Paso Robles Says No to Sport Pilots?

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The Paso Robles (Calif.) Municipal Airport has banned ultralight operations, and has proposed new operating rules that would single out ultralight flyers for scrutiny, Denis Porter, president of the Paso Robles Ultralight Association, told AVweb on Tuesday. The airport said last month that ultralight operations were in violation of its operating permits and safety standards, and complex regulations and compliance issues would have to be sorted out before a suitable operating area could be designated. Porter said his group filed a formal complaint with the FAA last month, alleging that ultralight pilots are being unfairly discriminated against. The impact of that philosophy on Sport Pilots (many are expected to be crossover ultralight pilots still flying the same equipment) is yet unknown -- as is the philosophy's popularity. "They looked at us as a nuisance," Porter said. "Even though this is not a busy airport, and we've been operating there for 25-plus years without any problems." Only about a dozen pilots and a half-dozen aircraft make up the ultralight group, he said.

In addition to the current ban, the airport proposed last fall that under new operating rules, ultralight pilots must show documentation that they are certified by the U.S. Ultralight Association or an equivalent organization, and must abide by strict flight rules that designate flight paths and altitudes. Other pilots are not required to show their certificates, Porter said. Further, ultralight pilots could fly only after signing a statement certifying they are aware of the rules and will abide by them. "This singles out ultralight pilots for scrutiny, and violates our privilege to fly under FAR Part 103," Porter said. He added that he and the other members of his group plan to convert to Sport Pilot certificates and get N-numbers for their aircraft as soon as possible. But he expressed concern that that will not satisfy the airport, and the issue will change from discrimination against ultralights to discrimination against light-sport aircraft.