No.4 Press Release 14/09/95
The Great Adventure
MADRID - LONDON
2 - 8 September 1995
What was it all about?
The Great Adventure involved pilots flying microlight aircraft between Villanueva Del Pardillo Airfield near Madrid in Spain and Radwell Airfield North of London UK. This entailed crossing at least three European countries and the English Channel. They could start and finish the event anytime between 12.00 GMT Saturday 2nd September 1995 and 16.00 GMT Friday 8th September 1995.
A Microlight, as far as this event was concerned, is an aircraft as defined in the UK: A microlight Aeroplane means: An Aeroplane having a maximum total weight authorised not exceeding 390 Kg, a wing loading at the maximum total weight authorised not exceeding 25 Kg / Sq M, a maximum fuel capacity not exceeding 50 Litres and which has been designed to carry not more than 2 persons.
Pilots were provided with a Fly Book containing the definitive rules and detailed advice as to how they could go about conducting such a flight but thereafter they were on their own. All they had to do was take a photo of the official clocks at the start and finish and demonstrate with reasonable proof that they had flown the whole way.
Prizes, donated by various sponsors were available.
1. Pegasus Aviation International Speed Prize... £250 Cash
2. Mercury Warm & Comfy Speed prize Flying suit(s) for the
crew of the aircraft
3. Mainair Sports Speed Prize......................... £100 Cash
Speed, 3 Axis:
1. CFM Shadow International Speed Prize........ £250 Cash
2. The Radwell International Speed Prize
3. The Radwell International Speed prize
overall: The Cyclone Hovercraft Prize A selection of goods from
Cyclone Hovercraft Ltd.
Slowest average speed
overall: The Windy Miller Award........ A kit of Lynx Avionics
In addition to the above there were two prizes on offer which lay
entirely at within the remit of a jury:
Most interesting route
overall: Crane Electronics most interesting route prize £250 cash
Overall: Sky Systems Best story prize 1 Sky Systems Flying suit
Every prizewinner in the categories above:
One year subscription to FLYER magazine (or extension to existing Sub).
Six months subscription to FLYER magazine (or extension to existing sub).
From 56 entries it is not known how many actually started. 15 aircraft finished. Many pilots were delayed of forced to abandon their flights by extremely changeable weather throughout the whole week. It was not helped by inaccurate forecasting by both UK and French meteorologists who mid week predicted very high winds and heavy rain in northern France and southern UK associated with the remains of a Hurricane. It eventually materialised in a very much weaker form 24 hours late. It did however keep many pilots on the ground. For those who timed it right however there were some remarkable performances:
There was just four minutes between the three fastest times! John Fack and Co-Pilot Andy Griffin just won the weightshift class by one minute from Graham Slater and Ron Newham in the astounding time of one day, two hours and thirty three minutes. They flew from Madrid to Abbeville in Northern France in one day! Third place was taken by Tony Baker and Nick Drinkwater. The winning average speed was a remarkable 56 Km/H which includes the night spent at Abbeville! All were flying Pegasus Quantums.
The Cyclone Hovercraft Prize for the longest route was won jointly between two aircraft who flew together, piloted by David Crane and Robert Price, Co-Pilots were Peter Callis and Barry Underwood respectively. They left Madrid in the opposite direction to everyone else and went to Portugal first! Then they flew East right across Northern Spain and Southern France to the Alps to fly over the highest mountain in Western Europe, Mont Blanc (15,780 Ft). Then, they flew to Belgium before crossing the Channel to finish at Radwell. Altogether a flight of 2850 Km in under five days. This remarkable flight in a Pegasus Quantum and a Pegasus Quasar also won one of the two discretionary prizes; The Crane Electronics Most Interesting Route prize.
All the aircraft above, as with most others, were flown from UK to Madrid before the start. Most participants were flying without any kind of ground support.
Peter Mercer and David Bremner won the three Axis class followed by Zoltan Szabados and Josef Prinz who had come all the way from Hungary to participate.
The Windy Miller award (slowest average speed prize) was won by John Hunt and Peter Sutton at 14.7 Km/H. They described their journey as the Great Mis-adventure, having had to cope with an incurable mis-fire and rebuilding their engine at least three times along the way. They also won the Sky Systems Best Story prize though perhaps in this case it might have been better called the perseverance prize. On their last leg from Headcorn in Kent to Radwell they saw a ground speed of 122 mph showing on their GPS at an airspeed of around 70 mph!
Jenny Concannon, accompanied by co-pilot Dave Buchanan received a special award for merit despite not completing the course as they rolled their machine after an engine failure in France. Jenny raised over £1000 for the charity SCOPE.
Almost everybody had some extraordinary tale. Colin Bodill and Stuart Mills elected to land at the nearest airfield when a fuel problem and approaching darkness prevented them from reaching their planned destination. They only realised it was military when they narrowly escaped being caught in a whole series of arrester wires and catch fences upon landing on the strip. Lots of men with guns appeared and it turned out to be the most secret air base in all France!
The organiser, Richard Meredith-Hardy, caught some extreme turbulence on takeoff and flew his aircraft into a forest near Navaleno in Northern Spain, totally destroying his machine but otherwise escaping with a sore foot.
Simon Lichtenstein and Harry Cook having flown over Mont St Michel landed in Avranches and by chance stayed in a Hotel in which the legendary pilot Antoine St Exupery had stayed precicely 60 years before.
On the way out to Madrid, Mark Jackson landed at Henlow, only 3 miles from Radwell, where his wing blew over. Two days of repairs eventually fixed it and he successfully flew to Madrid and back again. In France he sustained such bad propeller damage he had to saw four inches off the opposite blade to re balance it.
Trevor Jones, co-piloted by Guy Nixon, completed the flight from Madrid to Radwell albeit arriving a day late. An outstanding achievement for a man of his disability, Trevor is tetraplegic.
Tony Wells's support car broke down near Biarritz. The local garage offered to tow it home for £2000, rather a lot, so a trailer was sent from UK. In a stitch up between the garage and the local police the tow car was declared too small when it eventually arrived and they had to return to UK for another. In the meantime the broken support car was dismantled by French Customs....
Ben Ashman and Paul Dewhurst as UK Pilots in a French machine in Spain somehow got themselves into an incredible bureaucratic muddle with some Spanish Police entailing eventual rescue by ground from Madrid. Poor weather and time eventually pursuaded them to return to base in France rather than continue to Radwell.
Ultimately everyone got home, there were no injuries, and everybody said they really did have a Great Adventure. Who said microlights can't go places?