Learning to Fly

So you are interested in Flying a Microlight! Mmm…Well, let’s start with asking the first question:
What is a Microlight? and take you on a journey to become a "Microlight Pilot!"
REMEMBER there is no such thing as a "Microlight Pilot" as one is awarded a National Pilot Licence that is endorsed to specify the category or categories of aircraft the licence is valid for. This said we all refer to each other as Microlight Pilots!

Weight Shift

Three Axis Fixed Wing
A: Microlights come in two basic configurations – weight-shift and the three axis fixed wing variety. They range from very basic inexpensive weight-shift aircraft to state of the art high tech airplanes that cruise at 120 knots and cost over a million Rand. The main limiting factors are two seats, low weight and a slow stall speed.

Q: How much does a microlight aircraft cost?

A: Weight-shift and the three axis fixed wing planes which are often called light sport planes offer perhaps the most exciting and least expensive entry to powered flying. Let me put it this way. How much does a car cost? Ok, it depends on what you are buying and what extras you feel you need. This said, you could pick up a second hand weight shift trike from about R50,000 and you could pay up to about R400,000 for an imported top of the range version with most extras included. A second hand three axis plane may cost you from about R150,000 to a top of the range version with all extras at about R1 million. If you want to pay for “bling” (expensive toys) you could pay more but on average new trikes on average cost about R170,000 and new three axis planes cost about R650 000. Bargains in the second hand market and part ownership shares are also not uncommon.

Q: How much does a pilots licence cost?

A: Again, the price differs. Young people tend to need less instruction with older people wanting more. You need a minimum of 25 flying hours but doing double this is not uncommon.
To obtain a microlight pilot’s licence, you require a minimum of 25 flying hours, of which a minimum of 10 hours is dual flying (with an instructor) and 15 hours solo are required. On average if you are less than 30 years of age most student microlight pilots take about 25 flying hours to qualify. If you are older than 30 years of age average flying hours needed will rise by 10 hours if you are under 40 years of age after which you can expect to need about 50 hours.
For weight-shift aircraft. Current costs per hour vary but average at about R600 per hour without fuel. Fuel costs vary per aircraft but allow for about R200 per hour (May 2014). Many flight schools bundle packages including books, ground school, radio licence, medical etc and price the weight-shift MPL package at about R20,000 for 25 flying hours.
The hours needed to obtain a microlight pilot’s licence on a three axis fixed wing microlight will on average be the same as the above but the cost will vary greatly depending on the type of plane you choose to be instructed upon. On average allow for quoted minimum hour packages to cost about R10,000 to R15,000 more than the cost of flying a weight-shift plane.
Once you have a Microlight Pilot’s Licence (MPL) it will be endorsed for the specific aircraft that you trained upon. If you wish to fly a different type /model of microlight you need to obtain an instructor’s sign-off of your competence on the plane in question. No minimum hours are specified. On average the following are not unusual.
From one type of weight-shift microlight to another – one hour.
From one type of fixed wing microlight ( nose wheel or taildragger) to another in the same class – two hours.
From a weight-shift microlight to a three axis (nose wheel) microlight – 15 to 20 hours.
From a weight-shift microlight to a taildragger – 25 to 30 hours.
From a three axis microlight to a tail dragger – 10 hours.
If you are wanting to do your private pilot’s licence (PPL), then microlighting offers you an alternative route to a PPL, as there are several flying schools that will accept half of your microlight flying hours, up to a maximum of 12.5 hours, as contributing to the 40 hours that are necessary for a private pilot’s licence.
To do a PPL you have to fly a minimum of 40 hours to complete your private pilots licence. On average it will take 40 – 50 hours to complete the required syllabus and pass the private pilots flight tests. This is again purely a factor of flying ability and varies from person to person. Expect to pay about R55,000 to R65,000 for a PPL.
Over 80 trikes at the Swartkops Airforce Base, Pretoria breakfast fly-in
illustrate the local popularity of weight-shift controlled microlighting

Q: Do I buy a plane before I get my pilots licence?

Nearly all experienced pilots will tell you to get a licence before you buy a plane for recreational purposes. This said, some eager beavers have been known to buy a plane, build a hangar and even build their own airstrips before they get a licence. yet another true story is that of a "Granny" who bought a microlight training school before she got her pilot's licence. So, exceptions abound.

Q: So where do I get a microlight pilots licence?

A: Go to the "Contact" link on this website, and give one of us a call to book an introduction flight. This is the first step.
Then click on the "Demo flights" link, and find out what to expect from your introduction flight.
You can also click on the "Training" link to find out what to expect regarding the training, requirements, duration, and costs of obtaining your licence.
Microlight and light sport flying is recreational flying and you will generally find the schools are less formal and more fun than PPL schools. There is the same total commitment to safety and airmanship but the schools are often based at smaller uncontrolled grass airfields.
When you get to the school/airfield have a good look around and chat to pilots based there. Airmen/women are generally friendly and love talking about flying.
The instructor who takes you flying should be able to answer all your questions and map out a flying training course for you that suits your needs and pocket. The established schools will have aircraft and facilities available to complete your training and get you a pilots licence.
If you have problems getting hold of a local flying school or club please contact the head of training or any other MISASA committee member. You have nothing to loose by taking an introductory flight and it might just open up an exciting rewarding chapter of your life that many only dream of.
After you got your license remember to join MISASA an organisation that promotes and defends our Microlight Flying Interests.

Q: So, what pilots licence should I get?

A: This is a tough question that only you can answer. To assist you in deciding you should have a flight in a weight-shift trike and you should have a flight in a three axis plane.

Q: I hear that three axis planes also come in tail draggers. What are these?

A: Essentially a three axis plane has a nose wheel and a tail dragger has a tail wheel. When you have mastered the art of flying one of them you will understand that it is a question of choice. For now, get hold of your travel bag with two wheels and a handle. Pretend that you are the third wheel. Take a jog with the bag behind you to get the feel of a nose wheel configuration. Now, take a jog with the bag in front of you to get the feel of a tail dragger. Once you’re in the air, you guessed, you have no wheels!

Q: How far can you fly in a microlight?

A: On average a weight shift microlight flies at 80 km per hr and three axis planes fly at about double this. Having a flight endurance without refueling of 3 hours is not uncommon but many variations of fuel tank capacity and engine consumption ensure that these estimates will vary widely from plane to plane.

Alex Rudd
© Rhino Park Flight School