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 Synopsis Of NMAI History

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Number of posts : 450
Location : Donegal
NMAI Number:(if any) : 2138
Registration date : 2007-12-14

PostSubject: Synopsis Of NMAI History   Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:00 pm

**Posted on behalf of the chairman**

A number of people have asked for background information about the NMAI and its various difficulties with the IAA. The following is a history of various developments in Irish microlighting.

Background and History

The NMAI was founded by a few enthusiasts in the early 1990’s, having discovered the new age of Microlight aviation, to promote this new sport and to share knowledge and expertise. Most were members of the British Microlight Aircraft Association, a body which already enjoyed credibility and recognition from their CAA having been established for over 10 years at the time.

Microlight aircraft were initially derived from hangliders, utilising the Rogallo or Delta wing and by hanging a simple three wheeled trike below it with a small power plant at the back. These aircraft are known as Flexwing or Weight Shift aircraft because of the way in which they are controlled. From the early 80’s most of the pilot training for these aircraft took place on the ground and by means of two way comms with the instructor on the ground as 2 seat training aircraft did not exist. Solar Wings in the UK addressed this problem with the development of the XL, a robust 2 seat trainer with a docile, forgiving wing, beefed up to take the rigours of training and still a popular trainer today.

Initially countries had National definitions of what a microlight actually was. As microlights took advantage of new materials and techniques the definition of Microlight aircraft developed and changed. While Flexwing aircraft still remain popular there has been a revolution in 3 Axis simple tube and cloth aircraft. Microlights now comprise quite basic and simple types as well as sophisticated types, unified by the fact that they have low mass and stalling speed. (The current definition can be found in paragraph e of EASA Annex II).

Airworthiness and Licensing Issues

Inevitably, the CAA’s of most EU states looked to regulate these aircraft for both Airworthiness and Personnel Licensing, with most realising the simplicity of the aircraft and regulating accordingly. The Airworthiness Dept of the IAA engaged with the NMAI to develop an airworthiness system which, over the past ten years, has become the best microlight airworthiness system in Europe.

Personnel Licensing however were reluctant to follow suit and instead chose to apply General Aviation standards across the board for microlights. These regulations, coupled with the requirement to only train from Licensed fields, suppressed the ability of microlight pilots to secure proper training within the state. Many travelled to the UK and further afield to gain licences and, with no change in the regulations to date, many are still making the journey. The NMAI have tirelessly campaigned to have the regulatory framework for microlight aircraft revised since the late 90’s.

Following advice from Capt Criostoir O Cinnčide, Head of OSD, in April 04, the NMAI, having already become members of the European Microlight Federation, currently representing over 40,000 microlight pilots throughout the EU, and Europe Air Sports, convened a general meeting in Birr inviting everyone interested in microlighting. Mr Chris Finnigan, CEO of the BMAA, and Capt Neil Johnston, representing the Irish Aviation Council delivered presentations. Over 100 people attended with many taking up NMAI membership on the day.

Subsequent Developments

The NMAI also spent time and resources educating ourselves and gaining expertise in all areas of microlight flying both at home and abroad.

Our fleet of aircraft continued to grow and the management of this fleet was delegated to us by the Airworthiness Dept of the IAA who audit us annually and conduct spot checks throughout the year. This fleet now consists of 119 aircraft of 47 different aircraft types. It is important for us to maintain standards as a minimum and to improve standards wherever we can. To this end we have recently trained new inspectors to manage this fleet. Training of our inspectors consists of a rigorous apprenticeship, regardless of previous experience and qualifications, including the shadowing of currently approved and established NMAI inspectors.

The latest batch of inspectors were approved by the IAA at an NMAI Inspector day in November 2008, following a comprehensive audit of at least 3 aircraft of different types. This NMAI Inspector Day was attended by members of the AAIU and Mr Rob Hill, Chief Inspector of the BMAA, flown in for the day by the NMAI. We also displayed specialist calibrated tools and a range of aircraft, both flexwing and 3 Axis. Mr Hill also delivered a seminar on SIGMA (The BMAA Standard Inspector Guidelines for Microlight Aircraft) for NMAI inspectors and members. A number of NMAI inspectors are also BMAA and LAA (Formerly Popular Flying Association) inspectors and avail of very high levels of knowledge and expertise in microlight procedures and standards from the UK.

