|| Tutorials home | Decreasing risk exposure | Safety tour | Emergencies | Meteorology | Flight Theory | Communications | Builders guide ||
Learning to fly – an outline of Australian sport and recreational aviation
Rev. 9 — page content was last changed 30 November 2013
|Joining sport and recreational aviation|
The Australian sport and recreational aviation field includes lighter-than-air, heavier-than-air, power-driven and non-power-driven aircraft intended for the purposes of pleasure, diversion, adventure, competitive sport, technical flying, experiment or personal education/development for people from all walks of life.
Although not flying in command of an aircraft, sport parachuting, including the skydiving phase, is another exhilarating sector of the sport and recreational field.
The supporting industry in Australia includes the flying training schools, the maintenance services, ancillary product providers, the aircraft agents and distributors, and the Australian aircraft and engine designers and manufacturers. Overviewing it all is Australia's national airworthiness authority, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
The aircraft may weigh anything from less than 40 kg empty (e.g. a hang glider or paraglider) to a general maximum of 650 kg fully loaded for a power-driven aeroplane (e.g. a single-engine seaplane). The open class, in high performance sailplane competition, allows a maximum of 850 kg fully loaded. The power-driven aeroplanes are mostly designed to cruise at speeds between 50 and 125 knots (95 and 230 km/hr), although faster aeroplanes are available and the aeroplane world level speed record, in the under 300 kg class using a 65 hp two-stroke engine, is 185 knots (340 km/hr) .
You may start flying training at any practicable age but for powered aircraft there is an age restriction requiring a person to be at least 15 years old before they can make their first most memorable flight — as 'pilot-in-command', i.e. 'to go solo'. Consequently the minimum age for commencing powered aircraft flight school is at least 14 years. There is no upper age limit — for those who maintain their private vehicle driver licence fitness level.
The following descriptions, particularly the weights, are in accordance with Australian regulations; other nations will differ.
The foot-launched and the wheeled cart, powered paragliders plus the one- or two-place, powered parachutes form a 'paramotor' group.
*Most sport and recreational aeroplanes are designed as 'landplanes', being equipped with a shock-absorbing, wheeled undercarriage for take-off and landing on solid surfaces. However many of those landplanes can be readily converted to 'seaplanes' by replacing the wheeled undercarriage with a pair of fixed, non-shock-absorbing, strutted floats; thus providing the buoyancy required for waterborne operations — at the cost of perhaps a 20% decrease in performance due to the weight and drag of the float undercarriage. This seaplane configuration is usually described as a 'floatplane'. Aeroplanes specifically designed for waterborne operations generally do not have floats, rather the fuselage underbody is shaped as an enclosed, high-speed, hydrodynamically-efficient boat hull; thereby achieving buoyancy with a minimum increase in weight and drag. They utilise small wing-tip floats for waterborne stability. Such seaplanes are flying-boats and, like the floatplanes, are single-engined. A very few seaplanes are mono-hulled floatplanes, see the Lazair electric floatplane. Many seaplanes are also equipped with wheeled landing gear, repositionable into cavities in the hull or the floats during both flight and waterborne operations, while providing an 'amphibian' capability for launching into water, climbing ashore or for solely land operation.
There is another aircraft category — gyrogliders — that perhaps are not regarded as 'free-flying' aircraft and are often referred to as 'rotor kites'. Parasails are similar and are also towed but usually by a boat rather than a land vehicle. Both parasails and gyroglider operations are limited by CAO 95.14 to heights not exceeding 300 feet above surface level and there is no requirement for membership of any administration organisation or for formal training.
The basic control systems of the aircraft range through:
The chemical energy control systems employed are:
Currently there is considerable testing of battery-powered electric motors for aircraft propulsion.
Persons with physical disabilities should note that — unlike a road vehicle — the placement of the hand/foot operated aerodynamic controls usually cannot be changed in the training aircraft, though it may be possible in your own aircraft. Weight-shift controlled aircraft have only the hand-operated flight control bar; steering when on the ground is normally foot-controlled, but this can be altered to hand-control in your own aircraft. See David Sykes solo England-Australia trike flight.
