On February 10th David Hassard delivered a ‘tour de force’ of an
illustrated talk covering, as the sub-title said “the extraordinary
variety of light aircraft in the British Isles”. Members were treated
to photographs, all taken by the speaker, of some three hundred
aeroplanes of “all shapes and sizes”.
As a schoolboy David was taken, on his ninth birthday by his father, who worked for de Havilland, to the 1951 King’s Cup air race at Hatfield. Sadly the race was fogged out but the day left David with his first memory of an aeroplane, the Comper Swift, G-ABUS. Later living near Christchurch airfield, as his father had been transferred from Hatfield, with its own flying club, David began to spend time there and soon became, like many in the audience, a fully fledged aero-spotter. Spending his pocket money on film for his father’s camera he started to photograph aeroplanes.
Sometimes staying with his grandmother in Old Welwyn in
Hertfordshire, travelling by train and bicycle, he became familiar with
many aerodromes in the south of England with evocative names such as
Stapleford Tawney, Panshangar, Southend, Stanstead, Hurn, Luton,
Thruxton, White Waltham, Portsmouth and Shoreham.
Soon real life intervened and David became an apprentice at Westlands, got married and started a successful career with the company.
However, in 1985 he discovered Popham and found some 150 light
aircraft there including some old friends, which rekindled his
interest. David showed a charming watercolour painting he did of the
scene. There were no comprehensive light aircraft recognition books
available, just registers, so he decided to try to photograph examples
of every type of light aircraft on the UK register.
Some of the fruits of this endeavour are what David showed us in his talk; some 300 photographs and this, he said, was less than half of the complete collection. Your Editor, like most of the audience I am sure, was amazed at the variety of configurations, classes and types that are out there to be seen, many with innovative layouts and features.
He showed us low, mid, shoulder, high, parasol and flexible wings of
many plan forms; tailed, tail-less, canards and tandems; tractors and
pushers with in-line upright, inverted or flat or radial engines; wood,
metal, glass and carbon reinforced plastic airframes, fabric, plywood
and metal skinned, or with unskinned fuselages; tail wheels, tail
skids, tricycles and reversed tricycles; one, two and four seaters,
side-by-side and tandem; factory built production aeroplanes;
home-builts from kits or plans, and own designs; vintage aircraft and
modern; scaled down military and production types; and many
permutations of the above. They were designed or built world-wide
including in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Austria,
Czechoslovakia, Italy, Holland, Sweden, Russia, India and Japan. Light
aviation is truly international.
As David said, we who live in the environs of London get a false impression of light aviation because of the large areas of controlled air space, but get away and you see that the movement is thriving. For example there are 2,000 flex-wing microlights in the UK. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has delegated airworthiness services for light aviation to the Light Aircraft Association (LAA) previously called the Popular Flying Association (PFA). A sub-set with less stringent regulation is Microlights which must weigh less than 450 kg and have a stalling speed of less than 36 mph. Aircraft weighing less than 115kg are classified as Deregulated and require no approvals or licences at all - just design it, build it and fly it! (but not over built up areas).