One of the many questions that I get asked from prospective students is: "Can I fly a real airplane with an ULPP?" Needless to say this causes always a grin on my my face and the standard answer, ..you mean a REAL airplane like a BushCaddy or a Kitfox, or a REAL airplane like a Cessna or Piper? So before we delve to deeply into looking at these REAL "factory aircraft" lets take a peek of our current regulations the CAR's in particular the Ultra-light Aeroplane Transition Strategy section 2.1.3 where is states as follows;
...an aeroplane having no more than two seats, designed and manufactured to have a maximum take-off weight of 544 kilograms and a stall speed in the landing configuration (Vso) of 39 knots (45 mph) or less indicated airspeed at the maximum take-off weight. Now those 544KG's = 1200Lbs, just to make it more confusing. The Key wording here is maximum take-off weight also referred to commonly as the MTOW and the definition can be found in the Ultralight Transition Strategy and reads as follows:
"Maximum take-off weight" means the total weight, resting on the surface of the earth installed equipment and appliances and, if installed, floats and a ballistic recovery system;
means the maximum take-off weight for an aircraft as authorized by the state of registry of the aircraft or as provided for in the aircraft type certificate;
or means the weight identified as such in the type certificate of an aircraft; (ou )
Now, lets take a quick look in which classic aircraft you may meet these parameters with your ULPP. This is based on the restrictions of your permit to fly SOLO in the aircraft and an average weight of a 200lbs pilot and some fuel. As in my previous posts I have * the aircraft I have either owned or flown in the past. But before we go any further, remember that many of these classic aircrafts, frames, tubes, spars, etc. are going on 80 years of age. The tooth of time has been gnawing away, no doubt, and most likely in places where inspection(s) are almost impossible. But never they less here are the more common models with a serious caveat of "Buyer be aware!".
Taylorcraft - The BC-12D came standard with the Continental 0-65, was a side by side model and performed beautifully. My friend and fellow aviator Hans H. flew his from BC to Patagonia, up the East coast of South America, island hopped his way into Florida, up into Nunavut, Greenland and back to BC. All on 65hp. And 2 summers ago and almost 3 engines later, took it for another camping trip into the Yukon. For a big boy, they are a bit crammed inside, but no worse than a Kitfox 2 or Avid MK4. In their original version they will fit the category nicely with an average empty weight at approximately 860 lbs.
Piper J3 - Derived from the Taylor Cub, yup you read it right! Mr. Taylor also designed the Cub and after a falling out with Mr. Piper it became the best known yardstick that every other LSA, Ultralight, Experimental, STOL or GA is compared to. While I have a bit of J5, PA18, time I have yet to shoe-horn myself into a J3 and see if all these claims, some rather outlandish, are actually true. It is also one of the most copied aircraft out there and these days I'd recommend to start with a fresh airframe from one of the numerous manufactures or plans providers. Empty weight on the original came in at 765 lbs, so nicely in the Category. Drawback to the Taylorcraft, it's tandem, it's slower, but it packs a load and does so reliably into most every backcountry strip, and as long as you don't mind to fly from the backseat.
Piper PA-15 Vagabond*- In my opinion a very much overlooked aircraft. Vagabonds have pizzazz, they are a great bird with a C-85-8 or preferably -12 which includes an electric starter. Hop up the engine to a tweaked 0-200, add some big tires and you're in for some great backcountry fun. Originally designed as a trainer (and competition to the Taylorcraft) it does that just fine. While not a worst Taildragger out there, it being short coupled does make for some interesting roll outs (..right, Rob? 😬😂), but it gives you nimble toes. There is also no Flaps to deal with, so bank it over into a sideslip and you'll sink in beyond those tall trees just fine. They are big enough for a weekend trip with full fuel and gear with an original 620 lbs empty and an 1100 lbs gross. They are great on skis, but with the shorter wings wouldn't make much of a floatplane, get a J3 if you're a wheels, skis, floats seasonal operator.
Check out Tigger doing his first solo with us here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gD5KZBaB2H4
Aeronca 7AC Champ - Now what's not to like on a Champ? About 7200 were built between 1945 and 1948. So they are plentiful out there and make a great trainer. Land-o-matic gear to grease every, well almost, every landing and a fuel sipping C65-8 like most trainers of this era. Empty weight ranges around the 740 lbs and gross is listed at 1220 lbs. Some concerns with the wooden wing spars and an occasional de-lamination of plywood doublers. But there is a good many out there, so look around, do your research and proper pre-purchase. Upgraded to a C-85, C-90 or O-200 and they make for a great all around aircraft on wheels, skis and floats. A great and slightly more affordable option to the J-3's and you get to sit up front with elbow room to spare. And that is why I like the Champ.
Cessna 120/140 OK, now we are starting to push the limits a little bit since the Cessna's came in with a rather hefty 890 lbs empty, add the 210 lbs pilot and you'll get 16 gal of fuel into the Tanks before you run yourself out of the UL category. Stable, a nice 105mph cruise speed and YES it's a Cessna. Expect it do to exactly what it says in the manual and maybe a little bit more. Being an all metal, albeit some came with fabric wings they are a collectable classic and will hold or increase in value. While not a thought after as maybe a J3 or Taylorcraft, a little less usable in weights and loading as the PA-15, 16, or Luscombe 8a it is actually legally possible to fly it with your ULPP licence.
Luscombe* My personal all time favourite! I've had the pleasure of owning and flying a straight 8A with a 65hp Continental for a few years. In reminiscing about KIZ I can only conclude that I have yet to fly a modern Ultralight, LSA on 65hp and get as much performance out of it as I did in the Luscombe. I have said this before and will put it here in writing, ..the ol' Boys with their slide rules are still putting some aeronautical computer engineers to the test with this classic design. Having owned a early model 172, 180, and build and rebuild several all metal homebuilts and UL's, you come to appreciate the ingenuity of the Luscombe design. Look back into the fuselage, check out the building of the tail section. Make's you wonder why not more modern designs take a lesson in forming sheet metal into strong parts. As for flying fun, par none! As for room inside, tight for two fully grown grain feed mid westerners or beef eat'n Albertans, no doubt here. As for models, the one you want is the original dual strut fabric wing version, single tank, ideally upgraded to a C-85 or 90 with no electrics and no frills of any kind. With an empty weight similar to the Cessna 120, 140 you will have to manage your load a bit more careful to remain legal. But this pretty much goes for all birds listed here in this article.
In conclusion, we at times have simply wandered too far from the simplicity that a "basic aircraft" needs to provide. Looking over many a log books over the years and seeing what the average flight times per outings are I'd say that dead reckoning, use your watch, manage your fuel, should certainly rank higher in the curriculum than understanding your latest Garmin updates into its finest detail. I guess it's everyones choice on how just how simplistic a classic should be kept. History tells me, they've done ok for quite some time, ..flying simply, flying with just the basics that is, but can you? Dare ya, UNPLUG, enjoy the scenery!
See you at the flight line!