Landowner's guide to ultralight access

by Had Robinson

What should a municipal government or a landowner do if an ultralight pilot wants access to an area?  Here are some suggestions that should help and have had good results in keeping things safe and orderly in other public and private areas used by ultralights.  The following is largely a result of our regional soaring association working with the State of Texas to allow ultralight access to Texas State Parks.

  1.  Permit   Have a permit system that requires all pilots to register.  Here is what the Texas State Park system requires: a.) copy of driver’s license b.) proof of health insurance  c.) membership in the relevant national organization  d.) A minimum pilot rating of P3 (or PPG3) for the privilege of using the area.  These ratings are issued by USHPA and USPPA, respectively.  e.) A signed waiver releasing everybody in sight from liability for the pilot’s actions.  f.) 3rd party liability insurance.

    The State of Texas does not charge a registration fee but all Park users must pay a fee to get in.  Per liability insurance – All it takes is for some pilot to hit someone and guess who gets in a lawsuit?   Landowners must be certain that, if pilots have permission to use an area, they must have insurance.  Per health insurance – a rogue (but good) pilot was severely injured due to his own carelessness.  He had no money, no insurance.  Who paid his $500,000 hospital bill to save his sorry backside?  The county had to take care of it and, to this day, they are furious and have a right to be.  The end result was that the sheriff was told to arrest pilots wherever they see them in that county.  The careless, carefree pilot ruined it for a lot of other responsible pilots.
  2. Vehicle sticker   A traceable sticker that can be applied to the pilot’s vehicle. The pilot would have to supply his vehicle registration information. The permit could be yearly and all permits would expire at the same time – which makes things easier on a public clerk's office and on law enforcment.  There should be no proration of permit fees.
  3. Guidelines   A set of flying guidelines e.g. get up and OUT (do not hang around), hours of operation, areas of no-flying, etc.  Powered paragliders (PPG’s) are noisy.  Permits could be revoked at any time if pilots do not follow the rules.  All pilots must have the proper safety gear i.e. a helmet.  They must yield right of way to ALL other users of the park.
  4. Complaints   Local citizens need to know what is going on and a have a venue for submitting complaints.  Unfortunately, about (1) out of (10) PPG pilots are rude, careless, and a threat to the safety and comfort of others.
  5. Posted area   A sign should be posted at the Park advising everyone of the activity.  Landowners should be friendly towards PPG operations but make it clear that they will not tolerate abuse, carelessness, or disregard for the safety and comfort of others.

The above will help keep out most, but not all, of the thrill seekers, irresponsible, and dangerous pilots.  Our system here for the State Parks has worked well for many years.

Turkey Vulture