My First Solo

Rob Mott

Just before going solo, Rob Mott experienced a bird strike…

How did you get into aviation?

It all started with my old man, he used to take me aeromodelling when I was still in a carry cot. A passion for remote control fixed and rotary aircraft led to a flight in a light aircraft, which was a moment of true inspiration. Straight from that very first take-off, I knew I simply had to achieve my licence. 

How did your flight training go?

My initial training was quite drawn out, as it formed part of an engineering degree. Over the space of two years, I had eight different instructors (not by choice!) from two different airfields, Liverpool and Barton, flying PA-38 Tomahawks. 

“Every flight is an education – there’s always something new to learn, consider or evaluate”

After soloing, I changed flight schools and aircraft, flying a C152 from Wolverhampton. Having obtained my PPL, I continued different flight training and eventually completed my Display Authorisation. I’ve had the opportunity to fly various aircraft, ranging from a two-stroke flexwing to high-performance aerobatic light aircraft. To me, every flight is an education – there’s always something new to learn, consider or evaluate.

Did you expect your first solo?

Yes and no. The customary circuits were going well up until the final one. On climb out from Barton, approaching the wires, we had a bird strike on the canopy. Thankfully it had no physical effect on the aircraft, so I kept climbing. Once over said wires, the CFI pulled the power back and said, ‘engine failure’. My training kicked in and after I went through the drill, my instructor reported climbing away and I carried on with the circuit. To my surprise, after landing he told me not to stop the engine as he was getting out. In my post-first solo debrief, he said I handled both the bird strike and his cruelly timed EFATO well, so on that basis he decided to let me go solo.

What are you looking forward to under the move to the 600kg weight limit?

The increased scope of aircraft eligible to operate as a microlight on a BMAA Permit to Fly. The 600kg MAUW and 45kt stall speed (landing configuration) significantly increase the category while retaining the freedoms, privileges, and ethos we currently benefit from. I’m particularly excited to see what designs manufacturers will create in the new regulated single-seat category.

Does the new weight limit bring any particular challenges?

The main challenge that comes to mind is the expectation of current pilots. Although the 600kg microlight is now enshrined in UK law, the real work now begins: to certify eligible designs. Some feature new technology, such as electric powertrains, which require careful consideration for airworthiness and operation. Finally, with the increased scope comes increased responsibility. The UK flying community must heed the valuable lessons due to the Light Sport Aircraft category in the US. Regardless of the legal obligations, it’s always sensible to receive comprehensive tuition on new types. You don’t know what you don’t know, so seek help from a professional, it’s always cheaper in the long run and you’ll appreciate how good your flight training was if things go wrong.   

Any thoughts about the future of microlighting beyond 600kg?

The BMAA has a multitude of ideas. Plans  in motion include wider use of factory-built microlights for towing of gliders, achieving parity between factory-built and amateur-built microlights for ab initio flight instruction, and development of the first UK designed and manufactured electric microlight. There’s also collaboration with UK MoD for faster and more cost-effective airborne developments – apparently drones can’t
do everything!

Other ambitions are more fundamental. With appropriate planning, research and execution, there’s no reason why a microlight couldn’t be capable of night, IMC, aerobatics and commercial flying. Oh, and let’s not forget microlight helicopters!

What do you love about flying?

I enjoy so many aspects of flying, especially the pure sensation and feeling of freedom which it provides. My most surreal flying experience was flying upside down, in formation, across the English Channel to help a friend raise funds for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. During that flight, we learned that even routine tasks like changing transponder squawk tend to be tricky while inverted!

Solo stats

Light aircraft enthusiast Rob Mott is Chief Engineer and pilot for the British Microlight Aircraft Association (BMAA).

 

When June 2006
Where Manchester Barton
Aircraft Piper PA-38 Tomahawk
Hours at solo 18h, 40min
Hours now Approx. 800
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