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With the growth of the microlight movement (and the subsequent ‘Light Sport Aircraft’ classification by the FAA and other bodies) bringing flying ever closer to those on moderate income, there was an explosion of new light aircraft designs in the 1980s. One of the most unusual was the single-seat MBA Tiger Cub 440, designed by Micro Biplane Aviation of Worksop, and marketed in kit form in the UK. