Microlights are popular in New Zealand and South Africa. They are light-weight single or two-person airplanes. Traveling via microlight is a fascinating idea.
“During the late 1970s and early 1980s, mostly stimulated by the hang gliding movement, many people sought affordable powered flying. As a result, many aviation authorities set up definitions of lightweight, slow-flying aeroplanes subject to minimum regulations. The resulting aeroplanes are commonly called ‘ultralight’ or ‘microlight’, although the weight and speed limits differ from country to country. In Europe the sporting (FAI) definition limits weight to 992 pounds and stall speed to 40 mph. Such a definition forces the plane to be capable of a slow landing speed and short landing roll if the engine fails.”
The safety regulations used to approve microlights vary between countries, the strictest being in the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, and Germany. In France and regulations are almost non-existent. In most affluent countries, microlights or ultralights now account for a significant part of the civil aircraft fleet. For instance in Canada in October 2010, the ultralight fleet made up 19% of the total civil aircraft registered. In other countries that do not register ultralights, like the United States, their proportion of the total registered aircraft is unknown.
In New Zealand there are two classes of microlights, single and two-seat planes. All microlights need a prescribed endurance testing period when they are first flown. All microlights must have a minimum set of instrumentation to show airspeed (except powered parachutes), altitude, and magnetic heading. You can learn to fly a microlight in 40 hours!
NZ Microlight Class 1 – single-seat plane with a design gross weight of 1,199 lbs. (land planes) or 1,276 lbs. (seaplanes or amphibians), or less and a stall speed in the landing configuration of 45 knots or less. Requires aircraft registration and annual condition inspections, but does not need a permit to fly.
NZ Microlight Class 2 – two-seat plane with a design gross weight of 1,199 lbs. (land planes) or 1,354 lbs. (seaplanes or amphibians) or less and a stall speed of 45 knots or less in the landing configuration. Must meet minimum type acceptance standards including any foreign standards deemed acceptable, or via a temporary permit to fly and flight testing regime. Requires aircraft registration, annual condition inspections, and a current permit to fly. One catch-22 is wind – today we have gale force winds at Lake Tekapo and that might make traveling in a microlight difficult…