Getting the USHPA ATP Rating

From the Towlines column written by Tracy and Lisa, published in Hang Gliding & Paragliding

Hang Gliding & Paragliding Magazine, August 2007
By Tracy Tillman and Lisa Colletti

Well, we thought that we had adequately covered the Sport Pilot transition topic in previous issues of our 'Towline' column, but apparently that was not the case. We just received a great question from a reader about getting the USHPA ATP (Aerotow Tug Pilot) rating, which is a topic that we should cover in more detail so that it is well understood.

Question of the Month: I am a low-time private airplane pilot, and I have a variety of flight time in hang gliders, trikes and fixed-wing ultralights, and airplanes. How do I become a USHPA-rated ATP, and will I then be able to tow using a Light Sport Aircraft?

Tracy: Under USHPA exemption #4144 [ref. 1], you will be qualified to tow hang gliders and other unpowered ultralights if you have a USHPA ATP rating and if you use a powered ultralight that meets the definition of a Part 103 legal ultralight [ref. 2]. You will also be able to tow unpowered ultralights using a heavy or two-place ultralight for a short time ' until January 31, 2008 ' which is the FAA's deadline for conversion of heavy or two-place ultralights to registered Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) [ref. 3].

Lisa: The USHPA rating is not a qualification that allows you to tow using an N-numbered LSA tug. To tow with an LSA tug, you will need to hold an FAA tow endorsement [ref. 4]. However, as we discussed in our June 2007 Towline article [ref. 5], you can use your USHPA ATP rating to help you get the FAA tow endorsement, under FAA regulations 61.52 'Use of Aeronautical Experience Obtained in Ultralight Vehicles' [ref. 6].

Tracy: Right. You can get your official FAA tow endorsement if you show documentation to a CFI that you hold a current USHPA ATP rating, and that you have met the aeronautical experience requirements for towing per FAR 61.69 [ref. 4]. According to 61.69, the tug pilot must have, in addition to a private-pilot license: logged at least 100 hours of pilot-in-command time in the same kind of aircraft that the pilot will use for towing; received ground and flight training in unpowered ultralight vehicles or gliders from an authorized instructor; logged at least three flights of actual or simulated tows while accompanied by another qualified tug pilot; and received a logbook endorsement for towing from that qualified tug pilot. Basically, if you present your current USHPA card that shows your ATP rating on it, and show the CFI your log book that documents at least 100 hours of pilot-in-command time in the same category of aircraft used for towing and at least three actual tows, properly logged per 61.51 [ref. 7], the CFI will grant the FAA tow endorsement to you and make a note of it in your log book [ref. 8].

Lisa: With the variety of flying experience that you have, getting the USHPA ATP rating prior to the FAA tow endorsement makes a lot of sense. The requirements to get the ATP rating are spelled out in Part 104.11.01 'Hang Gliding Aerotow Ratings' section of the 'Pilot Proficiency System' portion of USHPA's Standard Operating Procedures [ref. 9].

Tracy: As we discussed in our April 2007 Towline article [ref. 10], USHPA Part 104.11.01 requires the ATP candidate to: (a) have 10 hours of logged flight time in the type of ultralight to be used for towing, and be either a licensed private pilot or have a minimum of 100 hours of logged powered ultralight time ' unless it is a weight-shift trike, in which case 50 of the 100 hours may be satisfied with hang gliding experience; (b) have at least five solo or tandem flights in a hang glider by aerotow, and conduct a minimum of five tows of a hang glider piloted by a Hang 4 (advanced) pilot who is highly experienced in aerotowing; and (c) either hold a Hang 4 hang glider pilot rating, or have passed both the Hang 3 (intermediate) and 4 hang gliding written exams; and have passed an oral exam regarding aerotow vehicle operations, emergency procedures, and signals per USHPA's Aerotowing Guidelines [ref .11]. Tug pilots should also take the USHPA Aerotow (AT) written exam.

