The BMAA 1995

The year begins with controversy expressed through the letters page of Microlight Flying with regard to the two major flights of the previous year: the London to Le Bourget flight, and Flight for Life to Jordan. Some members felt that the publicity these flights brought to the world of microlighting meant that the public were presented with a negative view of the sport, where pilots broke the rules and flew in dangerous conditions. Those who had taken part, and their supporters, claimed that such flights emphasised both the serious nature of microlight flying, the spirit of adventure inherent in the pilots, and the fun element of the sport.

To the relief of the owners of old (pre 1984) aircraft, the requirement for a six-monthly inspection of type-accepted machines was dropped.

The growing appreciation of powered paragliders was demonstrated when David Young reported to Council that a meeting of 100 instructors had been in favour of taking on PPG training, probably in partnership with the BHPA. Meanwhile, David Simpson reported on progress of the joint BMAA/PFA proposal to the CAA for microlights with a maximum all-up weight of 450 kg. Definition of 'minimum flying speed' was a problem however.

Later this year, the CAA favour the total deregulation of PPGs and PHGs, going against the BMAA/BPHA's self regulatory proposals. This news is greeted with caution, since should the lack of regulation lead to an increasing number of accidents and incidents, the regulations which might then result would be likely to be more draconian than the scheme proposed.

It is also announced this year that all microlights must be weighed when put in for their next Permit to Fly. The CAA insists on this in order to make sure that all permitted aircraft are within weight. Inspectors face some interesting challenges devising means by which this instruction can be accurately carried out.

An issue which had haunted microlight flying since its early days was back with a vengeance this year. Brian Cosgrove, now the BMAA's Consultant with a special interest in planning matters, wrote on the perilous state of planning permission at many flying sites. He stressed that the microlight community needed to combat the pressure groups by promoting guidance to both operators and local authorities. He pointed out that some objectors could stoop to some appalling tricks - one appellant had his aircraft and club-house wrecked. Brian asked members to complete a planning survey form to provide information for his forthcoming guidance books for planners and operators.

PHOTO 1: Bob Perkins examines £5000 worth of damage, including a sawn off propeller, which resulted from his battle to run a flying site. Bob had also been threatened with physical violence by those against his strip.

Thruster aircraft had been the subject of a weight problem. While a modification had been designed to overcome this problem and get the aircraft airborne again, this had not been implemented yet and the CAA, who were now classifying the T300 as a single-seater until the excess weight issue was properly addressed.

Paul Dewhurst flight tested the Sluka. This was the first Czech microlight to become available in the UK. Its main limitation was seen to be the fact that the craft was a single-seater, but that had the attraction of keeping the price down as well as giving the model a performance advantage. Paul found the Sluka wonderful fun to fly and a definite way forward for the pilot who enjoys flying solo.

Image: The Sluka, a single-seat, high-wing monoplane with conventional 3-axis control. Said to be the closest you could come to an aerobatic microlight when tested in 1995

Norman Burr, who has provided the vast majority of materials for this history, stood down as Editor of Microlight Flying for the September - October edition of the magazine. Norman had been editor for almost the whole of the 15 year run of the magazine. It was thought that such a run must be almost unique for a specialist magazine. Norman is renowned for his almost encyclopaedic knowledge of microlighting. The book he co-wrote with Berger in the early 1980s is still keenly sought after, despite being out of print now for many years. Norman is still actively involved in producing Microlight Flying, through his company Pagefast and as Consulting Editor. Dave Bremner took over as Editor of the magazine, and remains with it to this day. Norman was awarded the Ashley Doutbfire Trophy for outstanding contribution to microlight aviation for his work as Editor at this year's AGM.

Image: Norman Burr, Editor of Flight Line and Microlight Flying for 15 years, provided most of the materials found in this history.

Despite the challenging regulations, Hugh Lorimer, a BMAA and PFA member, decides to design and build the microlight of his dreams. He began by devising a list of the features he most wanted the craft to include, and from this designed his Iolaire (Gaelic for Eagle). This two-seat composite canard was originally to be powered by a Rotax 503, though a BMW engine was later fitted.

