Ultralight Flight Training Should Provide Basis for Safe Recreational Flying

Published 18.6.2020

The Safety Investigation Authority Finland (SIAF) has completed investigations of two ultralight airplane accidents that occurred at Tampere-Pirkkala Airport on July 31, 2019, and at Eura aerodrome on September 8, 2019.

In the Tampere-Pirkkala accident, the student pilot was departing on a solo instructional flight of approximately 30-minute duration. The aircraft stalled on initial climb and impacted terrain, and the pilot sustained fatal injuries. The accident apparently resulted from loss of airplane control due to incorrect rudder pedal application.

In the Eura accident, the student pilot was returning from a solo cross-country flight after a long training day. Upon the pilot initiating go-around after a hard touchdown, the airplane stalled, banked left, and impacted wooded terrain adjacent to the runway. The pilot sustained minor injuries. During the day of the accident, the pilot had logged a considerable amount of flight time. Although a national aviation regulation prescribes a maximum daily flight time for a pilot undergoing training, the limitation is not applicable to cross-country flights. A significant portion of the pilot’s flight time during the day had been cross-country.

In Finland, flying clubs across the country provide ultralight flight training. The commonly used training program is issued by the Finnish Aeronautical Association and approved by the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom. Although the program shall be adhered to, variations exist in its implementation between training organizations, states the SIAF’s Executive Director, professor Veli-Pekka Nurmi.

In practice, extensive own-check procedures are required from recreational aviation operators, Nurmi adds.

In its current form, ultralight flight training simply fails to provide an adequate basis for safe recreational flying, states Chief Safety Investigator Janne Kotiranta. National ultralight flight training requirements are less stringent than those established by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for LAPL and PPL training. This is based on the reasoning that ultralight airplanes are light, slow, and easy to handle and do not create a major hazard to other people. This assumption stems from the 1970s and 1980s. In reality, the structure and airspeed of ultralight airplanes have undergone a major evolution during the present century.

Task sharing in aviation safety work remains unclear, but the focus is clearly in commercial — not recreational — aviation, adds Nurmi.

The SIAF issued in November 2019 a safety recommendation to the Light Aircraft Association of the Czech Republic due to an accident risk identified during the investigation into the Tampere-Pirkkala accident.

A look at the photo we issued of the cockpit reveals that the rudder pedals of the dual flight controls are very close to each other, which may lead to pedal misuse — particularly during a solo flight when the adjacent pedal assembly is not in use, explains Kotiranta. The aircraft manufacturer has issued a non-mandatory service bulletin with the purpose of improving the ergonomics of the pedals. We recommend that the modification be upgraded to mandatory, adds Kotiranta.

Based on the findings from the Tampere-Pirkkala and Eura accidents, the SIAF issues to Traficom five safety recommendations related to flight training. They address the phasing and quality control of training; harmonization of national training requirements with EASA’s LAPL and PPL training requirements, and task sharing and resource allocation in safety work. The SIAF also recommends that the Finnish Ministry of Interior and Traficom together ensure that up-to-date knowledge and training on ballistic parachute recovery system disarming are available to to police departments and organizations that are in charge of aircraft accident rescue operations.

Link to summary and investigation report L2019-05 (Tampere-Pirkkala)

Link to summary and investigation report (in Finnish) L2019-06 (Eura)

Further information:

Chief Safety Investigator Janne Kotiranta, tel. 02951 50703

Executive Director, professor Veli-Pekka Nurmi, tel. 02951 50701