The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that the government bring ultralight aircraft under general aviation flight rules and require minimal pilot training.
Ultralight aircraft are those that weigh less than 254 pounds when empty, have a fuel capacity of 5 gallons or less and can reach a top speed of 55 knots. They are designed to fly a single occupant.
The ultralights are regulated by the federal government only to the extent of how much fuel they can carry and how fast and where they can travel. They are prohibited from flying near airports and populated areas in order to minimize accidents and property damage.
The NTSB, in making the recommendations earlier this month to the Federal Aviation Administration, said the proposals stem from a staff investigation between March 1983 and September 1984.
The safety board, an independent federal agency that has no authority to hand down federal regulations, said its staff looked into 177 ultralight accidents during the 18-month period, including 93 fatalities.
The NTSB also recommended that pilots be certified, the craft registered and that the craft meet certain safety standards.
The FAA maintains that ultralights are not truly airplanes and are used for sport purposes only. Accordingly, anyone can fly them without a federal license and no minimal maintenance procedures are required.
The FAA said it is considering issuing regulations to govern ultralights, but added that no decision has been made on the matter.