Wing Threads Project Update September 2018

Introducing the Plains Wanderer!

AKA Little Bird

In our last update, we announced that Wing Threads has a plane and here she is! A brand new Airborne M4 Sport with an XRK wing and 80HP Rotax engine. I am absolutely in LOVE with my ‘little bird’ and she flies like a dream!

Assembly of the microlight at the Airborne factory in Redhead, NSW, began in August and took the best part of 6-weeks. I had been working at Airborne for 6 months and was thrilled by the opportunity to assist with the building and test flying of my own aircraft, which has been an amazing experience and has changed how I look at the aircraft during pre-flight inspections. I can’t thank the guys at Airborne Australia and everyone at Peel-Harvey Catchment Council enough for helping to make this happen! Big thanks must also go to RAAus for covering the costs of the registration and letting me pick my rego number! She is ‘Microlight 9120’ in reference to the Rotax 912 engine.

Below are some shots of me flying around Lake Macquarie on the first day after test flying. I now have over 100 hours in the microlight as pilot-in-command and am now planning to complete my fixed-wing training so that I can upgrade from a recreational pilot certificate to a license. This will allow me to obtain controlled airspace endorsements that will open up many doors for where I’ll be able to land when flying around Australia next year.

Wing Threads on the road!

Silver four-wheel drive with a box trailer and microlight wing mounted on the roof

For the past 2 months, myself and project manager, Phil Allen, have been on the road driving around Australia with the microlight in tow for a recce trip to promote Wing Threads: Flight Around Oz next year. And what an eventful trip it has already been!


We had planned to leave at the start of August and head north, travelling anti-clockwise with the microlight in tow. However, as the day drew closer it became very apparent that things were not going to go quite as planned… Before we could leave, we had to wait for the radio in the trike to arrive, which delayed the test flight. Next we discovered the trailer brakes desperately needed repair. Then as we prepared the trailer to load the microlight, the electrics for the winch fried! Winch problem solved, we loaded the trike into the trailer only to find the chocks on the floor prevented the door from closing without hitting the prop by about a centimetre. Out came the hammer and chisel. Chocks away, trike loaded and we were on our way!


Our first stop that night was Coffs Harbour before heading out the next day to go flying with Neil Schaefer from Caboolture Microlights, just north of Brisbane. Many of you already know what happened next. I broke my leg. And no, I didn’t do it in the microlight. Phew! Lucky you just dropped a trailer on your leg Milly, and didn’t hurt yourself in the trike = most common question/response I have received over the last 7 weeks!

Amellia Formby sitting on chairs at the hospital holding her leg in a blue leg cast

Only a couple of weeks after I broke my leg, it was Phil’s turn. On our way out of Darwin, Phil managed to poison himself by eating a pie he didn’t realise had peanuts in it… and we managed to capture it all on film! Check out our Recce Trip Adventure Vlogs of the trip so far below, which include updates from events in Darwin and in Broome as part of the BirdLife Congress and Campout. Phil is also okay by the way. Hooray!  The full story of how I broke my leg with an update on how I’m doing can also be found on the Wing Threads blog

Long story short here, I’m on the road to recovery and will be back in the air later this year.

We’ve had a great time presenting talks, meeting people and showing everyone the plane. Already we’ve seen so many incredible places and have had such a positive response to Wing Threads: Flight Around Oz. We’re now taking a breather in Perth while my leg recovers before we hit the road again on our way back to Lake Macquarie. 

Despite all of the unexpected happenings so far, I like how these challenges have revealed our capacity to handle stressful situations when you’re working on a schedule. We’ve discovered we work really well together as a team and as such, I feel confident going into the flight next year that we’ll be able to handle whatever unforeseen setbacks may come our way!

Little Bird on display at the BirdLife Top End branch launch, Darwin, NT.

Well, that’s it from me for the time being! Thanks so much for reading and I look forward to sharing further updates with you as we get closer to take-off! 

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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