Learning to Trike

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  • Trike Flying-- The Basics: How long does it take to become a Pilot, Where can I learn, How much...

Trike Flying-- The Basics: How long does it take to become a Pilot, Where can I learn, How much does it cost, etc

Last updated by XC Triker Comments (4)

Categories: Training / Learning to Fly a Trike

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Do I need a License to fly a trike?

       Yes & no but yes!   In the US, if a trike has two-seats, you will need a license to fly it.

                 Some single seat trikes however are small, & light, enough to qualify under FAR Part 103.

                 Part 103 trikes do not require a license to fly, however, to put it bluntly, only an idiot

                 would try and fly without training (there are several deaths every year by people who think

                maybe they are different than all the other talented people who've died trying).  So, a license is

                 not required to operate Part 103, but not training is not smart or healthy.


What type of License do I need?

        In the US, you can obtain either a Private Pilot license, Sport Pilot, or Recreational pilot's license ....

         Private Pilot license:   No altitude restriction (though IFR required >18,000 ft)

                                          Can fly "over the top" of clouds w/o visual reference to ground (ie fogged in valley)

                                          Can fly at night (or may seek a night restriction on license)

                                          May fly in Class G clear of clouds (sport pilot always at least 1 mile vis required)

                                          Can request SVFR clearance (special VFR clearance into a towered airport when conditions less than typical minimums)

                                          May fly where business is only incidental to the flight

                                          May demonstrate an aircraft for sale

                                               The above two are not to be confused with a commercial license, which currently there is no such rating for trikes (though rumor has it Disney may have got one through / opened the door)

                                       Airspace Endorsements (ie Towered / controlled airspace is automatically part of the training and license--  with sport pilot, it can be obtained as an additional endorsement)


         Sport Pilot:     Prohibited from Class A airspace.

                              May not fly over 10,000 ft or 2,000 AGL whichever is greater

                                  Prohibited from flying in Class B, C, or D airspace until you receive training and a logbook endorsement from an instructor.

                              May not fly at night.

                              May not fly "Over the Top" without visual reference to the ground

                                  No flights outside the U.S. without prior permission from the foreign aviation authority.

                                 May not tow any object.

                                 No flights while carrying a passenger or property for compensation, hire, or Prohibited from flying in furtherance of a business.  (This does not mean that a Private Pilot can fly for a business, but can fly incidental to a business).


         Recreational pilot license:

         Part 103:  No license required.  No paperwork.  No flying in any controlled airspace (so you still need to

                        study up on that, and stay current about any changes on the airspace maps- sectionals).

                        Know how to avoid TFR's (temporary flight restrictions-  Fire, Presidential, Stadium,

                         Military, etc)-- these TFR "Pop-Up" you may know that by the Fighter Jets that pop up on

                         either side of you-- given that you may not have a radio for them to tell you to turn around

                         they may decide to "Wake you"-- jet blast / wing vortex and flip you upside down.

                        No taking your friends.  No medical required.  NO BFR (Biennial flight review), but ongoing

                        training is good practice, especially if you've taken some time off.


       In Australia, it is similar, however .....


Where can I fly a Trike:

         That depends on whether it is a Part 103 or N-Numbered trike ...

         Some additional info HERE


How long does training take / how many hours?

         In the US, the minimum is  20 hrs  but expect to take between 30 & 50 hrs over 4-12 months.

         In the OZ, the minimum is  xxhrs  but expect to take between yy & zz hrs over 4-12 months.

         In the UK, the minimum is  xxhrs  but expect to take between yy & zz hrs over 4-13 months.

 See US Trike instructor, Doug Boyle's comments below


How much does a typical trike cost?

          You might find a very cheap well used Part 103 trike for $7K US or a super expensive 2 seat trike for over $100K.  On the low end of the scale, you get what you pay for and your LIFE is dependant on that.  Saving a couple bucks on a rust-bucket will be of no consolation to you when it snaps mid air.  A well equipped used two-seater is likely to cost $25 to $55K with a lot of factors depending.

          Do NOT buy a trike off of eBay or out of some garage (something that's been sitting for years)-- there's a reason it was retired that way and no serious triker is currently flying it-- believe me if it was really the deal you think it is (rather than the death trap it actually is) the triking community would have snapped it up.  Usually it has an outdated and dangerous wing, or other components.  An aircraft engine has to be basically flawless-- this is not a lawn mower, if it does not run 99.999% of the time, you'll be in trouble.

