Microlight Flights & Training
Learn to fly light sport planes with us!
Learn to fly light sport planes with us!For anybody who has ever yearned to fly, there is no better experience than that of fun flying. With proper training on today’s modern reliable aircraft, we can fulfil your dream of flying like a bird. Light Flight light sport plane flying services is one of the oldest established operations in Kwa-Zulu Natal – South Africa. Since 1988 we have been offering full time professional training. Light Flight School offers ab initio training for those who have never flown conversions to most types of light sport planes, Instructor courses, advanced flying courses, game management and aerial photography. Our aircraft are an excellent platform for photography.
Learn to fly!· Light Flight has been offering full time training on all types of Light Sport Aircraft and Microlights since 1988. · We offer all the facilities needed to complete a National Pilot License including an online exam centre. · Light Flight owns its own airfield which makes learning to fly that much easier. · We are in uncontrolled airspace and are close to Pietermaritzburg Airport where we do circuit training at a controlled airport. We also have 8 small grass airfields within 10 minutes flying. · We also advanced training and instructor courses on Light Sport Aircraft. · Our training aircraft is an AEROPRAKT A-22LS FOXBAT: Light Flight has used a variety of aircraft as training platforms over the past 29 years. Of these, the FOXBAT has proved to be the best all round training Light Sport Aircraft. The good power to weight ratio and generous wing area means the FOXBAT will climb out strongly at 800fpm and can safely handle the weight of big South Africans. Our FOXBAT is equipped with an MGL EFIS Extreme as well as an S-mode transponder.
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The Light Flight School
Light Flight offers full-time training with your instructor Geoff Dyer who will help you to get your National Pilots Licence. The aircraft used are the:
· Aeroprakt A-22 Foxbat light sport aircraft
We also have access to a wide range of other aircraft. For anyone wishing to experience the dream of flight, whether on a 3-axis A-22 Foxbat, WHICH OUT PERFORMS THE C150, or Sling 2 – then look no further than Light Flight School.
Light Sport Planes have fast become a vibrant and energetic form of flight.
Microlighting has come a long way since the late 1970’s when simple undercarriages were added to hang glider wings. These single seater aircraft did not require licensing until 1984 when the Department of Civil Aviation noticed the Microlight. Shortly after, in 1987, Geoff Dyer moved down from Botswana to Durban with the aim of setting up a Microlight training school.
Geoff based himself at Cato Ridge Airfield and in 1988 was awarded Air Services Licence G205D. It was at this stage that Geoff had the only full-time Microlight School in Kwa-Zulu Natal. In 1990, a 200 acre farm on the Georgedale Road in Cato Ridge, just off the highway between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, was discovered, purchased and transformed into a permanent base for a Microlight Flying School. Light Flight was born.
Light Flight Farm
Light Flight Farm was purchased in 1991, primarily as a base for Light Flight Flying School and Light Flight Flying Services. The farm is 200 acres in extent, consisting mainly of grasslands. There are 2 registered springs and a stream with indigenous trees. There are resident small antelope such as Grey Duiker and Oribi with occasional sightings of Bushbuck and Reedbuck.
Recreational Pilots Licence Course WCM, CCM & LSA
The following is a brief outline of the Recreational Pilots Licence course.
The Learner/student will do Lectures & exams on the following:
· Principals of Flight
· Aircraft Technical & General
· Civil Aviation Regulations
· Category specific (LSA/WCM)
· Human Performance
The flying syllabus covers exercises 1-21
People always want to know how long it will take them to learn to fly. This depends on many factors. Young people learn faster than older people, although they often do not have as much responsibility when it comes to flying. A 20 year old might typically complete the LSA license in 50 hours. Whereas someone in their 60’s might take 70 hours.
Students generally take 25-30 hours to go solo. Going solo early does not mean the person will make a better pilot than someone who takes longer to go solo.
At Light Flight the emphasis is on safety – we will not issue a flying license until the student is fully competent.
Light Flight has an online exam centre for the completion of the RAASA NPL exams.
Light Flight does not require any deposit before a flying course; you may pay as you fly. You may do a full time course, flying every day, or you may only fly once a week. Flying less than once a week can mean the student wastes time recapping.
Advanced Flying Courses
On request, the instructors at Light Flight will give you advanced training to better your safety, ability and confidence as an LSA pilot. We will teach you to handle your fixed wing aircraft in un-natural attitudes; we will help you to land in small spaces and to become confident.
