AC 103-6 - ULTRALIGHT VEHICLE OPERATIONS AIRPORTS, AIR TRAFFIC
CONTROL, AND WEATHER
Department of Transportation
Federal Aviation Administration
Initiated by: AAT-230
This advisory circular provides guidance for the operation of
ultralight vehicles in the United States. Information includes airport
and flight park operations, how to work with air traffic control, and
the availability of weather services. Additional advisory circulars
for the operation of ultralight vehicles may be found under series
a. The sport of hang gliding has advanced dramatically since the
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) first issued Advisory Circular
No. 60-10, "Recommended Safety Parameters for the Operation of Hang
Gliders," on May 16, 1974. The purpose of that advisory circular was
to provide guidance to the hang gliding community without the need for
Federal regulation. The response to the guidelines of the advisory
circular was excellent, and for the period immediately following its
issuance many of its safety goals were maintained. But, as the sport
advanced, the performance capabilities and popularity of these
vehicles increased. Many unpowered gliders became capable of soaring
to altitudes more than 10,000 feet above the launch point, and flight
distances could exceed 100 miles. The addition of powerplants and
controllable aerodynamic surfaces created vehicles which approximate
the operational capabilities of fixed wing aircraft. And with the
greatly increased number of these vehicles, the operation of
ultralight vehicles became a significant factor in aviation safety.
b. On October 4, 1982, a new Federal Aviation Regulation, Part 103,
became effective and provided for the safe integration of ultralight
vehicle operations into the National Airspace System. In conjunction
with Part 103, the ultralight community is being encouraged to adopt
good operating practices. This advisory circular is intended to assist
the ultralight operator in attaining that goal.
Comments and questions concerning information contained in this
advisory circular should be directed to Federal Aviation
Administration, Airspace and Air Traffic Rules Branch (AAT-230), 800
Independence Avenue S.W., Washington, D.C. 20591.
3. EXPLANATION OF CONTENTS.
a. Chapter 1. Airports and Ultralight Flight Parks. Includes
information about where to take off and land, the operation of a
flight park, and environmental considerations.
b. Chapter 2. Air Traffic Control and Radio Communications.
Describes airspace areas, operations at airports with and without
control towers, and use of a two-way radio.
c. Chapter 3. Weather Information. Sources of weather information,
and an introduction to micrometeorology.
d. Chapter 4. Accident Information and Other Sources. What to do if
you witness or are involved in an accident. Also, where to go and what
to do if you need additional information on the operation of your
4. - 9. RESERVED.
CHAPTER 1. AIRPORTS AND ULTRALIGHT FLIGHT PARKS
10. WHERE TO TAKE OFF AND LAND.
One of the questions most frequently asked by the ultralight pilot
is, "Where can I safely and legally take off and land my ultralight?"
The following information is designed to assist the ultralight pilot
in understanding the different types of operations, both on and off
airport, and the recommended procedures for obtaining permission to
operate ultralight vehicles.
a. Existing airports.
Currently, there are approximately 16,000 public use and private
airports and seaplane bases in the United States. The vast majority of
these facilities may be suitable and compatible for safe ultralight
operations. Information on their location may be obtained from various
sources, such as FAA publications (i.e., Airport / Facility Directory,
aeronautical charts, etc.) which may be purchased at most local
airports. Also, user organizations have comprehensive airport listings
which usually include a description of the facility.
Items to Consider
(1) Some of these airports have their air traffic directly
controlled by an air traffic control tower. Use of these airports
requires prior permission of airport management and the local air
traffic control authority (see FAR Part 103.17). Since the volume of
aircraft operating at these airports is usually significantly higher,
ultralight operators may find operations at these airports to be less
desirable than operations at uncontrolled airports.
(2) There are many airports where air traffic is not controlled
by an air traffic control tower and the traffic activity level is
usually low. These airports are referred to as "uncontrolled
airports." Use of these airports by ultralight vehicles may require
prior permission of the airport operator. When seeking access to these
airports, ultralight operators should remember that even though the
airport may be tax supported, airport management has the
responsibility for determining the compatibility of operating the
various classes of aircraft on the airport. If an ultralight can be
safely operated at the airport, then permission to operate the
ultralight vehicle may be granted. Safety of aircraft operations on
the airport is always the prime consideration.
b. Abandoned Airports.
Since 1970, approximately 3,000 airports have been abandoned
because of a lack of activity, financial problems, or other related
reasons. The majority of these airports are located in rural areas,
privately owned, and possibly well suited for ultralight training and
other activities. Many state aeronautical organizations have knowledge
of recently abandoned facilities and should be able to assist you in
finding these sites. It may be possible to obtain permission of the
property owner to reactivate certain of these facilities for
c. Open Space Operating Areas.
One of the prime advantages of ultralight operation is the
vehicle's ability to operate in small areas. FAR Part 103 does not
prohibit ultralight takeoff and landing from open areas, providing the
operation does not overfly congested areas. Good judgement still
dictates that an ultralight pilot obtain prior permission from the
landowner and be familiar with the terrain and obstructions at any
location where operations are intended. For the operation of hang
gliders, special consideration should be given to the terrain
surrounding the launch site. In many cases these terrain features will
influence the ability of the unpowered craft to return to the launch
11. OPERATION OF A FLIGHT PARK.
Anyone wishing to establish a site for the operation of ultralight
vehicles should be aware of the following Federal, state, and local
regulatory requirements which may apply to these operations:
a. Federal Requirements.
