Try mi­cro­lights!

Pilot - - AIRMAIL -

One of your Air­mail con­trib­u­tors men­tioned op­tions for a re­tiree to gain a li­cence, and an­other com­plained of re­cent rule changes that led to him los­ing his abil­ity to self-cer­tify med­i­cal fit­ness. My sug­ges­tion to both of these, and to many oth­ers of lim­ited means or other dif­fi­cul­ties, is to try mi­cro­light air­craft. Train­ing costs are be­tween £100 and £130 per hour, de­pend­ing on lo­ca­tion (my club charges £120 to train in the su­perb Ikarus C42), and the min­i­mum hours re­quired are fif­teen for a li­cence with lim­i­ta­tions (eight miles from the air­field, re­turn to take­off air­field, no pas­sen­ger) and 25 for a li­cence with­out lim­i­ta­tions. As ever, it will take most peo­ple con­sid­er­ably longer (maybe forty to fifty hours with­out lim­i­ta­tions), but some­one who has sig­nif­i­cant pre­vi­ous fly­ing ex­pe­ri­ence should be able to com­plete in min­i­mum hours. Med­i­cal is by self-dec­la­ra­tion.

Age is not a limit here – our club’s old­est pi­lot is 97, and he flies with a sec­ond pi­lot for in­sur­ance rea­sons. He passed his mi­cro­light GST at the age of 93, hav­ing flown in WWII and held a PPL since 1955.

My own air­craft is a Skyranger (G-NIXX), built this cen­tury and with less than eighty air­frame hours, which cost me around £24,000 with my added up­grades of transpon­der and nav lights/strobes. It has the su­perb, re­li­able and eco­nom­i­cal Ro­tax 912 en­gine, which burns eleven litres per hour of mo­gas at 80mph air­speed, so costs about £15 per hour in fuel. It can take me and a pas­sen­ger to the Isle of Wight from my home air­field near Stansted, land at Sandown, take off and fly for a tour round the is­land, and re­turn home with­out re­fu­elling for around £60. It costs me about £3,000 a year in hangarage, in­sur­ance, per­mit and main­te­nance, and holds its value well. One of my club col­leagues bought a two- seat flexwing mi­cro­light for £1,500, and an­other a sin­gle-seat fixed-wing Sluka for £2,500, and of course there’s the op­tion of syn­di­cates for those who are more fi­nan­cially con­strained.

My Skyranger looks pretty poor com­pared with the SR22S and RV-8S lined up at typ­i­cal air­fields, but it of­fers sim­i­lar per­for­mance to a Cessna 152, has more room in­side, and flies at less cost than taxy­ing many EASA air­craft. It han­dles beau­ti­fully and is very re­spon­sive, and op­er­ates com­fort­ably from 350 me­tre grass run­ways, giv­ing many more op­tions. But please don’t take my word for it – go out and try one! If you don’t like it, you haven’t even lost much.

In­ci­den­tally, for those who want to progress to com­mer­cial fly­ing, mi­cro­lights are not the way to go. Hav­ing de­cided just too late to ex­tend my li­cence priv­i­leges (I missed the SSEA to LAPL up­grade win­dow), I de­cided to do the full PPL. My 300 hours as P1 in mi­cro­lights, in­clud­ing 130 hours P1 on my Skyranger, ap­par­ently count for noth­ing and I have to do the full 45 hours and nine ex­ams. What­ever the rule mak­ers are tak­ing, they need help. Ray Wilkin­son, Hat­field

Ray Wilkin­son’s Skyranger

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