The first weight-shift control trike you learn to fly in will always have a special place in your heart. Depending upon your choice of weight-shift control (WSC) trike light-sport aircraft (LSA) flight school and its fleet, you may have a couple of options from which to choose. You may even select your flight school based in part upon the type of weight-shift control LSA that they fly. Some of the most common sport trikes used for flight training are by Apolo/Evolution, AirBourne, Air Creation, and North Wing.
Ultralight trikes verses Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) trikes
An Ultralight trike is a “single place” vehicle (the FAA does not call ultralights Aircraft) that requires no pilots license. These can only weigh up to 254 pounds empty. There is very little regulation on the aircraft and the operator except that it is restricted from flying in busier airspace. The Ultralight Trainer two place Ultralight trike evolved, which is a heavier ultralight used for dual training (instructor and student) until 2004 when the ultralight trainers were transitioned to Light-Sport Aircraft. See Ultralight trikes for more information on ultralight trikes.
In 2004, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allowed everyone the freedom to fly for fun with a new category of aircraft that is simple to fly, plus lower in cost to own and operate. These new Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) can carry two people and be flown by a pilot with a new and easier to obtain FAA sport pilot license.
Weight-shift control LSA
One of the new aircraft type in this category is the weight-shift control light-sport aircraft. Also known as a trike or sport trike, it is a unique aircraft type that has been evolving since the 1970’s from ultralight trike and microlights. It is a very efficient design because it does not have the tail and the added weight, cost and complexity. It is a very simple aircraft with minimum moving parts. Slow trikes can fly as slow as 20 MPH, and fast designs can fly as fast as 100 MPH. Slow designs would have a range of about 100 miles, with fast designs having a range of around 600 miles.
Faster, high performance sport trikes can operate in high winds similar to high performance airplanes. Slower sport trikes are limited to winds similar to airplanes. Trikes operate in fields and airports the same as airplanes.
All trikes can be taken down and transported/stored in a trailer. This is a great advantage of the trike, it can be brought to a flying site, assembled, flown and then broken down easily and hauled/stored in a trailer. They cost much less than an airplane to purchase, and they burn less fuel than an airplane. Simply put, with no tail adding to the initial cost, and lower fuel requirements the trike is the most efficient aircraft when it comes to fun verses cost.
The trike has only two axis to control (roll and pitch), which makes it much easier to fly, reducing the training time and cost to learn compared to the airplane.
Sport trikes cost much less to purchase than sport airplane LSA. Similarly, the fuel burned is about a third that of the general aviation airplanes such as a Cessna 172, and slightly less than the modern light-sport airplane.
This aircraft can be safely flown and requires minimal training by aviation standards. Private pilot airplane pilots can transition to trike weight-shift control LSA in a very short amount of time.
Special light-sport aircraft (S-LSA)
A Special Light Sport Aircraft (S-LSA) new category for weight-shift control LSA is a certified aircraft built to American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) specifications which are approved by the FAA. They are built by a manufacturer and test flown for production acceptance before you buy it.
Experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA)
A weight-shift control Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft (E-LSA) kit is based on a certified S-LSA design, but built as a kit by the owner/operator. This kit can be as simple as bolting on the wheels, or require more assembly. This is not the classical 51% rule where the owner must fabricate and assemble 51% or more which is called an “amateur built” (home built) aircraft. It cannot be used for instruction nor hire, except if the owner is receiving the instruction. It can be maintained in a condition for safe flight by the owner/operator. Some of the older two-place ultralight trainers and fat ultralights are also E-LSA grandfathered in before January 31, 2008, (heavier than 254 pound ultralight, OR carries 2 people OR holds more than 5 gallons of fuel).
The weight-shift control Special LSA (S-LSA) are FAA-approved to meet industry ASTM consensus standards for aircraft design, production, and airworthiness. This is a new certification process performed by industry rather than FAA inspections. It allows the aircraft to be produced less expensively, and the design updated and improved with minimum expense compared to other aircraft.
If the weight-shift control light-sport aircraft is properly equipped, and the pilot has a private pilot WSC rating (not Private ASEL), it can be flown at night.
Trikes come in many different varieties, from the high speed cross country speed machine, to the trike that can land on water, to the trike that can takeoff and land in short and rough fields. There are trikes for all occasions and life styles.