Microlight aircraft, also known as ultralight aircraft or light sport aircraft, are a type of small, lightweight aircraft that are designed for recreational flying. In the UK, they are defined as aircraft that weigh less than 450 kg (992 lbs)* and have a maximum seating capacity of two people.
Microlight flying in the UK is a popular and growing pastime, with the Light Aircraft Association (LAA) reporting a steady increase in the number of microlight aircraft and pilots in recent years. Thet are easy to fly and maintain, and they offer a unique and exhilarating flying experience. They are also relatively inexpensive to purchase and operate compared to other types of aircraft.
The LAA sets standards for the design, construction, and maintenance of microlight aircraft in the UK, and it also issues Permits to Fly for these aircraft. To fly a microlight in the UK, a pilot must hold a valid National Private Pilot’s Licence (NPPL) Microlight category or a valid European Union Pilot’s Licence (EUL) Microlight category.
There are a wide variety of types available in the UK, ranging from traditional fixed-wing aircraft to more modern flex-wing and weight-shift control designs. Some popular models include the Pegasus Quantum, the Eurostar EV97, and the Ikarus C42.
What is a Microlight Aircraft?
In the United Kingdom, the civil aviation authority (CAA) defines a microlight as a type of aircraft that weighs less than 450 kg (992 lbs) and has a maximum seating capacity of two people.
*However, after consultations in recent years, that limit may be increased to 600 kg, which would open up the market for a new range of light sport aircraft that look and operate like conventional light aircraft.
In the UK, microlights are regulated by the Light Aircraft Association (LAA) under the oversight of the CAA. The LAA sets standards for the design, construction, and maintenance of microlights, and it also issues Permits to Fly for these aircraft.
To fly a microlight aircraft in the UK, a pilot must hold a valid National Private Pilot’s Licence (NPPL) Microlight category or a valid European Union Pilot’s Licence (EUL) Microlight category.
The term “microlight” can have different meanings in other countries or regions, it is always important to check the regulations of the civil aviation authority for each region for their definition and restrictions.
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Three Axis Microlights vs Weightshift Microlights
There are two main types of microlight aircraft: three-axis microlights and weight-shift microlights. The main difference between these two types of aircraft is the way they control pitch, roll and yaw, and the fact that the 3 axis types are fixed wing microlights.
Three-axis microlights, also known as fixed-wing microlights, use conventional aeroplane controls to control pitch, roll, and yaw. This includes a control yoke or stick for pitch and roll, and rudder pedals for yaw. Three-axis microlights also have a fixed wing, which provides lift throughout the flight. These aircraft are generally considered to be easier to fly than weight-shift microlights and they are also more stable in flight.
Weight-shift microlights, also known as trikes or flex-wing microlights, use a weight-shift control bar to control pitch, roll, and yaw. This bar is attached to the wing and the pilot shifts their weight on the bar to control the aircraft. The wing of weight-shift microlights is flexible and the pilot’s weight shift, combined with the use of the control bar, changes the wing’s shape and creates lift. These aircraft are generally considered to be more agile and more challenging to fly than three-axis microlights.
Weight-shift microlights are also known as flex-wing microlights. These aircraft have a flexible wing that is controlled by the movement of the pilot’s weight on the control bar.
Both types of have their own advantages and disadvantages. Three-axis microlights are generally considered to be more stable and easier to fly, while weight-shift microlights are more agile and responsive.
Nationwide Microlight Flights
This is the perfect opportunity to feel the exhilarating freedom offered by these superbly manoeuvrable machines. With the design of a hang-glider or small aeroplane, these amazing machines might look scary but they have become a stable, safe and recognised form of travel. An amazing chance to soar like a bird for a 20 to 30 minute flight! Your instructor might even let you take the controls if they feel you are up to it!
