by BD

A mate of mine is a Microlighter and 2 years ago he had to plot the course for the Microlight rally.

He laid it all out on the map, did all the logistics etc. then decided he needed to fly the course. He asked me to come along and help him locate the markers (see if the pilots would be able to see them.)

"We will try to fly the course at the same speed as the Microlights... but we are going to do it in a real plane". (I use that term loosely) for when I arrive at Charles Prince there's Will with this 1930-something "Cherokee Cub"... Bright Yellow and straight out of the first world war.

"What's this?" I enquire.

It turns out we can't do the course In a Microlight 'cause of maps /notes /GPS's etc. etc. blowing away. Things that we need to check markers on the way. So we are going in this. Also 'cause it's the cheapest plane in the club to rent and run. (Its only got a Velo-Solex engine). It (the plane) is of canvas and tube construction with two 'in line' Garden chairs, 1 behind the other, 2 pieces of bent pipe sticking out of a plywood floor for foot pedal controls and another longer pipe with a bicycle handle grip for steering.... Technologically it had, a dashboard with holes in it where "clocks" for vital functions used to live.

Actually there were still 2 clocks - both altimeters one had a piece of tape over it saying "refer to the other" - I was dubious! But when Will said it didn't have a self starter and that I must wind the fucking fan in the front while he gets it going - I said "zut! I'm not losing my fingers to that!" So we got the club Af., who's experienced in that sort of thing, to come and wind the fan (I checked his fingers, there were 10.... gnarled.... but 10 nonetheless).

He got it started and we took off into the wide blue yonder... I noticed, in front of me, a straight piece of wire sticking up about 8 inches or so out of the top of the engine cowling of the plane. I said to Will "What's the wire sticking out the bonnet?" (I was in the front seat though there are controls back and front; Will chose to sit in the back cause he didn't want to die first!).

"That's the fuel gauge, there's a cork on the bottom of the wire floating on the fuel, when the wire goes down, then we are empty...!"


We find the area then I've got to start navigating with a hand held GPS, Will slows down, we are flying parallel with the Mazoe Road at a height of about 200 ft. .... BUSES on the road are overtaking us!!...

I'm used to flying slow ... with a paraglider... but not in a powered flight vehicle!!!

I calculated we were travelling the equivalent of 60 kph ground speed and the nose was way up - almost stalling (60 kph is okay in a car ... .but not so okay 200 ft up!). Will was trying to fly at the same speed as the Microlights would.... we decided that to stay in the air we would have to speed up to at least 80-100 kph.

Got to the Gliding Club (which is now in Glendale) radioed (hand held radio) that we wanted to land to refuel .... no response .... again ..... no response ... 3 or 4 times with no response (we were too low for DCA to pick us up) so we buzzed the club house a couple of times, still nothing, and landed. Shitty grass strip which Will over estimated the length of and we nearly ran out of. Turned out the only guy there (old white man) was having a shit and didn't hear the radio!

We had a coke and bun and began the refuelling (little butterfly valve up near my head where I sit, lets the fuel out of the wing tanks, gravity feed into the tank in the bonnet ... it takes time ....) Will flung the fan, I started the plane and we started the rest of the route - real bush flying.

About 10 kms out, I get this extra cold sensation on my feet - look down to a pair of North Stars (track shoes) coming to pieces on my feet!!! We had forgotten to turn the avgas off and it was now overflowing on my shoes and doing wonders to the glue that holds them together!!! Good job we weren't smoking!

WE got back okay and had a really good laugh in the flying club pub with the other guys. They all seemed to have had their experiences in the same little plane. I believe its the oldest 'Flymachine' in the country.

Here is the plane...