The BMAA 2001
The statistics showed that the year 2000 had been the wettest for ages. The year 2001 was dominated by a combination of bad weather in the early part, plus the outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth disease which crippled sport aviation generally - indeed some sports such as ballooning and hang gliding effectively came to a complete halt. Microlighting wasn’t hit quite as hard, but was definitely put on the back foot.
Early in the year we were able to congratulate ourselves on two consecutive years (1999 and 2000) in which there were NO fatalities in BMAA-registered microlights.
The other big ‘political’ issue was that of airworthiness, and a continuing sense of competition with the PFA, engendered by the need to cater for ever-increasing numbers of kit-built aircraft, and the BMAA’s increased capability in this area - particularly for three-axis SLA’s - Small Light Aircraft fitting the new 450kg definition. An advertisement was placed in Microlight Flying magazine for a Deputy Chief Technical Officer in the May-June issue. The relationship with the PFA was the subject of heated debate among the membership, though co-operation between the two technical offices was as cordial as usual.
Other personnel changes at Deddington included the appointment of BMAA Chairman Keith Negal to the chairmanship of manufacturer Pegasus, which entailed his resignation from the BMAA position. His place was filled by Geoff Weighell, long-time instructor at nearby Enstone and member (indeed chairman) of the instructor’s Panel of Examiners.
New Chairman Geoff Weighell and his faithful assistant, Lummock
Not to be left out of the limelight, BMAA CEO Chris Finnigan published an introductory book on microlighting (Microlighting - Affordable Aviation) aimed at those who were interested in taking up the sport and it was given a warm reception by all who read it.
Approvals by the BMAA office started to pick up; the Sky Raider, a tandem high-wing taildragger from the USA completed its approval and was flight tested in Microlight Flying (by which time it had mysteriously become the Easy Raider). Powered by a Rotax 503 it had good short-field performance but cruise speed was a little on the slow side by modern standards, and the rear seat, being devoid of controls, view or much in the way of space, rendered it more of a 1+1 than a true two-seater.
On the flexwing front the Air Création Kiss 400 caused something of a stir by being the first totally new design in the UK market for maybe a decade, although it had been available in Europe for many years. It was imported by Flylight, a flying school company formed by instructors Paul Dewhurst and Ben Ashman and operating out of Sywell, Northants, and although Ben was the designer and manufacturer of the Doodle Bug foot-launch powered hang glider harness, this was their first venture into ‘conventional’ microlight supply. As with most imports, the cost of approval as a manufacturer was prohibitive, so the Kiss was sold as an easy-build kit, where it took on the Mainair kits, and was to prove very popular. Also being imported by Flylight and being put through its paces for BMAA approval was the Synairgie Sky Ranger, a very popular three-axis microlight on the Continent. Looking externally much like the ever-popular Rans S6, the UK prototype was fitted with a Rans 912 four-stroke engine.
Alongside them, the X’Air Falcon was also seeking approval. The Falcon was a development of the original X’Air involving a redesigned wing structure incorporating flaps, and a larger engine intended to boost the performance to match the other SLAs.
All kits, of course. For those who wanted to fly something straight out of the box, the much-loved Thruster went through its next (possibly final) phase of development to become the Thruster Sprint. This involved adding a tailcone at the back, a Jabiru engine at the front, and increasing the permitted all-up weight to the magic 450kg. The result was a transformation, changing it from an ugly duckling of the circuit, extensively used by schools for primary instruction, into a comfortable touring machine capable of matching up to all the competition.
And for those with £44,000 to spend, the fabulous Pegasus CT2k, reengineered to shoehorn into the 450kg weight limit, and capable of a comfortable 105kt cruise in a palatial cabin achieved its airworthiness certification.
The other major three-axis manufacturer in the UK, CFM Aircraft (manufacturer of the Shadow) set out to move factory from Leiston to Framlingham, the intention being to have the factory located at an airfield, and to start up a school as well.
Also achieving approval (through the PFA office) were the Tecnam all-metal high wing two-seater and the Aeroprakt A-22 Foxbat being imported by Gordon Faulkner’s Small Light Aeroplane Co.
Approvals by the BMAA office started to pick up; the Sky Raider, a tandem high-wing taildragger from the USA completed its approval and was flight tested in Microlight Flying (by which time it had mysteriously become the Easy Raider). Powered by a Rotax 503 it had good short-field performance but cruise speed was a little on the slow side by modern standards, and the rear seat, being devoid of controls, view or much in the way of space, rendered it more of a 1+1 than a true two-seater. Its wing fold was very easy, however.
The Easy Raider; compact tandem 1+1.