Unless the site is to be used solely in VFR weather conditions for
a period of less than 30 consecutive days with no more than 10
operations per day during this period, notification of the intent to
establish a flight park is required under the provisions of FAR Part
157, Notification of Construction, Alteration, Activation, and
Deactivation of Airports. FAA Form 7480-1, which is used to provide
this notice (as well as guidance in its preparation) is available from
any FAA regional Airports Division or Airports District / Field
Office. The FAA uses the information provided in the notice to advise
on the effect of the establishment of the site on the use of navigable
airspace by aircraft. Advisory Circular 70-2, Airspace Utilization
Considerations in the Proposed Construction, Alteration, Activation
and Deactivation of Airports, describes some of the factors which
affect airspace utilization. Failure to provide the required notice
violates Section 901 of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 and carries a
possible civil penalty.
b. State Requirements.
Many state aviation departments require approval and a license for
the establishment of a site for aeronautical operations. The potential
ultralight flight park developer should contact the state aviation
authorities to determine state requirements.
c. Local Requirements.
Most communities have established zoning laws, building codes, fire
regulations, and other legal requirements to provide for the safety
and comfort of the citizenry. A thorough study of these requirements
should be made to determine their effect on the establishment and
operation of an ultralight flight park.
12. STANDARDS FOR THE FLIGHT PARK LAYOUT.
The FAA has no standards for the geometric design of an airport
built to exclusively serve ultralight vehicles. However, several
ultralight organizations provide information which may be useful for
the establishment of an ultralight flight park as a separate entity.
FAA Advisory Circular 150/5300-4B, Utility Airports - Air Access to
National Transportation, intended for airports serving aircraft with
approach speeds less than 121 knots, provides guidance which may also
be helpful in developing an operational site for ultralight aircraft.
13. NOISE CONSIDERATIONS.
Perhaps the most limiting factor in the operation of ultralights is
the noise emitted from the vehicle. Unless proper measures are taken
in the design and operation of ultralights, public annoyance to the
noise may result in restrictive local and state regulations.
Acceptance by the public of recreational sport flying is significantly
tied to the potential for annoyance from the vehicle's noise.
a. Significant progress has been made by ultralight manufacturers
to quiet engine, exhaust, and propeller noises. As these systems
continue to improve, so will the acceptance of the ultralight vehicle.
However, these improvements are only half of the story. Ultralight
operation in a manner sensitive to the possible annoyance of those on
the ground is the other. It is probably the most important factor in
gaining acceptance by the general public.
b. Airport owners / operators have been trying for years to
establish operations compatible with the needs of adjacent
communities. The acceptance of ultralight operations by a community
will depend in a large part on its perception of how additional
operations by ultralights will affect the airport's overall
compatibility with its neighbors. Careful planning by ultralight
operators in integrating their vehicles into the existing operation
will go a long way in making acceptance a reality.
c. The FAA has begun ultralight noise testing. Preliminary results
indicate that, in absolute noise levels, the ultralight is no louder
at 1,000 feet AGL than some popular two seat single engine aircraft.
The slower speed of the ultralight does result in longer periods of
exposure to noise and is a significant factor in the annoyance
perceived from such overflight. Another consideration is the lower
altitude at which many ultralight operations take place. This causes
an increase in the intensity of sound during flyover and is a
significant factor in determining the annoyance caused by noise.
d. FAR Part 103 prohibits operations of ultralights over congested
areas. Ultralight pilots should be aware that, while their vehicles
may not be operating directly over congested areas, their vehicles'
noise may carry to the residents of a nearby congested area.
14. FLIGHT PARK DATA.
Once the ultralight flight park is activated by the operator and
the FAA is notified, an Airport Master Record (FAA Form 5010-2) is
prepared by the FAA. This is a computerized record of data describing
the flight park's facilities and services. Each year, a copy of this
Airport Master Record is mailed to the flight park operator with a
request to verify and update the data. The information collected by
the FAA is available upon request to Government agencies, aviation
organizations, aviation industries, and private individuals. Future
informational needs for ultralight flight park directories, charting,
etc., can be supplied from computerized data summaries derived from
the Airport Master Record.
15. - 19. RESERVED.
CHAPTER 2. AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL AND RADIO COMMUNICATIONS
The rapid growth and popularity of ultralight vehicles and the
increased number of operations require the highest degree of vigilance
on the part of ultralight operators to see and avoid other ultralight
vehicles and aircraft. Some of these operations involve authorization
from air traffic control. The purpose of this chapter is to assist the
ultralight operator in understanding the airspace, operations with air
traffic control, and the use of radio communications.
21. AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL (ATC) AND AIRSPACE.
Even though ultralight vehicle operators are not required to
demonstrate any aeronautical knowledge or experience requirements,
failure to recognize and avoid certain airspace can be hazardous and
may be in violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations. FAR 103.17
states that no person may operate an ultralight vehicle within an
Airport Traffic Area, Control Zone, Terminal Control Area or Positive
Control Area unless that person has prior authorization from the air
traffic control facility having jurisdiction over the airspace. The
airspace areas requiring ATC authorization that you, as an ultralight
operator, are most likely to come in contact with are the Airport
Traffic Area, Control Zone and Terminal Control Area.
22. AIRSPACE AREAS.
a. What is an Airport Traffic Area (ATA)?
An Airport Traffic Area is airspace within a radius of 5 statute
miles from the center of an airport, with an operating control tower,
that extends upward from the surface to, but not including, an
altitude 3,000 feet above the elevation of an airport. For the purpose
of ultralight operations, flight within the ATA requires specific
authorization from the air traffic control tower. Although most ATAs
are not depicted on charts, any airport symbol on the sectional chart
that is blue in color indicates the presence of an air traffic control
tower. During the time that tower is in operation, an ATA exists (see
item h., Airspace and the Chart).
b. What is a Control Zone? A
Control Zone may include one or more airports and is normally a
circular area within a radius of 5 statute miles around an airport.
The vertical limits of a control zone begin at the surface and extend
upward to 14,500 feet mean sea level (MSL). Some control zones have
rectangular extensions to include the arrival and departure paths for
pilots operating primarily with reference to their aircraft
instruments. The entire area of a control zone is considered
controlled airspace, but not all airports have a control zone. Where a
control zone exists, it is depicted on sectional charts by the use of
dashed lines. For the purpose of ultralight operations flight within
the control zone requires authorization from the air traffic facility
controlling that area.
c. What is a Terminal Control Area (TCA)?
