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Learning to fly – an outline of Australian sport and recreational aviation


Rev. 14 — page content was last updated 2 August 2015
Joining sport and recreational aviation

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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 around 25 kg empty (e.g. a hang glider or paraglider) to a general maximum of 650 kg fully loaded for an 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/was(?) 185 knots (340 km/hr).




      Content

1. Can I learn to fly a sport and recreational aviation aircraft?

Of course you can. Generally, as long as you are in reasonable physical and mental condition — equivalent to that needed to hold (and maintain) an Australian private vehicle driver licence — you can become a member of a sport and recreational aviation association and learn to fly an Australian sport and recreational aeroplane, just for the fun of it, and at your own pace and convenience. Your medical fitness usually does not need to be confirmed by a medical certificate, but you must sign a declaration that your medical fitness is at least equivalent to that needed for the driver licence. For more information on the physical condition required for the private vehicle driver licence see 'Assessing fitness to drive'.

However 'reasonable fitness' is all that is required to fly a hang-glider or paraglider and the backpack-motorised versions of those gliders that have an empty weight less than 70 kg.

You may start flying training at any practicable age but for powered aeroplanes 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.

2. What sort of aircraft are included?

Aircraft categories
An 'aircraft' is defined as 'any machine or craft that can derive support in the atmosphere from the reactions of the air, other than the reactions of the air against the earth's surface [i.e. hovercraft]' and includes 'lighter-than-air' craft [e.g. non-powered hot-air balloons and powered airships] and 'heavier-than-air' craft. The latter includes the power-driven aeroplanes, helicopters and other rotary wing craft, the non-powered gliders and sailplanes plus power-assisted gliders and sailplanes.

Australian sport and recreational aviation offers a considerable range of aircraft categories, in any of which you can commence, or expand, your flight experience. There is a wide range in the acquisition cost of an aircraft, ranging from around A$4000 for a secondhand hang-glider in airworthy condition to perhaps A$150 000 for a top-of-the-range, carbon-fibre structure, two-place aeroplane fitted with up-market electronic flight instrumentation, navigation and communications systems.

The following aircraft class descriptions, particularly the weights, are in accordance with Australian regulations; other nations will differ:
  • the lighter-than-air aircraft — non-power-driven hot-air balloons and power-driven hot-air airships

  • the unpowered gliders — hang gliders, paragliders and sailplanes (in the regulatory context, a sailplane is a glider whose empty weight exceeds 70 kg)

  • the power-driven heavier-than-air aircraft spectrum:

    • the very light-weight end (empty weight 70 kg or less) —

      • the small framed wing, one-person, foot-launched, motorised harness (i.e. the engine is not attached to the frame) — plus the light-weight, wheeled cart — powered hang gliders (PHG) and the backpack-motorised, foot-launched powered paragliders (PPG). The PPG and PHG motors are typically 100-200cc, 12-30hp 2-strokes weighing around 16-27 kg and consuming 2-4 litres of fuel per hour.

    • in the middle —

      • the one- and two-place, wheeled carriage, powered parachutes (PPC)
      • low-momentum, single-place, three-axis control, ultralight aeroplanes or weight-shift control trikes; that may be factory-built, or privately-built from commercially-supplied kits or plans, or privately-built from your own design; and must weigh less than 300 kg fully loaded
      • the fixed-pitch rotor, home-built or factory-built, light gyroplanes

    • at the top-weight end —

      • one- and two-place, power-assisted sailplanes and 'motor gliders'.
      • the heavier (up to 600 kg fully loaded), weight-shift control trikes
      • the two-place, rotary-wing gyroplanes (which may be factory-built or home-built from factory-supplied kits) that conform to a 'Light Sport Aircraft' airworthiness certification standard and weigh less than 600 kg fully loaded
      • the generally two-place, fixed-wing, three-axis control aeroplanes* (which may be factory-built or home-built from factory-supplied kits) in various classes that could weigh up to 650 kg fully loaded


*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 unpowered aircraft category — gyrogliders — that are not regarded as 'free-flying' aircraft because they are towed behind a land vehicle. They obtain their lift by the reaction of a rotor and are often referred to as 'rotor kites'. Parasails are similar and are also towed but usually by a boat. 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 aircraft flight control and power control systems
To achieve low cost, light weight and high performance the aircraft design, structural engineering and manufacturing processes involved in producing the airframe, power systems, flight instruments, navigation and communication electronics may be quite complex, but the aircraft operating systems are not.

