Local News

No Licensing, Few Regulations for Ultra-Lights

Posted August 4, 1998

— The pilot of an ultra-light aircraft remains hospitalized, in fair condition, after crashing Tuesday night in Red Oak near Rocky Mount.

Investigators say Roger Shanks was apparently trying to land the small plane onto a private air strip when it crashed.

Witnesses called 9-1-1 then rushed to the plane which was suspended upside down in the trees. Shanks was still strapped in.

"We heard a noise, it was kind of rough sounding, it sounded like an engine had chewed up something is what it sounded like, and we figured it was pretty bad," said witness Gary Abernathy.

Shanks is at Duke Medical Center with injuries to his ankle and shoulder, but he was not badly hurt in the crash. For that reason the Federal Aviation Agency will not investigate the crash.

Unlike pilots who fly other types of planes people who navigate ultralights don't have to be licensed.

The only FAA rules governing ultra-lights concern weight, fuel and speed, but pilots don't have to be licensed and needn't have any special training. That means many inexperience pilots are flying them. Many of the aircraft are also home-made.

Bruce Daughtry now flies a Cessna 150. He sold his ultra-light, which he owned and flew for one year, last month. Daughtry says pilots should be properly trained, regardless of what aircraft they fly.

"People think that 'no license required' means 'no training required'," says Daughtry. "Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, you need just as much training to fly an ultra-light, at least in terms of the physical aspects, the stick and rotor skills for flying. You may not need to know how to get in and out or communicate with RDU's air space, but in terms of flying the aircraft, it's the same."

Shanks wife told WRAL's Amanda Lamb that his entire family feels very lucky that he wasn't more seriously injured. Apparently, he had had some flying lessons. Thursday's flight was his first in the ultra-light that his father had built.

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