10 Popular Ultralight Aircraft for The Purest Flying Experience

24 January 2022   |  Updated on February 05, 2024

We can all agree aircraft can offer some incredible fun, but there’s one type of airplane that’s especially enjoyable to fly for many: ultralights.

Most Popular Ultralight Aircraft

Ultralight aircraft are renowned for delivering the purest flying experiences, which is the primary reason for their continued popularity. These lightweight flying machines, designed to carry one or two passengers, are ideal for those seeking the sheer joy of personal flight. With lower operational costs and easier maintenance than heavier aircraft, ultralights offer a unique way to experience the freedom of the skies.

The appeal of taking to the skies strapped to a wing and a skeletal metal frame powered by a tiny 18 horsepower, 100 Ibs (45 kg) engine evokes the nostalgia of early years powered flight when aviator/inventors built and flew their airplanes.

Stripping back to the essentials of flight, ultralights bring you closer to the elements, often featuring open-air cockpits or clear canopy designs. Their simplicity and affordability make them increasingly popular among aviation enthusiasts and budding pilots. Whether you’re after solo adventures, soaring above scenic landscapes, or the adrenaline rush of sport flying, ultralights are your ticket to the purest form of flight.

In this article, we’ll be looking at 10 popular ultralight aircraft that deliver this unparalleled flying experience!

Now let’s dive into the main part of this article and look at the list of most popular ultralight aircraft we could find!

1. Kolb Firestar I

1. Kolb Firestar I - Most Popular Ultralight Aircraft

The Kolb Firestar I is a classic example of how to develop the ultimate ultralight flight experience. This popular taildragger uses an open cockpit and generous high-wing design mated with traditional landing gear to create one of the most versatile and delightful single-seat ultralight aircraft.

A lightweight design combined with a responsive Rotax 277 two-stroke engine provides exceptional performance, sporty handling, and an unmatched rapid climb rate by most rivals. Safety features include a rigid core constructed from aluminum and chrome steel tubing, a large gas tank (10 gals) for extended range, and conventional cable and push-pull tube controls, giving pilots greater control of the aircraft.

The Kolb Firestar I complies with The American FAR (Part 103) regulations with its single-seat configuration and maximum empty weight of 115 kg. It is available brand new in kit form, and owners can assemble the aircraft in 350-400 hours.

Aircraft details:
  • Country: United States of America
  • Manufacturer: New Kolb Aircraft
  • Introduction: 1985
  • Classification: Light Sports Aircraft FAR (Part 103)
  • Seat: One
  • Engine: 1 × Rotax 277 single-cylinder, two-stroke aircraft engine, 28 hp (21 kW)
  • Empty Weight: 115 kg (254 lb)
  • Cruise Speed: 85 kph (53 mph)
  • Build Time: 350 hours
  • Price: $10,000 -$11,500

2. CGS Hawk Arrow II

2. CGS Hawk Arrow II - Most Popular Ultralight Aircraft

The CGS Hawk Arrow range of ultralight aircraft proves that effective customer feedback can result in awesome products. The Hawk Arrow II is a variant of the widely successful Hawk Classic. Still, it incorporates a two-seater tandem style arrangement for a better center of gravity distribution during solo flights.

It is available as a standard Experimental Amateur-Built Kit and factory-built SLSA and ELSA versions. And every single Hawk Arrow II features a sloping windshield inside a streamlined cockpit for excellent visibility and aerodynamics performance during flight. Other unique features that make the Hawk Arrow highly popular among ultralight enthusiasts include:

  • Semi-symmetrical airfoil and extruded aluminum wing struts.
  • Large vertical tail designed to produce superior yaw stability.
  • A raised rear tandem-seat provides unobstructed visibility.
  • Genuine flaps (not flaperons commonly used in ultralight aircraft) allow for a better climb rate and reduced landing distance.
  • An efficient cockpit design, giving pilots ample shoulder space and headroom.

Aircraft details:
  • Country: United States of America
  • Manufacturer: CGS Aviation
  • Introduction: 1982
  • Classification: Special Light Sports Aircraft (SLSA) Part 103-7 Waiver for Two Seat Instruction
  • Seat: Two-seater
  • Engines: 1 x option of two-stroke, 52 hp (39 kW) Rotax 503, 65 hp (48 kW) Rotax 582, 55 hp (41 kW) Hirth 3202, 65 hp (48 kW) Hirth 3203, 80 hp (60 kW) Hirth F30, 100 hp (75 kW) Hirth 3701 and the four-stroke 60 hp (45 kW) HKS 700E.
  • Empty weight: 204 kg (550 Ibs)
  • Cruise Speed: 88.5 -128.7 Kph (55 – 80 mph)
  • Build Time:
  • Basic Price: $11,319
  • Engine Package Price: From $17,000

3. Earthstar Thunder Gull 2000

3. Earthstar Thunder Gull 2000 - Most Popular Ultralight Aircraft

Photo by lightsportaircraftpilot.com

The Earthstar Thunder Gull 2000 is a lightweight ultralight aircraft like no other. It is available with an impressive range of powerful yet refined engines providing pilots with a vibration-free flight. It has incredibly responsive handling, a fantastic climb rate, and outstanding fuel economy, all packaged in a spacious and sleek fiberglass single-seat enclosed cockpit.

