Dragon two-seater microlight
MICROLIGHT aircraft achieved the respectability of recognition by the CAA on September 1st, when regulations came into force defining such aircraft and establishing the requirements for training and licensing of pilots. No longer can you just jump into a microlight and take to the air but, although the legislation could become embroiled in bureaucracy, at least the free-for-all element has been removed, and we can’t see pilots quarrelling with that.
Although convenient and much cheaper than what we must call conventional aeroplanes, microlights don’t seem to have caught on as pure means of transport save by a minority whose journeys lend themselves to such aircraft. Their sporting potential is another thing altogether, of course, whilst another use opened up by the new regulations is pilot training.
A minimum of 43 hours’ flying time must be completed by a student pilot to qualify for a PPL for conventional aeroplanes. On a microlight, the minimum flying time is 25 hours, but the interesting thing is that those 25 hours may count towards time foes full aeroplane licence, so that a licensed microlight pilot need only complete 18 more hours to get that Group A licence.
When you compare the cost of instruction on a conventional aeroplane and that on a two-seat microlight you will at once realise that such aircraft could well become the basic initial trainer at flying clubs all over the country, merely to cut down costs and attract more students.
A company which realised that here was a market waiting to be tapped was British Air Ferries, with facilities at Southend and Rhoose. A design and production team was gathered at Rhoose and within a very short time the operations of the Dragon Light Aircraft Company were under way.
Production began on May 19th, the prototype was test flown for the first time on July 14th by designer William Brooks, and the result was unveiled to the aviation press on August 17th, and flown of course. A microlight is an aircraft designed to carry no more than two people, having an empty weight not more than 150 kg., a wing area no 1.s than 10 square metres and a wing loading not exceeding 10 kg. per square metre at empty weight. Designers are not required 10 go through the lengthy and cosdy process of airworthiness
certification and this, coupled with a simple configuration and inexpensive parts and servicing, results in low purchase and flying costs.
Its attraction to flying schools was obvious, although there may be quite a few pilots who will object to their shills being matched with those who begin on what they might still call a powered hang-glider. There is no hanging in the Dragon, however, for its pilot and passenger both sit in a cockpit rather than suspended swing-scats.
Aiming it the top of the school market, BAF went to the biggest commercial flying school in Western Europe, the Oxford Air Training School at Kidlington, and the result is that the school plans to qperate the Dragon as a basic trainer, whilst its parent company, CSE Aviation, will handle all UK sales of the aircraft.
The prototype Dragon is powered by a 45 h.p. Hunting 2-stroke engine, with a 72″ laminated mahogany propeller. It is in tail-dragger configuration, whilst the cockpit has a metal floor and canvas sides. The engine cowling is also of metal, whilst a canopy will be offered as an optional extra.
The “fuselage” is no more than aluminium tubes connecting the tailplane to the cockpit and mainplane, although this, too, can be enclosed if required by customers who wish their aircraft to look a little more substantial.
It has full three-axis control, whilst a T-top stick provides simple dual controls. There are two _pairs of rudder pedals, of course. Instrumentation is simple, with AS1, altimeter, compass and r.p.m. gauge. There are disc brakes and even a stecrable tail wheel. A comprehensive list of extras ‘appears on the specification sheet, including a total recovery parachute system, float or ski conversion, radios, navigation lights, extra instruments, cabin heater and a trailer on which the disassembled aircraft may be towed behind a car . Cruise speed is said to be 60 m.p.h., although when we saw it fly in August it seemed robe much slower, albeit in rather windy conditions which prevented more than two flights. Stall speed is 28 m.p.h. and its rate of climb at maximum all-up weight is 500’/min. It needs a take-off run of 150’ and a landing roll of 70
Price of the basic aircraft has been confirmed as £4,200 and BAF claimed in mid-August that there were already 71 names on the order book, although how many of those were CSE was not mentioned. Whether other microlight makers are standing still in the meantime remains to be seen, but we doubt it very much and there must surely be keen competition for sales of a type of aircraft which seems certain to cut down tuition costs. — G.P.