For most people, flexwings are the definitive microlights, with their hang glider-style wing which is flexible like a sail – hence the name.
You can get foot-launched flexwings, known as powered hang gliders, but most people choose wheeled versions, colloquially known as trikes. Until recently these were the most popular mount for microlighters. They’re a bit like aerial motorbikes: the pilot sits in the front with the passenger tucked in close behind – very close!
To continue the motorbike analogy, you’ll need warm, windproof suits on all but the warmest days in the UK, and a full-face helmet to keep the wind off your face and allow you to hear each other through the intercom.
On the ground, you steer a trike with your feet, like a child’s tricycle. In the air, you use a hand throttle by your side, and the bar in front of you to manoeuvre. Push it forwards, and you’ll climb and slow down unless you feed in some throttle.
Push it backwards to dive and speed up, and move it to the right to turn left, and vice versa. It sounds unnatural, but once you do it for the first time, it becomes instinctive (imagine holding the bottom of a steeering wheel).
The view is unparalleled, and the direct connection with the controls makes you feel in closer contact with the air than with any other form of powered flying. It’s a buzz that never loses its appeal.
When you’ve finished flying for the day, you can fold the wing up and trailer the trike home if you want, though many owners prefer the convenience of keeping them rigged in a hangar at the field.
There’s a huge choice of types to fly. Older second-hand machines are still perfectly serviceable, will do 50mph and are available from about £1500. If you want to buy new, prices range from £10,000 to £30,000 – enough to buy an aircraft which can cruise at over 100mph and is a serious touring machine.
How serious? They’ve been flown around the world – that’s how serious!