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Ultralight planes: a possible future for medium to long distance mass trasportation?

Cheap, easy to pilot, easier to mantain.

ULM aircrafts are modern, two seated, car gas propelled planes, usually flown for leisure and turism. An entry level two seated plane can cost as much as a good scooter, costs a fraction of a general aviation plane to buy and mantain, can fly @200kmh at cruise speed, have an average of 500km range and can take off land anywhere from 500 mt grass strips (some can land on river shores and open sea, too). In Italy there are almost 150 privately held airstrips are available mostly free for landing fees, together with all the minor and medium airports open for general aviation planes.

So, why dont think of it as a means of personal and family transportation for medium to long distances? If we consider an average 4 hr car trip, depending of how far your nearest airstrip could be, and another one at your destination point, and commuting from these two places, it could be faster and cheaper to get there by your own plane.

What are the main problems against this idea, today? Weather, because they need good weather to fly; State endorsement: because, as it is, air transport belongs solely to air companies and thus airports and other facilities, even if airspace within a national domain are State properties properties, and also because car industry lead many countries economies like US, Germany, France, Japan and Italy. Security: in aviation, security is a scarecrow that keeps people away, make them spend much more, makes a tragedy of each and every event. The impossible of making a human activity riskless is killing personal aviation, leaving only the big players. If aviation security were applied to cars, they would cost tenfold and a fraction would ever hit the roads.

If proper investment were available, i think a cheap 4-seated all-weather ultralight plane, with a S-trasponder, and enough technology onboard to dumb piloting processes down to those required to drive a car could be within reach in a very short time


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  • Aug 2 2013: Sorry, as a retired professional pilot, I cannot support your idea.

    Consider human nature, the most dangerous aspect of "free flight", the basic concept you propose here. I do not trust most humans to do what would be needed for a safe environment under this idea. Professional pilots have the training for navigation (with and without electronics), weather conditions including dangerous weather, which also includes icing conditions, proper loading, take off and landing obstruction avoidance, and more. There are legal obligations to take care of folks on the ground too.

    Can you imagine the liability issues for accidents and damages from personal flight? Yes, private pilots own personal aircraft and are now operating under rules. Imagine the additional rules needed with increased ultralight craft. Being more maneuverable than heavier craft, ultralights could be used for privacy invasion. Not a pretty imagination.

    Enlarged to a broad scale, I cannot see ultralights practically used more than present.

    Ed is right.
    • Aug 3 2013: You are using safety as a scarecrow. Light planes are utterly different than liners. Light planes are easier to fly than a car is to drive. Arent you scared of all the people driving with only that 4 month course they took? No wet,snow, windy weather training? No heavy cargo training? Dont people die because of it? Any idiot can drive a car, and many drivers do reckless things and take other people lives. But the overall interest is to keep access to car licenses low in order to promote mobility. How do you learn how to drive in a highway? By driving in a highway, and taking your risks, building up your experience and confidence.

      I dont see why it has to be any different for personal planes. YOU (as a liner pilot) should have all sort of proficiencies because yours is the responsability of carrying around 50+ paying passengers. Me, i go wherever i want to, its my life. Can i operate the plane safely? Can i T/O and land safely? Am i aware about weather hazards and how to cope with it as things are now? Can things be dramatically improved by applying existing technology to nowadayasplanes? Yes, to all.

      Will people crash should personal flight become more and more common? Oh yes. People will die, or better people will kill themselves. You have to accept that. There is no such thing as a riskless human activity, and floating several hundred meters from ground certainly doesnt qualify to be on the lower tiers of the risk list. Motorbikes are also a very risky thing to do, would you ban it?

      But the higher insterest is to take people off the streets and move them up in the air. Making overall transportation faster will repay society of anything. In due time people will become better everyday pilots, just like your average joe.

      Dont make the mistake to apply commercial flight security parameters to light flight. The only thing that will teach you how to fly is flying. A piece of paper, be it a checklist or an additional proficiency wont do nothing when facing trouble.
    • Aug 4 2013: Besides, your point of view is biased, and im telling this to you with the utmost respect of your experience and the time you took to reply to me.

      Your position is the same as if you were a train conductor and were asked "which would the best way to organize mass transportation for medium to long range?". Trains, of course. A single professional transportation technician that brings hundreds of people at a time on a single railway, well spaced among other trains, with station personel monitoring that ll goes well. Them cars? Bah! All those swarming little bugs, all those average joes going everywhere, thinking only about their own business. "Consider human nature, the most dangerous aspect of "free drive", the basic concept you propose here. I do not trust most humans to do what would be needed for a safe environment under this idea."

      Luckily things have gone differently.
      Your position is a general mistrust of personal means of transportation, be it cars, light planes or motorboats.

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