A paramotoring or parakiting trike, also known as a paratrike, is a type of microlight that combines elements of paramotoring and trike aircraft. It is a powered paraglider that is attached to a three-wheeled cart, or “trike,” which sits on the ground and allows the pilot to take off and land while seated.
A paratrike typically has a small engine attached to a backpack or harness worn by the pilot. The engine is used to power a propeller that provides thrust for takeoff and in-flight propulsion. The paratrike also has a wing, similar to a paraglider wing, which provides lift. The wing is attached to the trike and is usually folded or packed into a bag when not in use.
The paratrike is considered a very versatile aircraft that can be used for a variety of purposes, including recreational flying, flight training, and aerial photography. It is also suitable for cross-country flying, touring, and it is a popular aircraft for sport and aerobatic flying. It’s considered a relatively inexpensive and easy to maintain aircraft.
The main advantage of a paratrike is its portability and ease of use. Unlike traditional aircraft, a paratrike can be easily packed into a car trunk and taken to different flying locations. It’s also relatively easy to launch and land, as the pilot can take off and land while seated on the trike.
What Microlight Aircraft Licence Do I Need?
In the United Kingdom, the syllabus covers both ground school and flight training and is designed to prepare pilots for the safe and efficient operation of these aircraft. Although the minimum number of hours required to complete the syllabus is only 32, the training process typically takes around 45-55 hours of flight time for most student pilots.
The main parts of the syllabus include:
- Aerodynamics: Study of the principles of flight, including lift, drag, thrust, and weight.
- Meteorology: Study of weather patterns and their effects on flight.
- Navigation: Study of map reading, compass work, and flight planning.
- Aircraft systems: Study of the different systems and components of the aircraft, including engines, fuel systems, electrical systems, and flight instruments.
- Flight rules and regulations: Study of the laws and regulations governing microlight flying in the UK, including airspace rules, air traffic control procedures, and emergency procedures.
- Human factors: Study of the psychological and physiological factors that affect pilot performance and safety.
- Flight training: Hands-on flight training, including takeoff, landing, and in-flight manoeuvres.
- Pre-flight and post-flight procedures: Study of aircraft preparation and maintenance, as well as the procedures for safely entering and exiting the aircraft.
- Flight safety and emergency procedures: Study of safety procedures, including emergency procedures and how to handle in-flight emergencies.
- Flight planning and navigation: Study of how to plan and navigate a flight, including flight planning, navigation techniques and use of navigation equipment.
Once the training syllabus has been completed, pilots are required to pass a flight test and a written exam to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. After passing the exam and flight test, the pilot will be issued a National Private Pilot’s Licence (NPPL) Microlight or European Union Pilot’s Licence (EUL) Microlight which enables the pilot to fly any microlight in the UK and EU.
Pegasus Quantum Microlight
The Pegasus Quantum is a microlight manufactured by Pegasus Aviation, a British company. It is a high-wing, tricycle landing gear, fixed-wing microlight. The Quantum is a two-seat aircraft, with a maximum seating capacity of two people.
The Pegasus Quantum is constructed of composite materials and is powered by a Rotax 912ULS engine. The engine provides enough power to reach a maximum speed of around 110 mph (180 km/h) and a maximum altitude of around 15,000 ft (4,572 m). It has a range of around 400 miles (644 km) depending on the fuel consumption and weather conditions.
The Quantum has a modern design and features a spacious cockpit, with comfortable seats and easy-to-read instruments. It also features a large baggage compartment, which can be accessed from inside the cockpit.
The Quantum is known for its excellent handling characteristics and stability in flight, making it well-suited for both experienced pilots and those new to microlight flying. The aircraft has a low stall speed and good visibility from the cockpit, making it a great choice for flying in a variety of conditions.
It is also equipped with a whole range of standard and optional avionics such as GPS, VHF radio, transponder, and more. The Quantum also has a removable canopy that can be taken off in a minute allowing it to fly in an open cockpit.
