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The University of Southampton

Research to make microlight aviation safer wins medal for University engineers

Published: 6 April 2004

Work at the University of Southampton's School of Engineering Sciences to investigate how to improve the safety of microlight aircraft has earned Dr Simon Newman and part-time PhD student Guy Gratton a top award from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

They are trying to discover why microlights develop a condition dubbed 'the tumble' which usually end in crashes, killing the pilot. Over the last 18 years, eight British microlight pilots have died in 'tumble' accidents. The Southampton research shows rotation of the wing is a key factor; further investigation is now underway in the University's wind tunnel to look more closely at aerodynamic effects of the problem and suggest solutions.

Dr Newman said news of the award came as a complete surprise, "We already felt our research to improve safety for microlight pilots was important but we were thrilled to hear our peers had also recognised the value of our work."

Guy Gratton is Chief Technical Officer and also a Test Pilot for the British Microlight Aircraft Association and is responsible to the Civil Aviation Authority, through his Chief Executive, for the airworthiness of more than 3,000 microlights administered by the BMAA.

The Derek George Astridge Safety in Aerospace medal and shield will be presented to Dr Newman and Guy Gratton by the IMechE Aerospace Industries Divisional Board at a ceremony at UMIST, Manchester on 18 May 2004.

Notes for editors

The late Derek George Astridge was an engineer of international repute. He joined Westland Helicopters from Rolls Royce Engines in 1975, contributed much to their engine bearing technology and was instrumental in establishing a Mechanical Engineering Repair Department. The IMechE shield and medal are awarded annually for the best paper or to a person or persons who are considered to have made a useful contribution to technology relating to safety in aerospace including the widening of professional and public awareness of such technology.

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