TL Stream
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How not to buy an aircraft

When Mike Clare bought a TL Stream 600kg microlight in May 2021, little did he realise 18 months later the aircraft would still be stuck in the hangar – kept there by lack of the correct paperwork

It can be hard to tell the difference between the newest high-end microlights and non-microlight aircraft these days. The latest 600kg microlights are often built from lightweight composite materials and fitted with the latest electronic flight displays, offering performance and features at a fraction of the cost of certified aircraft.

But, while the aircraft are tempting, the introduction of the Light Sport Microlight 600kg category has not been without its challenges. Although several aircraft in the category are approved and selling well, some owners of new types have faced delays in getting airborne.

It is around two years since Mike Clare ordered a brand new Stream through the British importers, TL-Sting (UK) Ltd. The factory-built machines are manufactured by Czech company TL-Ultralight and have a great reputation. Homebuilt aircraft from the same manufacturer have been flying in the UK for around 20 years. In fact, Mike had previously enjoyed owning a homebuilt TL-Sting.

Before parting with his cash, Mike phoned the BMAA to discuss his potential purchase. It advised him that it couldn’t guarantee when work could be started on getting the aircraft certified.

TL Stream
Blue skies beckon but no! you can't fly it. Mike Clare took delivery of his TL Stream in the summer of 2021 but it's still unused – because of paperwork

At this point, the new 600kg classification had not been brought into law, and it wasn’t clear when – or even if – that might happen. But, knowing that it would take several months for the aircraft to be built and delivered, Mike decided to take the risk.

When the Stream was delivered by lorry to Mike in summer 2021, there was almost a party atmosphere. The BMAA representatives attended and helped one of the TL-Sting (UK) Ltd team fit the wings, with several pilots from the airfield forming an audience.

Soon after delivery, the 600kg classification became law. However, Mike couldn’t fly his Stream just yet though. As a new supplier of factory-built aircraft to the UK market, the first type from TL-Ultralight requires certification from the CAA before it can legally fly.

Knowing that the LAA event at Sywell was coming up a few weeks later, Mike contacted the BMAA to ask its advice on how to get the aircraft to the event. The BMAA suggested that it might be possible to get specific permission for this event through the CAA. But, unfortunately, there wasn’t time for this to be arranged.

Now, over a year later, Mike is still waiting for the CAA to approve the Stream.

Meanwhile, TL-Sting (UK) Ltd has introduced two more factory-built types from TL-Ultralight into the UK. Purchasers of these are also waiting for approvals to be completed. The irony is that, as ‘additional types’, the approvals are being handled by the BMAA. With a little more specialist resource available to the BMAA, it is likely these will be approved before the CAA has completed approval of the Stream.

Why is certification so slow?

Worldwide, there are several thousand aircraft from TL-Ultralight flying with an enviable safety record. There are also many homebuilt versions of the TL-Sting flying in the UK.

So why is the approval process for factory-built Streams taking so long?

Firstly, the CAA has different standards for homebuilt and factory-built aircraft, with the latter being more stringent. The approvals are not connected.

Certification of new types is, unsurprisingly, complicated, and there are different levels of approvals to achieve. Initially, a manufacturer must gain CAA A8-1 approval, which is effectively about quality assurance. Although this is handled by the CAA, in the case of the TL-Ultralight, the BMAA coached TL-Sting (UK) Ltd through the process to help speed up the process.

Only after CAA A8-1 approval is achieved can the process of aeroplane type approval be started. As described above, the initial type approval is handled by the CAA, while additional types are handled by the BMAA or LAA.

TL-Stream availability on the website of TL-Sting (UK) Ltd. You can understand why a prospective buyer might think it's OK to buy even though the aircraft has yet to be approved in the UK
TL-Stream availability on the website of TL-Sting (UK) Ltd. You can understand why a prospective buyer might think it's OK to buy even though the aircraft has yet to be approved in the UK

The complex process is made more so by the number of separate bodies and different procedures involved. And everything moves at the speed of the slowest body.

Sometimes it can just take one person, whether they are from the manufacturer, the importer, the BMAA, the LAA or the CAA, to be on holiday or off sick, and there could be a delay. This has been particularly the case in the last two years with Covid-19, which has created delays with illness, lockdowns and restrictions.

The 600kg classification itself took several years of discussion before coming into law and there are a number of aircraft manufacturers now trying to achieve approval in the UK.

Finally, with owners, understandably, chasing for updates, this detracts people from doing their work. There’s no easy answer to this. We have all experienced the local garage promising it will ‘call when your car is ready to collect’ – and not doing so.

What does the BMAA say?

The CEO of the BMAA, Rob Hughes, understands the frustration felt by the owners of factory-built TL-Ultralight aircraft in the UK.

“In general, I am uncomfortable with the idea of aircraft being sold that haven’t received approval,” he explained. “There are no guarantees about when, or even if, a particular type will gain certification.”

In the case of Mike’s Stream, although the BMAA is in contact with the importers and the manufacturer, it is not involved with approval, which is being handled by the CAA.

With the additional types from TL-Ultralight, and indeed from other manufacturers, the process for the new 600kg category is still fairly new to everyone involved.

There are also different routes that the CAA mandates, so there can be a bit of discussion required with the importers and manufacturers to ensure all the required information is submitted.

To try and streamline the process, the BMAA has discussed with the CAA the possibility of it taking on approval of new manufacturers, including TL-Ultralight. However, the approval process is written into the regulations and a solution has, so far, not been found.


BMAA Stream
The BMAA's website page on the new 600kg microlight class features the TL Stream at the top of the page

Is there a solution?

While all sides are frustrated with the situation, there is general agreement that everyone is trying their hardest to get approvals complete, but the amount of work being asked of the CAA, BMAA and LAA is massive.

For now, the main answers are patience and homework. Potential buyers should check the approval status before ordering, and have reasonable expectations if they do buy an aircraft that isn’t certified. After all, quite rightly, there is no guarantee that any particular aeroplane will be approved.

For sale

Mike Clare is so fed up with the situation that he has put his £240,000 Stream up for sale here.

Have your  say on the FLYER forum: click here

TL-Sting (UK) Ltd response

We asked Peter Ronfell, director and secretary of TL-Sting (UK) Ltd to comment on Mike’s case:

“Stream purchaser Mike Clare has contacted FLYER magazine to raise the issue of the lengthy time it is taking to gain approval for his aircraft, the ‘first of type’ in the UK. He has done so out of frustration at the lengthy process and particularly the difficulty in obtaining information from the CAA as to progress.

“We have a good relationship with Mike and understand his wish to raise the issue in this manner, and we share his concerns.

“It must be understood that the responsibility for the approval of any ‘first of type’ aircraft rests solely with the CAA, with supporting documentation from the manufacturer being provided initially by the UK agent, aided by the BMAA in this instance. We are quite certain that documentation to a high standard has been provided by ourselves and the manufacturer, TL-Ultralight, in a timely manner.

“The Stream (and the Sting and Sirius) is to be made available in the newly defined ‘Sub-600Kg Factory-Built Microlight’ category. The starting point is for the manufacturer to achieve A8-1 Factory Approval – a costly and time-consuming exercise which we are proud to have achieved.

“You will understand that we are unable to voice criticism of the BMAA or the CAA without potential detriment to our relationship with them. The reality is that no matter how helpful they have been, and in many respects the BMAA in particular has been excellent, the level of understaffing for the demands placed on its technical officers is of real concern. This is repeated within the CAA.”

Peter goes on to describe progress with Sting and Sirius models, and reasons for their delay, but does not address the issue of Mike’s stranded Stream.

Stream on TL-Sting (UK) website


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