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How to do records
Could you fly around a 100 Km triangle at an average speed of 132 Km/h in a solo trike, or 78 Km/h in a paramotor? If you can then you could claim not just a UK record but a World record.
From time to time pilots ring me to say they have just done a World record and how do they claim it? After a few simple questions it quickly becomes clear that they may indeed have done something of significance but they have no chance of making a successful record claim. Why? Very simple: Because they haven't read the rules. 'What about a National record then?' They ask. 'It doesn't matter', is the reply, 'the rules are the same, for the simple reason that before a claim for a World record can be made it must have already been accepted as a National record, and if the rules were more lenient for National records then the situation could arise where a valid World claim might subsequently be denied for the simple reason that the performance did not exceed the current National record'....
Read the rules!
So, before you do anything, get a copy of the rules. The rules are set by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the world governing body for all things aeronautical. The rules for microlights, powered parachutes, paramotors and powered hang gliders are all embodied in the "FAI Sporting code for Microlights and Paramotors" which is a combination of FAI Section 10 www.fai.org/cima-documents (sporting code section) and the General section (sporting code section). Both documents are usually updated every year and come into force on 1 January so make sure you have the current edition.
There is vital information about record attempts in both of these documents. Chapter 6 of the General section (3 pages) tells you about deadlines and how records should be administered. For the operational requirements you should mostly be interested in Section 10, Chapters 1 (Definitions), 3 (Records), 5 (control & measurement), Annex 1, (proof of definition) and Annex 6 (GNSS Flight recorders). The official claim forms and the Official Observers Guide are also very helpful when it comes to working out exactly how to keep within the rules.
Before you make any record attempt you need to be sure what you are trying to beat. Check out the existing UK records on this site, the existing World records and any World record claims pending ratification on the FAI site. It would be daft indeed to go to all the trouble of attempting a record only to find that someone has already done better, or worse, that the record doesn't even exist.
Many people think of records as the "speed over a recognised course", things like "Land's end to John O'Groats" or "London to Sydney", but these don't exist for Microlights and Paramotors. The FAI's microlight and paramotor commission (CIMA) has considered introducing a "Round the World" record but has not found any reasonable way that such a record could be proved (mainly because technically the machine would have to be weighed before each takeoff just to be sure it was actually a microlight or paramotor). Nevertheless, it is possible to claim Round the World records, and some others too, in FAI Class C which has a different set of rules. These are administered in UK by the Records Racing & Rally Association (aka 'the 3 Rs'; their charges are reputedly rather steep.)
The FAI records that are available for microlights and paramotors fall into three basic groups, Speed, Distance and Height. All records are open to all types of microlights and paramotors, including electrically powered ones, which means there are more than 200 different World records available, many of which have never been claimed either in the UK or at a World level. Check out Section 10, Chapter 3 or the FAI website for the details.
Records such as "The greatest combined age of pilot and passenger", "the greatest number of landings in an hour" or anything "in an open cockpit" do not exist in any official FAI form though they are sometimes kept by Guinness or may get a mention as a Remarkable feat.
Before you make your record attempt there are certain things you must do:
- Get a FAI Sporting Licence for microlights and paramotors. This is not a pilot qualification, but essentially an authorization by your National Aero Club (NAC) that you can represent UK in FAI international microlight or paramotor championships and record attempts. By signing it you acknowledge you know and understand FAI rules and agree to abide by them. The co-pilot must have a FAI licence too. It is important that your FAI licence is valid for microlights and paramotors, and as from 1 Jan 2009 these are all be registered on a central FAI database and are checked by FAI to see that it is valid for the sport concerned during the World record validation process; a claim for a paramotor record with a licence only valid for paragliders will fail. BMAA issues and renews FAI licences for current members on behalf of the Royal Aero Club (RAeC) which is the UK's NAC. FAI licences should be sent to
for renewal or send him a completed application form for a new issue. Pilots with FAI sporting licences issued by other RAeC affiliated sporting organizations (eg BHPA) should also include proof of current membership of that organization. In all cases a minimum £10 donation must be made to the BMAA's competition fund in the online shop.
- Get your observer(s) organised. Any record claim must have been overseen by at least one BMAA accredited observer and in some situations practicalities might dictate two. All microlight instructors who are BMAA members are automatically observers, but anyone else can be one too; see the list of accredited observers or if none near you are able to help, you can recruit your own. Virtually anyone who is reasonably sensible and a bona-fide third party (so not your Wife) can be accredited as a BMAA observer. It is preferred that they are BMAA members, but non-members can be accredited in a temporary capacity for one year. In any case, you might find it sensible to recommend people who are familiar with microlights or paramotors and their operation or they might not observe what you were hoping they would! Observer accreditation is FREE. Observers should have a current copy of the Official Observers Guide which outlines their duties and responsibilities and contains much useful advice. The guide is also a useful reference for prospective record breaking pilots.