At the present time there are 23 Terminal Control Areas. TCAs are
in place around many of the high density airports in the country. They
extend upward from the surface in the center and usually have multiple
rings of airspace which extend outward horizontally. Its appearance
closely resembles an inverted wedding cake, with both lower and upper
limits for each ring. The presence of a TCA is characterized on a
sectional chart by blue outlines of the TCA limits around a major
airport. All operations within the rings of a TCA require
authorization from air traffic control (see item h., Airspace and the
d. What is Positive Control Area (PCA)?
Positive Control Area is the area which overlies the continental
United States at 18,000 feet and above. All operations conducted in
PCA are done so with the authority of air traffic control. Aircraft
operating at these higher altitudes are required to carry additional
radio equipment and their pilots must be rated for instrument flight.
Although ultralights are not faced with specific equipment
requirements for entry into PCA, ATC authorization is required.
Requests for such flights will be thoroughly reviewed prior to any
decision to authorize operations in PCA by an ultralight.
e. How Do I Get ATC Authorization?
Requests for authorization to operate an ultralight vehicle into
one of the above named areas should be made by writing, telephoning,
or visiting the air traffic control facility having jurisdiction over
the airspace in which you wish to operate. Requests for such
authorization via air traffic control radio communication frequencies
will normally not be accepted, since it may interfere with the
separation of aircraft.
f. What is Uncontrolled Airspace?
Uncontrolled airspace is the area in which air traffic control
separation services are not provided. This area is usually below 1,200
feet above ground level (AGL). When nearing airports with established
instrument approaches, the ceiling of uncontrolled airspace usually
lowers to 700 feet AGL, and, if a control zone exists, uncontrolled
airspace remains outside of the control zone horizontal limits, thus
putting the airport within controlled airspace. In some geographic
areas, primarily west of the Mississippi River, uncontrolled airspace
ceilings are above 1,200 feet AGL. This is an exception, rather than
the rule. The ceiling of uncontrolled airspace may be determined by
reference to Sectional Aeronautical Charts used for aviation (see item
h., Airspace and the Chart).
g. What is Controlled Airspace?
Controlled airspace is the area in which air traffic control
separation services are available for aircraft. The base of controlled
airspace usually begins at 1,200 feet AGL and extends upward. When
nearing airports with established instrument approaches the base of
controlled airspace usually lowers to 700 feet AGL, and, if a control
zone exists, the base of controlled airspace begins at the surface
within the horizontal limits of the control zone. (See Item h.,
Airspace and the Chart)
h. Airspace and the Chart.
Sectional Aeronautical Charts, often called "sectionals", are
published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) and are revised on a semiannual basis. Sectionals depict
information for the use of pilots who are operating with visual
reference to the earth's surface. Each sectional has a legend printed
on its endflap. Of particular interest to the ultralight operator, is
the portion entitled "Airport Traffic Service and Airspace
Information." This portion of the legend gives information which will
enable you to locate the floor of controlled airspace, prohibited and
restricted areas, TCAs, control zones, tower controlled airports,
obstructions, and other useful information. Sectional charts may be
purchased from local airport operators, user organizations, and
directly from the NOAA, Washington, D.C. Assistance in learning how to
use sectional charts should be readily available from any FAA
certificated flight or ground instructor.
i. Special Military Activity.
(1) There are special routes, known as Military Training Routes
(MTRs), which have been developed across the country for military
training in "low level" combat tactics. Generally, MTRs are
established below 10,000 feet MSL for operations at speeds in excess
of 250 knots and will include operations by both fighter and cargo
type aircraft. The routes at 1,500 feet AGL and below are developed
primarily to be flown in visual flight weather conditions. The
sectional charts depict regularly established MTRs as shaded gray
lines with an associated VR or IR numbered identifier.
Nonparticipating flights are not prohibited from flying within an MTR,
but extra caution to see and avoid these operations is imperative in
attaining the greatest practical level of safety. Ultralight pilots
and flight park operators should contact the nearest Flight Service
Station (FSS) to obtain information on the route usage in their
vicinity. Information available includes times of scheduled activity,
altitudes in use, and actual route width. Route width varies for each
MTR and can extend several miles on either side of the line depicted
on sectional charts.
(2) Also, throughout the year, the military conducts special
operations which may be held on a one-time basis in a specific
geographical location. Information pertaining to such operations is
usually available through the FSS system. When requesting MTR and
special activity information, ultralight operators should give the FSS
their area of intended operation and permit the FSS specialist to
identify the MTR routes and special activities which could be a
factor. Information on FSSs may be found in paragraph 42(a).
23. TRAFFIC PATTERNS AND OPERATIONS IN THE VICINITY OF AN AIRPORT.
a. Since the speed and operating characteristics of an ultralight
vehicle may be incompatible with many aircraft, it is essential that
you stay alert by looking for and avoiding other traffic. Be
especially aware of the possibility that a faster craft might overtake
your ultralight. Ultralight operators should be especially vigilant
for aircraft operating around an airport. Traffic pattern altitudes
for propeller driven aircraft generally extend from 600 to 1500 feet
above the ground and aircraft are often at these altitudes within 5
miles of the airport. Also, because of the possible effects of wake
turbulence, operations in close proximity to aircraft of greater speed
and weight should be avoided.
b. Preparatory to landing at an uncontrolled airport, the pilot
should be concerned with landing direction indications on the airport.
