A microlight flying as a commercial operation? Currently that’s not allowed under a Permit to Fly but earlier this year an Ikarus C42 microlight was used to test satellite communications equipment fot the RAF.
The idea started two years ago as the brainchild of microlight flying instructor David Young and Ministry of Defence scientist and microlight pilot, Professor Patrick Baker. BMAA CEO Geoff Weighell quickly lent his support to the idea and the concept moved forward.
Negotiations began with the CAA to enable three-axis microlights to perform commercial work but made slow progress for 18 months.
In the summer of 2020, Group Captain Willy Hackett joined the RAF Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) and it was suggested to him that using microlights for airborne experimentation with novel technologies made great sense.
After a day trip to Kemble Flying Club at Cotswold Airport, Gp Capt Hackett realised the idea wasn’t as crazy as it sounded.
Using a microlight as an experimentation platform for cutting edge sensor and communication technology, instead of using a traditional military platform, would vastly reduce the carbon footprint and save the UK taxpayer a great deal of money.
CAA permission to use a microlight for this new purpose was granted in January 2021 and is specific to Kemble Flying Centre Ltd for named aircraft only. With this hurdle cleared, detailed planning in the RCO got underway for its first experiment, including the installation of a satellite communication system into a microlight.
Gp Capt Hackett said, “The support we received from the BMAA, especially the technical team was fantastic. They approved the aircraft modifications quickly and efficiently and that made us realise we could achieve our intent to demonstrate a lightweight low power satellite communication system in quick time on a microlight.”
The team behind the microlight tests, from left: Prof Patrick Baker, Head of Science, AEU; Flying Officer Carys Eyton-Jones, Trials Officer, AEU; Group Captain Willy Hackett, Head of AEU and David Young Kemble CFI.
Modifications to fit a satcom aerial, radio and power supply were completed swiftly, using a C42. On 14 May, members of the RAF RCO, the A400M delivery team, Spectra Group (UK) Ltd and the BMAA technical department watched as the C42 took off from Cotswold Airport and demonstrated a novel application of satcom technology.
David Young (‘DY’), an instructor and former member of the BMAA council, has wanted to use microlights
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