Three decades in the sky will be marked this weekend when the Manawatu Microlight Club marks its 30th anniversary.
One of the oldest microlight clubs in the country, the club will celebrate the occasion with a dinner at its base at the Feilding Aerodrome on Saturday.
The celebrations will coincide with the annual national fly-in, with up to 50 aircraft descending on Feilding from clubs throughout New Zealand. The national fly-in is being hosted by the Manawatu Microlight Club (MMC) along with the Manawatu Aero Club and the Middle Districts Sports Flying Club, which all operate from the aerodrome.
MMC foundation member Bill Penman said the club was formed by a group of enthusiasts shortly after microlights were introduced to New Zealand in the early 1980s.
It was 1984 when a group of friends got together to fly, using a private airstrip near Bulls.
Ken Porter loaned the newly-formed club an aircraft until it bought its own a year later.
"Then it just expanded from there," Mr Penman said.
In that time the technology has changed but the thrill remains the same for the pilots.
"Microlights have sort of evolved from rag and tube aircraft to quite sophisticated," Mr Penman said.
When microlighting was in its infancy there was a perception it was a bit of a rogue activity, he said.
Over 30 years club members have worked with Civil Aviation on a strict set of rules, not too different to general aviation aircraft.
The club has achieved records, including by member John Bolton Riley, who became the first to person to fly a microlight both ways across the Tasman.
These days the club has fewer members but is stable.
It operates three microlight aircraft.
"It's like most clubs - in our heyday we probably had 100 members, now we have 30. It's a bit difficult getting young members but once we do we've got them hooked," Mr Penman said.
MCC president Colin McMillan said microlighting did not involve the cost or time it took to learn to fly general aviation aircraft.
Most people could fly solo in 10 hours, he said.
A minimum of 45 hours is required to become licensed.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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