Brad Messer, retired radio talk host and news director, Ultralight Flying hobby



Ultralight flying— like riding a motorcycle with wings...

I qualified as an ultralight pilot in San Antonio in 1985. A few years later I got a "real" pilot's license and did some general aviation flying, but much prefer the fun of an open-cockpit ultralight. I was certified as an ultralight flight instructor.


Ultralight airplane: Brad Messer's aerobatic MX Super
Brad in Quicksilver "MX Super" limited-production aerobatic ultralight. This one stalled around 30mph, cruised around 55, G rating was +9 and -6, had a 55 horsepower Hirth two-stroke engine. The MX Super was rated for all standard aerobatic maneuvers except tail slide (would loop, spin, snap roll, fly upside down, etc.)


Added February 2014 -- People occasionally write to ask where they can get ultralight training in the San Antonio area. Ultralights are pretty much history. Light Sport Aircraft are the new thing. You can get LSA flying (and soaring) lessons at Bob and Nancy Bruce's fine little airport

Boerne Stage Field, 28120 Boerne Stage Rd., Boerne, TX (830) 981-2345 website


Grandson Sean in my RANS above Garden Ridge, Texas airfield 2009


I flew ultralights from 1985 thru 2007 and walked away from 22 years of aviating without having ever hurt myself or a plane. You former motorcycle riders (I'm one of those, too) will recognize that morsel of appreciation that we had our fun and walked away intact. We say it's due to our excellent skills but we secretly know it's all pure luck.





In general, an ultralight aircraft is a flying lawn chair. Uh, I mean it's a lightweight, strong, engine-powered airplane which is restricted to a certain maximum weight, speed and fuel capacity.
Full FAA Part 103 rules for ultralights here.
A good ultralight website here.

Ultralighting is now in the process of giving way to a new airplane category, Light Sport Aviation, which allows planes heavier and faster than ultralights. The LSA category doesn't require a private pilot license or a medical certificate.
AOPA links to Sport Pilot stuff here.

My humble opinion is that Sport Pilot ended the Wild West era of seat-of-your-pants ultralight flying and took a ton of the fun away by requiring this and that paperwork and these and those new rules and so on.



Ultralight airplane in straight down dive
Straight-down dive in the MX Super






1995 RANS S-12XL Airaile sport plane
Two-place, service ceiling 12,500 feet
My flying partner Jim Smith and I
bought this RANS on Nov. 2, 2004 and sold it in 2007
(RANS reports making 955 of these S-12XLs)

Below: Generic factory photos of S-12s




powered parachute
Other popular aircraft - which are not ultralights - include powered parachutes and "trikes" which are the powered big brothers of hang gliders.





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Inside Loop 1604 between Nacogdoches and Lookout Road



a Saturday morning 7/19/03

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four photos from a flight To Specht's in Bulverde