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Thread: Am I the only one flying a Thruster?

  1. #1
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    Am I the only one flying a Thruster?

    I finally got a look at the latest This Is Microlighting today. As most readers of this forum know, I like to remind that not all 3-axis microlights are pipe-n-slippers heated-cockpit GA lookalikes. Yet, I saw in the TIM publication that there was only one picture of a three axis microlight that didn't fit that mould - the Thruster in Saxon Microlights' advert.

    I know that TIM is trying to plug microlighting and is trying to break the sterotype that microlights are bamboo-and-string things with chainsaw engines, but haven't they gone a bit far in the other direction? Where is the representation of those really enjoyable back-to basics machines which remind pilots why they got interested in microlights in the frst place?

    Well, I thought I'd check G-INFO: put simply about one third of three axis microlights on the register (so a minority, but a significant one) do not have the conventional GA layout of cabin with the pilot lookng over the engine. So, pushers and high thrustline rag'n'tube tractors are out there still. Let us not be forgotten when selling our sport to the general public!

    The list I put together from G-INFO is at http://tinyurl.com/sxml-3axis (I did it by hand so it's probably wrong). I included only 2-seaters and excluded biplanes (don't know why, but there's not many so they won't have skewed the results much). I also included PFA/LAA types.

    So my conclusions: yeah, most three axis stuff is indeed enclosed pipe'n'slippers GA lookalike. What a pity.

    Joan

  2. #2
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    Am I the only one flying a Thruster?

    I do not agree Joan. I got into flying microlights because I wanted an aeroplane and couldn't afford a bigger one. Without the Skyranger, S6 and C-42, the sport would be a lot smaller and the poorer for it. It is just evolution. There is now no engine available that can support a cheap airframe, so even if a two seater could be cheaply built, the powertrain makes it uneconomic for commercial sale. The cost of learning to fly (for those who have the income to begin with) means that you need to give the people what they want. I would love to see something like a VP2 updated to become a modern self build microlight but the old Beetle engine is heavy and short on puff and doesn't fit today's needs (better weather tolerance so that you can fly more often, range so that the toy can be put to use and appeal to newcomers.) The time and money required to legalise such a thing means that it would be commercially suicidal but there is a market for the more modern stuff so that is what gets developed. My partner wouldn't enjoy a Thruster. It is for the hardy soul. She enjoys the C42 (and was thrilled to bits having been up in a Luscombe.) Find us sixty cheap light horsepower and the game changes but until then the 15k engine means that the market dictates a 35k plus investment, and for that the buyer quite reasonably wants comfort, speed and range, not bamboo and string.

  3. #3

    Am I the only one flying a Thruster?

    Joan, I conducted a survey not so long ago asking many people that were not associated with our sport a question, "What is a Microlight" and the answer came back in many forms that it was a triangle wing like a hang glider with pod underneath and a small engine on it,
    I then showed the a second question and that was a sheet of paper with three planes on it, a C42, a Eurostar and a Flexwing with the question "which one is a microlight" in every case the answer was the flexwing,
    When I pointed out that they were all Microlights the invariable answer was " but those two "C42 & Eurostar" were proper planes. Now doesn't that show how the sport as we know it has changed so much, If we only advertise and use Flexwings then microlighting as it is today wouldn't exist, it nearly always boils down to getting bodies on seats and givng experience flights to get an interest going.

    TV

  4. #4
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    Am I the only one flying a Thruster?

    Joan, taking a snapshot of the G-INFO register is a bit like photographing a car on a motorway, you can't tell where it is from or where it is heading.

    The clue is in the title 'This is Microlighting TODAY'

    you are better off looking at the change to the register (differential) over say the last 18 months/2 years to get an idea of where microlighting is today and where it is going.

    Dividing the fleet into pipenslippers and non pipenslippers (I own neither pipe nor slippers) gives the impression that rather than looking at this objectively, you are seeing the landscape through the eyes of an individual owner of one type.

    The microlighting fleet will continue to evolve along the path of least resistance and what the market wants. The real pity is that we are stuck with a name that the public associate with a bygone era.

  5. #5
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    Am I the only one flying a Thruster?

    Joan Walsh wrote: I finally got a look at the latest This Is Microlighting today. As most readers of this forum know, I like to remind that not all 3-axis microlights are pipe-n-slippers heated-cockpit GA lookalikes. Yet, I saw in the TIM publication that there was only one picture of a three axis microlight that didn't fit that mould - the Thruster in Saxon Microlights' advert.
    Rag and fusetube microlights are, like flying hang gliders in the middle of Winter or hike and fly paragliding with bivouac, really the province of the hard core enthusiast. You can't enjoy flying whilst miserably cold to the core and the wind noise and contortions to get in and out are not for a wide range of people. So, some degree of flexibility (mostly of mind) and a willingness to tog up are requirements. Whilst I can see the attraction of flying an AX, I know most people would choose the Skyranger or the C42. I understand why. Let's be careful what we ask for in case unprecedented demand for the AX/Thruster stylie aircraft prices them out of the domain of those of us who regard them as affordable aviation.

