      Jordan Lake Air-Bike LS

Pilots looking for the best bang for their buck on a tried and true ultralight will be delighted with the Jordan Lake Air-Bike 103. This ultralight originally debuted in 1995, was discontinued for a while, and has since made a return with the Jordan Lake Aero company.

The narrow fuselage means that the rudder pedals are on the outside of the aircraft, giving the pilot the appearance of riding a motorcycle – hence the inspiration for the Air-Bike name. Expect an inexpensive, easy to build and fun to fly aircraft.

  • Empty weight: 262-320 lbs.
  • Gross weight: 557 lbs.
  • Useful load: 295 lbs.
  • Engine: Rotax/Hirth 40-50hp
  • Fuel capacity: 5 or 10 gallons
  • Range: 180 mi.
  • Ceiling: 10,000 ft.
  • Cruise Speed: 60 mph
  • Stall Speed: 28 mph
  • Take-off distance: 150 ft.
  • Landing distance: 200 ft.
  • Rate of climb: 800-1,000 fpm.
  • Wingspan:75 ft.
  • Wing Area: 120 sq. ft.
  • Length: 16 ft.
  • Build time: 250 hours
  • Complete airframe kit cost: $6,995

3.      Kolb Firestar

The Firestar is one of Kolb Aircraft’s classic proven designs and has been in production since 1985. It is known for its versatility, light weight, sporty handling and rapid climb rate.

  • Empty weight: 280-325 lbs. (depending on options)
  • Gross weight: 725 lbs.
  • Useful load: 400-445 lbs.
  • Engine: Hirth 3202 (standard), Rotax 503, or Rotax 447
  • Fuel capacity: 5 or 10 gal.
  • Cruise Speed: 80 mph
  • Stall Speed: 27 mph
  • Take-off distance: 100-200 ft.
  • Landing distance: 150 ft.
  • Rate of climb: 1,200 fpm
  • Wingspan: 27’
  • Wing Area: 140 sq. ft.
  • Length: 22’6”
  • Build time: 350-400 hours
  • Kit price: $6,776 - $7,260
  • Engine package price: $7,819 - $8,842

Top 3 Two Place Ultralight Aircraft

The second category of ultralight aircraft is two place or two seaters. With a two-place ultralight, you can take a passenger along for the ride. Just remember that with a two-place aircraft, you will be flying under GA Rules (Part 61 & 91).

As previously mentioned, under these rules, you must register your aircraft and have a current airworthiness certificate issued by an FAA inspector. The maximum approved gross weight for a two-place ultralight is 1,320 pounds. To solo in a two-place ultralight, you will need at least a sport pilot certificate. If you intend to fly with a passenger, you are required to earn a recreational pilot certificate.

Now let’s introduce our top 3 two-place ultralights:

1.      CGS Hawk Arrow II

Hawk Ultralights have been around since 1982 when the single place classic model scored 3 prestigious awards in its first year of production and went on to scoop up many more. The outstanding new design winner from the 1982 EAA International Air Show earned that title with high scores for appearance, design, engineering, flying performance and portability. It was the first fully enclosed ultralight on the market and has become a time-honored classic.

The Arrow II builds on that legend with better visibility and modern jet-like lines. A second seat is added behind the pilot. This tandem style seating configuration minimizes the difference in center of gravity when flying alone vs with a passenger.

  • Empty weight: 550 lbs.
  • Gross weight: 1,100 lbs.
  • Useful load: 550 lbs.
  • Engine: Rotax 582
  • Fuel capacity: 5 gal. (standard) or 10 gal. (optional)
  • Cruise Speed: 55-80 mph
  • Stall Speed: 35-40 mph
  • Rate of climb: 600-1,200 fpm
  • Wingspan: 31’ 6”
  • Wing area: 147 sq. ft.
  • Build time: 300 hours
  • “Amateur” kit price: $14,500
  • “ELSA” kit price: $32,400 (includes wingtanks, elevator trim, folding tail, Rotax 582)

2.      Kolb Mark III Xtra

The Mark III Xtra has become Kolb’s most popular aircraft. It is based off the Mark III Classic design with some aerodynamic enhancements to generate an extra 10-15 mph cruise speed. A sturdy steel and aluminum construction, removable doors/windows and folding wings and tail complete the priced-just-right package.

