Types of sport aircraft and activities

Sport aviation offers a range of aircraft and activities.

Aside from gliders and balloons, many of the aircraft are not designed or built to any recognised civil aviation standard.

Self-administering organisations (SAO) are responsible for administering regulations for sport aircraft and activities by:

  • administering their member's compliance to the requirements
  • providing specialist knowledge to us
  • providing safety assurance.

Light Sport Aircraft

Generally, Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) are small, simple to operate aircraft. These aircraft are factory produced or can come as a LSA kit built privately. LSA must meet an agreed acceptable standard and the manufacturer must certify that the aircraft meets the standard.

We don't certify these aircraft.

The LSA scheme allows for the certification of aircraft for private sport and recreation operations, such as flight training and glider towing.

Read more about LSA in:

The following organisations can operate LSA:

Amateur-built aircraft

Amateur-built aircraft include any aircraft that you fabricate and assemble for your own education or recreation. This includes experimental aircraft.

They can be:

  • built from scratch
  • built from a kit
  • based on original or established designs.

If you build from a kit, you must complete 51% or more of the build yourself for us to consider it an amateur-built aircraft.

There are hundreds of different designs and models of aircraft across the Australian amateur-built fleet. They include models that are:

  • piston or jet-powered
  • single or twin-engine
  • high-performance aircraft
  • balloons, including amateur built balloons
  • gliders
  • gyroplanes
  • helicopters.

Register your amateur-built aircraft.

You can register your amateur-built aircraft:

  • with us, as a VH registered aircraft
  • with an SAO if eligible.

To operate under a self-administering organisation, your aircraft must meet certain limitations for:

  • design
  • weight
  • performance.

We work with the Sport Aircraft Association of Australia to provide support for aircraft builders.

Read more on VH-registered amateur-built aircraft in CASR Part 21 - certification and airworthiness requirements for aircraft and parts.

Requirements for manned balloons

For the rules around manned free balloons and hot air airships, see Part 131

Recreational ballooning

Recreational ballooning describes balloons flown by pilots who:

If you would like to fly a balloon for recreation, you will need a private balloon pilot authorisation.

Commercial ballooning (balloon transport operations)

We regulate commercial balloon operations, such as those that carry paying passengers on scenic flights. We don't consider these operations as sport activities.

Commercial operations must hold an air operator certificate. The pilot must hold a commercial pilot licence (balloon).

Balloon landings

Balloon pilots can usually only land on private property if they have permission from the property owner. They do not need permission:

  • in an emergency
  • if it is a precautionary landing to avoid a possible emergency.

Commercial operators usually maintain a register of sensitive zones where property owners request that pilots:

  • do not land
  • observe a minimum height when flying overhead.

Property owners with concerns about balloon operations

If you are a property owner with a concern about a balloon operation, contact the local commercial balloon operator.

If this does not resolve the issue, contact us.

Gliders

A pure glider does not have an engine. It needs an external means to launch it such as a tow aircraft.

A powered glider has an engine for take-off. After launch, most powered gliders can retract their engine, propeller, or both once airborne. 

Power assisted gliders have small engines which are not powerful enough for take-off. Instead, they work in-flight as a sustainer engine when needed. This helps the glider to stay airborne and avoid having to land off-airport when gliding conditions deteriorate.

Gyroplanes and gyrogliders

A gyroplane is a type of rotorcraft. It uses an:

  • unpowered rotor in autorotation to develop lift
  • engine-powered propeller to provide thrust.

While a gyroplane rotor looks like a helicopter rotor, the rotor blades of a gyroplane aren't powered. The rotor turns because of the passage of air through the rotor from below.

A gyroglider is a gyroplane without an engine. To become airborne, a gyroglider must use external means such as being towed.

Hang gliders and paragliders

Hang gliders use materials such as sail cloth wings, or carbon fibre and epoxy for lightweight strength. A pilot controls a hang glider by shifting their body weight either back, forwards or to the side.

A paraglider consists of an inflatable wing attached to a harness. To control the paraglider, the pilot holds a line in each hand and pulls the line depending on the direction they want to go.

Hang gliders and paragliders may also be engine driven. The engine attaches to a lightweight wheeled cart or strapped to the back of the operator. Powered hang gliders and paragliders can launch from flat terrain.

Parachuting

Parachuting is a popular sport with approximately 360,000 jumps including 175,000 tandem jumps made each year.

Read the rules around:

  • parachuting
  • flight operations regulations. 

Ultralight aircraft

Ultralight aviation is the flying of lightweight, 1 or 2 seat fixed-wing aircraft. They use conventional 3-axis control with ailerons, elevator and rudder.

Microlights (commonly called trikes) rely on weight shift rather than the conventional 3-axis control to change direction in flight. This means there is no tailplane or control surfaces.

A pilot controls the aircraft by shifting the aircraft’s centre of gravity in relation to the wing. Either a 2 or 4 stroke engine normally power these aircraft.

Limited category aircraft

We refer to limited category aircraft as 'warbirds', which generally include aircraft that are::

  • ex-military
  • replica
  • historic. 

We register limited category aircraft on the civil aircraft register. A limited category organisation oversees the airworthiness and operation of limited category aircraft.

You can find special conditions for warbirds and other limited category aircraft in CASA Part 132.

Some ex-military aircraft will be eligible to hold an experimental certificate under Civil Aviation Safety Regulation 21.191 for:

  • air racing
  • exhibition purposes.

We define a passenger flight in a warbird as an adventure flight. See adventure flight safety explained.

Limited category aircraft operational requirements

The operation of limited category aircraft must be in line with the requirements of a CASA approved manual by an organisation approved to administer the operations.

CASA Part 132 sets out the operational requirements for limited category aircraft.

A self-administering organisation is responsible for (where required):

  • the administration of the continuing airworthiness requirements
  • the oversight of adventure flight operators in limited category aircraft.

 

    Last updated:
    1 Dec 2023
    Online version available at: https://www.casa.gov.au//aircraft/sport-aviation/types-sport-aircraft-and-activities
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