What is a microlight

Types of Microlight

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Building your own microlight

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What Is A Microlight?

A microlight is a category of very light aircraft defined as follows:-

  • Has no more than 2 seats,
  • Has a maximum take-off weight not exceeding 450kg for a 2 seater or 300kg for a single seater,
  • Has EITHER a maximum wing loading of 25kg per square metre OR a minimum flying speed of no greater than 40mph

This means that it is a very lightweight aircraft capable of flying (and therefore landing) at low speed.

Compared to conventional aircraft, microlights operate under a relaxed regulatory system. Whereas a normal light aircraft operates under an internationally recognised Certificate of Airworthiness, the microlight operates under a nationally recognised Permit to Fly. By necessity the internationally recognised C of A is very stringent since it must meet the requirements of all nations. But the PTF is only a nationally recognised document and as such it can be much more relaxed. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has delegated the responsibility for the running of the sport, to the British Microlight Aircraft Association (BMAA). The BMAA are the sport’s governing body and are amongst many other things, responsible for the issue and revalidation of PTFs.

But what does it all mean? Put simply there is a category of aircraft that has been relieved of a great deal of bureaucracy and with it expense. But as with most things in life there is a downside. A microlight is only automatically authorised to fly in the country that granted the PTF, it cannot be used for “air work” (you can’t use it to earn money), it can only be flown under “VFR conditions” (in daylight and in sight of the surface) and it can’t be flown over built up areas. However this is a small price to pay for all the advantages, which include being able to carry out your own maintenance, to use sensibly priced, non-certified components and even to build your own aircraft. But don’t think that you are free to do as you please, safety is tightly controlled by the BMAA and there are procedures to follow. You will need a licence to fly a microlight but once again obtaining this is less onerous than a conventional pilots licence. It is possible to fly a British microlight in another countries airspace, but only if specific permission has been granted or a reciprocal arrangement exists, as it does between the UK and France for example.