This highly popular ultralight aircraft includes pilot seat belts, a full cabin windscreen, a jig welded roll cage, and a hitch that connects to a trailer for easy towing. The Thunder Gull 2000 is available in kit assembly and ready-to-fly versions.

Aircraft details:
  • Country: United States of America
  • Manufacturer: Earthstar Aircraft
  • Introduction: 1987
  • Classification: FAR (Part 103) ultralight vehicle
  • Seat: One
  • Engine: 1 × 40-hp Rotax 447, 46- or 50-hp Rotax 503, 60-hp HKS 700E 4-stroke.
  • Empty weight: 112.5 kg (248 Ibs)
  • Cruise Speed: 101.3 kph (63 mph)
  • Build Time: 150 hours
  • Basic Price: $10,965
  • Engine Package Price: $15,665

4. Aeromarine Merlin Lite

4. Aeromarine Merlin Lite - Most Popular Ultralight Aircraft

The Aeromarine Merlin Lite is an ultralight aircraft with the soul and body of a real airplane. It is a revolutionary new entry into the single-seat ultralight segment, and it is poised to become among the popular ultralight aircraft.  So, what makes the Merlin Lite unique?

For starters, the aircraft features all-aluminum construction that offers better endurance, stability, and weather protection. Its state-of-art 250 DS engine is backed by thousands of hours of reliable service over several decades, providing pilots with stress-free operations. Other unique features that make the Aeromarine Merlin Lite an unforgettable flying experience include a roomy cockpit with a stacked instrument panel, ample baggage space for camping gear or roll-on and a BRS 500 aircraft rescue system.

Aircraft details:
  • Country: United States of America
  • Manufacturer: Aeromarine LSA
  • Introduction: 2016
  • Category: FAR (Part 103) ultralight vehicle
  • Seat: One
  • Engine: 1 x Polini 250DS two-stroke, 35.5 hp (26.11kW)
  • Empty weight: 124.7 kg (275 Ibs)
  • Basic Price: $22,000
  • Engine Package Price: $31,000

5. Jordan Lake Air-Bike LS 

5. Jordan Lake Air-Bike LS  - Most Popular Ultralight Aircraft

This adventurous ultralight aircraft is a joy to fly and has been wowing pilots since its launch in 1994. The massive popularity of this cost-effective ultralight aircraft is significant enough to force-start production after it was discontinued.

The minimalist tubular steel frame structure of the Jordan Lake Air Bike LS ensures light and agile aircraft making the ultralight a flying delight. Pilots sit in a narrow cockpit with both legs operating a pair of rudder pedals outside the ultralight, giving the distinct impression of riding a bike.

This aircraft is available in partially assembled kit form and provides actual value for your bucks. And it is an excellent aircraft for both new and skilled pilots.

Aircraft details:
  • Country: United States of America
  • Manufacturer: Jordan Lake Aero
  • Introduction: 1994
  • Category: FAR (Part 103) ultralight vehicle
  • Seat: One
  • Engine:1 x Rotax 447 fixed pitch, 40 hp (30 kW)/
  • Empty Weight: 116 (257 Ibs)
  • Cruise Speed: 102 kph (63 mph)
  • Build Time: 250
  • Kit Price: $2,500

6. NorthWing Maverick 2 RT

6. NorthWing Maverick 2 RT - Most Popular Ultralight Aircraft

The NorthWing Maverick 2 RT is an excellent example of what happens when you combine a hang gliding wing, an open cockpit fuselage, and a zesty 40 horsepower engine with a tricycle landing gear. The result is lightweight, affordable, and, we dare say, one of the most thrilling ultralight flying experiences ever.

You may be tempted to dismiss the Maverick 2 RT as your average FAR 103 ultralight based on its looks, do not fall for it. North Wing engineers have poured hours of relentless development into the ultralight aircraft resulting in loads of distinctive and beneficial design features. Such as an extended fuselage to expand baggage space, strutted airframe components to increase the wing load rating, foldback wings for more accessible storage and transport, and so much more.

