Mike was born on 25th October
1953 in South Africa. After his school years he studied Architecture and Engineering for 4 years before going to work in the vehicle and trailer manufacturing industry.
In 1984 he started flying microlights and very soon acquired his instructor's rating. He founded 'Sky Riders Flight School' near Johannesburg, which is now the biggest and
most successful microlight club in Southern Africa.
In 1985 he managed to obtain the Rotax agency for Southern Africa which he still holds to this day.
Mike soon began flying competitively and from 1987 represented South Africa in various international competitions. He was to be the South African National Champion 5 times over.
In the early '90's Mike began working on a trike of his own design. He had realized that his school needed an aircraft that was more robust than the models they were using at the
time, and so began designing a trike on the criteria his instructing experience had brought him. Thus the Aerotrike Safari was born. Throughout the proceeding years the Aerotrike
continued to undergo development and at the same time Mike continued to log more and more exciting flying achievements.
In 1992 Mike achieved one of his long-time
dreams by winning the World Microlight Championships! (He was to win again at the 1994 World's, but a year later a successful appeal against the judges meant that he was
awarded the silver medal. It turned out that one of the judges had made a calculation error in the competition.)
The 1995 Cape to Cape Microlight Expedition
was to be one of Mike's greatest achievements. Here Mike, flying his Aerotrike Spirit 912, was joined by Olivier Aubert (in a Voyageur 912) for 5 months and 21000 km as
they flew from Cape Town, South Africa to the northernmost tip of Europe, the North Cape of Norway. This was by far one of the most impressive microlight flights ever undertaken
and several world records were broken, including Unsupported Distance Flown in a Trike-type Microlight.
Mike and Olivier received many awards for this
flight including the FAI Diamond Colibri Award, the United States Ultralight Flight of the Year Award, the French National Geographic Foreign Adventure Award and South African Aeroclub
James Guilliland Award. Some of these awards were not new to Mike, however, as he has won many awards over the years for his contributions and achievements in the
microlight world in South Africa as well as internationally. These include the South African Aeroclub James Guilliland Award, which he earned in 1988 for bettering the Microlight
World Altitude Record by 5000 feet. He reached an altitude of 25013 feet ASL in his trike!
Mike's latest (and greatest!) adventure and flying achievement was the 1999 Millennium Microlight Adventure, in which he and Olivier again teamed up, this time to fly over 43000km around the Pacific and Atlantic rims. This is the current Longest Unsupported
Distance Traveled in a Trike-type Microlight and spanned 8 months of high adventure.
Said Mike before the adventure:
"My dreams and ambitions all stem from my
powerful feeling that I must not pass through this life unnoticed. My life has to make some kind of a lasting impression on Mankind if I am to consider
it a success. I firmly believe that nothing is impossible and this is why I challenged myself to win the World's in '92. It seemed so unreachable that I knew I had to go for it. And I won. This
only made my belief stronger and I have now set myself the long-term goal of Rainbow Aircraft becoming the top trike manufacturer in the world with time.
"In '99 flyng the Millennium Adventure my plan is to put my life's motto of 'living to the maximum' into full practice. I have vowed to myself that I
must experience everything humanly possible in this life and I will do my utmost to make this happen. The Millennium Adventure will test me in all of my faculties, and hey, nothing quite beats
that feeling of rising above one's fear and surfing the wave in!"
The expedition was a success and fully tested the latest Aerotrike model, the Cobra, which
was powered by the Rotax 912 S motor for this trip.
Mike lives in Johannesburg with his wife, Charmaine, and his young daughter, Alexandra. He has two older sons, Gregory
and Stuart. He spends his time managing the affairs of his several businesses, including Rainbow Aircraft (manufacturers of the Aerotrike) and the Southern African Rotax
agency. He now has over 4000 hours of microlight flying experience logged.
Vladimir Chechin was born in White Russia on the 9th
July 1956. After completing his school education he moved to the Ukraine where he attended the Military Aviation Academy for 2 years. Here he obtained his first flying experience in the
form of fighter training and operations in the L-39 fighter jet.
After leaving the Aviation Academy for medical reasons he moved town to join his
family and future wife. Here he attended Shipbuilding University for 6 years where he obtained his engineering qualifications.
During these university years, however, he
continued to pursue his newly awakened desire to fly. He met up with a group of like-minded (crazy) young people who began designing, building and flying their
own hang gliders. They had no information in those days about what was involved in glider manufacture and so they had to rely on their own slowly growing personal
experiences for guidance. For the first two years of flying at every opportunity available Vladimir's longest flight was 10 seconds! Early days…
In 1987 Vladimir made the choice of
leaving his job as design engineer at a large shipbuilding company and began instructing new hang glider pilots at the Ukrainian Hang Glider Club. By now his flights enjoyed much more than a 10
second endurance and he was earnestly participating in hang gliding competitions that were becoming more and more regular all the time.
Microlights, the natural progression for hang
glider pilots tired of dragging their gliders up the hill every day, soon entered the minds of all the instructors at the club. Vladimir and the other instructors went on
to design, build, test and fly several trike models.
When the Soviet economy collapsed, flying professionally in competitions became the only way to keep in the air. Vladimir
acquired sponsors and went on to enter three Microlight World Championships. At the '90 World's he met Mike Blyth, but little did he know then that after their next
meeting he would decide to move to South Africa to join Mike designing and building the Aerotrike.
His country soon awarded him the level of Master of Sport, the highest level
obtainable. He continued to compete in many competitions and cross-country rallies including the famous 3500km Kiev-Toulouse Rally of 1994, which he won.
Other rallies which he participated in were the 1000km 'Gold Ring of Russia' Rally around Moscow and the 1500km Mazaric cross-country Race, which he won, flying a
trike designed and built by himself.
Vladimir was placed second at the '92 Russian Microlight Championships and in '94 was awarded the 'European Pilot of the
Year' trophy. He now has over 3000 flying hours to his name.
After further solidifying his friendship with Mike Blyth at the '94 World's he traveled to
South Africa to help Mike prepare for his Cape to Cape Expedition. When Mike set off, Vladimir returned home collect his family to permanently move to South Africa.
He now lives with his wife Natasha, and his two sons, Andrey and Alexei, in South Africa. He is chief design engineer and head of the research and development department at Rainbow Aircraft,
manufacturers of the Aerotrike.
The fruits of countless hours of Vladimir's work were seen in the form of the new Aerotrike Cobra, which Mike Blyth flew
around the Pacific and Atlantic rims in the 43000km 1999 Millennium Microlight Adventure. Vladimir was the chief designer of the Cobra, and together with Mike's
design input this machine has emerged as an aircraft that has turned more than a few heads.
Says Vladimir about the Cobra:
"When I was young my only desire was to be
the best pilot. After that I started to think that passing on my flying knowledge was more important and I began teaching other people to fly. The question then came up: 'What next?' I
then decided that flying long trips was the way to go as this involves a host of many different experiences and is a real adventure. But again the question of 'what is next?' arose, and this
time my answer was to design and create an aircraft that many other pilots in the future could fly and enjoy."
The Cobra is now well into full production
and is receiving acclaim from many quarters. It has proved to be a superb luxury cruising trike.