AN INTRODUCTION TO MICROLIGHT FLYING
Microlight aircraft can trace their origins back to the late 1970’s when hang glider pilots took the seemingly logical step of fitting small engines to their craft. Taking aviation into uncharted areas meant that knowledge and skill could only be learned “hands on” in the air. This meant that powered hang glider flying was certainly exciting – and sometimes downright dangerous! No design controls or licensing regulations whatsoever meant that the most unlikely craft became airborne. With the pioneering days now over, today’s microlight aircraft are faster, safer, more comfortable and certainly easier to fly than ever before.
Costs range from as little as £3000 for a ‘first generation’ used aircraft to over £200,000 for a new fast, sophisticated model. They can be flown from any suitable large open field, with of course the owner’s permission and within any existing planning constraints, or from one of the many club sites or general aviation airfields. With CAA Aircraft Permits, Instructor Ratings and a well-established pilot licensing system, microlighting has now come of age yet it still remains one of the most fun and exhilarating ways to fly.
Microlight Aviation Achievements
Although they have been used for crop spraying, photography and by the armed forces, microlights are principally designed for pleasure flying. Being relatively inexpensive to purchase they have allowed people from all walks of life to operate their own aircraft at a much lower cost than may be associated with normal aeroplanes. Microlights have flown around the world and climbed to over 25,000 feet. Even back in 1984, microlights flew for over 12 hours to claim the world non-stop two-seater duration and distance record of 550 miles! Today’s high-performance microlights fly regular cross-country flights of over 200 miles in less than 2 hours on 25 litres of unleaded petrol.
Microlight Aircraft Categories
A microlight is defined in the UK Air Navigation Order as follows:
It can carry a maximum of two people and the take-off weight must not exceeding 600kg
It has either; a wing loading not exceeding 25kg/m2, or a stalling speed not more than 65Kph (41Mph)
It has an unrestricted fuel capacity – within the constraints of its maximum weight and balance limits.
There are two categories of microlight aircraft:
Flex-Wing – Weight Shift Controlled Microlights
With a wing structure based on the hang glider design they have a tricycle undercarriage with seats, engine and propeller suspended below the wing. There is a braced triangular control bar that the pilot uses to pivot the wing around the ‘hang point’ assembly thereby achieving control in roll and pitch.
Fixed Wing – Three Axis Controlled Microlights
These aircraft look much more like conventional aeroplanes with fixed wings, tailplane and fin. In some cases, they have a fully enclosed cockpit. They are controlled in all three axes (roll, pitch and yaw) using ailerons, elevator and rudder.
Fly365UK uses the Thruster Sprint T600N Fixedwing and Pegasus Quantum 582 Flexwing microlights.
When trying to estimate the total cost of “Getting into the Air”, you need to consider two main steps towards achieving that goal. First, there are the training costs necessary for you to complete your NPPL (Microlight) Licence. Secondly, you will need to have access to an aircraft both for training and to be able to enjoy the privileges of your hard-earned Pilot’s licence. Fly365 can provide a solution to both these issues. Fly365 club members can train on school aircraft up to licence issue, including all solo flying, and can provide hire of aircraft after completion of your NPPL.
With regards to training cost, you must consider that the minimum requirement to gain a NPPL (Microlight) is 25 hours training, of which 10 hours will be in solo command of the aircraft. Training with Fly365 starts from £120 per hour, depending on the aircraft type and number of hours purchased. But if you are asking how long it will take me to get solo, a reasonable rule of thumb is half your age in hours. i.e. if your 40 expect to take 20 hours to get solo, if 50, 25 hours and so on. Any flying experience will usually shorten the hours required to get to solo standard. During this flying training phase, you also need passes in the following multiple-choice answer exams: Airplane Technical, Human Performance & Limitations, Air Law, Meteorology & Navigation. The cost of exams is £40 each.
Allowances for other flying experience or licences may be permissible and count towards the NPPL Microlight licence training requirements.
Before embarking on the NPPL(M) training course the first thing to do is book a trial lesson to have an experience of Microlight flying and for the flight controls to be demonstrated. This will begin with a pre-flight briefing and a demonstration of the pre-flight checks and an hour's flying which will give the opportunity to feel the controls and see if flying is for you, this will also give you plenty of time to discuss with the instructor all the questions you may have regarding lessons. Each stage of the flight will be demonstrated followed by the potential student having full control and experiencing the thrill of controlling the aircraft.
(NPPL Microlight Fixed wing and Flex wing (National Issued PPL for a two seat single Piston Engine aircraft with an MTOW of 600Kg)
To fly a microlight in the UK you will need a National Private Pilot Licence, with a rating which covers microlight aircraft. This licence is issued by the Civil Aviation Authority, and is called an NPPL(M).
This consists of both flight and ground based activities. The minimum requirements before applying to the CAA for your NPPL (M) licence are:
The solo navigation hours must include EITHER Two Qualifying Cross-Country Flights, each having a minimum total flight distance of 40nm, with a landing at another site which is at least 15nm measured in a straight line, from the take off site where the flight began. OR a single flight of at least 100nm, with 2 landings at other sites, each of which are more than 15nm, measured in a straight line, from the point of take-off and from the take-off site from which the flight began.
You will need to hold a valid medical declaration / certificate in order to fly solo. We recommend you obtain this as early into your training as possible.
There are 5 ground based written exams that you need to pass:
Once you have completed the minimum requirements and you have met the required standards, you will be ready to take a General Skills Test (GST) and Ground Oral Exam with a CAA approved Examiner.
Subject to passing the tests, you will be ready to submit your application to the CAA for your unrestricted NPPL(M) licence
The hours that are indicated here are the minimums that are set by the CAA, however, the actual time taken to obtain your licence will depend entirely on your progression through the syllabus and your ability to complete flying exercises to the required standard. There is no proven way to gauge how long this might be exactly, though previous flying experience may be useful in speeding up this process; an approximation of around a year to complete the licence requirements is a reasonable expectation.
This consists of both flight and ground based activities but has fewer requirements and therefore makes it a more affordable way to gain a licence.
The minimum requirements before applying to the CAA for your NPPL (M) restricted licence are:
Please Note: The restrictions on this licence are;
The pilot must not fly more than 8nm from the departure airfield.
The pilot must not fly when the cloud base is lower than 1000ft above ground level (AGL) and/or visibility is less than 10KM.
You may not carry a passenger
You can upgrade to the full, unrestricted licence, with additional training within 2 years.