What Is A Trike?

Comos-C Silent-Racer

Trike, in this context, refers to the aircraft. Historically referred to as a powered hang glider, powered flex-wing, microlight, or ultralight, it is more often and affectionately referred to as the "trike". For its size and weight, the trike is in its totality easily the most compact, transportable, durable, versatile, and less complicated motorized-recreational sport flying machine. When taken from its its storage place (such as a small trailer or home garage) the trike is easily transported anywhere within a moment's impulse to fly. Often mistaken as an in-the-pattern craft, the trike is among the most dependable of cross-country, open cockpit flying machines ever created. On separate occasions, with different pilots, flying different makes, the trike has been piloted around the world and above the Himalayan Mountains. The two examples Cosmos-C at left, and Silent Racer at right) demonstrate the advancement of modern trikes. In Europe, where it was popularized, the trike remains one of the most widely flown recreational and sport aircraft among grass root flyers. It became so competitive at national and world competitions that the trike was awarded a separate class. Its popularity was also well established in middle Europe, Russia, South Africa, and Australia. The trike is so much a part of aviation in these regions that it is a government certified ultralight or microlight aircraft. Today, these regions serve as a principle manufacturing source of trikes imported into the USA.

The trike's popularity in the USA remained less dramatic as ultralight and experimental pilots favored fixed-wing aircraft. By the 90's the trike gained greater recognition. By the millennium, largely fueled by international imports, new USA manufacturers, and a growing interest in recreational flying, its popularity surged. In 2004, it's status as an "aircraft" was hightened with the creation and implimentation of the revolutionary Light Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot regulations. It's popularity, while small compared to the popularity of fixed wing aircraft, continues to flourish in a environment where new regulations, market competition, and pilot enthusiasm prevail.

Lori+Charlie The trike evolved from the 70's revolution in recreational and sport hang gliding when a glider pilot attached a small motor with prop to his flex-wing glider. Today, far from the days when NASA engineer Francis Rogallo invented the Rogallo flex-wing, this ultra/micro/sport light aircraft is keeping up with technology as innovative trike chassis and wings are fabricated from composite materials and powered by four-cycle engines.


This compact, light weight, and highly maneuverable flying machine has reached 31,889 feet and traveled 91 mph. These feats were performed respectively by Serge Zin in 1991 in an Air Creation Norgil and Richard Meredith-Hardy in 2006 in a P & M Quik GT450. The trike, seen here with the geese in trail, served as a perfect platform for Operation Migration's Canadian Bill Lishman, whose involvement with geese and flying gave us the movie "Fly Away Home." His flight with the birds continue today as Operation Migration strives to restore the Whopping cranes' population and migration routes. In 1998, a UK triker Brian Milton circumnavigated the earth in 71 flying days having spent a total of 121 days from take off to landing. Trikes are comfortably built in one or two seat configurations, arranged in tandem or side by side. It manages on 1.5 to 4.0 US gallons per hour of automobile gasoline. World new prices range from $8000 to $70,000. Pre-owned trikes range from $5,000 to $35,000. An average, new USA made price is $13,000 to $25,000. They come in assembled, kit, and custom configurations.

Most countries regulate trike flight under microlight and ultralight operations. In the USA, trikes are flown under the Civil Aviation Regulation (CAR) 103 with supplemental directives from AC 103-6 and -7 as an ultralight, and under the 2004 Light Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot regulations contained in CAR 61 and 91. The trike can also be operated as an Experimental-Amateur Built aircraft and flown by a certified FAA recreational or private pilot. Under this condition, a specific FAA program allows operation of the trike as a "glider-trike". The Federal Aviation Agency's Light Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot rules created a new airworthiness category and class for the trike, termed "Weight Shift Control." This is a monumental development in the history of trike flight in the USA because the government officially endorsed the trike as an "aircraft".


The trike is a sky cycle unlike any aircraft or toy ever experienced. One might fashion the trike as a flying motorcycle. Its ownership garners friendships among similarly spirited pilots from around the world, like the friendship of South African Mike Blyth and Swiss Olivier Aubert who together on one flight flew their two individual trikes across six continents. Its fascination is illustrated in the words of Reggie Paulk, a certified FAA airplane pilot who said he "saw the light", "A trike is my personal definition of the perfect aircraft for flying. It's fast enough to handle unexpected winds, slow enough to enjoy the world, maneuverable enough to thrill, and the performance leaves me wanting for nothing. [It} is inexpensive to operate, inexpensive to own, and extremely simple to work on. Try a trike, any trike. Then try to forget it." That pretty much defines a trike except that if you really want to know what a trike is, take a trike ride. You might just like it! You will of course have to have your own trike to experience the continued, natural high and open-air fun of triking!

Photo credits:
top left - by the Cosmos Company, Renard Guy (pilot), date unknown, France
top right - Helmut GrossKlass's Silent Racer, date unknown, Germany
middle - by Lori Allen and Charlie Chandler (pilot), 1999, Selves flying Nantucket, USA
Middle left - Operation Migration Bill Lishman, date unknown, Canada/USA
bottom - Mike Blyth (left) and Olivier Aubert, 1999, Millennium Flight.

Defintion by others:    USA      UK

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