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What type?

The majority of microlights come in two very different types, Weightshift and 3-Axis. The main difference between them being the controls. A 3-Axis machine is controlled in the conventional manner, the same as a light aircraft.

A weightshift machine uses the weight of the aircraft to manouvere and is a bit more of a 'hands-on' activity for the pilot. Some would say less pedestrian than a 3-Axis machine.

Detailed below are the main differences outlined between Weightshift and 3-Axis. If you are unsure what type is for you, have a 30-minute lesson in both and see what you enjoy most.

Whatever type you learn to fly, the pilot’s license is valid on both Weightshift and 3-Axis with a short conversion course only needed to switch between types.


Weightshift, also known as a Trike or Flex-wing aircraft, have a wing based on a hang-glider design. Suspended underneath is the tricycle undercarriage, seats, engine and cockpit. An A-Frame control bar is suspended under the wing and is connected to it with wires and a hang-bracket. The pilot uses the control bar to pivot the wing around this hang-bracket.

All weightshift aircraft are open cockpit with the pilot relying on the ‘feel’ of the aircraft much more than on a 3-Axis aircraft.

weightshift microlight

Generally, weightshift machines are cheaper than their 3-Axis counterparts with second hand machines starting at around £2000. The top end of the price scale for a new weightshift is about £24,000.

Machines can be de-rigged and easily transported with the use of a trailer and can be flown from small fields safely. Once regarded as low-performance machines, some weightshift aircraft now have performance characteristics similar to light aircraft!



With a fixed wing, ailerons and rudder, this type of microlight is much more like a conventional aircraft and is controlled in the same manner. Unlike weightshift, 3-Axis machines have control over all 3 axes of movement.

3-Axis Microlight

Some are open cockpit like the weightshift; increasingly this is the exception rather than the rule with most having a closed cockpit.

Prices start at around £5000 for a second-hand machine with some new machines coming in at around £40,000!

Generally speaking, performance is better than the weightshift with cruise speeds approaching 100mph not uncommon. Short field performance is still excellent with most models. The majority of machines however, cannot be de-rigged easily, so hangarage is a must-have.

Many pilots who have learnt on light aircraft for pleasure are finding 3-Axis microlights very attractive. Low maintenance and fuel costs make a microlight an obvious choice for pilots who regularly hire a light aircraft for £120 a flying hour.

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