The BMAA 1996

An article by David Simpson on the Zoche diesel engine generates much interest from Microlight Flying readers. These were two-stroke diesel engines, designed for general aviation with much focus on weight-reduction. They were designed for certificated aircraft to start with, competing with Lycomings and Continentals. However, it was hoped that the technology would spark developments for other forms of aviation in later years, offering some long-awaited competition for the Rotax range of power units.

The BMAA got its first E Mail address this year, and a set of web pages was launched.

The JAA have provisionally agreed to a formula for the Euro-Microlight. It will be called a ULA (Ultralight Aircraft), with a maximum all-up weight of 300 kg (single-seater) or 450 kg (two-seater) with either the same wing loading as in the UK, or a maximum stall speed of 63 kph (39.5 mph). No aircraft would have more than two seats.

The March - April edition of Microlight Flying was the 100th edition of the BMAA magazine. It included a special 20 page supplement, highlighting key points from each issue going back to January - February 1980.

Image: The cover of Microlight Flying's 100th Issue.

Engines are in the news again later in the year. Another new contender in the UK market is the Jabiru 2200 cc 80 hp flat-four. Built in Australia, this unit was seen as too large for the existing regulations, but could find its place once the new 450 kg weight limit became legal.

Weight issues dominate the letters page of the 100th issue. In addition to the problems faced by Thruster owners, the Chevron had been found to be overweight and so its Permit had been withdrawn.

One of the older names in microlighting, Skyhook Sailwings of Oldham, closed this year after 23 years in the manufacture of hang gliders and later microlights, the longest established company in the business in the UK. Skyhook were the manufacturers of the original Mainair Flash sails, though Mainair will now produce them itself.

Pegasus becomes the first British microlight manufacturer with its own web page in 1996.

The 15th Meeting Internazionale di Volo Libero at Bassano del Grappa in Italy was reported on by Richard Meredith-Hardy. The show brought out hang-gliders and paragliders in considerable numbers, but microlights were in fast decline. La Mouette, a French company, had produced a 'topless' hang-glider. Will flexwing microlight designers likewise dispense with top rigging and kingpost?

In order to report on Bassano, Richard also carried out a somewhat longer than usual flight test for Microlight Flying. He took a Pegasus Quantum 912 from the Pegasus factory at Marlborough, to the Bassano event. This involved some 14 h 8 minutes flying time, covering around 800 nm. Richard found the four-stroke engine substantially more economical than its two-stroke equivalent. He found the machine comfortable and easy to fly, with a reasonable amount of space for baggage and excellent reliability. It was described as a true grand tourer. The Quantum, with this power unit, was thought to offer good potential in particular for towing, particularly for ultralight gliders and, with a slower wing, for hang-gliders.

Image: The Rotax 912 power unit on a Pegasus Quantum trike.

On 14th July, the CAA legalised foot launched power paragliders and hang-gliders. These machines were to be exempt from pilot licenses, registration and airworthiness procedures.

Ray Wilkinson was appointed Chief Inspector of the BMAA.

The World Championships took place this year at Cato Ridge, South Africa. While the British team came away with the Team prize, the event was marred by the death of a long-standing team member - John Holloway - in a soaring task.

Hugh Lorimer's homebuilt canard Iolair was progressing well, especially since by this time the correct handed propeller had been fitted to provide forward, rather than reverse thrust...

Image: The Iolaire

Long-distance flights to make news included a flight to Poland, undertaken by John Hood and three friends in their flexwings. Starting from Eshott, the group had only got to Headcorn when they realised that one of them had forgotten his passport. A frantic telephone call resulted in a faxed copy being sent down, and this was accepted (though not always easily) throughout the journey. The journey involved 42 hours flying, with 27 take-offs and landings, covering 1000 miles. The group were awarded the Steve Hunt trophy for the flight of the year at the AGM in December.

A second mammoth flight involved the RAF Microlight Association who flew two Pegasus Quantum's 4000 miles across Canada between June and August. A relay of pilots flew one of the machines, while Allistair Wilson, Team Leader, flew the other for the entire journey. This expedition was thought to be the first flexwing crossing of Canada. It involved 82 hours of flying, spread over 27 flyable days, taking 52 days in all to complete due to bad weather conditions.
Image: Flying over Ottawa

David Cole, BMAA Chairman, proposed that general aviation needed a national Aero Club with a strong, cohesive policy on leisure flying. Such organisations were already in place in Norway, Turkey and South Africa. He suggested that the Royal Aero Club would be a good vehicle, dropping its 'royal' ties and becoming the UK Air Sport Federation.

Test Flying long-distance continued, with Keith Wingate taking a Mainair Blade 912 from Lands End to John O'Groats. Since the test flight was also to be a successful record attempt, the machine would be tested to its limits. The journey involved 26 hours flying in four days. The engine was run flat out for 10 of these hours, and declared to be 'unbustable' - no carb icing, no misfires.

The Ribble Valley Microlight Club flew down to Alicante. This was a major expedition in its own right, but made more so by the fact that at least two of the pilots had not flown more than 100 miles from base before and most were firmly convinced that dragons lived south of the Trent. While they found this not to be the case, the flexwing pilots did discover that fleas lived in the Pyrenees when they landed at a strip after it was closed and were forced to spend a night out in the open.

The traditional end of year show at Telford was bigger than ever this year. New microlights were shown from both New Zealand, the Bantam B22S, and the Ukraine, the Aeroprakt-20. Foot-launched designs flourished. A new Thruster range was through Section S, available both with and without nosewheel. Pegasus demonstrated its extensively upgraded AX3, which had become the AX2000.

At the AGM, the BMAA's membership stood at 4030, a good rise on the previous year.