Brian Holden: Microlights involve risk like everything else

By Brian Holden

1 comment

Once again we hear of another tragic microlight story, this time with two men losing their lives after plummeting to the ground at a beach near Westport.

The pilot was experienced and by all accounts it was just a simple pleasure flight in good weather apart from a bit of fog. Ever since microlights became popular in the early 1980s they have certainly had their fair share of accidents.

So many, it prompted the chief flying instructor of the local aero club in the early days to refer to them as "littering the landscape and sticking out of the hills like paper darts".

Having once owned one and clocking up around 150 hours, I must say that there were moments when I had the living daylights scared out of me, but the downsides were generously offset by the experience of wind-in-the-face fun.

Most pilots agree that flying conventional planes feels safer, being cocooned in a cosy cockpit with all the knobs and dials to ensure a hassle free flight. Despite not having been in the pilot's seat for a few years now, I still get the odd pang to jump into a plane, fire it up and head for the skies.

Microlights, gyrocopters, strap-on jet packs or whatever, are somewhat riskier than more conventional flying machines and going up on a bad day can cause all hell to break loose.

Like any other sport a lot of relatively safe fun can be had, provided you use your head and fly responsibly. I guess the fun police could step in and ban every lightweight recreational flying machine, along with jet skis, quad bikes and blokarts, right down to skateboards.

Everything we do incurs risk. Even licking the back of a foreign stamp to stick onto a postcard could induce a toxic reaction leading to death. As the father of the young passenger in the microlight commented: "You know the risks and that's where it ends. You can't keep your kids wrapped in cotton wool".

When faced with an impossible problem, never ever assume the seemingly obvious, or brush aside what might seem to be the most unlikely.

A few days ago we called in our electrician to look at our oven whose fan had developed an irritating rattle.

It was just a simple case of a nut having worked loose on the main shaft. The electrician removed the nut to examine the fan and went to put it back on - but do you think the blasted thing would screw onto the thread?

We both had a go but and decided to slide the whole jolly thing out of the wall and pull half of it apart, including removing the back to get at the fan motor. We could not get the stubborn beast of a nut to go on. Close examination of the threads showed no damage.

Time to call in my brother-in-law, fitter and turner by trade, Pete, whose knowledge on such matters is extensive. In the door he walks, picks up the nut and screws it on. "What? How in the hell did you do that?" I ask. "Easy" says Pete, with a smirk "left hand thread".

After a deep draw of breath, I admitted that the sparky and I had considered that unlikely possibility, but nah, we never bothered to try i t. As I said, never brush aside what might seem to be the most unlikely - it could save you a whole heap of wasted time.


- Rotorua Daily Post

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