This popular ultralight aircraft is available in 2 versions; the Maverick 2 RT(no fairing) and Maverick 2 Legend(streamlined fairing).

Aircraft details:
  • Country: United States of America
  • Manufacturer: North Wing Design
  • Category: FAR (Part 103) ultralight vehicle
  • Seat: One
  • Engine: 1 x 40 hp Kawasaki 440 2-stroke
  • Empty weight: 115 kg (254 Ibs)
  • Cruise Speed: 100 kph (62 mph)
  • Build Time: 250 hours
  • Engine Package Price: $21,500 – $23,500

7. U-Fly-It Aerolite 103

7. U-Fly-It Aerolite 103 - Most Popular Ultralight Aircraft

The Aerolite 103 is a handsome high-winged ultralight fitted with external struts welded to a tubular frame and an enclosed cockpit. Since the Aerolite 103 is sold in ready-to-fly units, customers have a range of customization options, including digital instruments, a wide range of color selections, and tundra tires.

Aircraft details:
  • Country: United States of America
  • Manufacturer: Aero Works Inc, U-Fly-It Sports Aircraft, LLC
  • Introduction: 1997
  • Category: FAR (Part 103) ultralight vehicle
  • Seat: One
  • Engine: 1 × Rotax 447 fixed pitch, 40 hp (30 kW)
  • Empty Weight: 125 (275 Ibs)
  • Cruise Speed: 102 kph (63 mph)
  • Build Time: 60-80 hours
  • Basic Airframe Kit Price: $15,950
  • Engine Package Price (pre-assembled): $26,039 – $31,650

8. Composite FX XEL Helicopter

8. Composite FX XEL Helicopter - Most Popular Ultralight Aircraft

The XEL is the only ultralight helicopter to make this list. This small aircraft has a fiberglass frame design to save weight, which also helps its performance and handling characteristics. Unlike other ultralights, it offers a distinctive flying experience, and it is fitted with floats for water landings.

Aircraft details:
  • Country: Canada
  • Manufacturer: Mosquito Aviation, Composite FX
  • Category: FAR (Part 103) ultralight vehicle
  • Seat: One
  • Engine: 1 x MZ202 air-cooled engine.
  • Empty weight: 142 kg (312 Ibs)
  • Cruise Speed: 101  kph (70 mph)
  • Kit Price: $41,000
  • Factory Assembled Aircraft: $52,000

9. Pterodactyl Ascender

9. Pterodactyl Ascender - Most Popular Ultralight Aircraft

Photo by ultralightnews.com

Arguably one of the most significant ultralight aircraft designs of its era, the Pterodactyl Ascender is based on the Manta Fledge performance hang gliders popular during the 1970s. Introduced during the Oshkosh Air Show in 1979, the Ascender featured revolutionary flight controls unseen in a rigid wing ultralight, including weight-shift pitch control and tip-rudders for yaw and roll control.

The Pterodactyl Ascender was produced briefly during the 1980s with a total production of 1,400 units. DFE Ultralights are currently building it as the DFE Ascender III series.

Aircraft details:
  • Country: United States of America
  • Manufacturer: Pterodactyl Limited, DFE Ultralights
  • Introduction: 1979
  • Category: FAR (Part 103) ultralight vehicle
  • Seat: One
  • Engine: 1 × Xenoah 242 two-stroke, 16 hp (12 kW), Cuyana 430R, two-stroke, 35 hp (26kw)
  • Empty weight: 98 kg (215 Ib)
  • Cruise Speed: 89 kph (55 mph)
  • Complete Kit Price (1981): S4,200

10. Buckeye Dragonfly Powered Parachute

10. Buckeye Dragonfly Powered Parachute - Most Popular Ultralight Aircraft

Photo by Buckeye Dragonfly

Powered parachutes, powered paragliders or paramotors provide the purest ultralight flight experience, and the Buckeye Dragonfly Powered Parachute does not disappoint. This kit assembly aircraft is available in three and four-wheel models with a 360 sq ft. chute as standard.

Handling and performance are very refined with responsive controls, which are through a single center column controlling throttle, ground and in-flight steering. The Dragonfly Powered parachute combines lighter-than-air with a light aircraft chassis to provide new and veteran pilots with a fun and safe aerial adventure.

Aircraft details:
  • Country: United States of America
  • Manufacturer: Buckeye Aviation
  • Category: FAR (Part 103) ultralight vehicle
  • Seat: 1
  • Engine: 1 x Subaru 4-stroke, 34 hp
  • Empty weight: 108.8 kg (240 Ib)
  • Cruise Speed: 41.8 kph (26 mph)
  • Build Time: 24 hours
  • Price: $12,000 – $14,000

What is an ultralight aircraft?