         DO have your instructor help you with your decision.  Fly your instructor's trike for a while, then fly another intructor's trike-  think about the differences and how they fit you and the style of flying you think you'll do--  that style will likely be different than you thought it was by the time you finish training.

        There is no ONE best trike.  Is there one best motorcycle?  Is a Goldwing "better" than a KLR-650?  Is it "better" if it costs more than others?  No, but there is a site where you can get that vibe---  this is not that site  ; )    AllTrikes.com is for ALL trikes!!


How much does training cost?


How much time / money does maintaining a trike cost?


How much does a trike really cost to operate?

       Exactly $62 / hr.   Well not exactly, it's probably actually more see HERE

               If you are not quite prepared for this cost, it may force you to skimp on maintenance which is a safety risk to you and others.  Consider sharing a trike.


How Fast does a Trike go?

          (Yellow ones go slightly slower)


How High can a Trike go?

        (not as high in Australia because since they are upside down, there is not as much room below them)

        A trike can go higher than a Sport Pilot license will allow you (SP allows 10,000 ft MSL, or 2000 above highest terraing over flying).  Some trikes are capable of taking you up to the US Private Pilot limit of 18,000 feet.  In other countries, there are no limits.  HERE is a video about a legendry man who flew a trike and hang glider over the top of Mt Everest.


How far can a Trike fly?

       Upwind or Downwind?


How long can a Trike stay up?

            Until it runs out of fuel !!! --  30 minutes to 4+ hours.  However, there are trikes that can SOAR, using no fuel at all.  There are even Electric trikes being introduced.  These later two categories are often part 103 light trikes.   In most cases trikes can stay up longer than your bladder can endure.


What are the basic categories of Trike Types?

         You mentioned there are different types of trikes like "Goldwing motorcycles and KLR 650's." 

         Trikes are categorized basically on the basis of three main components:  Carriage, Wing & Motor




           Single Seat


           5- Seat- with sleeping quarters:  Only in your dreams

           Part 103



           Electric / Soaring



            Nuclear---  still in testing.  Reported sightings in California/Nevada near Area 51 / Edwards AFB



       Single Surface:

       Double Surface:


       Strutted / "Topless":


Which is best trike?  None-- they ALL have strengths and areas where they operate better than other types.  How well does a Goldwing motorcycle do on even a tiny bit of sand, or in tight slow turns (equivalent to nearly hovering flight)?


Where can I learn to trike?  Where do I find an instructor?



  • Doug Boyle

    For training costs the total is dependent on the student's learning curve and the commitment of time.  Day-after-day training is usually less expensive than month-after-month training.  The learning curve usually benefits from a consolidated training regime, as well. 

    SLSA training aircraft and instructor rates all fall within a comparable range which means the potential savings are mostly found in the above.  Travel time/expense and accomodations can largely impact the total outlay, as can the pilot's choice of training materials (King, Gleim, etc.).  Other expenses like testing are all pretty standard.

    Perhaps the most important decision is that of the Instructor.  You'll want to "interview" potential instructors to find out how well you relate.  The abilities, commitment, and language shared can easily assist in the overall goal, thus saving you money and frustration along the way.

    And, lastly, concentrate on the total benefit you'll derive from the pursuit -- not just the cost.  Your safety should be everyone's goal!  Your knowledge is directly related to safety.  Don't skimp on the total experience.

    Average training emcompasses about 20 hours of dual instruction.  Even rated pilots take about 10 hours to transition.  This time should be followed by solo flight in your own trike -- so be thinking about ownership/partnership as you train.  Your Instructor is an excellent resource on what is available and how much it should cost.

    Your Sport Pilot's license is an entry into the aviation experience.  You'll continue learning with each hour you fly and with each pilot you meet.  It keeps getting better with each addition, and you'll become a Trike-flying Ambassador before long!

  • crayonbox

    The Start of My Journey.

    I am in Queensland Australia. To be allowed to train and fly a trike here, you must be a member of one of two organisations, HGFA (Hang Gliders Federation of Australia) which I am, or RA-Aus.  A Pilot Certificate to Fly is only earned after completing a minimum of 15 hours dual instruction, and 5 hours solo.  These are minimums.  I am currently at 25hrs dual, and about to go solo shortly.

    I began my training using my instructors Airborne Outback 582 Streak 2b trike on the 1st of July.

