Spotlight on training – SkySports Flying School

White Gum 02Next up in my series about flying training facilities is SkySports Flying School, based at White Gum Farm, near York in Western Australia.

The school was originally started in 1997 at Wyalkatchem for hang glider pilot training, soon adding powered hang-glider training to their repertoire. These aircraft are variously called ‘trikes’, ‘weight-shift’ or ‘microlights’ in Australia. The school moved to White Gum Farm (YWGM) in 2005, where they initially operated from a farm shed/hangar for a while. In 2006 the second hangar – H2 – was built and now hangars H3, H4 and H5 house a variety of  trikes and 3-axis aircraft.

White Gum 01SkySports CFI at White Gum is Gordon Marshall, a very experienced trike and 3-axis instructor, although he says nowadays he seems to spend most of his time instructing in the Foxbat! In addition to Gordon, there are several (mainly) part-time instructors.

White Gum hosted the first ‘WestFly‘ event several years ago – the weather was fantastic and there was a great turnout of aircraft. However, the weather turned bad for the last couple of events and fly-in arrivals were very limited, so Gordon has decided to ‘rest’ WestFly for a short while. However, he’s planning a big event next year (2016) when the nearby ‘Fly Inn’ function centre opens.

The facilities at White Gum will continue to grow as its reputation spreads – the relaxed and friendly atmosphere, on-site accommodation and selection of runways has begun to attract visitors and flying students from far and wide. Best times to fly are probably spring and autumn – summers can get very hot!

EQ1_logo_RevAn interesting side-point: White Gum Farm, including the airstrips, is owned by Gary Sargeant, an accomplished radio/avionics engineer, who is also a trike pilot. Driven by the relatively high cockpit noise in trikes, Gary designed a new wireless, active noise reduction (ANR) headset for radio (and intercom) communications in noisy environments. This was developed, tested (mainly by Gordon) and re-designed over several years. The result EQ-Linkis the EQ-1 ANR wireless headset which can be used both in open and closed cockpit aircraft. I have used both the original version of the EQ-1 headset as well as the latest EQ-link in Foxbats and I must say they are one of the most comfortable headsets I have worn. My wife and I joined a group if fliers who did a 10-day round trip from Melbourne to Lake Eyre a couple of years ago, using the EQ headsets. They performed faultlessly and over 21 hours of flying, did not need re-charging, although we had less than an hour’s battery left when we got home. The ANR function works well and the lack of a wire connection with the aircraft makes them very convenient.

EQ now has a Facebook page: click here to visit

Single seat ultralights

I have an interest in single-seat ultralights – I think in many ways, today’s recreational and light sport aircraft have moved a long way from the origins of light, simple and (relatively) cheap aircraft. As a result, there is a vibrant and growing number of companies moving into this gap in the market, primarily in the USA and Europe. These countries (including the UK) either have already, or are planning to, ‘deregulate’ these types of aircraft – ie you don’t need to register them or have a pilot’s license to fly them. However, there are some restrictions, for example in the USA the maximum empty weight is 254 pounds – that’s 115 kgs. Maximum speed at full power straight & level is limited to 55 kts and maximum fuel is 5 US gallons or 19 litres. Rules in Europe are a little more liberal, with empty weights at around 120 kgs or maximum take off weights of 300 kgs. Using modern state-of-the-art materials, this enables designers to come up with some sturdy and capable single seat aircraft.

Sadly for Australian readers, the main problem in bringing these types of aircraft to Australia is that, as fly-away aircraft, they would currently be un-registerable because CASA/RA-Aus do not (yet) have the same liberal attitude to small single seat aircraft as the rest of the world. Maybe if you went the kit route…it might be possible. Personally I’d rather fly ’em than build ’em!

My reporter from Europe – actually Rob Hatswell, Foxbat sales contact for South Australia – has been wandering round the Friedrichshafen Aero Expo in Germany. This is certainly the biggest aircraft expo outside the USA and now runs annually every April; it used to be a bi-annual show, like our own Avalon airshow. Rob reports that on display among the exhibits are a good clutch of new, or relatively new, designs of single seat ultralights.

P1070826 Sirocco

Rob sent me information on some of these types at Aero Expo. I’ll cover others in future posts but first up is the Dutch Sirocco NG made by the ACLA company. This is a tricycle gear composite and kevlar high-wing pusher with a maximum take-off weight of 250 kgs on an empty weight of 120 kgs, including a rescue parachute system. It’s powered by a 33 hp 4-stroke engine and has a maximum cruise of 65 kts. Take-off and landing rolls are in the 50-60 metre range. A full tank will run you for 4 hours. In standard form, there is just a small windshield to keep off the wind but there is an optional fully enclosed bubble canopy. European price works out around A$35,000 ready to fly.