Wing Threads Project Update September 2017

Amellia Airborne

Much has happened since the last update on Wing Threads: Flight to the Tundra back in August. Last month I obtained my passenger endorsement (yay!) and am now busy studying and training with Gordon for my cross-country endorsement, which I aim to complete by the end of November. Blah, blah, blah, Milly, whatevs! There is much more exciting news than that!
Last month I was lucky enough to spend an exciting couple of weeks working in NSW’s beautiful Lake Macquarie at the AirBorne microlight factory. AirBorne was started in a three-car garage in the 80’s by the Duncan brothers – Shane, Ricky and Russell – later joined by hang glider pilots Rob Hibberd and Paul Mollison. Since then, AirBorne has grown to become a world leader in the design of microlight aircraft. The factory is based in Redhead, just south of Newcastle and their flight training school at the newly established Lake Macquarie Airport (YLMQ) where they test fly newly built aircraft.
Amellia Formby standing in front of the Airborne hangar at Lake Macquarie Airport
Me outside the Airborne hangar at Lake Macquarie Airport (YLMQ), NSW.
During my stay, I got to fly the new AirBorne M3 Sport beastie with an MR-K wing over the beautiful Lake Macquarie coastline, seeing humpback whales and soaring above sea eagles and swamp harriers. In the back seat helping me out was Russell’s son, Rory Duncan, who had just returned from Brazil having competed as part of the Australian team in the World Hang Gliding Championships. Rory was an excellent instructor with an unshakeable nerve who was kind – or perhaps brave – enough to take me up in very turbulent conditions at all times of the day so that I could build up my skills. 
From day one Rory had me working hard – it was a little bit like a ‘baptism by turbulence’. Some days I could barely lift my arms after we landed they were so tired from the physicality of controlling the aircraft, but I loved every minute! Within just two-weeks, I experienced flying over water and hilly terrain, in sea breezes, convergent winds and landing in strong crosswinds with rotor coming off the trees lining the Lake Macquarie runway. 

Easily the most memorable though was my last day with Rory doing ‘touch and go’s’ (circuits) during the middle of the day on a grass ‘airstrip’ at Hexham, that was little more than a mown area in a paddock covered in cow poo. Thankfully there were no cows on the runway that day but there were many small, punchy thermals going off to keep us awake – some of them up to 1000ft/min! Most satisfyingly, at the end of the two weeks, I was nailing my landings in these challenging conditions and my confidence levels improved immensely. 

Landing in turbulence on Runway 07 at Lake Macquarie Airport with Rory Duncan in the back seat.

At the factory, I helped with both the assembly of the trike bases and wings (which felt a lot like playing with Lego or Meccano all day) and was also able to test fly one of the wings with Rory that I helped assemble. This experience certainly gave me a new appreciation for how the aircraft is put together and ensuring everything has been checked and rechecked before taking it up in the air! 

Assembling trike bases at Airborne
Assembling trike bases in the Airborne fectory.
Amellia Formby setting up wing in Airborne factory
Inserting battens into the sail of a microlight wing.
Being able to work with pioneers in the field of recreational aviation like the Duncans was such a privilege. I am therefore very excited to share with you that I will be returning to AirBorne in January to work part-time until mid-next year! This will allow me to learn all the ins and outs of the aircraft and be able to continue flying on a much more regular basis. 

A big thanks to Shane, Ricky, Russell, Mollo and Rob for generously offering me this opportunity. Special thanks must also go to Russell for helping to organise working at the factory, to Phil for lending me his caravan as my home-away-from-home at the airport for two-weeks and to Rory for sharing his mad flying skills!
Thanks must also go to all of you who kindly donated during the crowdfunding campaign as I am also about to put a deposit on an AirBorne XT 912 microlight, which will bring me one step closer to having an aircraft of my very own! *cue girly squealing* 
Milly Formby
Milly Formby is a zoologist, pilot, and illustrator of the children’s book, A Shorebird Flying Adventure She is currently flying her microlight around Australia in 2022/23 to share,A Shorebird Flying Adventure with primary students.
Image credits:
Book cover for A Shorebird Flying Adventure

A Shorebird Flying Adventure

Available Now

Join Milly on her microlight and discover how amazing and awesome migratory shorebirds are!

Milly Formby is a zoologist and illustrator of the children’s book A Shorebird Flying Adventure. Available now through CSIRO Publishing.

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