The Recreational Pilot Certificate is issued for specific aircraft “groups”. These are essentially for the different control systems used e.g. Group A is fixed wing, conventionally controlled aircraft such as ultralights and light sports aircraft. Group B is for weightshift controlled trikes and Group D is for powered parachutes such as the Aerochute.
There is no need for any additional exams to add another aircraft group on your recreational pilot certificate but it is necessary to do sufficient training to reach the required competency level.
For pilots coming into recreational aviation from other disciplines, your previous hours of flight experience count towards the minimums for your pilot certificate so, in most cases, it is again only necessary to do enough training to get you competent. However the number of hours this takes can vary between individuals and sometimes temporarily “unlearning” previous skills isn’t easy.
At Caboolture Microlights, we have a lot of experience converting pilots from other disciplines e.g GA, glider, hang-glider, powered parachute (no balloonists yet!) to both ultralights and microlights so let us help you make the process as effective as possible.
Converting to Weightshift
Weightshift controlled trikes use a different control system to other aircraft and it takes time to get used to this if you are familiar with a different sort of flying. The laws of physics are, obviously, the same so lowering a wing (for example) has the same effect. The difference is that the control input to achieve this is different in much the same way that if you are a car driver you would need time to learn the different inputs to control a motorbike. Once these skills are mastered you would be able to fly both types safely in the same way that most bikers can also drive a car without trying to use their right hand for the throttle.
Hang-glider pilots are used to the same control inputs as trikes but, in their case, have to learn the effects of power on the aircraft and, importantly, the landing technique is rather different.
Converting to Fixed Wing
Converting to fixed-wing ultralights from trikes involves learning to use a few extra controls as well as the reversed ground steering but generally doesn’t take too long. The biggest problem is often learning to use your feet in flight and this issue is often shared with converting GA pilots also (many larger fixed wing planes don’t exhibit the same adverse yaw characteristics that slower ultralights do.
Converting from GA to recreational flying may also involve sitting an additional exam to check that your knowledge is still current and that you are aware of the slightly different regulations which apply to our aircraft.
Pilots from Overseas
In most countries (including Australia) it is not necessary to have an ICAO compliant Private Pilots Licence to fly microlights, ultralights and recreational aircraft. Unfortunately this means that one countries qualifications are only valid within those borders and, generally, are not allowed to fly the same aircraft in other countries. To fly an ultralight or microlight in Australia it is necessary to hold a Recreational Pilot Certificate issued by Recreational Aviation Australia. The good news is that your previous training and experience is recognised and, in most cases, it is only necessary to do enough flying to get familiar with the different environment here and, possibly, to take an exam to show you are familiar with the rules in this country.
Caboolture Microlights have assisted a number of pilots from overseas through this process and are very happy to help anyone facing this hurdle.
If you learn to fly an extra aircraft group, it is important to remember your experience level on that type. You might have thousands of hours of experience on one sort of aircraft but you are a low houred novice on the new group. You shouldn’t necessarily fly the new type in all the scenarios you would be comfortable in the more familiar aircraft.
“Unlearning is a very necessary and difficult part of learning to fly”
Anon Flying Instructor