Tags: Microlight aircraft. Powered hang glider. Aircraft. Planes. Club. Group. Bribie Island. Brisbane.
In the Air with MARK GENTRY
Show me an established airfield and I’ll show you a place with a wide range of aircraft, a variety of commercial organisations and an incredibly diverse throng of aviation enthusiasts, each with their own story to tell. With this in mind, Caboolture Airfield certainly fits into all of those categories and so each month in The Mini Bribie Islander, I endeavour to tell the story of one the passionate aviators who can be found there.
This month, we take a look at that slightly different sector of the aviation world, the Microlight Community. Microlight aircraft, or trikes as they are most commonly known as, are classed as weight shift controlled aircraft and are much more than just a powered hang-glider, as they are sometimes called.
At Caboolture Airfield, there are a number of dedicated microlight enthusiasts and one of them is Caboolture Microlights Chief Flying Instructor, Mark Gentry. Having grown up in New Zealand with a dad who was a keen builder of light aircraft, Mark’s passion for all things aviation developed at an early age and has led to Mark developing his skills as a pilot over many years and across a variety of aircraft including hang-gliders. ‘My father was more enthusiastic about building planes than flying them,’ said Mark. ‘For me, flying them is what is more enjoyable than the construction,’ he explained.
Obviously, a pilot can only gain the reputation of being experienced and that experience must include flying in a variety of conditions, some planned, some definitely not. One of Mark Gentry’s planned flights in unusual conditions was when he and a friend drove for four days to reach the Southern part of the Gulf of Carpentaria which is well known as an area where the Morning Glory cloud formation can be found.
This rare meteorological phenomenon is a low-level solo cloud formation which has been known to stretch for up to 1,000 kilometres and the Burketown area is the only location where it can be predicted on a more or less regular basis. Glider pilots from across the country are attracted to the area for the opportunity to fly the Morning Glory and this was the reason for Mark’s trek to the far north.
‘It was a great experience and, as luck would have it, when we arrived we met a guy who had flown the Glory before,’ Mark told me. ‘ He gave us some very good information as to what we should expect up there,’ he said. I remember the very old television advertisement in which Victor Kiam famously told us that he liked his Remington electric shaver so much that he bought the company.
The Morning Glory cloud formation
Well, the events leading to Mark owning Caboolture are somewhat similar. After having spent some years flying hang gliders, Mark gained his Recreational Pilot’s Certificate at Caboolture Microlights and, to cut a long story short, went on to become the owner and Chief Flying Instructor of the popular airfield business. Mark explained to me that microlights are two-seaters but single-seat models are available.
He said that trikes come in a variety of designs and, whilst there are trikes that are ideal for property inspection and fly as slow as forty knots (nautical miles per hour), there are others which are capable of speeds as high as ninety knots. ‘These are ideal for long cross-country flights and have an endurance of six hours or more,’ said Mark. ‘There have been occasions when other microlight pilots and I have flown to as far away as Inglewood,’ he said. Whilst there, pilots who take on the challenge of building their own trike, Mark pointed out that the ones at Caboolture Microlights are professionally built in a factory at Newcastle and, despite some people’s beliefs, not just pieces of rag and string.
To learn how to fly a microlight and gain a Recreational Pilot’s Certificate involves firstly becoming a registered member of the governing body, Recreational Aviation Australia (RA-AUS) and placing your training in the hands of a qualified instructor such as Mark.
A part of the attraction of aviation-related activities is the camaraderie between pilots and this is definitely alive and well at Caboolture. The Caboolture Microlight Club has been in existence for over sixteen years and describes itself as not being an official organisation. They state that their aims are to share knowledge and experience amongst recreational pilots, encourage safe and responsible trike flying and to promote trikes to new participants while always having as much fun as is possible.
Anyone who thinks that they might like to give microlight flying a try should give Mark Gentry a call on 0481 309 222.