We will also teach you to land your aircraft with the engine switched off. Below are the following exercises you can expect on an advanced flying course:
· Steep turns
· Precautionary Landings
· Low level flying
· Bad weather rapid decent
· Forced Landings under simulated engine failure
· Short field landings
· Thermal flying
· Formation flying
· Mountain flying
· Radio procedures into controlled airspace such as Pietermaritzburg
If you have in the region of 200 solo flying hours then you may apply to do the instructors course held at Light Flight under Geoff Dyers guidance. You will start off as a “C” grade instructor then after 200 instruction hours you are able to do an upgrade to a “B” grade instructor. Finally, after 500 instruction hours you can do the “A” grade instructor upgrade. As a PPL instructor wanting to convert to LSA you will have to phone RAASA to find out more details.
Light Flight was the first light sport school in South Africa to hold regular comprehensive instructor training. These courses have been held at Light Flight since 1992. Over 100+ candidates have completed the course, many of them from the surrounding territories of Namibia, Malawi and Zambia. There have even been a few from the United Kingdom and Germany.
The course is run at Light Flight farm in Cato Ridge and lasts a week. Six to eight hours of lectures daily are given as well as instructor’s flying patter by experienced full-time A-Grade instructors. Examinations are then written and an Instructor’s Flight Test is completed.
Light Flight does LSA (Light Sport Aircraft) 3-Axis Instructor training. The following is a brief outline of the Instructor Course:
· The makeup of an instructor
· The teaching process
Lectures & exams on the following:
· Principals of Flight instruction
· Principals of Flight
· Human Performance Limitations
· The Light Flight Farm
I had a dream. When I moved to Cato Ridge from Botswana to start a microlight school, I had been living and working in the wilderness of Botswana and Zimbabwe for 10 years. For a year I ran Light Flight School out of the back of my bakkie at Cato Ridge Airfield. I then bought a hangar and built an office /lecture room on Cato Airfield.
I was actively looking for a property I could make a runway on and establish my flying school. I saw there was no long term future for Cato Ridge Airfield and that the greater Durban, Pietermaritzburg region needed a permanent base for light aircraft
After 3 years, in 1991, I found a farm. The buildings were ancient and in a state of ruin but there were ground suitable for a runway. The farm was bought and renamed Light Flight Farm.
Light Flight farm consists of 3 adjoining farms of 35 hectares, 25 hectares and 25 hectares, totalling just less than 200 acres. What made it more attractive for me was that there were open natural Ngongoni grasslands and some indigenous bush, mainly along a stream with registered springs and 2 small dams. There is also an old Gum forest and a second forest of Cassarina trees which add to the biodiversity of the farm. The homestead is ancient with six bedrooms, two bathrooms and 45cm thick stone walls.
I was very excited when I discovered a population of endangered Oribi antelope as well as resident Duiker. There are also resident water mongoose, slender mongoose, large grey mongoose and even white tailed mongoose. I have also seen Civet cat and small spotted Genet on the farm.
Bird life is prolific on Light Flight. A recent highlight has been the successful breeding of Whalberg Eagles close to the homestead. This is the fourth consecutive year the eagles have bred successfully.
Light Flight is part of a 2000 hectare conservancy that drops 1000 foot down to the Mlazi River. This makes for a wide range of habitats from mist belt grasslands to lowveld with Marula trees. There are no fences ensuring a free flow of wildlife. There are even bushman paintings in an overhang near the river.
Light Flight Farm had been leased out for 20 years before acquisition for the airfield and was quite badly overgrazed. I decided that the 200 acres could benefit from a small herd of the then unfashionable indigenous Nguni cattle. This breed has since become much sought after mainly for the reasons that attracted me to them – that being their beauty (their colour variations are infinite), their hardiness with regard to the virulent tick problem in the area, their strong herd instinct and excellent mothering qualities. I started with 7 animals in 1991 and the herd has now grown to 37 beautiful animals.
Light Flight is 3.5 kilometres off the N3 highway between Durban and Pietermaritzburg on the tarred Georgedale Road. It is 20 minutes from Pietermaritzburg and 35 minutes from Durban.
LIGHT FLIGHT – A brief history
Light Flight was conceived in 1988 when I had to come up with a name for my fledgling flying school.
It had started a year earlier when I was working as a game ranger in the Tuli Block of Botswana. At the time, I was working with a friend studying leopards. After much fun and games and lots of frustration we had managed to catch and radio tag five leopards so that we could find and study them easily. The north eastern Tuli Block is very rugged country which made finding the leopards by vehicle difficult as you need line of sight to get a radio fix. The obvious answer was to track them from the air.
