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I hold a European PPL(A) licence, and would like to fly an ultralight in the US.

In my home country, I'm not allowed to pilot an ultralight. To do that, I need a range of tests and a new licence.

What about the US?

Edit: I'm not going to a sparsely populated place like Alaska. What isn't clear to me is what's needed to fly ultralights in Controlled Airspaces or urban areas, as per §103.15 and §103.17

Edit2: I didn't realize there's a distinction between ultralight and light sports aircraft. What I want to fly is a LSA.

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First, a caution about definitions. Some European countries define the word "ultralight" a little bit differently than the US. In those countries, "ultralight" means something more along the lines of what would be called a "light sport aircraft" in the US. Those countries typically use the term "microlight" for an aircraft that would be called an "ultralight" in the US. The CFRs you cited in your edit are for actual ultralights, but just to be safe, I'm going to answer for both LSAs and ultralights.

Light Sport Aircraft

In the US, an LSA is a one- or two-person aircraft that meets certain requirements. The only difference between an LSA and a normal GA aircraft is that someone who holds a Light Sport Aircraft License can only fly Light Sport Aircraft, while someone with a full PPL can fly both LSAs and not-LSAs.

Since an LSA is a regular aircraft, there are no special restrictions on where or when* it can fly. LSAs have the same radio and transponder requirements as regular aircraft for flying in controlled airspace.

* A Light Sport License prohibits you from flying at night, but that's a limitation of the license, not the aircraft. If an LSA meets the minimum requirements for night flight (lighting, electrical, etc.), a regular pilot could fly it at night.

Ultralights

In the US, an ultralight is a single-person aircraft that meets certain (far more restrictive) requirements. Ultralights have no licensing requirement, so you can fly one regardless of what kind of license you have, or even if you don't have any kind of license at all.

However, you're not allowed to fly an ultralight within class D or higher airspace, class E surface airspace, or over a built-up area**. You can get airspace authorization from the facility controlling the airspace, and a waiver for the built-up area restriction from your local FSDO, but you'd need to ask every single time you wanted to go flying, and it's not guaranteed. Much easier, IMHO, to cart your ultralight out to an empty field or untowered airport and launch from there.

** Read: Cities, towns, etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, LSA and UL are synonymous where I'm from. So to fly a LSA like the Tecnam, I can just use my non-US PPL licence? $\endgroup$
    – MrMartin
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 12:12
  • $\begingroup$ @MrMartin Based solely on a glance through their Wikipedia page, yes, you could fly a Tecnam plane with a regular PPL. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 15:16
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You need to convert your PPL(A) to an FAA PPL in order to do so. Your PPL(A) allows you to fly aircraft registered in your own country in the United States, but does not allow you to fly N-registered aircraft in the United States. And if you're flying foreign aircraft using your foreign certificate, you need to follow its limitations, and that includes which aircraft you are allowed to fly.

Note that while it is called a "conversion," the FAA doesn't take your PPL(A) away, and you will have both licenses at the end. The process may take months though, and you will need an FAA medical as well.

From a proficiency standpoint, it would be wise to get some training anyway. Many people transitioning to LSAs find them difficult to handle, and especially to land. If you are just visiting the US and not moving there long-term, it would probably be easiest and safest to just pay a CFI to go up with you.

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