Cross Country Flying in Microlight Aircraft

The author, an aviation entrepreneur, felt that cross country flying would be a good way to test his microlight aircraft (and provide a business justification for the vacation!)

| November/December 1979

When Keith Nicely and I decided to pilot our Pterodactyl Fledgling microlight airplanes from the West Coast to the Experimental Aircraft Association's Fly-In at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, we didn't have much trouble coming up with a solid economic rationalization for the trip. After all, I'm president of Pterodactyl Ltd and Keith is my San Francisco area dealer, so it was easy enough to chalk the cross-country jaunt up to good business promotion.

But while such practical justification served to explain the excursion to our business partners, Nicely and I were actually interested in the adventure because it offered us three weeks of real freedom and a chance to relive the freewheeling spirit of aviation's early days: seeing the country by air and landing anyplace that looked inviting!

(Incidentally, the Fledgling is just about the ideal craft for the sort of cross country flying that we had in mind. Microlight aircraft, you see, can land in a small field, are relatively inexpensive—about $3,000 in kit form—to purchase , and (best of all) are classed as hang gliders by the government's regulation agencies. You don't even need a license to fly'em! )

Over the Road

On the 4th of July, Keith and I unfolded the wings of our craft (the planes looked a little flimsy when we considered the distance ahead of us). After taking a quick swoop over the Pacific to make sure that we were, indeed, leaving from the West Coast, we flew northeast from Monterey, California.

Our first day's flight was pretty much limited to soaring over the foothills and lowlands while we experimented with an air-to-air communication system. We worked out hand signals for "low on fuel" and "follow me," and big grins for "we're in the sky and the world is absolutely beautiful" ... just the essentials.

Before proceeding with the details of our trip, I should take time to introduce the earthbound members of our group who couldn't communicate with us using hand signals. Brad Shaver and Joe England had agreed to follow us—in exchange for gas money—in a middle-aged pickup truck loaded with spare parts, a canoe, a camp stove, and assorted other items that couldn't be carried on the Pterodactyls. (Brad and Joe thought they were going on a fishing trip. Those two guys sure made our journey a whole lot more pleasant than it would have been without 'em ... but I hope they got more fishing done on the way back than they did while they had two crazy pilots to worry about!)

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: September 14-16, 2018
Seven Springs, PA

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard