When cities and countryside end up being surrounded by 24-storey buildings, tainted air and noisy neighbours, where do you go for a better view, cleaner air and some peace? The sky. Now one can’t build castles in the sky, and paragliding and skydiving seem too hasty and frivolous. Enter microlights. Lightweight, low-maintainance flying machines with a capacity of just single or double seating, microlights are swiftly becoming the vehicle of choice for those with a passion for the skies.
“Microlights are used for sport aviation and leisure flying. They are low on maintenance, require less parking space as compared to big aircrafts, can be transported easily, and do not require a paved runway for take-off and landing,” says Javad Hassan, founder of Albatross Flying Systems. His is one of the only three companies authorised by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to manufacture microlights.
As easy as it is to fly and maintain a microlight — it weighs a maximum of 330 kg and has a wing area of not more than 10 metres — purchasing it can get a little laborious and take four to six months. Starting from obtaining a security clearance from the DCGA and the Ministry of Home Affairs, one has to then register the aircraft with the DGCA. Later, a certificate is issued after you complete 60 hours of flight training.
“The DGCA gets the track record and credentials of the applicant checked by the Intelligence Bureau. One can purchase a microlight only after she/he comes clean through such scrutiny. Only then a 'Permit to Fly' is issued for uninterrupted use of the microlight in India,” adds Hassan.
Albatross offers a range of microlight aircraft and powered hang gliders. Their various double-seater, powered hang gliders, the HypeR and the QuickR with the Rotax 582 and 912 engines, come for Rs. 2.5 million to 3.5 million, while the single-seater gliders with the Simonini Mini 3 engine and Polini Thor 250 engine will cost you between Rs. 985,000 and Rs. 1.25 million. Their more premium offerings are the Zenair microlight aircraft, the models being Zenair CH 601 and Zenair CH 701, for which you’ll have to spend Rs. 4.3 million to Rs. 5 million. These aircraft are also on Agni Aviation’s portfolio. “We have various clients who use these vehicles for leisure flying. An industrialist from Kolhapur, a businessman from Delhi, a farmer from Coorg and a retired sailor from Hyderabad are a few clients from my list of over 50,” shares Hassan.
Fliers can also get several additions and customisations done to their vehicle of choice. “They accessorise their aircraft with things such as reserve parachutes, compasses, camera mounts and strobe lights. It’s a way to geek up your ride,” adds Hassan. Microlights provide the bang for the buck and are safe and reliable, so why walk when you can fly?