One of the biggest flying events of the year was the London to Madrid Great Adventure. Devised by Richard Meredith-Hardy, who had realised that in completing the Round Britain rally, many pilots were capable of flying at least 1000 miles, Richard looked to come up with a journey which involved a straight line rather than ending up where you started. The rules were kept to a minimum. No-one is sure just how many microlights set out, but 15 finished the route. Some went for speed and made the journey as fast as possible, while others became aerial gypsies, enjoying other parts of Europe as well. All agreed that it was a Great Adventure, with some remarkable achievements.

Flexwing aircraft were reviewed this year in Microlight Flying: Air Creation's Fun 18S GTBis and Mainair's Blade.

The Air Creation Fun was flown with two engines: the Rotax 503 and 447. Both were enjoyed, with the only negative comments saved for the appearance of the machine, which was said to be rather primitive. The trike unit was not fitted with a pod, and the wing had exposed cross-tubes. However, this latter point gave the advantage of easier pre-flight checking. The Fun felt akin to an XL, a gentle, stable machine. The appearance of the machine grew on the tester, Keith Wingate, who wrote positively of a simple, rugged microlight with gentle flight characteristics.

Image: The Air Creation Fun - a two-seat tandem flexwing aircraft with weight-shift control.

The introduction of the Mainair Blade was seen as a major event since new flexwing designs had been thin on the ground for some time in the UK. It represented Mainair's first all new design since the original Flash back in 1984. The Blade felt good in the air, capable of utilising the 64 hp which would have been thought downright dangerous just a few years previously. Mainair was said to have produced a machine which looked good and flew well. The improvement on the Alpha wing having been worth the wait. The only criticisms concerned the trike unit, which could have been better designed to cater for the needs of solo flight. However, the machine was sure to appeal, with its Rotax 582 engine it was a sporty microlight with a nice turn of speed yet one which would not intimidate beginners.

Image: The Mainair Blade - a tandem, two-seat flexwing microlight with weight-shift control.

Roger Pattrick of Mainair said that the company had built a blade fitted with a Rotax 912 for an Italian customer. Roger had long wanted to try this, and loved the results. However, he thought that the cost of such a machine would be prohibitive. He finished his Microlight Flying article by stating that a fully equipped production aircraft would cost around £18 000, and would anybody be interested?

The British team had appealed against the scoring system used at the World Championships which took place in Poland the previous year. In summer news came through that the appeal had been upheld. The Team was awarded the Gold medal, in place of the Bronze, and were World Champions again.

The European Championships took place this year at Little Rissington. Money is a problem, since there is a long standing lack of commercial sponsorship for the event. However, the Sports Council contributed generously to enable the competiton to go ahead. The Championships, organised by BMAA Chairman Dave Cole, were said to present the toughest challenge yet. The atmosphere was more competitive than ever, and this year the British team came close to losing their unbroken record of achievement. However, the Team Gold was maintained - just, with the Hungarians coming a close second.

Powered Para Gliders made their first appearance at the competition, but took part in their own events. The British team gained valuable experience in this event against their more experienced rivals.

At the AGM this year, BMAA membership stood at 3 783. The Association's finances were in a good position, with the Treasurer, Peter Blyth, informing the meeting that a healthy reserve had built up. 2734 aircraft were on the database, the vast majority being flexwings. Of these, 1668 had current Permits. The hoped for 450 kg weight limit was anticipated, though this would not help the situation with some of the older aircraft since it was not planned to apply retrospectively. On the safety front, the number of accidents reported continued to be low, though there had been 3 fatalities this year. However, the sport had a safety record which was second to none in aviation.

At the Show, both the Mainair Blade and the Pegasus Quantum were presented with Rotax 912 power plants. Both models attracted considerable attention. Quoted performance figures were spectacular, though the price of these craft was much higher than the flexwing world was used to. At the other end of the price scale, the Air Creation Fun GT 447 also attracted positive comment.

Hugh Lorimer's Iolaire, the tandem canard homebuilt machine mentioned above, was also exhibited. While not complete at this time, Hugh's work was much admired.