By Geoff Hill, editor of Microlight Flying magazine
It is a beautiful summer morning as you drive to the flying club, with the sun already misting the dew off the fields as it rises into the burning blue.
At the club, you haul your flight bag from the boot and walk towards the clubhouse, where you find Jim the instructor briefing a student and a couple of members reading old flying magazines.
“Kettle’s on. Fancy a cuppa?” says one, tossing the latest issue of Microlight Flying in your direction as Tom, who’s been a mate since you learned to fly together, pops his head through the door.
“Ah, thought you’d be here,” he says. “Fancy a spin?”
He spreads a chart on the table, and you ponder the possibilities over a cup of tea and a chocolate Hob Nob.
“What about the gliding club up on the coast? They’re a decent bunch, and we haven’t called in to see them in a while,” says Tom at last.
“Good idea. I’ll bring the second packet of Hob Nobs as a landing fee,” you say, grabbing the packet and heading out the door, ignoring the plaintive cries of Ken that he was planning to tuck into those later.
You and Tom climb into your aeroplane, and he runs through the pre-flight checks as the engine warms up.
Before long you are rising into the morning sky and turning west into a sky so clear that you can see all the way past the lakes and mountains to the sea.
You settle back into your seat as Tom changes radio frequencies, watch the line on the GPS track your course, and thank your lucky stars once again that you learned to fly.
And here’s the thing: realizing your dreams and becoming a pilot can be much less expensive than you’d think.
Compared to the average of £11,000 or more to learn to fly helicopters, or £6000 to fly light aircraft, you can get your microlight licence for as little as £2500, then buy your very own secondhand aircraft for as little as £1500.
It can be even cheaper if you do what I did and club together with a group of other pilots to buy and run an aircraft – that splits the cost by as many as there are in the group.
Each member of our syndicate, for example, pays £50 a month to cover hangarage, maintenance and insurance, then about £22 for every hour we fly including fuel, since microlights often use as little as 10 litres an hour, much less than light aircraft.
But this practicality doesn’t mean that they’re any less sophisticated. So if you find yourself looking through the photographs in this booklet and saying: “Wow! Is that a microlight?” the answer is yes. To all of them.
Today’s microlights come with the comfort, performance and range of much bigger aircraft but at a fraction of the price.
The CTSW model on the cover, for example, can cruise at 130mph, has a range of over 1000 miles, and has been flown all the way around the world.
Flexwings, the other type of microlights typified by the Tanarg on the back cover, are just as versatile. Several pilots have also flown around the world in flexwings, and in 2011, paraplegic pilot Dave Sykes flew a Quik from the UK to Australia.
But you don’t need to go that far.
As I’ve found time and time again, there are few greater pleasures in life than pottering off to a little grass strip down the country, chatting to other pilots over tea and buns in the clubhouse for an hour or two, then climbing into your little aeroplane, rising once more into the burning blue and flying home in time for dinner.