Saturday, 28 January 2012

Could this be the next flying challenge?

2-seat weight-shift microlight at Arclid

This afternoon I visited the microlight field at Arclid, near Sandbach, Cheshire to gather information on the sport of flying these airborne motorcycles. I recently sold my share in my beloved dH Chipmunk mainly because of the lack of freedom and increasing hassles of operating a conventional aeroplane out of of a major international airport.

These weight-shift controlled microlight aircraft, operating out of an uncontrolled field in rural Cheshire, might be a way back into the sort of grass-roots flying we used to enjoy at Barton in the Chipmunk in the 1970s through to the 1990s.

The clubhouse and hangar at Arclid

There are many things to consider before deciding whether to pursue this activity. Although my pilot's licence makes it entirely legal for me to climb into one of these machines and fly it, in practice they are sufficiently different to fly to require extensive conversion training. The 'bar' on the microlight which is the equivalent to the 'stick' in an aeroplane works in the opposite sense to a stick, the 'rudder pedals' don't work a rudder but merely steer the nosewheel (in the opposite sense a rudder on a conventional aeroplane steers it on the ground), and the throttle is worked with the foot rather than by hand as it is in an aeroplane.

The duty instructor at Arclid reckons it takes around ten hours of training to convert a conventionally-trained and experienced pilot like me to fly the weight-shift machines. Then there's ownership - light aircraft tend to be owned by several people who share the costs; it's conventional with microlights to own one outright. And, of course, one needs somewhere to hangar it!

Having stated all the above, perhaps my ideal next aviation move is a backwards one, a Piper Cub on a local farm strip. I had a great deal of fun a couple of decades ago flying a 1944 L4 Cub out of Barton; it would be great to recapture those times... But finding such an opportunity will not be easy.

Me and the L4 in the late '80s at Barton

 A microlight approaches the runway to land at Arclid

Food for thought!


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