    Joan Walsh wrote: I know that TIM is trying to plug microlighting and is trying to break the stereotype that microlights are bamboo-and-string things with chainsaw engines, but haven't they gone a bit far in the other direction? Where is the representation of those really enjoyable back-to basics machines which remind pilots why they got interested in microlights in the first place?
    Recently I've met some pilots for whom the attraction of microlighting is reduced costs & reduced paperwork without sacrificing comfort. Microlight is in that respect, quite diverse, and we can't assume that all pilots were attracted to microlight flying by the "back to basics" nature of the fusetubers/weedhopper descendants.

    Joan Walsh wrote: So my conclusions: yeah, most three axis stuff is indeed enclosed pipe'n'slippers GA lookalike. What a pity.
    Well, enclosure/pipe 'n' slippers isn't a problem on the dark side/flex wing flying. We have one or two enclosed jobs, but they are a tiny minority. Every trial flight in any sort of microlight is a positive, not a negative result. Nor is someone who learns in a GA lookalike forever lost to fusetube.

  6. #6
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    Am I the only one flying a Thruster?

    Tom, though I agree the smaller engines seem to have disappeared from the market, I believe a Rotax 582 will deliver all of the 60hp you ask for. I don't know if CFS intend to support them though.

    There were enclosed cockpit microlights back in the 1980s and 90s (I started via a Chevvron, then a Shadow, before getting my licence in a TST as the only thing I could aford a share of).

    Terry, I think you rather biassed the survey by including only flexwing and conventional-layout 3-axis, though doubtless that wasa your intention.I wonder what would have been the answer if you'd included some modern SSDR stuff such as the Skybike or a Kolb Firefly.

    Dominic, the title of the publication is "this is microlighting". "Today", now yesterday, is when I read it. I did a similar survey about 8 years ago (though the results wouldn't correlate because I used different criteria). The proportions, amongst 2-seaters, are bound to be changing because the people who pay new prices currently in the UK are the ones who want central heating. As to the name of the association, that's an old discussion - there's a perfectly named one on the market: the Light Aircraft Association, if that's what you prefer (and I did count a lot of their microlights in my list).

    Steve, winter only accounts for a quarter of our year. I do believe expectations under the banner of 'microlight' have changed significantly over the years, especially since the weight limits for 2-seaters increased to 450+kg. A lot of today's three-axis microlight pilots wouldn't be seen dead in a sub-390kg machine, even with doors. I'm not advocating fuse tube construction specifically (see my list), and I agree that every microlight trial lesson is a positve: though it did find it frustrating when AFIing on a Thruster Sprint having to explain to dejected birthday boys (based on their expectations as per Terry's mini survey) that it was indeed a microlight and not really a 'proper' aircraft. In fact it was that experience which led me to choose a 'flatback' Thruster for my own school machine after seriously considering Eurostar and C42 as options. I understand Rosemary Simpson ('Flights with Rosie') still does a decent trade in her AX3 despite having a C42 to offer.

    'Pipe and slippers', as I thought most on here knew, is, of course the standard forum jibe nowadays by hardy flexwingers in their romper suits and goldfish bowls :-)

    Joan

    PS. don't worry, this weather won't last forever.

  7. #7

    Am I the only one flying a Thruster?

    Joan, the idea was to show what peoples perception of a microlight was, example, think of a Hospital and to mind comes the Red Cross yet I dont know of a hospital anywhere that has a Red Cross on it. you see its what people think things are.

    TV

  8. #8

    Am I the only one flying a Thruster?

    I have been quite disppinted by TIM for the last few years. It tends to be produced in a bit if a hurry for the flying show. It's thin, somewhat cursory and doesn't really sell the sport IMHO. I think we are missing a big marketting trick.

    For very little extra cost it could be made twice or three times the size, and really sell microlighting and more fully explain its aspects, the super ships and the super affordable ships. It could then be used all year round as an effective marketting tool by schools and members - handing out at shows, local events, to trial flighters, and put on the table and Barbers and Dentists etc etc.

    Paul

  9. #9

    Am I the only one flying a Thruster?

    Couldn't agree more Paul.
    Our staff notice boards are ready and waiting for some professionally produced material selling the sport.
    We have a captive audience of 100 people standing in the kitchens waiting for the kettles to boil and nothing to look at.
    I put the notice up for the flying show the year before last and even the cleaner was interested.

    Dave

  10. #10

    Am I the only one flying a Thruster?

    I agree with what you say Paul but getting things done is a differant matter, Cost being the biggest problem and as for getting volunteers to help, well thats just impossible, I only got 3 people to act as stewards at the NEC splash last year and that was giving free entree as a bribe for the help. Ive found out during my last 3 years on Council that if you dont do it your self it dont get done.

    TV
    Bye the way, There is a Thruster Sprint for sale on my airfield if any one is interested.

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