There are five Australian recreational aviation administration organisations (RAAOs), each with specialist knowledge and insight into a particular sector of the sport and recreational aviation industry and operating under a deed of agreement [i.e. a contract] with the CASA for the self administration of that sector. The organisations 'exist to oversight member activities and assure CASA that activities are being conducted safely and in accordance with CASA approved procedure manuals. CASA needs to be fully confident that RAAOs have the risk treatment and governance capacity to provide the safety outcomes required. The Sport Aviation Self Administration Handbook 2010 provides further detail on CASA's expectations for RAAOs and their board members in ensuring that self administration is providing a safe environment for sport aviators*, as well as other airspace users and people and property on the ground.'
(*Note: sport and recreational aviators and the single passenger allowed, are regarded (in a regulatory sense) as informed participants in the activity being pursued. An informed participant is aware of the risks involved in a particular form of sport and recreational aviation and is willing to accept those risks. How do you make a passenger aware of the potential risks inherent in sport and recreational aviation so he/she can make an informed decision about their participation? Various warning placards must be displayed in the aircraft cockpit but that's hardly sufficient. What if the passenger is legally a child, how can children be considered 'risk-informed'?)
The arrangement with CASA is that the RAAOs are responsible for the day to day enforcement of standards and operational rules in accordance with the individual RAAO's CASA-approved rules and procedures manuals. Such rules and procedures are designed to meet CASA's required safety outcomes for the 27 000 association members. CASA oversights the RAAOs via their sport aviation office, the Self-administering Sport Aviation Organisations Section, which is part of the Office of the Director of Aviation Safety. That oversight includes creation, and monitoring of, systems for the enhancement of RAAO governance and of safety effectiveness.
RAAOs set the training and skill standards required of flight instructors and of student pilot members; the latter to qualify for issue of a Pilot Certificate and subsequent endorsements to the certificate. RAAO Pilot Certificate holders are not required to hold any type of CASA Pilot Licence*. You cannot learn to fly — or continue to fly once qualified — unless you are a financial member of the relevant organisation. Unfortunately this means that if your interests extend over several sectors, you will have to be a paid-up member of several RAAOs.
*Note: from 1 September 2014 CASA will introduce their Recreational Pilot Licence. This will authorise a person over 16 years of age to pilot a single-engine aircraft that has a maximum certificated take-off weight of not more than 1500 kg, by day under the visual flight rules if the aircraft is engaged in a private operation. The aircraft must be listed on the Australian civil aircraft register, not an RAAO aircraft register. The same Australian private vehicle driver licence medical conditions apply. Persons on board is generally limited to one passenger plus the pilot. For more information see CASR subpart 61.G recreational pilot licence regulations 61.460 to 61.500.
Generally RAAO members won't come into contact with CASA officers, however, officers from the Self-administering Sport Aviation Organisations Section do carry out 'ramp check' inspections on pilot and aircraft after landing or before take-off at any airfield where sport and recreational aircraft are operating; see 'Staying within the rules'.
The regulatory authorisations involved may be:
The FAI Sporting Code consists of the General Section and a number of specialised sections, one for each air sport. The Code deals with three major areas: firstly, organised sporting events such as championships and competitions, secondly, records, and thirdly the validation of specified performances for Certificates of Proficiency or Colibri badges. See FAI Sporting Code section 10 ' Microlights and Paramotors'.
*In FAI classifications a 'microlight' is defined as a fixed- or flexible-wing, powered aircraft with gross weight not exceeding 300 kg if single-place and 450 kg if two-place plus stall speed not exceeding 65 km/h (35 knots). National interpretations of the term vary considerably, though the European Joint Aviation Authorities' definition is the same as the FAI.
However, the problem is to locate suitable aircraft operating areas at a reasonable distance from home. Unpowered hang gliders and paragliders tend to operate in groups with ground crews and generally need elevated sites for foot-launching, coupled with suitable areas for landing that also provide reasonable road access for the recovery crew. Powered hang gliders, powered paragliders and powered parachutes don't need an elevated site for launching, only a suitable, but not large, open field for launching and recovery and it is feasible for flights to be operated independently. Sailplanes must operate from fairly large, open airfields suitable for aero-tow, vehicle-tow or winch launching and there must be a well-drilled group from the club ensuring that all aspects of every launch and recovery go smoothly and are completely safe. GFA regulations do allow for 'independent operators' (motor-gliders for example) but they are still tied to a club.
