The answers depend on whether the individual aircraft is registered as an Advanced Ultralight or as a Basic. Read on! (For a complete discussion of Advanced and Basic Ultralights click to the FAQ on Aircraft Registration.)
Challengers registered as Advanced Ultralights enjoy the same privileges as Cessnas and such for Day VFR operation. There is no restriction on operation in controlled airspace and passengers may be carried if the pilot has a licence with passenger carrying privileges. (Click to the FAQ on Pilot Licensing.)
In addition to being prohibited from carrying passengers, Basic Ultralights may only be operated at airports with the permission of the airport operator.
As well, Basic Ultralights can not be operated in controlled airspace except as stated above at airports. Note that the term controlled airspace does not only include areas where radio contact must be maintained with Air Traffic Control.
For example, much of the populated portion of Canada is crisscrossed by airways which are Class E controlled airspace above 2200 feet AGL. Near airports with IFR approaches, controlled airspace is as low as 700-1200 feet AGL. These altitude caps pose significant restrictions to Basic Ultralight ops.
Challengers registered as Advanced Ultralights have no such restrictions.
Aircraft in the Ultralight categories must abide by the same rules of the air as aircraft in the Aeroplane category. Low flying rules are often misunderstood, particularly by General Aviation instructors who usually think you can't go below 500 feet! Here's the actual reg - translated from Legalese into English!
"When over a built-up area such as a city the minimum altitude is 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle located within a horizontal distance of 2,000 feet from the aircraft. Depending on the size of the built-up area you may need to be higher than 1,000 feet because in the event of an emergency necessitating an immediate landing it must be possible to land the aircraft without creating a hazard to persons or property on the surface. Obviously this does not apply when doing a take-off, approach or landing at an airport within a built-up area!"
"There is no minimum altitude when you are not over a built-up area, for example when you are flying over water or open farm fields. In that case you can operate as low as you wish but you must maintain a distance of at least 500 feet from any person, vessel, vehicle or structure on the surface. This distance can be horizontal, it does not have to be vertical."
So for example if you are flying your amphib Challenger over a lake at 10 feet it is quite legal. However if you come upon a boat you need to go up and over it or detour around it such that you get no closer than 500 feet. Usually we detour rather than climb. As good citizens we always do onto others as we would have them do onto us - we commence our turn to detour early enough that the people on the surface see clearly that they are not going to get buzzed!
This is another often misunderstood topic, again frequently by General Aviation instructors who are out of touch with ultralight aviation or have outdated info.
The short answer since July of 2000 is unequivocally 'Yes' so long as you hold an approved pilot permit or licence and you comply with the procedures for all aircraft crossing the border - customs, flight plan, homeland security, etc. You simply print out and carry a "Special Flight Authorization" from the FAA or TC web sites. If you do not have a transponder you can get a waiver over the net.
This breakthrough is entirely to the credit of Major Claude Roy of the Canadian Challenger Owners Association who with the help of Transport Canada, COPA, the FAA and the EAA spearheaded the change in time for Oshkosh 2000.
The bilateral agreement was to allow ops by pilots holding a permit or licence requiring at least 25 hours of flight time. In the year 2000 this included the Ultralight Pilot Permit with Instructor Rating or any Aeroplane category certificate such as the Recreational Pilot Permit, Private Pilot Licence, etc.
At the time of the agreement t the Ultralight Pilot Permit with Passenger Carrying Endorsement had not come into existence so it was not on the list. Transport Canada and the FAA have agreed that this certification meets the intent of the agreement however to date the wording has not been updated.
Interestingly enough, with a Recreational Pilot Permit you can fly a Challenger ultralight into the United States but you cannot fly a non-ultralight! The FAA does not recognize the Canadian RPP in Certified or Amateur-Built aircraft - to fly a Cessna over the border requires at least a Private Pilot Licence. Go figure!
Aircraft registered as Ultralights may only be operated in Day VFR conditions.
You can operate a Challenger at night or under Instrument Flight Rules if it is registered in the Aeroplane category as an Amateur-Built and if it complies with the lighting, instrumentation and other equipment requirements. The pilot must have at least a Private Pilot Licence with Night and Instrument ratings.
For most people the expense and complication of adding certified avionics, gyro instruments, heated pitot tubes and such, plus the lack of redundant systems, to say nothing of the increase in red tape, are significant deterrents. Also, the cost and effort to certify the pilot for night or IFR is substantial.
Helmets are not required in aircraft registered as Advanced Ultralights but are mandatory for all occupants of aircraft registered as Basic Ultralights.
You can certainly install a transponder in a Challenger. The aircraft does indeed have an electrical system. In fact many Challengers in the United States are so equipped. However in Canada the airspace rules regarding transponders are much less demanding. Unless you're landing at one of a dozen or so major airports you can easily fly around or under the airspace where a transponder would be required. For example, this is true even in the metro Toronto area. After 9/11 a requirement for transponders was created for crossing the border into the United States however you can get a "TSA Waiver" over the internet.
Ultralights are not required to have ELT's. Of course if you so desire you can install a fixed unit in your Challenger's fuselage or carry a portable in the cabin.
No. Ultralights are exempt from the requirement for Day VFR flights to carry enough fuel to proceed to the intended destination and thereafter fly for 30 minutes at normal cruise speed. What's legal is not necessarily smart though!
Owners of both Advanced and Basic Ultralights may perform all maintenance activities themselves or delegate them to any other person. There is no need for an AME (Aircraft Maintenance Engineer) to do or sign maintenance work.
No. However owners of Advanced Ultralights are required to keep some sort of written record showing compliance with maintenance recommendations.
No. Ultralights have no annual inspections, annual reports or annual fees.
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