Microlight aircraft usually sit in one of two camps, Flexwing (Weightshift) aircraft and Fixedwing (3 axis aircraft). There are also some pilots flying Autogiro aircraft which are similar to helicopters in appearance.
All microlight aircraft are flying on what is known as a ‘Permit to Fly’. This is a certificate issued annually by the British Microlight Aircraft Association (BMAA) when the aircraft has been examined and test flown. The permit allows the aircraft owner to fly the aircraft for recreational purposes only, but it cannot be used to carry fare paying passengers or for any commercial purpose, though passengers can contribute to costs. Most microlight aircraft are maintained by the owner, which significantly reduces running costs, and since one of the attractions of microlight flying is the affordability, this is an essential feature.
A microlight aeroplane is one designed to carry no more than two persons which has a Maximum Total Weight Authorised (MTWA) not exceeding:-
300 kg for a single seat landplane.
390 kg for an amateur built single seat landplane for which a UK Permit to Fly or Certificate of Airworthiness was in force prior to 1 January 2003
450 kg for a two seat landplane
330 kg for a single seat amphibian or floatplane
495 kg for a two seat amphibian or floatplane
315kg for a single seat landplane equipped with an airframe mounted total recovery parachute system
472.5kg for a two-seat landplane equipped with an airframe mounted total recovery parachute system
A microlight must also have a stalling speed at the maximum weight authorised not exceeding 35 knots calibrated speed.
Any aircraft which meets this criteria is defined as a Microlight Aircraft.
The aircraft we fly fit into one of three broad categories:-
For most people, flexwings are the definitive microlights with a hang glider-style wing. These wings are flexible like a sail – hence the name. Flexwing aircraft are sometimes known as Weightshift Microlights because of the way the aircraft are controlled. The pilot instigates a turn, climb or descent by shifting the weight of the pod in which they sit, relative to the wing above him. The pod, also known as the trike, is steered with your feet whilst on the ground. In the air, you use a combination of the wing tilt and the hand throttle by your side. They’re also known as a motorbike of the sky, as the pilot sits in the front of their passenger tucked in close behind – very close!
Fixed Wing Aircraft2>
Fixed Wing Aircraft, sometimes known as 3 axis aircraft. They are more like what most people would recognise as a traditional aircraft, are controlled by a joy stick and pedals in the cockpit which are linked to hinged control surfaces (ailerons, elevator, rudder) on the wings and tailplane to cause the aircraft to change attitude in roll, pitch and yaw (the so called “3 axes”). It comes as a surprise to some people when they enter the sport that these aircraft are in fact Microlights. They look and perform very similarly to the familiar Cessna 172s and Piper Warriors that are at most airfields in the UK. The only difference is that the Microlight aircraft will weigh less than 450Kg and can only have two seats.
A third and much smaller category is becoming popular now, those of Gyrocoptors. These are based on helicopters, but use an unpowered rotor in autorotation to develop lift in flight. They spin in a similar way that a sycamore seed spins as it falls from the tree. A separate propeller provides forward thrust from the rear of the aircraft, and it is this forward motion on the rotor blades of the gyrocoptor that creates the blades to spin as the air passes through them and then created the spinning blades then generate lift which keeps the aircraft aloft. Pitch control is achieved by tilting the rotor forward and backward, and roll control by tilting the rotor laterally (side to side).