Feet off the ground, into the clouds

Soaring through the sky in an ultralight
Feb. 26, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

Aviation enthusiast and student pilot Richard Greene admits he has a small fear of heights.

"I do have a fear of being that high up, but when you're up in a plane and you're the one in control, it is not quite as scary as not knowing who is in the cockpit flying the plane," Greene said.

Greene, 44, lives in Mooresboro and began taking flying lessons more than two decades ago.

"I began my lessons at Rutherford County Airport, but had to stop due to financial reasons," he said. "It's an expensive hobby and I picked it back up a few years ago and am continuing my lessons. I'm on the path to getting my pilot's license."

Although he does not come from an aviation background, Greene has shown an interest in flying since he was a child.

"Every kid always dreams about doing big stuff, and flying was one of the things that caught my eye," he said.

Less than a month ago Greene purchased his first Flightstar Spyder ultralight aircraft, a single-seat, high-wing aircraft with one engine.

"You have your general aviation aircraft like your Pipers and your Cessnas and such, and ultralight is a classification where you don't need to have a pilot's license or certificate to fly it because it meets certain requirements," Greene said. "It is kind of like the dirt bike of planes."

Ultralight aircraft in the United States have only one seat, specific weight requirements when powered and unpowered and are only used for recreational or sport flying. Ultralight aircraft are also much smaller and lighter than many planes.

"I wouldn't say ultralights are harder to fly than a regular plane, but because of their smaller size they are more sensitive to weather, especially windy conditions," said Greene, who has flown his ultralight on multiple occasions during the past few weeks. "But as far as capability, ultralights can do just as much if not more than a bigger plane. I know some people who like to do flips and barrel rolls in their ultralights, but I personally don't do those maneuvers in my plane."

And as Greene pointed out, flying an ultralight is not intended for long-distance trips, but instead for shorter ventures like "buzzing over your neighbor's house."

"It's interesting because I never flew in a real big airplane until I was in my twenties. Now I travel out of town with my job and do a lot of flying in commercial aircraft," said Greene, a sub-contractor for various companies. "Eventually, I might like to get a two-seater plane so my wife and I can go on short trips."