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About Microlighting

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.

If you would like to find out how microlighting got its name, then read the article below written for the Microlight Flying magazine by Gerry to commemorate the Centenary of flight in 2003.

The Early Years - Part 1 - By Gerry Breen
The Early Years - Part 2 - By Gerry Breen

Gerry flying the UK's first successful powered hang-glider in 1978.

Costs range from as little as £2,500 for a ‘first generation’ used aircraft to over £40,000 for a new, fast, sophisticated model.  They can be flown from any suitable large open field with of course, the owners’ 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.There is a myth that microlights are ‘toys’ and therefore easier to fly than conventional aircraft.  To the contrary, microlights can be more difficult to fly as they are more easily affected by weather and certainly more sensitive to control inputs.  Most three-axis microlights require careful coordinated use of the ailerons and rudder. Weightshift aircraft generally require more physical strength and the pilot must anticipate further ahead when manoeuvring.  Microlight pilots therefore find conversion to conventional aircraft relatively easy and straightforward.

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, Gerry and Manuela Breen 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.

Gerry & Manuela prepare for their world record flight in 1984

The Microlight Aircraft Definition

A microlight is allowed:  
  •   to carry a maximum of two people
  •   a take off weight not exceeding 450kg
  •   a wing loading not exceeding 25kg/sq m, or a stalling speed not more than 35kt / 65Kph / 41Mph
  •   an unrestricted fuel capacity - within the constraints of maximum weight and balance

Weightshift 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.  They used to be considered low performance aircraft, but the latest models can cruise at speeds of over 100 mph!

Three Axis Controlled Microlights

These aircraft look much like conventional aeroplanes with fixed wings, tail plane and fin.  In most cases they have a fully enclosed cockpit.  They are controlled in all three axes (roll, pitch and yaw) by the use of ailerons, elevator and rudder.  Some of the latest designs are very sophisticated and can cruise at speeds of over 130 mph comfortably!

In Conclusion

Three axis microlights are able to operate in windier conditions but they are structurally more complicated and are, generally, not as portable as weightshift aircraft.At first view microlights may look fragile compared with conventional light aircraft, but appearances are deceptive because the combination of careful design and construction using modern light materials enable them to withstand stresses far greater than many sport aircraft.

Further Information

British Microlight Aircraft Association
Oxon OX15 0TT



Tel.+44 (0) 1869 338888