- Assemble the right equipment. Oxygen, transponder, flight recorder Etc. All record attempts are done with a GPS based flight recorder (FR) on board. Annex 6 to FAI Section 10 describes FR requirements in detail but essentially many ordinary GPS devices are capable of providing sufficient evidence for some distance and speed record claims but by far the best ones are those approved by the International Gliding Commission (IGC) for Gliding World records which will provide almost bullet-proof evidence for any kind of microlight or paramotor record claim. For a list of IGC approved FRs see www.fai.org/igc-documents (GNSS recording devices section). These FR's and other specialist equipment are available for hire in UK.
You are also strongly advised to discuss your proposed plans with the BMAA Chief Observer before you make your record attempt.
Attempting a record abroad
World records have to be National records before they are accepted as a valid World claim. UK FAI licence holders can only claim a UK national microlight or paramotor record, but it can be done abroad. In this case FAI rules establish the concept of an 'Organizing NAC' which is BMAA on behalf of RAeC, and a 'Controlling NAC' which is the the one in the country where the record will be attempted and who is responsible for observing it.
You should always get in touch with the 'Controlling NAC' in good time before you plan your record attempt as some NAC's like to authorize record attempts, but in terms of the way it is controlled you have two options: Either you get one of their approved observers to observe the attempt, or you use a UK accredited observer who has been approved in advance by the controlling NAC to do the job. Either way, all the evidence must get back to the BMAA Chief Observer so the claim can be established as a UK record and, if applicable, thereafter submitted as a World record claim. Not every country in the World has a FAI member NAC in which case the Controlling NAC defaults to the Organizing NAC.
If you attempt a record during an international flight then the controlling NAC can be the one where you either take off or land, but in any case the NAC's of the other countries to be overflown should be informed of the attempt in advance.
If you are planning this sort of thing you are strongly advised to seek advice in advance from the BMAA Chief Observer because it can be a bit of a minefield.
How to claim a record.
So you've got your FAI sporting license, assembled your equipment and your observers are raring to go. All you need now is the weather and you can attempt your record. As there are so many unclaimed records the flight itself might be simple but your claim will fail unless you have put some thought into preparing the paperwork. The key thing to remember is:
To succeed; your claim must be utterly and 100% convincing in every detail to someone you don't know, and who doesn't know you, whose job is to be highly sceptical, and indeed, in the case of a World record claim, is probably a foreigner.
This means your claim must answer every question that might be asked in great detail, from the simplest like:
"Was the aircraft a microlight or paramotor of the declared class - according to the FAI definition - at all times during the record attempt?" (answer, yes, because our claim includes observer endorsed evidence of the aircraft gross mass and photographs of the machine both before and after the attempt and a "minimum speed declaration".)
To more complex record - specific questions like:
"Was the distance flown measured as the the geodesic between each point based on the WGS84 ellipsoidal World model?" (Answer: yes, because we did not measure our claimed distance flown on a map, but include evidence proving the distance according to the FAI approved mathematical formula.)
"How do we know this barograph record is accurate?" (Answer, because the official observer noted the barograph serial number on the trace, dated, timed and countersigned it, and our evidence includes a valid calibration certificate and an observer's note that it was properly sealed before the attempt and was still sealed after the attempt.)
.... And so on. In fact anybody who has successfully made a record claim will tell you that it is the paperwork, not the flying which is the difficult bit, so if in doubt, get your observer to record it - too much information will never do any harm. Time is not on your side either: If you intend to claim a World record, a preliminary notification must be received by FAI Secretariat in Switzerland within 7 days of the attempt. Thereafter the record must be accepted as a National record and the full dossier received by FAI within 120 days.
Making it easier
A big effort has been made to clarify and simplify the rules for microlight and paramotor records and this is an ongoing work. Nevertheless, they are quite complicated and you need to study them very carefully or you risk missing some vital detail out of a claim. To help you, all claims must be made on the official claim forms which are designed to take the observer sequentially through all the requirements for each particular type of record to help ensure nothing vital is forgotten in the heat of the moment. Later, the observer should collate them together with the Flight Recorder trace, maps, photos and other evidence and submitted to the BMAA Chief Observer as the full claim.
Within reasonable limits, administration and assistance by BMAA in establishing UK National records for BMAA members is free. For non-members the charge is £50 per claim, regardless of eventual outcome. (Almost the same cost as the annual membership fee, and you get a nice magazine too.)
FAI charges CHF 200 per World record claim regardless of whether the claim is eventually ratified or not. The bill is sent to the RAeC who forward it to BMAA and it is the claimants responsibility to repay BMAA.
Article originally written in 1999 for the British Microlight Aircraft Association's magazine Microlight Flying By Richard Meredith-Hardy. Updated 25 Nov 2018.