The BMAA 1987
The Thruster finally achieved Section S, affording schools a long awaited 3-axis trainer. This Australian designed machine was being built in Cornwall by Ian Stokes. Ian took a Thruster to the Paris Air Show in 1987, where it was the only British built microlight to be exhibited.
Aero 87 took place in West Germany. The Shadow was well received at this event, but the star of the show was the Aviasud Mistral, a biplane which attracted much attention despite its high price ticket. The French Mistral made history when it was flown to the geographic North Pole by Frenchman Nicholas Hulot.
Image: Aviasud's Mistral, a side-by-side two seater biplane with a Rotax 532 engine.
1987 was also the year in which those pilots prefering a flexwing were to benefit from new design, as Pegasus introduced the Q wing. This was the first wing to be designed using CAD.The Q enabled Pegasus to produce a complete performance flexwing microlight for the first time. Previously they had used Mainair wings on their trike units. For those looking for a simpler, single-seat flexwing, the company planned to launch the Photon once the Q wing had gained approval.
Image: The Pegasus Q, designed to offer higher performance to flexwing flyers.
1987 saw what was believed to be the first crossing of the Irish sea by microlight. Keith Reynolds achieved this as a part of a flight around Britain in his XL.
The Snowbird went into production this year for the overseas market, having completed its type-approval test flying in France. This design was designed to be used as a 3-axis trainer, competing with the Thruster in the UK.
Image: The Snowbird offered an enclosed cabin, with conventional controls and very stable flight characteristics. It was designed in particular for the 3-axis training market.
Regulations were still news in 1987. Flight Line reminded pilots that Noise Certificates would be needed by March the following year.
The BMAA also continued to address planning issues. Noise problems were seen as a key issue as this factor seemed impossible to address satisfactorily. The behaviour of a minority of pilots also continued to be counter-productive to those fighting to maintain or gain flying sites. An MP castigated microlighting in 1987 as 'gaining a reputation for being the most selfish form of leisure activity yet devised'.
The number of accidents was another concern raised in both Flight Line and the BMAA Newsletter. The focus was on the safety of the new, high performance flexwings. The BMAA's Technical Officer called for everyone to work together in order that the characteristics of these new aircraft could be properly understood.
By May 1987, the BMAA had some 2537 members in the UK, and 67 overseas. There were 778 microlights flying under the Permit scheme.
The major flying achievement for this year went to Eve Jackson, who completed her London to Sydney 12,500 mile flight in her Shadow.Eve left Biggin Hill in March 1986. Her jouney cost £45,000 including the cost of the Shadow. The entire event was undertaken on a tight budget. During the flight Eve was shot at, arrested, had engine failure, played red tape games with the authorities in a number of countries, and nearly couldn't get into Syria because the Foreign Office had cleared her for Sudan. Difficulties included finding appropriate fuel and two-stroke oil. When asked if she ever feared that she would not achieve her objective of getting to Sydney, Eve replied:'No, not really. After all, there was no reason to fly unsafely, and if you fly safely you get there in the end, don't you?' As a result of her flight, Eve was the first microlight pilot to be awarded the Royal Aeronautical Society Gold Medal.
Image: Eve Jackson, who was awarded life membership of the BMAA in recognition of her achievements in flying 12,500 miles from London to Sydney.