We have a pool of authorised check pilots with our Chief check pilots for Flexwing and 3 Axis aircraft flying Aer Lingus Airbus A330 and A320 aircraft respectively. Our chief check pilot for Flexwing aircraft is also an NMAI Senior Inspector and has a degree in aeronautical engineering.

European Developments

The EEC produced Directive 670/91, written for the mutual acceptance of private pilot licences, in 1991, and Ireland were one of the countries to sign up to it in 1993. As a result, AIC 14/93 was published by the IAA.

This didn’t however address the issues of Microlight training in Ireland but allowed for acceptance, under certain conditions laid down in AIC 14/93, of the UK PPL M which is a UK National licence, without validation from the IAA. You will note in AIC 14/93 that it states ‘Stand alone microlight licences’. Many Irish pilots travelled to the UK over the years to gain this licence and some to France, Spain and Portugal where they could also train to the same licence.

The UK changed to the NPPL, (National Private Pilot Licence), in 2002. This licence covers aircraft up to 2000 kg and served as the model for the future EASA Recreational Pilot Licence. The microlight licence became a rating on the NPPL as opposed to a stand alone microlight licence.

The UK NPPL is not accepted throughout Europe for GA aircraft as they already have a European licence (either JAR or ICAO). Neither JAR nor ICAO apply their standards to microlights, and as such, all microlight licences issued worldwide are National licences.

IAA microlight pilot licensing

Following “consultation” with ‘All interested parties’, through the Microlight Working Group, set up by the IAA, a draft microlight Directive which requires a minimum 25 dual hours training, 40 hours minimum total training and Class 2 medical, was signed by the IAA before a PLSCC meeting convened in December 2003. These requirements were item 5 on the agenda to be discussed but were removed from the agenda and implemented unilaterally by the IAA despite being opposed by the Microlight groups including the NMAI.

The IAA then published AIC 11/04 in July 2004, (Also enclosed), claiming that it was written to facilitate pilots holding non ICAO licences to fly within the State. In practice it made it impossible for pilots who had been flying here legally for up to 11 years to continue to do so. It also knowingly introduced requirements that couldn’t be met in the State.

Unfortunately a large number of pilots elected to ignore the new regulations as they were perceived as being unobtainable and unenforceable. The issuing of AIC 11/04 initiated a growing non compliance with regulations in Ireland. The NMAI has notified the IAA of this situation time and time again. We have repeatedly stated that our only wish is to get safe and sensible regulation which is in line with best European practice and allows our pilots to train in Ireland and to fly safely and legally. The IAA seem hell bent on preventing this and have signalled to us that their focus is on prosecuting “wrongdoers” rather than on encouraging compliance.

AIC 11/04 requirements and their consequences

AIC 11/04 requires that any pilots wishing to fly in Irish airspace with a non ICAO Microlight licence must satisfy the following.

- Hold a valid RT licence in the English language.
- Have a minimum 25 dual hours training.
- Have a minimum 50 hours total flying time.
- Hold a JAR or ICAO class 2 medical.
- They must also validate their licence with the IAA at a cost of 80 euro.

As no other country requires 25 dual hours training for microlights or have mandatory RT requirement and our nearest neighbour the UK doesn’t require a Class 2 medical for Microlight pilots, this regulation in practice serves to prevent pilots from visiting and also discourages resident pilots from pursuing proper safe training in the UK as the UK NPPL will not be accepted in Ireland without all the additional (AIC 11/04) requirements being met.

For pilots falling short of the minimum 25 hours dual and not having gained an RT licence, no infrastructure has been created by the IAA to support the regulation.

We have also been informed that visiting pilots or those holding foreign licences will now also have to sit the Irish Air Law examinations held every two months in the Gresham Hotel. This effectively prevents all foreign and Northern Irish pilots visiting Ireland. This is the subject of a recent EMF press release, and also raises questions for the Department of Transport with regard to wider European policy.

The NMAI have repeatedly pointed these issues out to the IAA. At one time the IAA said that they were setting up an RT exam with Capt Angelo Cunningham in Abbeyshrule whereby a certificate would be issued. They then told us that we had misheard and that no certificate was ever available. The IAA have also told us that, as the UK licence is of a different format to the Irish licence, an Irish RT certificate would not be acceptable with a UK licence. The NMAI have, as a result, been forced to bring over a UK CAA RT examiner as no RT course or exam is available in Ireland either for GA or Microlight pilots.