Sport parachutists must operate in groups and in drop zones authorised by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Aeroplane, gyroplane and trike pilots tend to operate quite independently (perhaps 20% are club members), occasionally arranging joint flights, 'get-togethers' or 'fly-ins'. All such aircraft can operate from normal airfields, most can operate from reasonably large and smooth paddocks, some — the short-landing and take-off (STOL) aeroplanes — can operate from small, rough, sloping sites, see the Snowy Plain airstrip.
These exemption CAOs are:
If you are interested in the structure of Australian aviation legislation read the document 'An overview of the legislative framework enabling recreational aviation'.
The low participation rate of younger Australians in all forms of powered sports and recreational aviation is a national shortcoming that RA-Aus recognises and aims to improve. See the RA-Aus — Airservices Australia flight training scholarship program.
If you don't know anyone associated with RA-Aus recreational aviation then it is probably best to make the acquaintance of a club or training facility or you could contact an RA-Aus state representative or a staff member to discuss your introduction into our community. More information is available in the RA-Aus flight training outline section of this guide.
The members' monthly journal 'Sport Pilot' will give you some insight into sport and recreational aviation. Posted to members, it is the official medium for communication, containing the President's report on policy implementation progress and monthly reports from the CEO, the Operations Manager or the Technical Manager plus the latest Airworthiness Notices and Service Bulletins. It also contains articles of general interest and a 'members aircraft for sale' section.The magazine is available to non-members on Australian news-stands or via annual subscription from the RA-Aus on-line shop.
Another opportunity to get a broad view of this form of recreational aviation is at NATFLY, the annual four-day Easter (Friday through Monday) get-together at Temora aerodrome in New South Wales. Around 25% of the 3400 RA-Aus registered aircraft attend the event. The national fly-in also provides a venue for Australian manufacturers and importers to introduce new and forthcoming aircraft and aviation products. NATFLY allows the opportunity for home-builders to display their finished projects and, perhaps, win one of the achievement awards. Also view the history of the 'Come and Get It Trophy' for an insight into some 10 000 km flights (within Australia) undertaken by sport and recreational pilots.
The typical RA-Aus member is a 50-year old male who has always wanted to experience 'seat-of-the pants' flying, is now relatively free of family, work pressures have reduced somewhat, has some mechanical or practical aptitude, enjoys reasonable health and lives in a rural, regional or outer capital city area where there is a non-towered airfield in the district or there is suitable space for an airstrip. There is a tendency for that typical member to have had some past association with the defence forces and quite a few are, or have been, general aviation or airline pilots. But of course there is a wide variance from the 'typical' within the 10 000 RA-Aus members.
Should you decide to join RA-Aus you can download the necessary Application for Membership – Student Pilot' and return it to the RA-Aus office — or a flight school can provide the form and process the paperwork.
The RA-Aus sister self-administration association, the Hang Gliding Federation of Australia, also supports powered light recreational aviation in the form of CAO 95.10 and CAO 95.32 trikes and as self-launching gliders — hang gliders with a lightweight, perhaps 15 hp, two-stroke engine plus propeller in the rear of the harness boot (hang-motors), paragliders with a backpack engine and propeller (paramotors), and lightweight trikes (nanolights). The empty weight of machines in the self-launching group must be under 70 kg to avoid classification within CAO 95.10 and CAO 95.32. current RA-Aus registration are homebuilt and, at any time, there are a substantial number under construction. Such aircraft are either designed by the builder; for example, Daryl Patterson's 'SE5A', built from plans — Peter Franks' 'Jenny', or built from commercially supplied kits — Peter Loveday's 'Storch'.
The balance of this 'Joining sport and recreational aviation' guide describes learning to fly in the sector of aviation administered by Recreational Aviation Australia Incorporated. That sector includes home-built or factory-built, 3-axis control, single-engine aeroplanes including seaplanes, weight-shift control 'trikes' and powered parachutes. These aircraft may be one- or two-place with a gross weight up to 600–650 kg. The next module in this series is an outline of flight training for pilot certification in RA-Aus 3-axis aeroplanes, trikes or powered parachutes.
Copyright © 2011–2013 John Brandon [contact information]