Such indicators include wind socks, wind tees, tetrahedrons, traffic
pattern indicators, and the direction of other fixed wing operations.
c. Wind socks operate freely and are subject to the forces of wind
for direction. Wind tees may move freely or be aligned manually
indicating the preferred landing direction. A tetrahedron is a large
kite-shaped indicator sometimes located beside the runway and may move
freely or be set manually. The small end of the tetrahedron points in
the preferred direction of landing.
d. Many airports have standardized traffic patterns which rely on
all turns in the pattern being made to the left. Traffic pattern
indicators are used when there is a variation from the normal left
traffic pattern. They are located either in a segmented circle with
the wind sock or tetrahedron, or may be located near the end of the
applicable runway. If the pilot will mentally enlarge the indicator
for the runway to be used, the direction of turns will become readily
apparent. Airports which have parallel runways may have both left and
right traffic patterns operating at the same time.
e. Also, some airports may have a specific area designated for
ultralight operations. Look for any indications that landings are to
be made on other than the main runway and adjust your flight path so
as to not conflict with operations to the main runway.
f. Regardless of wind indicators or traffic patterns, it is wise to
scan the airport surface and the surrounding airspace for flights that
may be operating in a different manner. The governing factor as to
which runway is in use is the direction and strength of the wind. It
is the responsibility of pilots to determine the safe landing
direction for their craft. The indicators are there to assist you in
operating safely, but they are not meant to be a substitute for
careful vigilance and good judgement.
24. OPERATIONS AT AIRPORTS WITH A CONTROL TOWER.
If you are operating into or out of an airport with a control tower
expect to be segregated from all nonultralight aircraft in the traffic
pattern, in the use of runways, and on the airport surface. Please
take special notice of the word "segregate." FAA air traffic
controllers have been advised to authorize ultralight operations only
if they will not interfere with and can be kept relatively clear of
normal aircraft operations. Certificated aircraft receive separation
services. These will not be available to ultralight pilots. Rather,
ultralight pilots will be expected to separate themselves from each
other and also to remain clear of all normal aircraft operations. When
requesting to operate at a tower controlled airport, or within the
airport traffic area, expect the controllers to provide you
instructions as to what areas to avoid. These instructions may include
route and altitude information as well as a specified landing area.
Specific times during which to operate may also be authorized. For
operators equipped with two-way radios, see paragraph 25. It is
important that ultralight operators understand the responsibility for
avoiding a conflict with aircraft and other ultralights is theirs, and
25. USE OF A TWO-WAY RADIO.
The following information provides guidelines for the use of a
two-way radio while operating an ultralight.
a. Communications with Air Traffic Control.
In all radio communications with air traffic control, ultralight
operators should state the word "ultralight" followed by the call
letters assigned by the F.C.C. on your radio license, i.e.,
"Ultralight 12593U." Use of the following radio communication
practices will result in the controller having a better understanding
of your request and enhance the safety of your flight.
(1) Determine the correct frequency from a Sectional
(2) Contact the air traffic control tower prior to entering the
area for which you are requesting authorization.
(3) Speak slowly and distinctly. If you do not get an immediate
reply, wait a few moments, then repeat your request. The controller
may be busy and you may not be hearing all of the transmissions the
controller is hearing.
(4) State the facility you are calling, your ultralight
identification, altitude, and location relative to the airport.
Example: "Sample Tower, Ultralight 12593U Six Miles Southwest at 1,000
feet." If you are on the ground at the airport, give your position on
(5) Wait for the tower to respond before stating any further
(6) Once two-way communications are established, briefly state
(7) Keep in mind at all times your responsibility to remain
clear of all other aircraft and ultralights. Further, remember your
responsibility to remain clear of any area for which an authorization
is required, but has not been received.
(8) On occasion, air traffic control will deny authorization to
operate in a specific area. This is not unique to ultralights. At
times, certificated pilots in sophisticated aircraft are also denied
access to certain areas. Factors affecting authorization are the
nature of the requested operation, the effect on other operations that
may already be taking place, controller workload, and equipment or
facility limitations. The ultimate reason remains the same ... SAFETY.
b. Communications at Uncontrolled Airports.
(1) An uncontrolled airport is an airport without a control
tower or where the control tower is not currently in operation. This
does not mean that two-way communications are not used. Quite the
contrary. A considerable amount of useful information is passed back
and forth among pilots and the operators of airport advisory
frequencies. Information such as runway in use, surface winds, other
aircraft known to be in the area, and any unusual activities, such as
parachuting, may be available.
(2) There are three primary ways for ultralight operators, who
are radio equipped, to communicate their intentions and obtain airport
/ traffic information when operating at a landing area that does not
have an operating control tower:
(i) by communicating with an FAA flight service station
located on the airport;
(ii) by communicating with a local airport advisory operator
located at the airport; or
(iii) by making self-announce broadcasts of intentions over a
commonly used frequency for operations at that airport.
(3) The key to communicating at uncontrolled airports is
selection of the correct Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF). A
more detailed explanation of CTAF and traffic advisory practices and
good operating procedures can be found in FAA Advisory Circular 90-42C
and the Airman's Information Manual. Additionally, the Airport /
Facility Directory provides information on which frequency to use at a
c. Traffic Advisory Practices at Uncontrolled Airports.
In all radio communications, ultralight operators should state the
word "ultralight" followed by the call letters assigned by the F.C.C.
on your radio license, i.e., "Ultralight 12593U".
(1) Select the correct frequency, many of which can be found on
Sectional Aeronautical Charts.
(2) Contact the airport advisory service prior to entering the
area or departing the airport.
(3) Speak slowly and distinctly. If you do not get an immediate
reply, wait a few moments and repeat your request. Please note that
pilots announcing their departure are not normally acknowledged.
(4) State the facility or airport you are calling, your
ultralight identification, your location relative to the airport, and
your intended operation. Example: "Leesburg, Ultralight 12593U is 5
Miles North, Landing."
(5) If you still do not get a reply, proceed cautiously toward
the airport. If departing the airport, be careful to visually clear
the area in all directions prior to entering the takeoff area. Remain
on the proper radio frequency and listen for any aircraft which may be
in the area.
