Before you ask any questions about buying a trike you need to think about the lifestyle you want to design for yourself. Here are the basic lifestyle questions you need to think about when you decide what type of trike is best for you:
Deciding on the make and model should come after you consider these questions. If you are not exactly sure about the answers to these questions that is OK, you are more flexible in buying a trike.
For many of these questions there is middle ground or a compromise but thinking about these questions is an important start.
1. Do I want to fly from airport to airport at high speeds, in high winds and in bumpy conditions or fly to/from dirt roads, fields and land in restricted areas and not fly so fast?
Generally, larger wings (17 and 19m square meters) can handle smaller horsepower engines and fly slower. They are also used for water operations. Larger wings are slower and better for rough and short field landings.
However, larger wings cannot fly in as much wind or handle turbulence as well. Smaller wings (11 to 13 square meters) with higher powered engines are better for flying fast, need longer landing/takeoff areas (1000 feet which is still pretty small) and fly better in higher winds and turbulence. Smaller wings need more horsepower to push them faster.
2. Do I want to store it at an airport in a hanger always set up or do I want to store it in a trailer to haul it around and set it up every time I go flying?
All trikes will set up and take down and can be stored in a trailer. Some easier than others. All trikes can fit into an airport hanger, some easier than others. If you want to fit it into a hanger and the door opening is greater than 12 feet high, no problem, any trike will do.
The kingpost on wired trikes sticks up and is pretty high for fitting in a hanger. Topless trike wings can fit into hangers that have a clearance of about nine feet.
A topless/strutted wing is much easier to find a hanger with clearance. I think that the topless wing is a big advantage simply because it is more efficient and easier to store/transport.
The disadvantages of the top-less wing, which I hope will change over time, is that they are a little more expensive and they weigh a little more. But generally, the advantages outweigh the extra cost and weight. They simply look better. I think that topless wings will be the future of trikes similar to how airplanes evolved.
With a large trailer 22 feet by 8 foot, you can fold the wings back on a topless wing and move it in without taking it off the carriage. Again, a topless wing is helpful here. If you are going to use a smaller trailer, 7 x 12 minimum, you can take the wing completely off and get the carriage into a trailer and put the wing on top of the vehicle. This takes a little more time but has been done by many for decades. A lighter single surface wing is easier to set up and take down for this type of operation.
3. Do I want to get a kit and build it myself or get a factory-delivered, assembled and flight-tested aircraft?
If you want to save some money, and if you have the extra time to assemble the parts, and if you can test fly it yourself, or have someone test fly it for you, you could get an E-LSA kit.
This is significant extra time and effort and may in the end not save you any money because of all the details, but this is an option to consider. If you have qualified people who can help you for free or minimum fees, this is an option. But, the problem is if there is a problem; it takes talent and money to fix something that does not fly OK.
4. Do I want to have a single seat ultralight or a two place light sport aircraft I can take other people up in to share the joy of flight?
This is one of the biggest decisions of buying a trike. A “single seat” ultralight pilot does not need a license but is restricted from flying in many areas. The main reason for going the ultralight route is because you lost your medical and it is too expensive to get it back. If you lost your medical you must get it cleared before you can fly a two-place LSA as a sport pilot.
Another reason for going the ultralight route is that you only want to fly by yourself. A sport pilot license allows you to fly almost wherever you want and have the FAA back you up since they created the sport pilot license/certificate. Get them on your side.
A sport pilot FAA license/certificate is pretty easy; minimum (20 hours) compared to a private pilot minimum (40 hours). You have a pilot’s license for life.
5. Do I want something I can train other people in as a commercial operation?
If you want to train people as a commercial operation, you must have a special light sport aircraft (S-LSA). If you want to fly as a pilot without compensation of hire, you can have an experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA).
You will see the advantages of an E-LSA in the next question.
6. Do I want something I can maintain myself or do I want someone else to do all the maintenance?
E-LSA can be maintained by anybody, but these can NOT be used for commercial training. S-LSA is for commercial operations and used for training or hire and must be maintained by qualified FAA representatives.
However, all E-LSA must have an “Annual Condition Inspection” by an FAA mechanic or an owner with a 16-hour training course. This is one of the advantages of an E-LSA. Note that you can buy an S-LSA and have it easily turned into an E-LSA. You can buy a factory-assembled and tested E-LSA also.
You can easily go from an S-LSA to an E-LSA but not from an E-LSA to an S-LSA.
7. How do I get trained?
One of the most important aspects of buying a new trike is getting the proper training in it. If you are starting from scratch, you must get your sport pilot license to fly it. If you are a transitioning pilot, such as a private pilot airplane, you must get transition training and a proficiency check.
It is best to get any training in your new trike from the person who sold it to you. Make sure quality training is thought of ahead of time so you can safely fly your trike right away.
Many times it is typical to get your training in an instructor’s trike and do your solo flying in your own trike.
The first weight-shift control trike you learn to fly in will always have a special place in your heart. Depending upon your choice of weight-shift control (WSC) trike light-sport aircraft (LSA) flight school and its fleet, you may have a couple of options from which to choose. You may even select your flight school based in part upon the type of weight-shift control LSA that they fly.
Some of the most common sport trikes used for flight training are by Apollo/Evolution, Airborne, Air Creation, and North Wing.
The aircraft section will provide specific comparisons of the make and models of the trikes.