The BMAA 1991

In order to receive Flight Line (Later to become Microlight Flying) it was necessary to be a member of the BMAA.

 However, for some time thought had been given to allowing the magazine to be marketed in a more traditional way, and to be made available through high street news vendors. In 1991, it was decided that a 'Summer Special' would be produced for just such sales. In conjunction with the PFA, the special would be called Sportflight, and would be a one-off aimed at encouraging potential members to join either the PFA or the BMAA. The BMAA newsletter, which had been published in the months between Flight Line issues, was discontinued this year.

Noise continues to be an issue of concern to pilots as it is a principal cause of complaint when planning applications are considered. Richard Meredith-Hardy publishes his thoughts in Flight Line, and suggests an event as a part of the nationals where noise would be an integrative factor, in the same way as fuel economy, encouraging technical innovation to address the issue.

Tim Elmhirst and Pete Barker wrote articles for Flight Line about their entries in the Dawn to Dusk competition, a long-standing event organised by the Tiger Club and open to pilots of all types of aircraft. Tim had won third prize the year previously for a flight which involved visiting three airship stations that his uncle had been based at during the first World War. The competition requires pilots to think up a task, fly it, and then produce a written report within 21 days of the event. As well as his placing in the competition, Tim also raised sponsorship money for his local hospital.

Image: Tim Elmhirst about to set off on his Dawn to Dusk flight.

While American designs had dominated in the very early days of microlight flying, by the 1990s there were few offered for sale in the UK. Flight Line reviewed the Challenger II, a machine derived from one of the most popular designs in the US and adapted for the UK regulations.

Image: The Challenger II - a tandem two-seat high-wing monoplane with conventional 3-axis control, fitted with a Rotax 503

The introduction of BCAR Section S in 1984 had changed microlighting radically as we have seen. Prior to this specification, many machines had been home-designed and built by enthusiasts, with varying degrees of success. The desire to build and fly one's own machine remained strong across the microlighting fraternity, with some finding a way to do this through the PFA. The BMAA however remained keen on finding a process by which its members could also build their own designs, within the constraints of Section S. John Hunt, a member who had been involved in microlighting since the days of the Soarmaster, produced his Huntwing flexwing in this way, becoming the owner of the first type approved totally home designed and built flexwing in the country.

Changes at the BMAA include David Cole taking on the role of Chairman. The organisation was by this time housed at the Bullring in Deddington, and in 1991 caused controversy amongst some members by spending capital on buying the building. This was seen as a good investment, since the alternative might have been yet another move. Brian Cosgrove was still Chief Executive Officer, and notified members that in June the BMAA signed a new agreement with the CAA to extend its airworthiness activity, enabling the Association to make recommendations to the CAA with regard to homebuilt microlights constructed to Section S standard. Modifications to all microlights would also fall within the BMAA's remit.

While Flight Line kept members up to date with cutting edge new designs, Keith Wingate demonstrated that it was not necessary to have the most up to date machine in order to enjoy challenging flying. Using his by this time dated XL, Keith flew from Land's End to John O'Groats in order to raise money for charity. The flight took 20 hours and 38 minutes: certainly not the fastest ever, but a good demonstration of what could be achieved by those not looking to fly the most up to date machines.

1991 saw the first successful trike flight from Europe to Australia. The Pilot was Zoltan Ovari, a Hungarian living in Germany. The aircraft was comprised of a German trike: the UPM Omega; and German engine: the 4-cylinder, four-stroke Sauer; and a British wing: the Raven.

Image: Zoltan Ovari getting ready for take-off at a strip in Thailand

The annual Round Britain competition was made even more difficult this year by appalling weather conditions. Those involved thought that this, the 6th event, was the most difficult competition yet held. The event attracted competitors from mainland Europe as well as Britain, with teams from Sicily and France included in the 46 machine starting line. The three axis category was won by Malcolm McBride and Simon Baker in the only UK legal Mistral, while Richard Meredith-Hardy won the flexwing class in an Air Creation Racer SX12 II.

Microlights had been around long enough by 1991 to warrant a Vintage Fly-in. This event took place at Long Marston in September. Over 100 aircraft took part in the event, including Eagles, Quicksilvers, Pathfinders and Swallows. A group of Shadows were amongst those flying in, including Shadow 002, an early prototype built in 1982 flown by Jacob Cook, son of the designer.

Image: A Tiger Cub belonging to John Skipp was one of the microlights to
fly into Long Marston for the Vintage event. Some 150 kits were sold, but few were still flying in 1991

The British team once more excelled themselves in international competition. At the European Championships held in Hungary, the team achieved two golds, one silver, one bronze and the team prize.

The highest award in British Aviation, the Royal Aero Club's Britannia Award, was awarded to the British World Championship team in recognition of their success the previous year.

Reporting on the AGM, Norman Burr wrote that 1991 would go down in history as the toughest ever trading year for the industry. However, the AGM itself was very well attended, by manufacturers of aircraft and supporting products, and the membership themselves.

Flexwing enthusiasts noted the resurgence of solo machines. Earlier in the year, the only option for those looking to buy a new single-seat flexwing had been Mainair's Scorcher. Now, at the end of the year, the Chaser from Cyclone Airsports was back in production and competitively priced. Pegasus manufacturer, Solar Wings, had gone into receivership the week before the AGM. However, a rescue package was put together in time for the company to be able to attend the AGM with a wide range of aircraft on display.

Fixed wing pilots were able to witness the rebirth of the Thruster, at a price which compared well even with kit aircraft. Its nearest rival, the Spectrum, was beginning to find favour with flying schools. The other contender in the 3-axis trainer market, the Snowbird, was not shown.

Image: While somewhat eclipsed at the show, the AX3 was seen as a machine
with a lot of promise in 1991