(6) Once you have completed your landing or have exited the
area, it is good practice to let other aviators know that you are no
longer airborne in the vicinity of the airport. Example: "Leesburg,
Ultralight 12593U is Clear of the Runway" or "Leesburg, Ultralight
12593U is 2 Miles South, Leaving the Area".
26. - 29. RESERVED.
CHAPTER 3. WEATHER INFORMATION
The desire to leave the ground and explore the world from the air
has inevitably tied you to weather and its effect upon you. No pilot,
amateur or professionals can safely attempt a flight without
considering the present and expected weather conditions. Weather is a
factor in most aviation accidents. It cannot be emphasized too
strongly that if you are to continue to operate safely, it is
essential to know and understand the environment in which you are
Individual pilot weather briefings from FAA flight service stations
are provided to pilots on a "first come, first served" basis. The
number of briefers available today is insufficient to meet user
demands without the prospect of considerable delays. The FAA is taking
steps to remedy this. An automated system currently under development
is designed to accommodate direct user access and will be able to
provide increased services. Until that system is operational, the
present FAA flight service system may not be able to accommodate all
the needs of ultralight fliers.
30. SOURCES OF WEATHER INFORMATION.
Many sources of weather data are available to aviators. The
following sources will assist you in acquiring and evaluating as much
weather data as possible.
a. National weather is broadcast weekdays in a live 15 minute
television program called AM Weather. The program is carried by about
250 public broadcast stations in the early morning. This program
features meteorologists from the National Weather Service and the
National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service
(NESDIS). They use the latest guidance and data available to produce a
thorough program. The program's surface and forecast maps, satellite
imagery, radar maps, and upper air charts, along with the hazardous
weather watches, are ideal for acquiring broad scale weather
information. Consult your local television schedules to obtain time of
broadcast in your area.
b. Many cable TV systems now include 24 hour weather channels. Some
of the programs include aviation weather.
c. Transcribed Weather Broadcasts (TWEB) for aviation are made on
numerous FAA VHF omnidirectional ranges (VOR), nondirectional radio
beacons (NDBs), and at selected airports that provide automatic
terminal information services (ATIS). These transcribed broadcasts are
continuously updated during their hours of operation.
d. Broadcasts over radio beacons are made in the range of 200 - 400
KHz and can be received on relatively inexpensive radio receivers. VOR
and ATIS broadcasts are made on VHF aviation radio frequencies between
108 - 136 MHz. There are many moderately priced radios available that
will receive these frequencies.
e. The content of TWEB and ATIS broadcast in some cities can be
received over the telephone. The telephone numbers to use can be found
in the telephone directory under United States Government, Department
of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration. TWEB recordings
will be listed under Flight Service Station and ATIS recordings will
be listed under Air Traffic Control Tower.
f. On nondirectional radio beacons and selected VHF omnidirectional
ranges (VORs), the broadcasts may include synopsis, adverse
conditions, route forecasts, outlook, winds aloft forecasts, radar
reports, surface weather report, etc.
g. Broadcasts on other VORs may include only surface weather
reports, terminal (airport) forecast for the local airport, adverse
h. ATIS broadcasts may include local ceiling, visibility,
obstructions to vision, temperature, wind direction (magnetic) and
speed, altimeter setting, etc. The information is applicable only to
the airport located at the ATIS site, but it may be used in evaluating
the trend of existing weather.
i. All the above facilities and their frequencies may be identified
by studying sectional aeronautical charts that are sold at many
airports. Much of the same information is found in the U.S. Government
Flight Information Publication, Airport / Facility Directory.
Comprehensive explanations of all these services are printed in the
FAA Airman's Information Manual (AIM). The publication is available
through the U.S. Government Printing office. Other excellent sources
to find out frequencies and what is available, are pilots handbooks
published by user organizations.
j. In most large metropolitan areas, the National Weather Service
provides continuous broadcasts of local weather conditions on two
frequencies that can be received by inexpensive radios available at
many retail outlets.
k. Pilots Automatic Telephone Weather Answering Service (PATWAS) is
available in most large metropolitan locations. This is a telephone
recording of local and route weather information that can be obtained
by dialing a telephone number found under the same heading in the
phone book as listed above for TWEB.
l. If you live in the Washington, D.C., or Columbus, Ohio, areas,
you should become familiar with the voice response system (VRS)
installed at these locations. This is a computer based test system
that provides weather data over the telephone. The user needs only to
have a "TOUCHTONE" phone to access the system. Since this is a test
system, the products available may vary. The latest information
available and directions on using this system can be obtained by
sending a stamped self-addressed envelope to:
Voice Response System
Atlantic City, N.J. 08405
m. These many sources of weather data are only part of a safe
weather operation. Other factors include a knowledge of how to
interpret the weather data correctly, and when to exercise good
judgment and not fly. There are many Government and civil sources that
supply educational material on weather and user organizations are
developing courses aimed at improving the ultralight operator's
understanding of weather. One of the best efforts ultralight operators
can make in their own behalf is to find out about weather. Many
members of the aviation community have learned that weather, above all
other aspects of our environment, is irreverent of even the most
While the list of available weather information is impressive, it
may not provide the ultralight operator with the actual weather and
wind conditions at the operating site. One of the most critical
factors in conducting a safe takeoff and landing is accurate
information of the wind conditions on the surface. There may be many
indications of what the wind conditions are at the flying site. The
information provided herein is designed to assist you in understanding
and using those indicators.
a. Wind Direction.