The basic flight control systems of the aircraft range through:
  • none for the hot-air balloons; rudder steering control only for the hot-air airships
  • the hang gliders have 'weight-shift control' (i.e. body shift) by the pilot moving their body fore-and-aft or sideways relative to a simple, fixed, triangular control bar and frame system rigidly attached to the wing. The pilot's harness is attached to a hang-point on the tubular metal wing keel structure
  • the microlights/trikes have a similar but more complex 'weight-shift control' system that entails the movement of the whole carriage (that is attached to a suspension joint on the keel of the wing) relative to a control bar.
  • the paragliders (PG and PPG) and powered parachutes have a very simple ram-air parawing system — hand-operated steering/braking toggles or foot-operated steering pedals plus limited weight-shift assistance
  • the sailplanes, aeroplanes and gyroplanes have foot-operated rudder pedals and a hand-operated control column or 'stick', that together provide the three-axis (yaw, roll and pitch) aerodynamic moving control systems.

The chemical energy control systems employed are:
  • the propane-burner buoyancy (thus height within the wind gradient) valve system/s of the hot-air balloons and hot-air airships; and the petrol-engine controls of the airship for speed control.
  • the petrol-engine controls of the powered, propeller-driven aircraft, providing their ability to maintain height or to climb, without dependence on atmospheric uplift plus their ability to select an airspeed within a performance range. Once a sport and recreational petrol engine has been started the basic engine operating control is a hand-operated or foot-operated throttle – the same as a road vehicle.


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.

3. Who runs sport and recreational aviation?

The role of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority
'The primary function of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is to conduct the safety regulation of civil air operations in Australia and the operation of Australian aircraft overseas by means that include, amongst other things, developing, promulgating and implementing appropriate aviation safety standards and effective enforcement strategies to secure compliance with those standards, conducting comprehensive aviation industry surveillance and regular reviews of the system of civil aviation safety, and carrying out timely assessments of international safety developments. CASA also has a range of other safety-related functions, including, amongst other things, providing safety education and training programmes and aviation safety advice designed to encourage a greater acceptance by the aviation industry of its obligation to maintain high safety standards; fostering an awareness in industry management and the community generally of the importance of aviation safety and compliance with the civil aviation legislation; and promoting consultation and communication with all interested parties on aviation safety issues.'

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 – that provide the flight training for their sector. The RAAOs operate 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.

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 flight training recreational aviation administration organisations
RAAOs are 'not-for-profit' associations of like-minded individuals that administer their sector for the benefit of Australian recreational and sport aviation in general and their membership in particular.

The regulatory authorisations involved may be:
  • acceptance of a factory-built or home-built/kit-built aircraft type into their jurisdiction
  • issue of the certificate of registration required for aircraft over 70 kg empty weight
  • issue of aircraft airworthiness certificates (where applicable)
  • issue of pilot certifications and other qualifications
  • issue of aircraft maintenance qualifications
  • ongoing approval of associated flying training and maintenance training facilities
  • oversighting membership activities
  • enforcement action where members are in breach of the rules.
The five ab initio ('from the beginning') flight training RAAOs are:
  • The Gliding Federation of Australia (GFA) was formed in 1949 and became Australia's first national aviation self-administration organisation in 1953. GFA administers the higher performance, higher cost sailplane sector — recreational and regional/national/international competitive soaring*. GFA is an organisation of about 86 clubs contained within five regions with a total membership around 12 000. The clubs have a considerable authoritative role within GFA, on top of their supportive and social roles. About 1200 sailplanes, power-assisted sailplanes and motor-gliders are associated with the GFA. The sailplanes are the only 3-axis control aerobatic aircraft in the RAAO administered sector of sport and recreational aviation.

    *Soaring is the art of using only atmospheric uplift (orographic ascent, convection or solitary wave and lee wave motion) — that is greater than the aircraft's sink rate in normal circling flight — to gain height. The aircraft may then glide some distance losing height until another source of lift is used to regain it and so on until a considerable distance has been travelled — thermal soaring for example. If a source of orographic lift is available from a raised topographic feature such as a coastal cliff, escarpment, hill, ridge or mountain, then height can be maintained for a considerable time, but within one location — ridge and hill soaring.

    The paragliders, hang gliders and sailplanes have soaring ability and the competitive nature of gliding produces finely honed pilots who have a high appreciation of atmospheric motion, as sources of lift (i.e. ascending air) but also as sources of risk.


