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microlight aircraft

Microlights are small and inexpensive to purchase and fly. They are used to gain flight experience and pilot licences before graduating to larger more complex aircraft such as a private or commercial Pilot Licence (PPL or CPL). In many countries flying a microlight is known as ultralight aviation.

Microlight aircraft can be found around the world. They range from the flexwing type that look like hang gliders to those with fixed wings that have ailerons and elevators. The majority are two seat aircraft, although single-seaters do exist. Some are powered by engines, whilst others use a parachute to deploy the wing. They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes from basic, utilitarian designs to exotic, high-tech, high-speed machines.

Generally speaking microlights are very easy to operate. There are however, some very advanced models that require expert piloting skills to control and maintain. These machines are designed for use on grass strips and small airfields rather than the main airports where they may have to compete with larger and more expensive commercial aircraft.

Most microlights can be flown at relatively low altitudes – up to 2,500 feet agl depending on the model and country of registration. This means that they can be used in most rural and countryside locations. They can also be used at most small private airfields, avoiding the need to hire expensive hangarage space. In recent years advances in technology have made it possible to take off and land a microlight from very short grass strips.

Pilots can visit friends and relatives much more easily than by car. You can even go on long cross country flights of 1000 plus nautical miles over several days or weeks. You will need to find an instructor to help you decide which type of microlight is best for your needs.

To become a pilot of a microlight you will need to pass some ground examinations (Air Law, Meteorology, Human Performance and Aircraft Technical) followed by a practical test with an experienced Microlight Pilot Examiner. In the UK, you must also obtain a National Private Pilots Licence (NPPL(M)).

There are a number of different types of microlight available. The ones that resemble hang gliders are called flexwing or weight shift microlights. These have a flexible wing and the pilot controls them by moving a cross bar in front of them. The three axis microlights, on the other hand, have rigid wings and can be controlled in the same way as a normal aeroplane with a joystick or wheel and pedals for aileron, elevator and rudder. They can often be folded up for trailer transportation.

The choice of which microlight to buy depends on your plans and budget. A good second-hand two-seater can cost as little as PS5000, while newer and more sophisticated models are four or five times more. It is common for a group of people to buy in together which reduces the initial costs and shares maintenance and hangarage expenses.