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Fakenham firm re-launches classic microlight biplane

PUBLISHED: 08:30 28 October 2009 | UPDATED: 10:58 07 July 2010

Chris Hill

A Norfolk aircraft manufacturer is heading for take-off after reviving a much-loved name in the world of microlight aviation.

The Sherwood Ranger kit plane design was soaring towards the scrap-heap before it was rescued from oblivion by The Light Aircraft Company (TLAC).

A Norfolk aircraft manufacturer is heading for take-off after reviving a much-loved name in the world of microlight aviation.

The Sherwood Ranger kit plane design was soaring towards the scrap-heap before it was rescued from oblivion by The Light Aircraft Company (TLAC).

But after securing approval from the Light Aircraft Association to manufacture the kits from its hangar at Little Snoring airfield, the firm can once again offer aspiring aviators the chance to build their own aircraft - for less than the cost of an executive saloon car.

The aircraft, based on a 1930s bi-plane design, was originally conceived in the 1980s but after its designer Russ Light died from cancer a succession of owners have been unable to make a success of it.

But when TLAC took over the rights at the end of 2006 it became one of only three UK kit plane manufacturers, and the only one to also make a more substantial “Category A” aircraft.

Managing director Paul Hendry-Smith said anyone with a microlight licence and 1,000 hours of spare time could piece together the Sherwood Ranger's 2,000 components.

“If we're talking about big boys' toys, this is as good as it gets,” he said. “It's not an aircraft to get you somewhere, but if you enjoy flying and want to enjoy the privileges of the air, you can't beat it.

“This is a lifestyle aircraft for the person who wants to relive their youth and replay the old war films they saw as a kid. Anyone could build it in any workshop, using just hand tools.

“We are promoting English manufacturing here in Norfolk, we have saved an aircraft which was heading for the scrap-heap and we are bringing affordable flying to the masses.”

The basic kit, comprising the aluminium and plywood frame but excluding the engine and fabric coverings, costs £12,500 but Mr Hendry-Smith said it could be airborne for as little as £23,000.

Some of the precisely-machined parts need to be pushed out of their holders and filed smooth - just like the fiddly plastic Airfix models which ignited the passions of so many would-be pilots.

“It is a versatile little beast and it flies like a dream,” said Mr Hendry-Smith. “The wings fold, so it can be put on a trailer and you don't need a big hangar.”

The nimble aircraft had already established a reputation in the world of microlighting for its agility and handling, and ten of the earlier models are still registered for flight in the UK.

For more information, visit www.g-tlac.com

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