While visiting the U.K. in early August of this year, I was able to have a flight in a Mignet HM1000 Balerit, an unusual and highly successful French ultralight which we have yet to see in this country. The Balerit (pronounced as in Valerie) is imported into the U.K. by Fleaplances Ltd wich operates out of Rush Green airfield near Hitchin in Hertfordshire. The HM 1000 Balerit is a descendant of Henri Mignet's famous ''Pou du Ciel'' of the middle 1930's, better know as the Flying Flea, and is produced in ready - to - fly for by Avions Mignet of Saujon in south-west France. About 150 machines have been built since the start of production in 1984. It was designed by Henry Mignet's son Pierre and conforms to the Mignet formula of close -coupled tandem wings with two - axis control and no ailerons. Though its appearance is rather odd and reminds one of the saying that ''in France they do things differently'', close examination reveals it to be a thoroughly rugget, practical and well thought out design.
The wings are of conventional light aircraft construction, with spars and ribs pressed or folded from light alloy sheet. The wing leading edges are sheet metal covered to form a D-box, with fabric covering aft of the front spar. Both wings are made in three sections, and the outer panels can be folded like the flaps of the cardboard box once locking pins have been removed. Each folding panel is locked down by one pin which passes through fittings attached to the mainspar. Rigging the de-rigging is thus very quick and simple, able to be done by one person in a matter of minutes. The span of the front wing is 7.3 metres, that of the rear wing 5.5 metres and the width with wings folded 2.5 metres, which means that the aircraft takes up about the same amount of storage space as a 4 wheel drive station wagon.The fuselage is composes of 2 welded aluminium tube space frames, bolted together at three points and the rudder is a glass/carbon, fibre/epoxy composite structure. The engine is a Rotax 582 of 64 hp which drives a 4 blades fixed pitch pusher propeller at a 3.5:1 reduction via 2 duplex v-belts and a cush-drive. The propeller rotates just in front of the rear wing. The tricycle undercarriage has a steerable nosewheel and main wheels mounted in rubber -sprung trailing arms, with brakes operated by a car - type hand lever between the seats. The ruber springing is very efficient, a fact that was brought home to me quite vividly as we taxied down Rush Green's bumpy strip.The seats are side by side, with a streamlined nose fairing and large windscreen which gives excellent visibility, similar to that of a helicopter. For those who don't like draughts, the HM1000 is also available with a fully enclosed cockpit. The open cockpit model has a dry empty weight of 195kg, a maximum all-up weight of 390 kgs and a still air range of 90 miles at maximum AUW and maximum cruising speed of 72 mph. This is with the standard 20 litre fuel tank, however a 40 litre tank can be fitted.
This aircraft conforms to the British BCAR section S regulations, so getting it certified here should be fairly straightforward. It was originally designed to conform to the French Ultralight Regulations, and Fleaplanes Ltd had to undertake a long and expensive programme of flight testing and design evaluations in order to gain approval under the completely different British regulations.
The control system consists of a central colums with 2 handwheels and a throttle lever located between them. There are no rudder pedals, a fact which, combined with easy cockpit access, makes the HM1000 very suitable for the disable. Fore and aft movement of the column tilts the front wing about its spanwise axis to provide pitch control, and turning of the handwheel operates the all-moving rudder. Roll control is also applied by use of the rudder and, due to the peculiarities of the Mignet wing arrangement, this, ''induced roll'' effect is very powerful, being 4 or 5 times greater than that of a conventional aircraft and more than adequate for any flight situation. I have a promotional video produced by Avions Mignet which shows an HM1000 doing barrel roll! Operation in crosswinds of up to 10 knots is no problem so long as the correct technique is used and the machine can be trimmed to fly hands-off by means of an adjustable bungey cord which pulls the control column forward.
The HM1000 is a very simple and safe machine to fly because the absence of rudder pedals means that hand and foot coordination is not required. To make a turn you just rotate the handwheel, the machine banks automatically and around you go, any sideslipping being only momentary, and the level up the wings just apply some rudder in the opposite direction. The HM1000 has tandem wings and, because of this, cannot stall completely and therefore will not spin no matter what you do. Pulling the wheel hard back results in the machine entering a mushing, parachute -like descent without loss of control. During my half-hour flight I was able to get the hang of things very quickly despite my having no previous piloting experience apart from a brief try of the controls during a joy-ride in a Cessna many years ago.Dave Simpson demonstrated the HM1000's inability to spin by pulling the wheel hard back and applying rudder sharply in both directions- this is one reason why the HM1000 is able to turn very tightly. At a lated stage in my trip I met up with two HM1000 owners, Richard Hollamby and Mervyn Whapham of Burwash in East Sussex, oth of whom were very full in their praise of the aircraft. Mervyn in particular was emphatic in his view that the HM1000 is the most suitable machine for a pilot of limited experience and he felt that, all other things being equal, a novice would be able to gain proficiency with i more quickly than with any other type. The major downside to the HM1000 would seem to be its price, which is currently 19,800 GB pounds before tax and places it near the top of the range, a consequence of the expensive tooling required for its production.