In the UK the SSDR initiative removes all unnecessary regulation on sub 300kg microlights and opens a door allowing smaller self-launching “cross-over” soarable microlights to be developed at much lower cost. This reduces the retail purchase price, reduces the ongoing cost of ownership, and reduces the pilot licensing bureaucracy.
Our initial product bridges the microlight/glider price/performance gap and the traditional type groups definitions. As well as the cross-over novelty, our unique hybrid approach is sure to attract attention. We are taking advantage of a new domestic market created by the SSDR initiative in the UK and targeting markets in other countries where minimal regulation categories exist.
In the past all soaring sailplanes (gliders) were unpowered and getting airborne meant being towed behind a powered aircraft or hauled into the air by a powerful winch. Landing out away from the home airfield, if soaring conditions deteriorated, required a pre-arranged retrieval consensus. As a result flying gliders has traditionally been a membership activity at clubs where the expensive launching infrastructure and retrieve arrangements are mutually invested in and provided.
However, the customer pilot paradigm has changed. Now the majority of new gliders sold are powered and have retractable engines and propellers. The ability to self-launch, to take-off unaided, means pilots of these aircraft types can operate independently when they want, from a wider choice of locations, and no longer require a club infrastructure. But, powered gliders have become ever more complex and heavier, and so suffer the same high degree of airworthiness regulation and mandatory certification as much larger aircraft. As a result these types have become much more expensive making them accessible to only an increasingly wealthy and so shrinking audience. Glider pilots expect cross-country soaring ability but would welcome lower cost and simpler products.
Microlights or Ultralights are powered, generally operate independently and are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, at widely varying cost, but with comparatively low aerodynamic performance. Because of their light weight and operational limitations microlights are subject to slightly less burdensome mandatory airworthiness regulation. Microlight pilots may have been attracted to powered gliders and the idea of more absorbing and challenging soaring flight, and more performance, but were put off by the operational limitations, the burdensome regulatory environment, the obligations and commitments of the gliding club scenario, or the very steep cost of acquiring a higher performance independently operable self-launching soarable aircraft.