Microlight pilots flying legally for the 11 years prior to July 2004, and legal under AIC 14/93, found that they could not continue to do so under AIC 11/04. They also found that there was no means made available in the State to meet these new requirements.

No “grandfather rights” were issued despite a precedent already being set by the Authority.

Our understanding is that Microlight licences were issued by the then Dept of Transport under grandfather rights in the early 1990’s. We also believe that one individual was issued with a permit to fly relating to the pilot and not the aircraft at the same time.

The NMAI were told at a meeting in 2005, attended by Niall Cummins, Simon White, Kevin Swords and Kevin Humphreys for the IAA, Paul Mc Mahon and Hamilton Elliott for the NMAI and Ken Hazlett for the National Aero Club, that grandfather rights were not a right but a privilege. This privilege was not going to be extended to microlight pilots.

We were also told that the IAA don’t believe that anyone can learn to fly in a minimum 25 hours. However, the fact is that the current requirement for the UK microlight regulations is 25 hours minimum with no minimum dual requirement. The IAA dismissed our argument - supported by UK accident statistics - saying that a number of UK Microlight accidents went unreported. Quite what the UK authorities think of this statement we are not yet sure. The IAA don’t seem to get our point that a minimum is exactly that (merely a minimum) and the grant of a pilots licence should depend on the ability to pass a flight test with an IAA examiner.

We were then told that there would be no change in IAA policy till EASA ruled on recreational pilot licencing.

The NMAI, microlighting expertise in Europe and other issues

We have attended numerous meetings throughout Europe and have gained valuable contacts in most States and as such have acquired a good level of education and expertise in all aspects of microlight flying.

We don’t feel that this expertise is shared by the personnel licensing department of the IAA and have experienced very limited knowledge of microlights within this department.

Since the introduction of AIC 11/04, we have been made aware of an increase in pilots flying without licences and with very limited levels of training if any at all. We have also been made aware of visiting pilots slipping across the border without validation thus rendering some insurance policies invalid.

Other resident pilots, flying legally under AIC 14/93, are now flying outside the current regulations and feel, as does the NMAI, that AIC 11/04 would not stand up in a court of law. Many pilots are reluctant to bring themselves to the attention of the IAA for validation or conversion as the IAA work on an individual basis whereby some pilots, having brought themselves up to speed to meet the criteria laid down in 11/04, are being refused validation and others, not fully meeting the criteria, are being issued with Irish Microlight licences.

Although figures would be hard to substantiate, the NMAI would estimate that there are currently over 200 microlight aircraft active in Ireland, with 80 holding current Irish permits and most of the rest on foreign registers. We have approximately 90-100 correctly licensed pilots. We feel that this is unacceptable and have made our concerns known to the licensing department of the IAA on several occasions.

Through EMF and EAS we have played a part in shaping the current EASA regulations for GA aircraft with 3 EMF members on the EASA working group MDM 032. We keep our members fully up to speed on all issues through our online forum at http://www.nmai.ie . We have attended all EMF meetings since 2004 and regularly receive EASA, EU Commission and EU Council of Minister updates regarding aviation matters. We coordinate with our EU counterparts on all EASA NPA’s on a daily basis where necessary.

In 2006 we negotiated an insurance deal with a UK broker for our members that effectively halved the premiums we were paying for the EU mandatory minimum liability for third party and passenger insurance. It would reflect well on our Association that most of our members have availed of significantly higher liability cover than that set out by law with many availing of full hull cover and pilot personal accident cover.

We have also secured a deal to insure our inspectors, test and check pilots with the premium paid for by the NMAI. This also covers our inspectors for ongoing maintenance and repair work. This was done in the interests of our members rather than out of any legal requirement.

The NMAI Position

The NMAI believe that the level of over regulation imposed on microlight flying in Ireland by the Personnel Licensing Section of the IAA, which is the highest level of any country in Europe, serves to fuel an increase in illegal microlight flying activities.

The NMAI does not condone illegal flying activities of any kind but we are aware that this issue is already a problem and are again frustrated by the IAA’s apparent inability to create a fair, equitable and most important, SAFE microlight licence. We believe this is detrimental to the safety and growth of our sport.

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Synopsis Of NMAI History
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