The BMAA 1982

The Flight Line Perspective

While Berger and Burr recount the exciting developments taking place in the world of aircraft design, Flight Line has a different focus in 1982. Prime concerns were the impact of regulations about to be introduced by the CAA to control the sport, and issues raised by the anti-noise, anti-low-fly lobby. The latter were beginning to make their voices heard at national level. We have already seen that in many countries, microlighting was either banned or heavily regulated. Britain had enjoyed more freedom than most in being able to take to the skies in these new machines.

In 1982, trikes were illegal in Norway; two-seaters were illegal in West Germany; Switzerland had very strict regulations, as did Australia. For example, in Australia there was to be 'no crossing of any tarmac surfaced road and a maximum flying height of 300 ft (91 m).

The Baroudeur was a French aircraft. The pilot wrote to Norman Burr - "An Italian friend told us that [ULM} flying is forbidden or more exactly not really authorised but importation of a ULM is not forbidden... so I'm really an outlaw, I think!"

On the regulation front, the CAA wanted aircraft registered, pilots licensed, and aircraft designs type-approved. It was accepted that the status quo could not be maintained, and Flight Line called for responsible action in order that control of the sport could remain with those taking part in it.

The BMAA planned to set up its own training arrangements, company approval schemes and airworthiness inspections: the birth of the system we fly within today. The fear was that these schemes would be managed directly by the CAA, which by its nature would have less time for and understanding of the idiosyncrasies of microlight flying.

By the end of the year, membership of the BMAA stood at almost 2500. Every microlight had to display registration letters for the first time as a legal requirement.

Despite the constraints imposed by the regulations, exciting flying was still taking place. Three microlights flew the length of New Zealand, from Cape Reiga to Bluff - some 2000 miles. This provided many New Zealanders with their first ever glimpse of a microlight. One Northland Maori was quoted as saying: "I had to come along and see this when my kid said there's some pedal planes up there"

Aviation history was made when the three were joined for the final stage of the flight by Murray Hagan in his Pterodactyl Ascender, and Graeme Henderson in his Shark Trike. This was the biggest assembly of microlights ever to gather in New Zealand, wrote Nick Brown at the time.

The Journey took some 41 hr 25 minutes flying time, at an average speed of 49 mph (79 kph). Ken Asplin and Trevor Barrett flew Mirages, while Marty Waller flew his Quicksilver MX.

Back in Britain, 1982 saw the introduction of a completely new UK designed aircraft, the Dragon. This comprised a two-seater side-by-side trainer with conventional 3-axis controls. It was intended that this machine would meet the needs of a training market created from the introduction of licensing.

Image: The Dragon - Designed & built by The Dragon Light Aircraft Company, based in South Glamorgan, Wales.

Other microlights that had been flight tested by Flight Line by the end of 1982 included:

  • The Mirage II (US)
  • The Hummer (US)
  • The Weedhopper 2 (US)
  • The Tri-Flyer (UK)
  • The Tri-Pacer (UK)
  • The Striker (UK)
  • The Typhoon (UK)
  • The Pathfinder 330 (UK)

Image: A Mainair Tri-flyer with Typhoon wing. This trike was introduced in 1982 and was flown with a variety of wings. Most popular was the Solar Wings Typhoon S. This combination was used by Bob Calvert to break the World altitude record in January 1982.

Image: This Phantom was based on an American design, but fitted with a Robin engine for the European market. Flight Line found that the Phantom provided for test remained fully controllable on a day when many other microlights of this time would have been grounded due to the blustery conditions.

Sadly, on the machine front it was not all good news. The Southern Aero Sports Scorpion became the first microlight aircraft ever to be grounded by the CAA. This follwed a series of three in-flight structural failures, two on single-seaters and one on a two-seater, which resulted in three deaths and one serious injury. Between 30 and 40 Scorpions had been made. The company went into liquidation shortly after the accidents.