  • The Hang Gliding Federation of Australia (HGFA). Formed in 1978, administers the lower performance, lower cost glider sector — hang gliding and paragliding (including motorised hang gliding and motorised paragliding). HGFA is also one of the two RAAOs (RA-Aus is the other) that administer powered weight-shift control trikes or microlights — occasionally used for tug-launching of hang gliders. There is a strong national and international competitive FAI hang gliding scene. HGFA has about 2500 members, 44 commercial flight schools and 50 clubs located throughout Australia.

  • The Australian Ballooning Federation (ABF). Formed in 1978, administers recreational, adventure and competitive FAI lighter-than-air private balloon flying. ABF is also responsible for hot-air airships. There are about 350 hot-air balloons on the Civil Aviation Safety Authority's aircraft register, equally split between private and commercial ownership. There are 5 regional associations/clubs.

  • Recreational Aviation Australia (RA-Aus), formed in 1983 (see the history), administers the powered light recreational aeroplane scene in Australia, including seaplanes, weight-shift control trikes and powered parachutes (PPC). The weight-shift control trikes are also administered by the HGFA. There is no FAI competitive flying or Colibri badge program. RA-Aus has grown to a membership of around 10 000 persons who own and operate about 3400 aircraft with a current market value around $135 million. There are commercial flight schools in about 180 Australian locations with some 450 instructors. There are about 100 recreational clubs, performing a supportive and social role, which — unlike the GFA and HGFA organisations — act quite independently of RA-Aus, although many are affiliated with RA-Aus. See the RA-Aus mission statement.

    Note: in September 2014 CASA introduced their Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) which is based on the United States Federal Aviation Administration's* Recreational Pilot Certificate and very similar in concept to the RA-Aus Pilot Certificate. The RPL authorises 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 the CASA RPL information brochure. A Recreational Pilot Licence holder may not act as pilot-in-command of an RA-Aus registered aircraft unless that pilot is also a RA-Aus member and a RA-Aus Pilot Certificate holder.

    *The Recreational Pilot Certificate was introduced by the FAA in 1989, following pressure from the American Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, but was never successful; after 22 years there were only about 200 recreational pilot certificates in existence, about 0.03% of the 625 000 FAA certificated pilots in the USA. The experience in the USA perhaps indicates that the RPL may not be a resounding success though, in Australia, it is a stepping-stone on the way to qualifying for the Private Pilot Licence (PPL). Also it does provide the means by which an RA-Aus pilot certificate holder can readily obtain a CASA pilot licence.

  • The Australian Sport Rotorcraft Association (ASRA) administers gyroplanes and gyrogliders. Although the term 'rotorcraft' encompasses both gyroplanes and helicopters, the organisation administers gyroplane operations only. There are about nine regional clubs associated with the organisation with about 40 flight instructors in the clubs.

Sport aviation RAAOs and associations within General Aviation
The term General Aviation (GA) describes the sector of Australian aviation that includes both private flying and commercial aviation (but not scheduled airline transport) and thus a significant number of professional pilots. GA is mostly administered directly by the CASA. GA aircraft operate both within controlled airspace and outside controlled airspace and under the 'visual flight rules' or the 'instrument flight rules'. There are several GA groups with some association with sport aviation.
  • The Australian Parachute Federation (APF) RAAO was formed in 1960 to administer and represent Australian Sport Parachuting. Skydiving clubs were first formed in Australia in 1958. There is much to learn in the sport — skydiving (i.e. stable, controlled freefall), formation skydiving, wingsuiting, canopy formation and other variations. APF states that some 70 000 people undertake 'tandem' jumps each year.

  • The Australian Warbirds Association Limited self-management organisation was incorporated ' to bring together aircraft owners, operators, restorers, maintainers, historians and enthusiasts to share their passion for ex-military aviation and to promote and preserve Australia's proud military aviation heritage.' AWAL is the very successful self-administration body for around 400 warbirds in the 'Limited' certification category, ranging from Tiger Moths to jets. Some owners offer 'Adventure Flying' to paying passengers.

  • The Sport Aircraft Association of Australia (SAAA) RAAO is an association of around 1400 'aviation enthusiasts assisting each other to build, maintain and operate sport aircraft. We educate members to continuously improve safety outcomes.' The members aircraft are registered by CASA in the Experimental category. The association has similar aims to, but not the same breadth of, those of the US Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).

  • The Australian Aerobatic Club (AAC) was 'formed to foster interest in the sport by providing opportunities to train and compete. The AAC is responsible for the administration of the sport of aerobatics in Australia' and is affiliated to FAI via its ASAC membership.