The Pegasus Quantum is a high-performance microlight that is well-suited for recreational and sport flying. It is known for its excellent handling, stability, and ease of use, making it a popular choice among microlight pilots in the UK and Europe.
Eurostar EV97 Microlight
The Eurostar EV97 is a microlight designed and built by the German manufacturer Evektor-Aerotechnik. The aircraft is a two-seat, high-wing, single-engine aircraft that is designed for recreational and sport flying.
The Eurostar EV97 is powered by a Rotax 912 engine, which is a four-stroke, four-cylinder, air-cooled engine that produces 100 horsepower. The aircraft has a maximum cruise speed of around 110 knots and can reach a maximum altitude of 15,000 feet.
The Eurostar EV97 has a wingspan of 9.22 metres and an overall length of 6.91 metres, it has a maximum takeoff weight of 450 kg. The aircraft has a modern and sleek design and is known for its stability and handling.
The Eurostar EV97 is equipped with a number of features that make it a popular choice among microlight pilots, including:
- A large, easy-to-read instrument panel with a variety of flight instruments, including a GPS and a radio.
- A spacious cockpit with comfortable seating for two people.
- Large windows that provide excellent visibility for the pilot and passenger.
- A variety of customization options, including a choice of paint schemes and avionics.
- A tricycle landing gear which makes takeoff and landing easier and more stable.
- A large baggage compartment for carrying gear and equipment.
The Eurostar EV97 is also known for its low operating costs and its ability to operate from short and unpaved runways, making it well-suited for use in a variety of different environments.
The Eurostar EV97 is a well-regarded microlight that is known for its performance, handling, and safety, making it a great option for recreational and sport flying.
Ikarus C42 Microlight
The Ikarus C42 is a type of microlight that is produced by the German company, Comco Ikarus. The C42 is a two-seat, high-wing, tricycle gear aircraft that is powered by a Rotax 912 UL or UL S engine. It is considered a Light Sport Aircraft and is compliant with the European regulations for Microlight or LSA.
One of the most notable features of the Ikarus C42 is its modern and sleek design. The aircraft features a composite fuselage and wing structure, which makes it lightweight and durable. The C42 also has a high-visibility canopy, which provides excellent visibility for the pilot and passenger.
The aircraft has a maximum takeoff weight of 600 kg (1,323 lbs), and it can reach a top speed of around 124 mph (200 km/h) and a cruise speed of around 116 mph (187 km/h). It has a range of around 400 miles (644 km) and it has a service ceiling of 15,000 ft (4,572 m).
The C42 is equipped with a range of modern avionics, including a glass cockpit and an electronic flight instrument system (EFIS) that displays important flight data such as airspeed, altitude, and navigation information. The aircraft also has an autopilot and a GPS navigation system, which makes it easy to fly and navigate.
The Ikarus C42 is considered a versatile aircraft that can be used for a variety of purposes, including recreational flying, flight training, and aerial photography. It is also suitable for cross-country flying, touring and it is a popular aircraft for sport and aerobatic flying.
Why do people choose microlighting over conventional aircraft?
There are several reasons why people choose microlights over conventional light aircraft:
Cost: They are generally less expensive to purchase and operate than conventional light aircraft. They also have lower maintenance costs and can use cheaper fuel.
Portability: They are typically smaller and lighter than conventional light aircraft, making them more portable and easier to transport.
Flexibility: They can often be flown in areas that are not accessible to conventional aircraft, such as small grass strips or backcountry landing sites.
Ease of flying: They are generally considered to be easier to fly than conventional light aircraft. They have fewer systems and controls, making them less complex and easier to learn to fly.
Excitement: They offer an exciting and exhilarating flying experience. They are often flown at lower altitudes and can perform aerobatic manoeuvres, which can be a thrilling experience.
Light Sport Aircraft regulations: Microlight aircraft are typically compliant with the European regulations for Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) which are less restrictive than the regulations for conventional light aircraft.