Flexwing or weight-shift, microlights ("trikes") have been around for some time, but these seem to have captured the adventure/sport niche, rather than lure leisure pilots and their families away from the ubiquitous products of Messrs Piper, Cessna, etc.

   What the battered pockets of (non-Lottery winning) flyers need is something into which the can strap their favourite companion, and shoot off for the "$100 hamburger" - what they need is a "Cub for the 21st Century", and the new SA-designed and built "Cheetah" may well be it.
   In the air with basic price tag of R175k inc. Vat, and direct operating costs of under R70 per hour, this machine be worth a look for us more financial mortals.
   The Cheetah's designers and builders are Rainbow Aircraft (Pty) Ltd of Springs, well known to many readers as manufacturers of the "Aerotrike" range of trikes. Rainbow is run by Mike Blyth and his Ukrainian partner Vladimir Chechin, a hang-glider & microlight pilot since 1978. (Mike & Vladimir met at the Hungarian Microlight Championships in 1990, where Vladimir arrived with his aircraft in a bag!)
   Mike was the founder of "SkyRiders" microlight flight-school at Bapsfontein and formed Rainbow Aircraft in 1995, where today they turn out six aircraft a month, 60% of which are for export. The Cheetah has been in design & development since July 2000, and first flew September 2001 with Vladimir at the controls. Although loosely inspired by the French-designed SkyRanger, this is a local design from the ground up (although it must be said there would seem to be a number of similar machines in production around the world). The great plus of local manufacture of course becomes evident when the Rand heads south, and all those dollar-based prices start another inexorable climb towards the stratosphere.
  For my test-flight in ZU-CMT we chose a blustery breakfast fly-in at Klipriver Airfield's 3rd Air School. With winds touching 25 knots, I knew that I would at least have something worthwhile to say about the machine's ability in gusty conditions!

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