Powered flight

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Powered flight

Although I do not fly powered aircraft, I have always built plastic models of them and taken an interest in them. Additionally, the early days of modern hang gliding (mid 1970s to late ’70s) gave rise to powered ultralights (known as microlights in Britain because of an existing ultralight category). They were therefore included in the content of the hang gliding magazines of that time, to which I subscribed.

Powered ultralights

Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.

In the late 1970s, Hang glider manufacturer Larry Newman branched out into powered ultralights with the Eagle. Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.

Photo of a 1980s powered ultralight

Quicksilver MX

The Quicksilver was an early hang glider which became the basis of a popular line of powered ultralights. This is a multi-axis control variant incorporating spoilerons for roll control. The original Quicksilver had only a rudder and lots of dihedral. The rudder put the craft into a skid and the dihedral then caused it to roll. Kind of weird, but it seemed to work. Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.

Photo of 1980s powered ultralights

A section of two Pterodactyls refuels at a roadside gasoline station.

The Pterodactyl was based on the early 1970s Fledgling rigid hang glider.

Photo of a 1980s powered ultralight in flight

Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.

Powered ultralights enabled greater access to the skies than was previously possible.


Both photos reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.

In this air-to-air photo, a flex-wing powered ultralight (middle left) shoots the space shuttle runway at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was taken by hang glider sail-maker Roly in about 1999. He writes, “…you could call up NASA radio and get permission to run along it and return, not below 500′.”

A flex-wing powered ultralight (middle left) shoots the space shuttle runway in Florida in about 1999

Over the space shuttle landing zone

According to the wiki, it is one of the longest runways in the world, at 4,572 metres (15,000 ft), and is 91.4 meters (300 ft) wide.

Why the 500 foot height rule? Who knows? However, that stretch of water reminds me of these words from A Man on the Moon, the Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts, by Andrew Chaikin, 1994:

About a week before the launch of Apollo 14, Cernan was flying a helicopter over the Banana River, enjoying the clear air and the smooth, mirrorlike water — so smooth, in fact, that he misjudged his altitude and crashed into the river. The chopper exploded in flames, and Cernan had to dive into the water to escape being burned to death.

NASA Vehicle Assembly Building, Florida

Vehicle Assembly Building photographed by Roly aboard a powered ultralight

At the time of writing, the Vehicle Assembly Building, which contained the Saturn V moon rockets and space shuttles while they were assembled, is the largest single-story building in the world.

Climb out under power

Climb out under power

Climbing out from Newton Peveril airfield in Dorset with Gary Dear as nose gunner in 2002. We flew to Kimmeridge, where we had a cafe breakfast before heading back. By the time we returned to the airfield, thermal turbulence was too strong to get down on the narrow grass strip, so we landed in a ploughed field a mile away.

Photo of a flexwing powered ultralight taking off


Gary Dear lifts off with Phil ‘ZZ’ Smith navigating in a Pegasus Quasar at Newton Peveril in Dorset. The power lines have been removed since I took this photo in 2007.


Cessna Skymaster undergoing restoration in 2004

Cessna O-2

When I was undergoing hang glider aerotow training at Villamartin in Spain in 2004, this Cessna O-2 (or possibly it is the civilian version) was undergoing restoration in one of the hangars. The O-2 provided twin engine reliability as a replacement for the smaller O-1 Bird Dog used in the forward air control (FAC) role in Vietnam until the introduction of the purpose-built North American OV-10 Bronco.

For an unusual variation of the Cessna O-2 (Skymaster to Sky Rider) see Science fiction/fantasy in Plastic Models > Various.

Antonov 2, Popham, 2005

Multi-paned canopy of the Antonov 2

The Antonov 2 is a transport biplane. It was used by — among others — North Vietnam during their war against the south (and against the USA) in the 1960s and early ’70s. You might wonder what I was doing flying one instead of attending school! This example was at Popham, Hampshire, England, in 2005.

The An-2 is like a seaside blockhouse with five portholes, some random cables and a little conservatory on the roof.

The two-horned, floor-mounted yokes stand on over-strength binnacles, and the instruments are laid out at random like salvage in a museum display.

There’s never been a noise like it.

— from Flight Test: Antonov An-2 by Pat Malone in Pilot magazine, 15 October 2015

Coincidentally, the manufacturer of the hang glider I flew at the time, Aeros of the Ukraine, was originally part of Antonov.

Antonov 2, Popham, 2005

“When I flew An-2s in ‘Nam…”

Internal links

Easy riser, my review of the movie Fly Away Home, Columbia Pictures, 1996

Hang gliding

Plastic models

Saving Major Tom, my review of the 1967 James Bond movie You Only Live Twice

Space flight and hang gliding

External link

Flight Test: Antonov An-2 by Pat Malone in Pilot magazine, 15 October 2015


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