  • The Seaplane Pilots Association of Australia is an independent organisation with about 450 members around Australia; membership is free. General Aviation pilots predominate but RA-Aus pilots participate.
Other sport and recreational aviation RAAOs and associations
  • The Model Aeronautical Association of Australia (MAAA) RAAO is the Australian governing body for aeromodelling and is affiliated to FAI via ASAC. In a regulatory sense model aircraft are regarded as small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) used for sport and recreational purposes only.

  • The ABF, GFA, HGFA and APF are members of the Air Sport Australia Confederation (ASAC), which was formed in 1989 as a national confederation of sport and recreational aviation organisations to act as a lobbying body in respect to Commonwealth and State goverments and Commonwealth aviation authorities. ASAC is also Australia's representative on the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. ASRA and RA-Aus are not ASAC members.
FAI: the world air sports federation
Founded in 1905, FAI is the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale; the international governing body for air sports and aeronautical world records. Participation in FAI-recognised competitions requires entry of pilot particulars into the FAI data base and issue of an FAI sporting licence number — if a pilot wants to be included on the FAI World Pilot Ranking.

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'.

  • Balloons and airships
  • Aeroplanes
  • Gliding
  • Aeromodelling
  • Parachuting
  • Aerobatics
  • Hang gliding and paragliding
  • Astronautic records
  • Rotorcraft
  • Microlights* and paramotors
  • Human powered aircraft
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles
  • Solar-powered aeroplanes

*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.

4. Where can I fly?

Normally, aircraft administered by one of the five flight training RAAOs may freely operate over land under the day visual flight rules [VFR] and outside controlled airspace [OCTA] at heights below 10 000 feet above sea level. The total volume of airspace available for sport and recreational aviation (included between the average land mass elevation of 1100 feet and 10 000 feet above sea level) is some 20 million cubic kilometres. Of course sport and recreational pilots usually would not choose to fly over densely forested, mountainous terrain (except at the periphery) or through any dangerously remote inland areas. Flight over cities and towns is generally forbidden.

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.

5. The 'exemption' legislation enabling recreational aviation

Aviation in Australia is a highly regulated activity but in sport and recreational aviation much of the day-to-day enforcement of standards and operational rules is undertaken by the RAAOs. So eight Civil Aviation Orders (CAOs) exist to provide recreational aviation with the necessary operating exemptions from some sections (listed within each CAO) of the Civil Aviation Regulations but, of course, all other current legislation could apply to RAAO registered aircraft and RAAO certificated pilots. Excluding CAO 95.14, the content of the seven remaining CAOs has been made as uniform as possible.

These exemption CAOs are:
  • CAO 95.4 for GFA sailplanes
  • CAO 95.8 for HGFA hang-gliders and paragliders (including powered variants)
  • CAO 95.12 plus CAO 95.12.1 for privately operated ASRA gyroplanes with empty weight not more than 250 kg (95.12) and maximum gross weight not more than 600 kg (95.12.1)
  • CAO 95.14 for parasails and gyrogliders (membership of an RAAO is not required )
  • CAO 95.54 for ABF hot-air balloons and hot-air airships
  • CAO 95.10 for RA-Aus and HGFA low-momentum ultralight aircraft between minimum 70 kg empty weight and 300 kg maximum loaded weight at take-off
  • CAO 95.32 for RA-Aus and HGFA weight-shift controlled aeroplanes [aka trikes or microlights] and for RA-Aus powered parachutes, with variable gross weights up to 650 kg
  • CAO 95.55 for the larger 3-axis controlled RA-Aus aeroplanes, with variable gross weights up to 650 kg.

If you are interested in the structure of Australian aviation legislation read the document 'An overview of the legislative framework enabling recreational aviation'.

6. Becoming a member of the RA-Aus powered light recreational aviation community

The self-administered RA-Aus aviation community is distributed Australia-wide; chiefly operating throughout rural and regional districts and, naturally enough, with a concentration in the eastern states. The safety and the rights of 10 000 members are the core concern of the association. Membership is drawn from most socio-economic groups, the average age is around 50, with a preponderance of males throughout all age groups.

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. Available on the RA-Aus website or posted to members, it is the official medium for communication to the membership, 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 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.
Recreational aircraft amateur builders
About 40% of RA-Aus members are owners, co-owners or owner-builders of sport and recreational aircraft. Nearly half the aircraft with 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'.
Lynn Jarvis's Sonex

Home builder, and RA-Aus Life Member, Lynn Jarvis's Sonex aircraft received the award for best overall aircraft at
NATFLY 2004.


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 including an estimate of costs.


The 'Joining sport and recreational aviation' series



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