The BMAA 1999

The 450 kg rule has arrived - almost. Due to a technicality, the new, higher weight aircraft designed to comply are to be known as 'Small Light Aircraft' not microlights until the Air Navigation Order is changed by Parliament. By late spring, pilots were still waiting and the CAA's lawyers were said to be burning the midnight oil. However, the ruling finally did come through, with the first permit issued for an X-Air on 2nd July.

Colin Bodill announced a new challenge for this year - a northern circumnavigation, which included racing a Robinson R44 helicopter. Colin planned to undertake this event in his Mainair Blade 912. He thought that he might need warmer underwear than he did last time...

While many members were looking forward to the new possibilities to result from the 450 kg MAUW, others were concerned that the sport was fast moving away from its roots in low-speed, low-cost flying. Dave Simpson suggested that there should be a new category of 'Experimental Microlight', with eased regulation, for those not looking for the power and sophistication of some of the new designs. This generated a response from David Wheeler, who said that the only rule should be that the designer and builder of any aircraft were to be pilot and passenger for the first ten hours of test flying, ensuring that "repeated failed designers will never occur".

The new heavier and faster microlights proposed also generated fears that there would be greater pilot medical regulation from the CAA. The BMAA Council sent a document to the CAA demonstrating why no such changes were needed.

Kits and homebuilding were of keen interest earlier in the year, with attentions focused on the quick build promise of the X Air, which was nearing Section S approval. Flight testing had started on a BMW motorcycle engined Huntwing Flexwing.

Paul Dewhurst tested a Rans 6 ES version which will comply with the new 450 kg limit. He found it a distinct improvement on the old ESD.

Jim Greenshields, famous amongst the microlighting fraternity for landing (intentionally) on other vehicles, lands a Thruster on his mini. While he had achieved the same kind of landing with a flexwing in 1994, he said of this new experience 'I think we'll make the platform a little longer'.

Image: Jim Greenshields' Thruster lands on his mini.

By late spring, Mainair were back in production following the fire, having moved to new premises.

Ben Ashman announced the launch of his Doodlebug - a supine PHG with the inaptly named Radne Racket engine (Swedish for Rocket).

The Medway Eclipse R was flight tested by Keith Wingate, who warned that the opposition should look out as this was a serious contender. The test machine was fitted with a Jabiru engine, and the trike unit in particular was said to be an improvement over its predecessor.
Image: Medway proprietor Chris Draper (left) briefs Keith Wingate before test-flying the Eclipse R.

Perhaps inspired by one of the long-distance flight tests of the previous year, Kevin Bates decided to tackle Lands' End to John O'Groats with his PPG. Some members, reading his report, were reminded of the early days of microlighting when the best laid intentions became unstuck in practice. Kevin ended his flight at Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast, but had a great time getting there.

After so many years where Rotax provided the only viable power units for most microlights, Medway announced another new contender, having become European agents for the American two-stroke International range. They took advantage of the annual trade show at Popham to demonstrate a 648 cc 3 cylinder liquid cooled 70 hp unit. Also at Popham was the Ban Bi; still too small a wing to be a microlight, but it is claimed that the 26' wing version will meet the new regulations and fly at 150 mph. The Thruster, with its long Popham association was present again, and like so many others, diversifying a little from Rotax. While one model was fitted with a Rotax 912, another had a Hirth 2706.

Popham did not find favour with everyone. Carl Booth, a German correspondent, was disappointed at the demise of the traditional show. He was unimpressed by rows of Kompress CH-7 mini-helicopters and four-stroke PPGs and missed the aerojumble stalls. He found the sole Mosquito the only really appealing device.

Jim Bell, Chief Executive Officer of the BMAA, retired during the summer, to be replaced by Chris Finnigan.

Image: To mark Jim Bell's retirement, Microlight Flying published this photograph of three BMAA CEO's Brian Cosgrove, who remains Planning Consultant for the Association, Jim Bell who was about to retire, and, on the left, Chris Finnigan, the new incumbent.

Yet again there are planning issues to tackle. This time the Little Gransden appeal is successful. This is a serious set back to South Cambridgeshire District Council's plans to reduce or even stop evening, Sunday and bank holiday flying. The Planning Consultant who pulled off this magnificent victory is Peter Kember, of Boship Farm fame. This time, he deserves all our thanks.

Keith Wingate was much envied in his task of flight testing the HKS powered X Air. However, he was underwhelmed by the engines performance, though greatly impressed by the airframe's value for money, perhaps matched with a Rotax 582.

Image: This X Air had been exhibited at Telford at the last Exhibition.

Olivier Aubert and Mike Blyth were undertaking a trip from Peru to Australia. While in California, they learnt that permission to cross Japanese airspace had been refused. After a rethink, the pair set off to circumnavigate the Atlantic, unsponsored, in their 912 powered weight-shift microlights. As of 11th August they had completed the cold bit of the journey, arriving at Barton aerodrome. Their longest flight had been Baffin Island to Greenland which took over eight hours. The journey has now (November 1999) been renamed The Millennium Microlight Adventure, and the pair are in Namibia, aiming to reach South Africa in time to welcome in the new year.

The World Championships took place in Malkopuszta, Hungary and suffered atrocious weather, five aircraft were destroyed in one night during a storm. The British team were awarded the Bronze prize.

Image: The British Team at the World Championships.