One bright morning, I was down at the Pont Drift boarder post on the Limpopo River collecting clients to take on safari. A bakkie arrived with a folded wing on the roof and towing a strange contraption with a propeller attached. Intrigued, I watched the wing unfold and recognised it from the fittings as being one of Aidan de Gersigney’s wings. In the mid 1970’s I had built and flown my first hang glider and soon joined a band of flying fanatics and became very friendly with Aidan. Before long, Aidan was making wings commercially and I had owned and extensively flown some of them. The young man rigging the Trike confirmed Aidan was the designer and builder. I got really excited when the girlfriend climbed onto the back of the guy fired it up and in 80 metres they were airborne and climbing out steeply.
This was the answer to all our problems. I zoomed back to camp and excitedly told Pete I had seen the solution to tracking the leopards. The next day I phoned Aidan who told me he had fitted an undercarriage to one of his hang glider wings. The Rotax 503 engine became available, the wing was beefed up to handle two people and the Windlass Trike was born. I drove down to Durban and Aidan took me flying. I remember being almost overwhelmed as the wheels left the ground. I foresaw endless opportunities for this new way of flying. Back in Durban a month later I had some rudimentary instruction and went solo in three days.
I begged and borrowed money and ordered my first Windlass. Aidan was still building the Trikes from his home near Durban.
· Windlass Trike ZS-VWE 1987
· Price new – R10500
· Empty weight – 127kgs
· Engine – Rotax 503 single ignition
· Fuel capacity – 20 litres
The early Windlasses had an amazing performance due to a very low wing loading and high power to weight ratio. The wing was around 18 square metres compared to about 14 square metres and smaller on modern delta wings. There were no instruments, thin wheels, no battery or starter motor, a single thin seat and two 10 litre fuel containers. Real seat of the pants flying with a climb rate of 1000ft/minute.
In many ways ZS-VWE was a motorised hang glider and I flew it as such, slowly exploring the flight envelope. I completed my solo hours in Botswana and contacted Mike Blyth who was running Sky Riders to finish my licence. Mike gave me exams to complete which made me realise I was flying a real airplane and got me to do a lot of reading. I went down to Bapsfontein to do a flight test with Mike. He really grilled me and made me realise how much I had to learn.
The Trike immediately proved its worth in Botswana. We got more data on the leopards in a month than we were getting in a year before we started flying. My anti poaching patrols from the air resulted in a 60% reduction in Elephant poaching which had been out of control in the Tuli Block. I did have some trouble getting my chief game scout to climb on the back of the Windlass. He was a big strong guy but refused point blank to fly with me. That is until one of the girls who worked in my camp asked me to go flying. On landing she was ecstatic and the big guy then allowed himself to be persuaded to fly with me. I flew nearly every day and did some interesting longer trips into Botswana. I was in regular contact with Aidan and he came to visit me in Botswana. He kept on at me about how many Trikes he was selling and that there was no one in the whole of Natal to teach his customers to fly. I decided to move on from the Tuli Block as I really did not get on with the new owners of Mashatu Game Reserve (which I had restarted for the Rennies Group five years previously). I was offered a job running a camp on the Savuti Channel which had some of the best game viewing in Africa, and after much soul searching decided I had to give starting a microlight school in Natal a chance.
Light Flight Microlight Flying School
It took me some time to get my instructors rating through Sky Riders. I had the required 200 hours but it was almost all flying in the wilds of Botswana. Steve Roe did my instructor flight test in very rough conditions and it took over two hours. Mike Blyth very kindly let me work under his training school licence while I began the arduous process of getting my own school going.
In 1987 one first had to get an Air Services Licence through the Department of Transport and then a flying school operating certificate through the then Department of Civil Aviation. You had to appear before a Department of Transport Tribunal in a courtroom-like setting and explain how and why you were going to operate a flying school. On the morning I was to appear, I was number three on a list of six heavies in the aviation industry who all brought at least one attorney with them. I had put a lot of work into my application and was able to put some of the skills I had learnt 12 years previously in getting a BComm degree to use. I gave it my best shot and to my great surprise was granted an Air Services Licence two months later.