    Cost per hour is $180.00 in the instructors trike, or $100 in your own trike.  It is recommended that you buy your own trike before you go solo.

    I don't know how RA-Aus issue theory work and exams so I will explain HGFA.

    When you become a member with HGFA, you will be sent a theory workbook, and your Pilot Flight Log to keep your flying times and information in. The workbook is something that becomes your future reference book, and can be completed with assistance and theory lessons from your instructor. It needs to be 100% correct because this forms the basis of what you should know and understand.

    Other recommended study materials are the "Microlight Pilot's Handbook 7th Edition" by Brian Cosgrove.  Another publication that is highly recommended but not completely relevant in Australia is the FAA book called Weight-Shift Control Aircraft Flying Handbook, 280 pages full colour,
    from this page at the bottom... http://www.faa.gov/library/manuals/aircraft/  You will benefit from a copy of Australian ERSA, and some Nav Charts for study too.  Check out Air Services Australia.

    You will learn a great deal about the weather, and right and wrong times to go flying. Weather has become a big bug-bear for me.  Trying to learn to land consistently and correctly becomes difficult with crosswinds and turbulence. We are ofter waiting for the right weather, and often up at 430am!

    As your fly, you learn theory in practice. When the time comes during your training you will sit three exams. Pre-Solo, BAK (Basic Aeronautical Knowledge) and a Radio Telephony exam. 

    I am fortunate to have been able to purchase a used Airborne XT-912 Tourer with Cruze wing trike in September 2012. I have been flying it since my 7th lesson. I have been able to get to know the aircraft which is a real benefit during this training time.

    Services and basic maintenance is carried out by the aircraft owner, such as 100 hourly services (oil, filter, plugs etc).

    A lot of the costs associated with training will depend on the flying school you choose.

    I fly with Fraser Coast Microlites here in Hervey Bay. Ask for Mark. 

    Life As a Certified Pilot

    Don't know yet - I am not there.  However, you are permitted to fly up to 10,000ft and 25NM from your takeoff location. And you may not take passengers.  To maintain your standards, you need to be checked flighted every 2 years by an instructor rated pilot. I look forward to exploring my scenic corner of the world when I have been set free.

    Passenger endorsement requires a further 5 hours of logged time from the time you receive your certification, and a test.

    Cross Country Endorsement is another test that allows you to fly as far from your departure point as you wish.  But you can never ever go into Controlled airspace without ATC special permission.

  • XC Triker

    Great post Crayon Box (hey, how'd you get that nickname anyway?)!

    VERY similar to the US, however:

    We have 3 types of Licenses for trikes in the US:

    1. Private Pilot 
    2. Recreational Pilot- rarely used, if I remember right it has no night flying, no IFR
    3. Sport Pilot- no night/IFR, no > 10K feet / 2000 AGL, No over the top, No SVFR.  No medical needed.

                    ATC / Controlled airspace can be added as an additional endorsement.

    You can also have a Private Pilot with night restriction which I do (until I get around to taking the couple hours of night instruction- I meant to this past summer).  There is no IFR certified trike so that is irrelevant.


    Other Differences:

    1. We do not have to belong to a club first (doesn't hurt though)
    2. We no longer need a radio license separate--  included in our pilot's license (see Sport Pilot above)
    3. We have one exam after ground school-- GS can also be done by video or web just so long as you pass the exam.  The knowledge will also be tested by your instructor verbally during your checkride.
    4. Once your instructor endorses you, we can solo without a license (no passengers) to continue practicing within a specified area (much like your 25NM range).  Eventually we need to take the checkride to get a license and venture further.

    In the end, the above works out VERY similar to Australia, as is your exchange rate (I checked today) 0.97 Australian Dollars to 1 US (so, potentially 3% more expensive in US).  Our gas is about $3.5/gallon and after conversion from 3.78L per gallon, your cost is about $7-$8 per gallon.  Good thing trikes only burn about 3.3 GPH (not 10-15 or even 50GPH like GA)

    Cheers Mate!!!

  • crayonbox

    Gidday XC Triker,

    Crayonbox is something I came up with years ago when I was travelling to third world countries doing video work of people in need.  (PNG and South Africa).

    I had seen a phrase that went something like, "We are all just crayons in a box, we should learn to get along with each other".  I thought it was a great representation of mixed multicultural races of people all in the same box called Earth!  Which was relevant to what I was doing at the time.

    Cheers Mate hahha