Q. What is an ultralight aircraft?
A. The first ultralight aircraft were essentially powered hang gliders. Now there are several different designs, although the most popular still have a hang glider-style wing. Suspended below is a three-wheeled carriage that holds a pilot and the engine and a rear-facing propeller.
U.S. regulations say ultralights must have a fuel capacity of less than five gallons, an empty weight of less than 254 pounds and a top speed of 64 mph. Anything larger than that is categorized as a light-sport aircraft.
Q. How do they take off?
A. Ultralights can take off on flat grass or dirt strips in 200 feet or less. They don't need to take off from a bluff as hang gliders do.
Q. How far can they go?
A. Most tricycle-style ultralights use around three gallons of fuel per hour, giving them a range of about 200 miles.
Q. Do you need a license?
A. No license is required for a single-seat ultralight. It typically takes 8-12 hours to gain necessary training to fly a single seat ultralight.
Q. How much do they cost?
A. A typical one-seat ultralight sells for around $12,000. There are dozens of manufacturers worldwide.
Q. How do Mexican smugglers modify their ultralights?
A. Smugglers can use engines with more horsepower to go as fast as 90 miles per hour, and place larger fuel tanks on the vehicles. They also build cargo cages to hold bricks of marijuana or narcotics.
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