One of the best indicators of wind direction near the surface is
derived by the use of a windsock or wind streamers. The direction of
the wind is clearly indicated, as is the velocity. Because ultralight
vehicles are very susceptible to wind, we recommend that several
windsocks or streamers be located around the landing site. Another
means of learning the wind direction on the surface is from nearby
ponds or lakes. The "glassy" or smooth water area along the shore
indicates the direction from which the wind is blowing. The further
out into the body of water the glassy area protrudes, the lower the
wind velocity. Be careful when using this method that the shoreline is
not subject to major obstructions such as high trees or a steep, high
bank. Yet another indicator of wind direction and velocity is the
natural vegetation such as tall grass, trees, and bushes. Caution
should be used here too, for the trees themselves can cause the wind
direction to change significantly, see item c., Turbulence and Wind
Shear. Other indicators of surface wind are smoke and blowing dust.
Learn to use them all and learn to cross check the information of one
against the other. They are inexpensive resources that may save your
b. Wind Gradient and Gusts.
Wind gradient is change in the velocity of the wind with an
increase / decrease in altitude. Normally, wind velocities will
increase as the altitude increases. Conversely, because of the drag
effects of the earth, winds may significantly decrease as you get
closer to the ground. If the winds decrease at a faster rate than can
be accounted for by pitch and thrust changes, the vehicle may enter a
stall. For this reason, when descending or climbing in close proximity
to the ground, a safe margin of extra airspeed is recommended. Also
affecting the ultralight vehicle are wind gusts. The danger inherent
in gusting wind conditions is amplified during the takeoff and landing
phases of flight. A sudden gust of wind could lift the ultralight up
quickly, only to abandon the pilot 20 feet above the ground. The
result is often a stall. Another effect of gusting winds is the effect
on the airframe of the vehicle. Strong gusts could easily and quickly
exceed the design limits of the vehicle, especially if the pilot is
performing a maneuver which is already putting some "load" on the
airframe. The best advice for operating in gusting winds is to ask
yourself: "Do I really need to be doing this?" If you absolutely,
positively have to be there, fly gently and maintain extra airspeed
during the takeoff and landing. Fly the vehicle right down to the
ground with a minimum landing flare, and, after you've landed, ask
yourself: "Do I really want to do that again?"
c. Turbulence and Wind Shear.
The most critical altitudes for microwind changes are between 30
and 75 feet above ground level. This depends, in part, on the nearness
of the surrounding obstructions such as large trees, buildings, and
hills. The effect of these obstructions is often turbulence or a
sudden change in wind direction and velocity often referred to as wind
shear. Turbulence can be especially dangerous in ultralights due to
their light weight. Ground turbulence consists of vortices and eddies,
vertical blasts of air, and rotors (dust devils). Turbulence is caused
by winds moving across and around objects, and by thermal heating of
the earth's surface. Wind shear can result in a sudden reduction in
the relative wind over the vehicle's lifting surfaces. When this
happens, the vehicle may very quickly enter a stall. At low altitude
it may be nearly impossible to recover in the distance remaining to
the ground. Because of the effects turbulence and wind shear have on
the safety of ultralight operations, it may be wise not to fly
ultralights in winds exceeding 15 mph. And even then, there will be
some circumstances when 15 mph is too much. Also, keep in mind not
only your own piloting skills, but the abilities of your craft to
handle a crosswind during takeoff and landing. If you are in doubt,
err on the side of safety and leave the enjoyment of flying for
another time, perhaps another day.
32. - 39. RESERVED.
CHAPTER 4. ACCIDENT INFORMATION AND OTHER SOURCES
40. NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD (NTSB).
a. The NTSB is the official Government investigator for all
transportation safety issues. Its purpose is to impartially analyze
occurrences which may indicate a transportation safety problem and to
recommend corrective action. The NTSB has decided to investigate all
fatal powered ultralight vehicle accidents and other selected
ultralight accidents and incidents which may involve significant
safety issues. The Safety Board will also investigate ultralight
vehicle accidents impinging on civil aircraft operations or on persons
and property on the ground. The Safety Board will review accident data
and the safety efforts of the aviation community in order to keep
abreast of any emerging safety problems and will be available to
provide technical assistance in remedying those problems.
IF YOU ARE WITNESS TO OR INVOLVED IN AN INCIDENT / ACCIDENT
INVOLVING THE OPERATION OF AN ULTRALIGHT VEHICLE, NTSB REQUESTS YOU DO
(1) Immediately attend to the medical and physical needs of the
situation. Notify the local authorities if assistance is needed.
(2) Do not move or remove any debris associated with the
(3) Write down as much as you can remember. This will be very
helpful in accurately recalling the incident.
(4) Notify, or have the local authorities notify, the nearest
NTSB Field office. This information can be found in the local phone
book under U.S. Government, National Transportation Safety Board, or
call your local FAA office and request the NTSB telephone number.
(5) If you are able, take photographs of the site, and get the
names and phone numbers of any witness.
b. NTSB requests that you be very helpful in reporting such
incidents as this will give all of the owners / operators of
ultralights a chance to benefit from the knowledge gained during the
investigation. The Safety Board investigation is fact finding in
nature and will not be used to substantiate any violation of Federal
c. Additionally, the FAA supports the goals of private
organizations and associations to provide technical and operational
assistance to the ultralight industry in enhancing the reliability of
the vehicles and the safety of the sport. The FAA encourages all
participants in the sport of ultralight flying to report any incident,
accident, structural or mechanical failure of an ultralight to the
private organizations and associations actively representing the
41. AIRPORTS DISTRICT OFFICE (ADO).
a. Airport district offices are located throughout the country and
serve a specific geographical area. Their primary purpose is to assist
the aviation community and state and local governments in the planning
and development of landing facilities. Under FAR 103, ADOs would be
your best source for information pertaining to the establishment of a
flight park and the environmental considerations associated with
b. For the phone number and location of the ADO serving your area,
consult your local phone directory under Department of Transportation,
Federal Aviation Administration, Airport District Office or Regional
Airport District Office.
