The bmaa 2000
The advent of the 450kg weight limit (known temporarily as Small Light Aircraft, or SLAs) prompted much interest at the annual Telford Trade Fair in December 1999. In the event the only major new design on view was the German Flight Design CT on the Pegasus stand. As it only met the 450kg rule by virtue of special lightweight Germans (72kg each) not allowed in Blighty, work was under way to re-engineer the whole airframe to pare off the excess pounds. It would be the most extensive testing programme for any UK microlight approval, owing to the very high speed requiring analysis of things like flutter, never previously required. The Czech Lambada should have been there, but had got lost in transit.
Image: Zanzoterra engine at Telford show
The CAA issued a document early in the year allowing the use of unleaded fuel in aircraft, provided the engine and installation were approved to do so. Microlighters, who had been using it without problems ever since it appeared at the pumps, were not a little bemused.
A survey at the beginning of the year showed 123 homebuilt aircraft on the register; a taste of things to come, as the BMAA Technical Office geared up for what was to become a flood of kit-built aircraft being registered through the office in coming years.
Image: CT flies over Popham at 170mph
Other technical developments included fitting floats to a Thruster for an Irish client, Hugh Lorimer designing a very futuristic-looking single seater flying wing, and by the summer, a host of ‘Heavy Metal’ - aircraft fitting the new 450kg definition were on the cards - editor David Bremner lined up no less than ten being considered for import into the UK.
Image: Ikarus C42 under review at Popham
By the end of the year, however, the position had become even more confused by the proposal for a National Private Pilot’s Licence (NPPL) - basically this would be a sport pilot’s licence issued and recognised nationally with reduced medical and experience requirements and limited to simple two-seat aircraft, but intended the majority of sport flying in the UK. The BMAA’s attitude was watchful approval, and close involvement in the committees putting the proposal forward.
In the summer, a group of foot-launchers - RMH on his paramotor, and Ben Ashman, Stewart Bond and Barrie Tempest on Doodle Bugs crossed the English Channel successfully, establishing the idea of ‘bivouac’ flying - touring with the absolute minimum of equipment - and Geoff Tomlin reported on the Lt Col Basir’s Flying Circus - a paramotor flying holiday in Malaysia.
Notable achievements in the wheeled variety of microlight included Dave Macgaulay who resigned his job and set off to circumnavigate the USA in his trusty Mainair Blade. Time and circumstances forced some compromise on the overall ideal, but he successfully made it despite several alarums and excursions, and raised a good deal of money for charity into the bargain. Dave Simpson reported on a two-Balerit trip from coast to coast - of Australia (strictly speaking, it took place in late 1999, but it was reported on in 2000!).
Image: Colin Bodill's solo circumnavigation of the world
Long-time microlight manufacturer Mainair, having been forced out of their long-time home by a disastrous fire in 1998 had been in more or less temporary accommodation since then but made the move round the corner to their permanent location at Crawford Street, Rochdale in the late summer.
Other flight tests included the Thruster T600 - with both 503 and 582 engines - and the Quad City Challenger, being relaunched with redesigned nose cone and smartened up elsewhere, and also powered by the Rotax 582. Keith Wingate had a pre-approval go in the first of the 450kg machines - the Italian Tecnam Echo, with a cruise speed of 100mph and conventional all-aluminium construction marking a new departure in the level of sophistication in the microlight market.
Finally, the much-loved Round Britain Rally was given a facelift for the Millenium by the Northwest Microlight Aircraft Club organisers, and was stretched to four days instead of the usual three. The weather gods smiled, and it was generally agreed to be one of the best ever.