News: 29 Apr 2010, Lake Trasimene





Eyjafjallajokull scuppered the first attempt, but after a couple of weeks delay I made it to Italy accompanied by Andy Annable from Cam-Ara, to fly the Am-FIB on Lake Trasimene and test several different HD cameras Andy has been experimenting with.

Fresh from the usual Ryanair hospitality we were collected from Perugia airport by Aimaro Malingri, the boss of Polaris. It was pleasantly warm, a nice change from the seemingly ever-lasting freeze in England. He took us to Castiglione Del Lago, a pretty little walled town and castle situated on a promontory overlooking the lake with an excellent grass airstrip nearby. It had recently hosted the "Meeting di Primavera" which is attempting to become a replacement for the famous Bassano show which was once the biggest get-together of microlighters, hang gliders and Paragliders in the European calendar but is now a shadow of its former self. All the marquees and stuff were still there for a kite festival the next weekend.

We rigged the machine; pretty straightforward stuff except for the batten colours (white = left, blue = right) and getting the wing on the trike which needs a special technique because the boat is quite high when it's parked on its wheels. He explained how to work all the extra controls unique to this machine, undercarriage up, down and lock, rudder up and down and the drain hole, open and close. I couldn't see any logic to it at all - it's not like you pull this one to put the wheels up, and that one to put the wheels down, instead some ropes you pull, some you release, and there's no placards, but I dare say I'll get the hang of it.

Aimaro did a short solo test flight and then I got in as P2. I was advised not to wear my seat belt. Luckily the seats are quite deep, and with the boat around you, you don't feel exposed at all. We took off and as we headed out over the lake he pulled some strings and the wheels came up, and then another one to put the rudder down. It was quite windy with waves maybe 50cm high but it landed fine, albeit with a bit of banging as we leapt from wave top to wave top before settling into the water. He then jammed on full throttle; before we got flying speed you could feel it accelerating each time a wave tossed us into the air before it came down again, but it seemed to take off quite quickly.

We landed again, this time we came to a stop and Aimaro told me to lean over to one side, got out of his seat and said it was time for me to have a go. I slid down into the front seat and Aimaro climbed into the back.

I'll tell you later what happened next, but in case you're wondering, we didn't go swimming...

Micro Avionics - Suppliers of pilot intercom and radio equipment to the expedition
Joint Aviation Services, suppliers of insurances to the expedition
Cam-ARA - Suppliers of video equipment to the expedition
Polaris - manufacturer of the FIB
Articole Studios - GRP mouldings
SKYDRIVE, the UK Distributor of ROTAX engines