Podcast – Pharmacists after Hours Ep.1: Why I took up microlighting
In the first episode of a new podcast series, which explores the interesting hobbies pharmacists get up to in their spare time, Birmingham pharmacist Jennifer Smith talks about her high-flying passion for microlighting.
Microlights are small personal aircraft, which usually hold one or two people. Despite being motorised, their wings are usually operated by the pilot manually, often taking the form of a glider that is bolted onto the aircraft.
Speaking from the airfield she usually flies from, Ms Smith tells C+D they look like “the unholy marriage between a hand glider and a pushchair”.
“It feels like you’re floating,” she says. “It’s exhilarating – particularly landings and take offs.
“But also [at] this time of year, you get the sunny summer’s evenings when all the thermic activity has gone out of the air and it’s all flat and smooth; the air is like silk, everything is tinted gold and it’s just amazing.”
Ms Smith’s enthusiasm for the pastime actually arose from a fear of heights. “I wanted a 45-minute microlighting experience for my birthday. The idea was that I would go to the airfield, have my 45 minutes, say ‘thank you’ and never, ever look at a microlight again,” she says. “It kind of didn’t work out that way.
“It’s one of those [things] where you just think: ‘It’s terrifying but I can’t not do this again’.
“I’m still afraid of heights. COVID has been bad for me because we’ve been grounded a lot, and every time I’m grounded for a period, the fear of being up there in something that’s basically a shopping cart comes back, and I have to get used to it all over again.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms Smith says, as a leisure industry microlighters and microlighting instructors were grounded as trips were deemed non-essential. But microlighters have slowly been allowed to return to the airfield as restrictions have eased.
And there is a strong social side to the activity. Just before speaking to C+D, Ms Smith had attended a fly-in curry night at a local airfield. Though the hobby is “heavily male-dominated”, Ms Smith notes, “I don’t think I’ve met a pilot yet who hasn’t been really friendly and ready to discuss aviation”.
For those interested in trying out microlighting, Ms Smith’s message is clear: “Do it – definitely do it. Because it’s not like we kidnap people and tie them down; if you don’t like it, then you are allowed to leave. But if you do like it, then just think of what you’ve been missing if you don’t try it.”
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