42. FAA AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL FACILITIES.
There are three major types of air traffic control facilities with
which you may come in contact. The following information should assist
you in determining which one to call.
a. Flight Service Station (FSS).
The Flight Service Station's primary function is to provide the
pilot with preflight weather briefings and also Notices to Airmen
(NOTAMs) which have information as to the status of airports and
facilities; the conduct of special activities (parachuting, airshows,
military exercises, etc.); and the presence of known temporary
structures such as a crane located near an airport. For the ultralight
operator, FSSs can be a means of obtaining guidance on which FAA
facility could best be of assistance. For the role FSSs play in
providing weather information to ultralight pilots, see Chapter 3.
b. Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT).
There are many air traffic control towers located throughout the
country. Each serves a particular airport and provides pilots with
information on the movement of other aircraft in and around the
airport. In some circumstances, ATCTs have an approach control
associated with them which provides separation between aircraft over a
wider geographic area. Under FAR 103, ATCTs would be your contact
point for operations in an airport traffic area. In many instances,
operations at nearby airports with control zones may also be
coordinated through the nearest ATCT.
c. Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC).
There are 20 ARTCCs located around the country. Each one covers a
very large geographic area and provides radar separation services to
aircraft through the use of remote radar and radio communication
facilities. In some areas, the ARTCC functions as an approach control
and has responsibility, under FAR 103, for providing authorization for
ultralight operations in a control zone. Due to the size and vast area
of coverage of ARTCCs, it is better to contact the FSS or ATCT nearest
you for assistance in obtaining required authorizations.
For the phone numbers and locations of the FSS, ATCT, or ARTCC you
wish to call, consult your local telephone directory under Department
of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration. Each facility
should be listed separately: Flight Service Station; (airport name)
Air Traffic Control Tower; and Air Route Traffic Control Center.
43. GENERAL AVIATION DISTRICT OFFICE (GADO).
a. These offices are located throughout the country and are staffed
by Flight Standards personnel. Their primary purpose is to serve the
general public and aviation industry on all matters relating to the
certification and operation of general aviation aircraft. These
responsibilities include accident prevention programs, general
surveillance of operational safety, and the enforcement of FAR. Under
FAR 103, GADOs are your best source of information for items such as
vehicle applicability, hazardous operations, and operations over
congested areas. Should you desire, GADOs can also provide you
guidance and assistance in certificating your ultralight as an
b. For the location and phone number of your nearest GADO, consult
your local telephone directory under Department of Transportation,
Federal Aviation Administration, General Aviation District Office or
Flight Standards District Office.
The Federal Government and the aviation industry have devoted
considerable energies to producing informational and training
publications which are invaluable to pilots. Listed below are some of
the publications available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S.
Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.
Other sources of useful information can be obtained through the
various organizations, manufacturers, and associations working within
the aviation community.
a. Airman's Information Manual (AIM).
This manual contains the basic fundamentals required for safe
flight in the U.S. National Airspace System. It includes chapters on
navigation aids, airspace, air traffic control, flight safety, and
good operating practices. it also includes a pilot / controller
glossary. The AIM is issued every 112 days and the annual subscription
price is $17.
b. Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge.
This handbook contains essential information used in training and
guiding pilots. Subjects include the principals of flight, airplane
performance, flight instruments, basic weather, navigation and charts,
and excerpts from flight information publications. This handbook is
one of the most complete sources of aeronautical information
available. The current price is $10.
Listed below are some of the publications available from the FAA.
c. Flight Standards Safety Pamphlets.
These pamphlets are used in the General Aviation Accident
Prevention Program and are produced primarily to be distributed at
accident prevention seminars by GADO personnel. Titles available
include: Density Altitude, Weight and Balance, Propeller Operation and
Care, and Planning Your Takeoff. There are many other subjects
available. Pamphlets may be obtained in reasonable number at no charge
from the FAA Accident Prevention Specialist assigned to your local
d. FAA Advisory Circulars.
(1) The FAA issues advisory circulars to assist and inform the
public on matters affecting aviation. Advisory circulars are issued in
a numbered subject system corresponding to the subject areas of the
(2) For example, this advisory is numbered AC 103-6 because it
deals with information pertaining to FAR 103 operations. There are
more than 400 free advisory circulars available. Subjects which may be
of interest to the ultralight operator include:
AC 60-4A Pilot's Spatial Disorientation
AC 90-23D Wake Turbulence
AC 90-42C Traffic Advisory Practices at Uncontrolled
AC 90-48B Pilot's Role in Collision Avoidance
AC 91-36B VFR Flight Near Noise Sensitive Areas
(3) For a complete listing of all available advisory circulars,
send your request for the Advisory Circular Checklist, AC 00-2 to:
U.S. Department of Transportation
Subsequent Distribution Unit, M-442.32
Washington, D.C. 20590
Please enclose a self-addressed mailing label to expedite the
processing of your request.
Additionally, the FAA publishes numerous other documents dealing
with a variety of subjects. The Guide to Federal Aviation
Administration Publications lists the information available from the
FAA and also provides a list of civil aviation related publications
issued by other Federal agencies. A free copy of this guide is
available from the address listed in paragraph d.
e. Airport / Facility Directory (A/FD)
Issued every 8 weeks, the Airport / Facility Directory is a civil
flight information publication which contains a directory of all
airports, seaplane bases, and heliports open to the public. Available
from the National Ocean Service, NOAA Distribution Branch, N/CG33,
Riverdale, Maryland 20737, the directory includes information on
communication frequencies, navigational facilities, and certain
special notices such as curfews. Directories are sold on a single copy
or subscription basis and cover a specific geographic area of the
United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
B. KEITH POTTS
Acting Director, Air Traffic Service
PART 103 - ULTRALIGHT VEHICLES
Subpart A - General
103.3 Inspection requirements
103.7 Certification and registration
Subpart B - Operating Rules
103.9 Hazardous operations.
103.11 Daylight Operations
103.13 Operation near aircraft; right of way rules.
103.15 Operations over congested areas.
103.17 Operations in certain airspace.
103.19 Operations in prohibited or restricted areas.
103.21 Visual reference to the surface.
103.23 Flight visibility and cloud clearance requirements.
Authority: Secs. 307, 313(a), 601(a), 602, and 603, Federal Aviation
Act of 1958 (49 U.S.C. 1348, 1354(a), 1421(a), 1422, 1423); sec. 6(c),
Department of Transportation Act (49 U.S.C. 1655(c).
