Owning a microlight

Owning a microlight

HBMC prop

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Buying a microlight is easier than buying a car, although there are not so many choices of make and model. There are some pitfalls, however, and some important details to be considered. Such as, it can’t be parked outside your house while you look for somewhere to store it. And having decided on a particular model, you can’t just borrow it for a day and take it home to show Mum. You have to be a qualified pilot (and rated in the plane), or get someone who is to bring it home for you. For a rare model based a long way off, that can be a mission.

Like many bigger ticket items, aircraft are easy to buy and hard to sell. So you need to do some careful research before parting with any cash. You’ll find some aircraft for sale on TradeMe, and there’s always something coming up in the Australian-based Aviation Trader or our local Aviation News.

There is an order of events that you should follow to avoid frustrations. First ask yourself: do I want to potter round the local paddocks, or venture to remote and wild places, or do long-distance flights between tidy airports? A Bantam is ideal for paddock missions (and can be bought from $5000), but a Tecnam 2008 won’t take kindly to back-country airstrips. It’s great for touring, though.

If you are new to aviation, talk to the microlight club captain. He will steer you in the right direction to find all the people to provide the information you will need to make a wise choice. The aero club bar at Bridge Pa is often a good starting point; there is a wealth of knowledge in the club and the bar is a good place to find it. You will need to spend quite some time learning about makes, models, variants – and engines to avoid (there are some).

The price you may pay is as long as a very long piece of string. Good aircraft have been bought for as little as $15,000. But these are very basic machines. For a more capable aeroplane, be prepared to spend more than $50,000. There is also the kitset option: there are many home-builds at Bridge Pa, and a new aircraft for under $80,000 is an attractive option for the do-it-yourselfer. But please think very seriously about this, because building your own aeroplane is a major project requiring many skills.

For new aircraft, there are many choices, from $140,000 to more than $200,000.

Having got to this point and settled on a budget, go no further before finding out about hangarage for your new toy. The cheap option is to tie your plane down on the grass, but this is not advised. If the sun doesn’t ruin it, a hefty north-westerly might. Somewhere to safely hangar your plane should be a priority (and when buying a used aircraft, look for one that has always been kept in a hangar).

At Hastings, there are some hangar-sharing opportunities with private owners, but problems can arise when sharing. More often than not, somebody must move somebody’s else’s aeroplane to access their own, with the ever-present risk of damage. Most new owners prefer their own hangars and there are some good local companies specialising in building them. Make that part of your enquiries through the microlight club. Many members have “been there, done that”, so tap into their experience.

The aero club is very microlight-friendly and sometimes has hangar space available at affordable rates. If you decide to build at Hastings, it will be on club ground so the club will be involved in the planning. There is an annual charge for ground rent, but it’s reasonable.

Before you grab the keys and head for home, there is the small matter of insurance. A $100,000 aircraft will cost around $3000 a year to insure. There’s a limited choice of underwriters, and the most popular appears to be Aviation Co-operating, based in Wellington. Plus, there’s UK-based Traffords.

A major advantage of owning a microlight rather than a GA aircraft is operating cost, and in particular the cost of maintenance. Owners have a remarkable degree of freedom to maintain their own aircraft (although there are strict rules about maintaining accurate log books) and how much you do yourself will depend on your mechanical skills. At Hastings, we’re lucky to have Cliff Johnston and his well-equipped hangar and workshops. Cliff’s a long term member and ex presidet, and our best source of support for maintenance, annual inspections and installation of gadgets. See his ad in the Microlighters’ Marketplace section. Colin Alexander of Solo Wings in Tauranga is New Zealand’s top expert on Rotax engines. He deals with all sorts of microlights, is active in RAANZ and is an oracle on all things microlight. Email him at solowings@xtra.co.nz

So now you have an aeroplane hangared at Bridge Pa and the sky is the limit. Enjoy it. And keep in touch with the microlight club. It will give you many more opportunities to enjoy your new activity and make friends who share your interest.



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