Lisa: You will have to go to either a USHPA AT supervisor or AT administrator to get your ATP rating. To give the rating, the rating official must also hold the ATP rating himself. You can locate an AT supervisor [ref. 12] or administrator [ref. 13] using USHPA's Web site,

Tracy: Aerotow supervisors and administrators are provided with packets containing information about towing that they should share with you. They should review FAR Part 103 and USHPA Exemption #4144 with you, and explain why you must have a current ATP rating as shown on your USHPA membership card, and have a copy of the Exemption #4144 with you when you tow. They should provide copies of the USHPA Aerotowing Guidelines and Tug Pilot Guidelines to you, and go through them with you. Then, they can administer the AT written exam and ATP oral exam to you. Of course, you may not need to take the AT written exam if you are already a rated aerotow (AT) hang glider pilot and took the exam when you got your AT rating. In any case, the administrator or supervisor should discuss each question and its correct answer with you to make sure that you understand all concepts and ramifications of issues covered by the exam.

Lisa: If you do not hold a Hang 4 rating, you will also have to take the Hang 3 and Hang 4 written exams to get your ATP rating. If the AT supervisor or administrator also holds advanced instructor or observer appointments, they should be able to administer the Hang 3 and 4 exams to you. If not, you will have to go to an advanced instructor or observer to take those exams.

Tracy: You will have to show the AT supervisor or administrator your logbook as a record of having at least 100 hours of ultralight time (see above) and having experienced at least five solo or tandem aerotow flights in a hang glider. Then, in the presence of the AT supervisor or administrator, you will need to demonstrate at least five tows of a hang glider piloted by a Hang 4 pilot.

Lisa: Obviously, it is better to get some dual towing instruction with another ATP or with the AT supervisor or administrator prior to trying to perform your five solo tows for the supervisor or administrator.

Tracy: Once you get your ATP rating, you will be listed as an ATP on USHPA's Web site [ref. 14].

Lisa: Finally, if you intend to use your USHPA ATP rating to help get your FAA tow endorsement [refs. 5, 6], and if you fly a taildragger LSA-registered tow plane such as the Dragonfly, don't forget that you will have to hold a private-pilot license, and that you will also have to get a tailwheel endorsement per FAA regulation 61.31(i) [ref. 15].

Tracy: As a reminder, our Towline articles and links to other Sport Pilot-related information are posted on USHPA's 'Sport Pilot' information Web [ref. 16]. We are happy to receive questions directly from individuals regarding Sport Pilot and other towing-related issues, and encourage you to email us at [email protected] [ref. 17] with your questions. We are always looking for a good new 'Question of the Month'!


  1. USHPA Exemption #4144:
  2. 'Ultralight Vehicles.' Title 14 CFR Part 103:
  3. FAA Sport Pilot Rule:
  4. 'Glider and Unpowered Ultralight Vehicle Towing: Experience and Training Requirements.' Title 14 CFR Part 61.69:
  5. 'Towline: Sport Pilot Good News Update' by Lisa Colletti and Tracy Tillman, {Hang Gliding & Paragliding} magazine, June 2007:
  6. 'Use of Aeronautical Experience Obtained in Ultralight Vehicles' Title 14 CFR Part 61.52:
  7. 'Pilot Logbooks' Title 14 CFR Part 61.51:
  8. 'Required endorsements in accordance with CFR, part 61, section 61.69 if you are a registered aero tow pilot with USHPA'
  9. Part 104.11.01 USHPA Aero Tow Vehicle Pilot Rating requirements:
  10. 'Towline: Tug Pilot Qualifications, Ratings, Endorsements' by Lisa Colletti and Tracy Tillman, {Hang Gliding & Paragliding} magazine, April 2007:
  11. USHPA Aerotowing Guidelines: available from USHPA aerotow administrators and supervisors
  12. USHPA list of aerotow supervisors (renamed observers):
  13. USHPA list of aerotow administrators (renamed examiners):
  14. USHPA list of aerotow tug pilots:
  15. 'Additional Training Required for Operating Tailwheel Airplanes.' Title 14 CFR Part 61.31(i):
  16. 'Sport Pilot' USHPA Web page:
  17. Tracy and Lisa's 'Cloud 9 Sport Aviation' email address: [email protected]