Subpart A - General
Sec. 103.1 Applicability.
This part prescribes rules governing the operation of ultralight
vehicles in the United States. For the purposes of this part, and
ultralight vehicle is a vehicle that:
(a) Is used or intended to be used for manned operation in the air
by a single occupant;
(b) Is used or intended to be used for recreation or sport purposes
(c) Does not have any U.S. or foreign airworthiness certificate;
(d) If unpowered, weighs less than 155 pounds, or
(e) If powered:
(1) Weighs less than 254 pounds empty weight, excluding floats
and safety devices which are intended for deployment in a potentially
(2) Has a fuel capacity not exceeding 5 U.S. gallons;
(3) Is not capable of more than 55 knots calibrated airspeed at
full power in level flight; and
(4) Has a power-off stall speed which does not exceed 24 knots
Sec. 103.3 Inspection requirements.
(a) Any person operating an ultralight vehicle under this part
shall, upon request, allow the Administrator, or his designee, to
inspect the vehicle to determine the applicability of this part.
(b) The pilot or operator of an ultralight vehicle must, upon
request of the Administrator, furnish satisfactory evidence that the
vehicle is subject only to the provisions of this part.
Sec. 103.5 Waivers.
No person may conduct operations that require a deviation from this
part except under a written waiver issued by the Administrator.
Sec. 103.7 Certification and registration.
(a) Notwithstanding any other section pertaining to certification
of aircraft of their parts or equipment, ultralight vehicles and their
component parts and equipment are not required to meet the
airworthiness certification standards specified for aircraft or to
have certificates of airworthiness.
(b) Notwithstanding any other section pertaining to airman
certification, operators of ultralight vehicles are not required to
meet any aeronautical knowledge, age, or experience requirements to
operate those vehicles or to have airman or medical certificates.
(c) Notwithstanding any other section pertaining to registration
and marking of aircraft, ultralight vehicles are not required to be
registered or to bear markings of any type.
Subpart B - Operating Rules
Sec. 103.9 Hazardous operations.
(a) No person may operate any ultralight vehicle in a manner that
creates a hazard to other persons or property.
(b) No person may allow an object to be dropped from an ultralight
vehicle if such action creates a hazard to other persons or property.
Sec. 103.11 Daylight operations.
(a) No person may operate an ultralight vehicle except between the
hours of sunrise and sunset.
(b) Notwithstanding paragraph (a) of this section, ultralight
vehicles may be operated during the twilight periods 30 minutes before
official sunrise and 30 minutes after official sunset, or, in Alaska,
during the period of civil twilight as defined in the Air Almanac, if:
(1) The vehicle is equipped with an operating anticollision
light visible for at least 3 statute miles; and
(2) All operations are conducted in uncontrolled airspace.
Sec. 103.13 Operation near aircraft; Right of way rules.
(a) Each person operating an ultralight vehicle shall maintain
vigilance so as to see and avoid aircraft and shall yield the right of
way to all aircraft.
(b) No person may operate an ultralight vehicle in a manner that
creates a collision hazard with respect to any aircraft.
(c) Powered ultralights shall yield the right of way to unpowered
Sec. 103.15 Operations over congested areas.
No person may operate an ultralight vehicle over any congested area
of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of
Sec. 103.17 Operations in certain airspace.
No person may operate an ultralight vehicle within an airport
traffic area, control zone, terminal control area, or positive control
area unless that person has prior authorization from the air traffic
control facility having jurisdiction over that airspace.
Sec. 103.19 Operations in prohibited or restricted areas.
No person may operate an ultralight vehicle in prohibited or
restricted areas unless that person has permission from the using or
controlling agency, as appropriate.
Sec. 103.21 Visual reference with the surface.
No person may operate an ultralight vehicle except by visual
reference with the surface.
Sec. 103.23 Flight visibility and cloud clearance requirements.
No person may operate an ultralight vehicle when the flight
visibility or distance from clouds is less than that in the following
table, as appropriate:
FLIGHT ALTITUDES: 1,200 feet or less above the surface regardless of
(1) Within controlled airspace
MINIMUM FLIGHT VISIBILITY (Statute miles): 3
MINIMUM DISTANCE FROM CLOUDS: 500 feet below, 1,000 feet above,
2,000 feet horizontal
(2) Outside controlled airspace
MINIMUM FLIGHT VISIBILITY (Statute miles): 1
MINIMUM DISTANCE FROM CLOUDS: Clear of clouds
FLIGHT ALTITUDES: More than 1,200 feet above the surface
but less than 10,000 feet MSL
(1) Within controlled airspace
MINIMUM FLIGHT VISIBILITY (Statute miles): 3
MINIMUM DISTANCE FROM CLOUDS: 500 feet below, 1,000 feet above,
2,000 feet horizontal.
(2) Outside controlled airspace
MINIMUM FLIGHT VISIBILITY (Statute miles): 1
MINIMUM DISTANCE FROM CLOUDS: 500 feet below, 1,000 feet above,
2,000 feet horizontal.
FLIGHT ALTITUDES: More than 1,200 feet above the surface and at or
above 10,000 feet MSL
MINIMUM FLIGHT VISIBILITY (Statute miles): 5
MINIMUM DISTANCE FROM CLOUDS: 1,000 feet below, 1,000 feet above, 1
statute mile horizontal.
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