Like many others who started microlight flying schools in the 1980’s, I worked out of the back of my bakkie. I had lots of students and flew hard most days out of the old Cato Ridge airfield. I sometimes shudder when I think back to the early days of microlight instruction. Communication between student and instructor was through plastic tubes stuck onto earmuffs. There were no radios or any instruments. There were no dual controls. Training bars that clamped onto the A frame were only invented in 1989. These gave the instructor a lot more control of the wing but dual steering and rear throttle control came later. Having no radios and poor training techniques meant that going solo was a huge event. For years I was the only Trike instructor around which meant I couldn’t get a second opinion before sending someone solo. I think I often sent my students before they were properly prepared which lead to some terrifying situations where the student would get out of control and I had no way of telling them what to do except for wild gesticulations from the ground. I have always maintained that there is a flock of guardian angels looking after stupid pilots and I’m sure I tested them to the limit in those early days. Amazingly, there were no student accidents in Light Flight School in those early days. The accidents came later which could be the subject of another article.
Microlighting gained huge momentum in the 1990’s and spread like wildfire around South Africa and the world. Through regular MISASA instructor seminars Trike instruction was standardised and greatly improved. The aircraft were developing rapidly. Instruments and radios became obligatory, bigger fuel tanks and bigger wheels and continual upgrades of the engines made Trikes safer and more capable. Light Flight introduced instructor courses which were very popular. I was holding three to four courses a year each with four to six instructors at a time and our learning curves were steep.
Fixed wing Microlights.
Early fixed wing Microlights such as the MAC CDL, Basic 2000 and Shadow Trainer had single surface wings and control in only two axis – rudder and elevator. They often had spoilers on the wings in an attempt to give some roll control. They had the engine mounted on the wing with a V belt reduction system driving a long shaft attached to the propeller. Unreliable engines together with failure prone belt and propeller shaft systems resulted in frequent emergency situations when flying these very basic flying machines. I flew in these aircraft a few times which convinced me that their poor performance and frequent failures left me no interest to fly them. There are still many Windlass Trikes flying that were built in the late 1980s but I don’t know of any two axis fixed wings from that era still flying with the notable exception of the Quicksilver which I think is still being produced.
In the 1990s a new advanced breed of fixed wing Microlights came on the market such as the Canadian Challenger. This aircraft flew very well and is still selling today. After the 1996 World Microlight Championships were held successfully in Cato Ridge, I was offered a challenger 11 Special to use in my school. At last I had access to a fixed wing microlight that flew well and allowed me to explore the world of three axis flying. A year later in 1997 a wonderful little aircraft arrived from England called a Shadow together with the more nimble version, the Streak Shadow. I soon had one of these small but excellent flying machines working hard in my school together with the recently launched Windlass Aquilla. In about 2005 the remarkable Bantam from New Zealand appeared in South Africa and proved a huge success with hundreds being sold.
Light Sport Aircraft.
In 1998 the first LSA arrived in SA from Australia. The Jabiru provided a quantum leap in our sport. Boasting a quiet four stroke aero engine and a hundred knot cruise, it was in a different league to anything else available. Jabirus have always been good value for money but the early ones were quite tricky to fly with lots of adverse aileron yaw not helped by a very small rudder. The tiny 8.9 square metre wings resulted a stall speed of 48 knots with full flap. This very high stall speed combined with small wheels and questionable undercarriage demanded skilful flying out of our short bumpy runways. Light Flight was the first to get a Jabiru in a flying school. Jean d’Assonville joined Light Flight as an A grade instructor and built a second one for the school which flew really well as he had taken great care with the build.
Soon more and better LSA’s appeared in South Africa. I had Zenair 601’s and 701’s in the school. In 2003 I was fortunate enough to get a R600000Tecnam in my school. This was a class aircraft that flew really well. In 2005 we acquired what I consider to be in many ways the nicest flying aircraft of them all, the Sting 2000. This came with a variable pitch propeller, a 120 mph cruise and a VNE of 175 mph, a speed at which the Sting seemed quite happy. Unfortunately the Sting had a poorly designed weak undercarriage which resulted in a few whoopsies and made it unsuitable for a hard working school aircraft. In 2006 I did a few conversions on an Aeroprakt A22 Foxbat. The more I flew this little beauty the more impressed I became. In 2007 I got my first Foxbat for the school. Four years and 2500 hours later I have just taken delivery of my third Foxbat and find it the best all round, most reliable well mannered and toughest light sport plane available.
There is now a large choice of good LSA’s available in all sorts of configurations and the demand is growing.
Light Flight Farm
By the time my flying school licence was granted in 1988, I knew I was in for the long haul in this fledgling industry. There was no real security of tenure at Cato Ridge Airfield a