Ultralight Regulations in South Africa


  1. Regulations regarding licensing of pilots.
  2. Regulations regarding licensing of aircraft.
  3. Regulations regarding operation of aircraft.
  4. List of relevant authorities, bodies etc.

A) Regulations regarding licensing of pilots.

To legally fly a Microlight in South Africa, one must be in possession of a valid MPL (Microlight Pilots License) and Radio operators license.

To obtain a license, the would be pilot, if his nerves last after a few test flights, must enrole at a flight school which has been granted the necessary licenses by the DCA (Directorate of Civil Aviation), and receive training from a MISASA (Microlight Section of the Aero Club of South Africa) approved flight instructor.

The training typically requires a total of about 25 hours flying (about 10 hours thereof dual, and the rest solo), and all the relevant ground courses (weather, engines & airframes, airlaw, navigation, theory of flight, radio procedure).

At the beginning of the training, the student must have a medical examination, and apply to the DCA for a student license. After the training, he/she must have a series of flight tests by an instructor other than the one who did the training, and pass written exams on the ground courses, as well as obtain a radio operators license from the Telkom SA.

If all tests and exams are passed, then the student can apply to DCA for a Microlight Pilots License (valid for the type on which he/she has trained). This is valid as long as the medical certificate is valid for (2 years from date of examination if the pilot is under 40, one if he is over 40). Every two years (one year over 40) the pilot must have a further medical examination.
If he passes this, and can prove (by means of log book, or form signed by an instructor) that he has flown 10 hours in the previous year, the license will be renewed by DCA to the date of expiry of the new medical examination.

At the time of writing this, MISASA are negotiating with DCA to relax the medical requirements for Microlight Pilots. At the moment, they are exactly the same as those required by private pilots and commercial pilots (Comm pilots of course need an examination every 6 months).
At present medical examinations must be made by a DCA approved doctor, and include complex sight and hearing tests, as well as a strenuous ECG (which is nearly the death of me every year, watching my heart rate increase into the red line on some high tech machine and wondering what a heart attack would feel like!)
The medical test is then sent to the Institute of Aviation Medicine (Part of the Air Force) for endorsement before being forwarded to the DCA. What a procedure!

B) Regulations regarding licensing of Microlight aircraft.

Aircraft License
The licensing of all Microlight Aircraft falls under the control of the DCA (Directorate of Civil Aviation, which is part of the Department of Transport). Microlight licensing and operation is all governed by a document called the LS1. This sets out in detail all the rules and regulations, I will just list the major points in normal English here (not bureaucratese!).

Aircraft Operation
To operate a Microlight aircraft legally, the owner must be in possession of a valid "Authority to Fly" document, which is issued by the DCA.
The DCA will issue this document if the following conditions are met: The owner must be a bone-fide paid up member of MISASA (The Microlight Section of the Aero Club of South Africa) and have taken out the microlight third party insurance from them; The aircraft must be a DCA approved type (one which has been in use in SA for a number of years);

Aircraft Inspection
The aircraft must have had a certified "Annual Inspection" by a MISASA Approved Person, and the owner must have the signed inspection certificate; The aircraft must be registered by DCA, and have an international registration number issued and clearly displayed on the aircraft (ZS- or ZU- number). If the above conditions are met, DCA will issue the "Authority to fly", which is valid indefinetly, as long the aircraft has an Annual Inspection by an Approved Person (AP) within 12 months of the previous one, and the AP or the pilot mails or delivers the signed inspection certificate to DCA before or shortly after the expiry date of the previous inspection (this should be displayed on the aircraft by means of a special MISASA sticker).

Aircraft Type
If the aircraft is a new type in SA, (Eg a home built), then the procedure is much more complicated:
First an AP must give the aircraft a thorough examination, including structural strength testing, CG (Centre of Gravity) tests etc; Then an approved pilot (usually senior instructor, or someone else who'se balls are bigger then his brains) must give the aircraft a test flight; Then the owner trots off to the DCA with the AP and Test flight certificates, and photo's of his baby, and whatever other technical bumbf etc he has, and DCA will most likely issue an "Proving Flight Authority", which is permission for the owner to fly 40 hours of solo on the aircraft, from his airfield of hangerage for a max radius of 50 miles. After these 40 hours (it is amazing how quickly many pilots fly these hours, sometimes spending 6 -7 hours a day in their new machines), a further test flight must be made by an approved pilot (the guy with big cojones) and a further airframe inspection is also required! Then the owner can return to DCA with log books to prove the 40 hours has been flown, and the test flight and inspection certificates, and DCA will issue the hard earned Authority to Fly. Simple isn't it! Then all the owner needs is his once a year Annual Inspection, and he can fly the plane till it falls apart (which of course the Annual Inspection should prevent!)

C) Regulations regarding the operation of Microlight aircraft in SA.

All rules and regulations concerning the operation of Microlight Aircraft are set out in the LS1 Document, which is controlled by DCA. Again I will try to extract the ones I can remember and that are most relevant to active pilots in South Africa (I must admit, I have never actually read the full document from front to back!) Mainly, both the pilot and the aircraft must be legal - the pilot must have a valid MPL(Microlight Pilots License) and be a paid up member of MISASA, and have a valid third party insurance through MISASA, and the aircraft must have a valid "Authority to Fly" from DCA. Other than that, we can pretty much do our own thing, and SA is a big land !

Carrying of radio,compass, altimeter is now compulsory in certain congested areas such as the Johannesburg Special Rules Area, the Cape Peninsula, the Durban area etc, and may well become compulsory at all time, which I endorse whole heartedly. Other then the fun of chatting to your mates, telling them when you have just run out of fuel etc, it is a vital for safety to communicate with ATC and other aircraft (especially choppers, who often fly even lower than we do!)

D) List of relevant bodies etc.

The Microlight Association of South Africa
P O Box 1993
Halfway House

Tel: (011) 805-5428
Tel: (011) 805-2765

Department of Transport
Directorate: Civil Aviation
Private Bag X193

Tel: (012) 290-2518 (Mr Arie van der Plaats)
Fax: (012) 290-2040

Many thanks to Barry Culligan (otto@icon.co.za) for the above info!

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Jon N. Steiger / jon@ultralighthomepage.com