Before we dive in, let’s first look at ultralight aircraft in general.

An ultralight aircraft, also known as a microlight in some regions, is a lightweight, small, and typically one or two-seat fixed-wing aircraft. Governed by fewer restrictions and regulations than traditional aircraft, ultralights provide the freedom to fly with less red tape.

Different countries define ultralights in separate ways. For example, the European Union represents an ultralight as any lightweight aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of 450 kg (992.08 pounds).

Civil Aviation folks in the United States have a broader definition of what may constitute an ultralight aircraft;

Defined by the FAA under Part 103 regulations in the United States, a single-seat ultralight must weigh less than 254 pounds (or 155 pounds when unpowered), reach no more than 63 mph in full power flight, and carry no more than 5 gallons of fuel. Different countries have their own specifications, but the defining characteristics of simplicity, lightness, and ease of operation remain consistent.

What is an ultralight aircraft?

Types of ultralight aircraft

There are different ultralights available, and they are not just limited to fixed-wing aircraft. Examples of popular ultralight aircraft types include powered parachutes and trikes. However, helicopters and gyrocopters are also quite common, and your pick of ultralight aircraft depends wholly on your flying preferences.

In general, we can distinguish between 6 types of ultralight aircraft:

  1. Fixed-wing Ultralights: These are the most common ultralights and resemble traditional aircraft, albeit smaller and lighter. They feature a rigid wing structure and are typically powered by a small, fuel-efficient engine. These ultralight aircraft come in two types; a fixed-wing attached to an open frame design or a more conventional fixed-wing attached to a fully enclosed cockpit design
  2. Weight-shift Control Ultralights: Also known as trikes, these ultralights have a hang-glider-style wing with a suspended carriage underneath. Pilots control the aircraft by shifting their body weight.
  3. Powered Paragliders: This type of ultralight pairs a parachute-like wing with a motorized harness. Pilots can take off and land on foot, making them an excellent choice for those seeking the simplest and most compact form of powered flight. They are the most affordable ultralights available.
  4. Gyroplanes: These ultralights have unpowered rotors that spin freely in the wind, generating lift. A separate propeller provides forward motion. Gyroplanes are well-regarded for their stability and resistance to stalling.
  5. Helicopters and Rotorcraft: Ultralight versions of helicopters and other rotorcraft are more complex and expensive but offer vertical takeoff and landing capabilities. Ultralight rotorcraft are considerably less expensive than traditional helicopters.
  6. Unpowered Ultralights: These consist of unpowered hang-gliders, gliders and sailplanes and are flown by pilots who love the tranquility of a noiseless flight.

Choosing the right type of ultralight depends on a pilot’s preferences, skills, and intended use. Each type provides a unique way to engage with the sky and experience the thrill of flight!

The 10 Most Popular Ultralight Aircraft

Do you need a license to fly an UltraLight plane?

The common assumption that you do not need a license to fly an ultralight aircraft is not entirely correct. Apart from the aircraft weight requirements and limits, European Union aviation regulations require a light aircraft pilot license LAPL before you can pilot an ultralight aircraft. This license limits you to sailplanes, rotorcraft, balloons, and single-engine piston planes with four seats and not exceeding a take-off weight of 2,000 kg (4,409 pounds). Pilots issued a LAPL license can only fly in weather conditions with excellent visibility (Visual Flight Rules VFR) and must obtain permission before taking off in their ultralight aircraft.

The 10 Most Popular Ultralight Aircraft

In the United States, ultralight aircraft operating under the (FAR Part 103) regulations are used for sport or recreational flights and not classified as conventional aircraft. The FAA does not issue airworthiness certificates for that ultralight category, and you do not need a license to fly them.

However, two-place (two-seater) ultralights or ultralight aircraft with an empty weight exceeding 115 kg (254 pounds) operate under the GA Rules (Part 61 & 91), which mandates pilots to have at least a sport pilot certificate before operating this category of ultralight aircraft. Pilots flying with a passenger must have obtained a recreational pilot license.

You can read more about pilot licenses for ultralight aircraft here:


Ultralight aircraft represent the purest form of aviation, bringing the pilot closer to the sky in a way few other aircraft can. Whether you’re a seasoned pilot seeking a return to the basics or a newcomer looking to taste the thrill of flight for the first time, ultralights offer an accessible, affordable, and exhilarating option. From fixed-wing ultralights to gyroplanes, powered paragliders, and more, the variety within this category caters to a wide range of flying preferences and styles.

So, strap on your helmet, get behind the control stick, and prepare to experience flight in its most raw and unfiltered form!