I started flying
in the 84. My dad had a private pilot license and I used to go
with him for short flights around town. But the PPL was and still
is very, VERY expensive. At the moment in Italy, and probably
here in Ireland, a PPL comes at a price of 10.000$. Argh! So I
went for ULM. ULM stands for Ultra Light Motorized aircraft. They
are small and cheap planes. At that time the flight course costed
me about $600! Big difference. The sport was at the very
beginning in my country. This guy, who was the pilot and owner of
the airplane from which I had my first parachute jump, had a
place in the country and bought coupla ULM and started giving
lessons. Me and maybe a dozen of other guys were learling at the
time. The whole thing was really wild and maybe crazy. No rule
was on at the time. I went there one day with some friends and
the first sight of the place was frightening. A bunch of nutters
flying machines made out of tubes and fabric, with small
twostrokers with pull starter!! No fairings! My parachute
instructor brought me for a short flight. Was almost dark and we
just took off and landed straight away!! The landing? I really
thought we were going to crash. The approach is very steep with
these planes and I could see the terrain coming up at a very
worring speed!! But I was hooked!! I come back after a couple of
weeks and subscribed for the course. The guy knew my dad so took
for granted that I had long and extensive flight lessonso with
him. I actually flew the four seater for some time but tose ULM
were different. So we took off and Federico, that's the name of
the guy, just said: "Well, you know how an aiplane works,
don't you?" and started giving me directions like turn left,
turn right etc. After 20 minutes fighting the thing he comes up:
"Ok we go back. Were is the runway?". I hadn't a clue!
The aircraft was a Zenith Baroudeur, a french machine, exceptionally strong and easy to fly. The engine was a Hirt or Cujuna, fitted upside down, so spark plug caps could easily slip out in flight, with maybe 40Hp. I was 85 Kg and Federico probably 90. We needed a whole circuit full power to make up 50 metres altitude to start an approach. The runway was 200 metres long, banana shaped with a house on the north approach and trees on a side. And a ditch on the other. Dreadful. No escape whatsoever. But if you could land there you could land everywhere. We use to land on coutry road just for the kick of it, or land in gas stations to buy coffee. Big fun.
After coupla months of lessons one day, after the usual lesson of touch and go, the man says:
"Well, drop me and have a flight." and disembarked. A man of few words. I was scared to death. I took off and the difference of performance without the passenger (hey, I'm talking about my instructor! He's a passenger now!!) was amazing. I gained the 50 metres straight away after take off! Cool!!! I had a short flight and landed. I had maybe 4 hours of lessons all together! My dad trew a cow when he knew I was flying ULM. He thinks an airplane must have at least 20 instruments and weight 600 Kg. After a couple of weeks I brought up my first passenger, my girlfriend. The turbulence was very strong that day but Federico told me that the weather was fine. I took off and landed after maybe 45 seconds!! He he! ULM are very sensitive to wind and turbulence.
Four years ago I bought with two guys a small one seater, a HI-MAX, a very small and light taildragger. Dreadful machine. Not that easy to flight. And every takeoff and landing were a whole story. I still temember my first takeoff. The beauty of oneseaters is that you cannot take lessons with an instructor. You are on your own. At the second landing I broke the undercarriage. One month fixing the thing! At the end of the year, one of the other guys(the third never flew the machine), an airline pilot named Gianni, a guy I know since schooltime, had an engine failure and tried an emergency landing on a road. Failed. The airplane was wrecked, and his pryde too. He walked away from the wreck without even a bruise. ULM are very safe, despite their appearance.
As usual some pics.