  • Empty weight: 500 lbs.
  • Gross weight: 1,100 lbs.
  • Useful load: 600 lbs.
  • Engine: Rotax 582 (standard) or Rotax 912/912s (optional)
  • Fuel capacity: 10 gal.
  • Cruise Speed: 80 mph.
  • Stall Speed: 41 mph.
  • Take-off distance: 150 ft. (solo) or 200 ft (dual)
  • Landing distance: Not specified
  • Rate of climb: 1,000 fpm (solo) or 800 fpm (dual)
  • Wingspan: 30 ft.
  • Wing Area: 160 sq. ft.
  • Length: 24 ft.
  • Build time: 450 hours
  • Kit price: $7,235 - $11,520
  • Engine package price: $6,162 - $20,251

3.      Quicksilver MX II Sprint

The MX II Sprint was built with the new pilot in mind and is one of the easiest two place ultralights to assemble and learn to fly. Quicksilver made this aircraft to handle predictably at low flight speeds and to be capable of a very short take-off and landing roll.

  • Empty weight: 330 lbs.
  • Gross weight: 720 lbs.
  • Useful load: 390 lbs.
  • Engine: Rotax 582
  • Fuel capacity: 6 gal.
  • Cruise Speed: 64 mph
  • Stall Speed: 27 mph
  • Take-off distance: 79 ft. (202 ft. with 50’ obstacle)
  • Landing distance: 75 ft. (240 ft. with 50’ obstacle)
  • Rate of climb: 1145 fpm
  • Wingspan: 32’ 7”
  • Wing area: 180 sq. ft.
  • Length: 18’ ½”
  • Build time: 40-60 hours
  • Price: Quicksilver says you can “get up and running for less than 20k.”

How to choose an ultralight aircraft:

When considering your options, rank the merits of each aircraft and compare them using the Ultralight News’ handy 10-point system for rating ultralight aircraft. This will walk you through exactly what to look for and what to avoid when selecting your next ultralight. Soon you will take to the air flying the best ultralight aircraft for the money.

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  • Editor
Comments 7
  • Bob Pickett
    Bob Pickett

    After seeing the U-tube video, I now have to have one. Have there been any floats/wheel combo added to a ultra-lite? Where is the best place in Mich to Learn how to fly a powered ultra-light. Bob

  • richard

    I raise an eyebrow at most of these entries.
    Efficiency for instance is abysmal for these. The Earthstar Gull 2000 for instance. (relatively) slow cruise speed and a massive 7gph fuel consumption.
    Another issue I have is with the trend to rely on enormously powerful engines to get the same performance than was gained in a prior era with engines half or even a third as powerful.
    I’m a huge fan of nothing beats aerodynamics though the macho idea of nothing beats horsepower seems to have come home to roost.
    I will close by pointing out that two bicycle mechanics figured out how to fly well by understanding aerodynamics were king while simultaneously beating out a huge government funded push to create a controllable airplane headed up by a man with the familiar name Langley who insisted horsepower was what was needed.
    I understand there’s many ways to place valuation on a plane, it’s only my personal opinion that the way to do that has gone awry but I do hope I can convince at least one other person to say wait a minute, this cant be as good as it gets.

    I will liken designs like these to the last gasp flak that cessna and piper were filling the skies with insisting that huge heavy aerodynamically dirty planes were ideal while the kit plane folks and the european theater kept advancing with new materials and ever cleaner slippery cost efficient designs.

  • Jeff Dillow
    Jeff Dillow

    any suggestions on where to buy used ultra lights? looking for 2 seat preferably. Thanks in advance for your time.

  • Geoff

    Like an electric ultralight? There are motors out there. I see no point in solar panels on board, I suppose you might be able to squeeze out 5 more mins in an hour flight? Leave the panels on the ground

  • Warren E Bullock
    Warren E Bullock

    interested love to fly south with birds lol

  • robertm haver
    robertm haver

    Like to hear about 1 and 2 seatersI,m old 90 and was an IFR rating all in single engines. Still very active.

  • Virginia Fleming
    Virginia Fleming

    I’d like a solar powered ultralight… anyone try converting one?

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