Ask most people to draw a picture of a microlight aircraft and the resulting image will look like a baby-buggy suspended from a hybrid of a kite and a lampshade. That is a traditional view of a flexwing microlight, a machine which many still imagine to be a cobbled together death-trap, driven by a noisy and smoky lawnmower engine. In the nineteen-eighties this image was not altogether incorrect, but, luckily for us, times and designs have moved on so far now that most of the general public, when they see a microlight, imagine it is just another light aircraft.
In recent years, the legal weight limit has been increased significantly, allowing many improvements to be made, resulting in safer, faster and much more practical aircraft. Development of light, reliable and economic engines has greatly improved performance and use of new materials and techniques has similarly brought great improvements. In the latest generation, which still includes the powered hang-glider types (referred to as flexwings), there are many lightweight versions of regular light aircraft (referred to as 3-axis).
Because of their relatively light weight, microlights can fly quite slowly and therefore land quite slowly, so that they can take off and land on short grass strips where their heavier cousins would struggle. Nowadays, there's no need to be muffled up like an Arctic explorer, if you're flying in a closed cockpit microlight they have good cabin heaters and ventilation, so you can fly in the same outfit you drove to the airfield in. Of course, if you want to rough it, open cockpit types are available! Another notable feature of modern microlights is their high power to weight ratio, giving them impressive take-off and climb performance, often well in excess of what their larger contemporaries can do.
Our aircraft, Yankee Yankee, or Golf-Charlie Echo Yankee Yankee to quote her full registration, is just such a machine. She is a Czech-built Eurostar EV97, qualifying as a microlight because of her maximum loaded weight of 450kg. The four cylinder, four stroke Rotax engine develops 80 horsepower and can propel two passengers at a cruise speed of 90mph using around 12 litres per hour of regular unleaded petrol. Jump into Yankee Yankee on a good day and you can fly to Devon from Chirk in less than two hours, enjoying the rugged scenery of the Welsh hills and mountains all the way until you cross the Severn estuary into Devon. She is equipped with a compact and sophisticated radio system, allowing communication with airfields and traffic controllers should you need to talk to them.
Spitfire pilots used to say that you don’t get into a Spitfire, you strap it on, and that the machine was so responsive that it seemed to do what you wanted as soon you thought about it. While an EV97 isn’t a 1000hp snarling machine-gun platform, its responsive and sporty handling is both impressive and exciting, and this aircraft type has many enthusiastic owners and flyers.
The other microlight aircraft in the stable is the Ikarus C42, Golf-Charlie India Alpha Whiskey, a German design which has become one of the most popular training aircraft. Her strengths are ease of flight, stability and comfort. The high-wing design makes for a pleasant, practical aircraft which could take you to Scotland in a couple of hours. Her simple and rugged tubular aluminium frame and composite shell makes for easy and economical maintenance.
The C42, like the vast majority of quality modern light aircraft, has a Rotax powerplant up front, an engine which is highly respected for dependability and for the low strain it places on the pilot’s wallet! As a touring aircraft, the C42 has become more and more popular in recent years