Microlights derive naturally from hang gliders. In the mid-1970s, certain hang gliding and paragliding enthusiasts found themselves forced to travel hundreds of kilometres to find sites they could conveniently take off from.
At the same time, the oil crisis forced certain pilots of conventional aeroplanes to find a solution in the form of a “minimalist” aircraft, economical in terms of both construction and use. And so this was the era that saw the first trials of motorised hang gliders, powered by modified two-stroke engines of about 10 hp, most of them originally from chainsaws.
The first such aircraft were marketed in the early 1970s, with France ahead of the field. Although these first motorised microlights did not fly very fast (50 km/h at most), they did have the advantage of being real aircraft that could be bought at the most affordable prices.
The first microlights were of the weight-shift type (equipped with trikes comprising the seat and the engine) and were intended for pilots used to hang gliding, as the piloting techniques were similar. A few years later, the first so-called three-axis microlights arrived from North America, resembling aeroplanes in their shape and in the piloting methods required.
Finally came the paramotor, a real pocket-sized microlight equipped with a small engine and a propeller, offering flexibility of use that has yet to be equalled.
1985 saw the first FAI world championships in Millau, France.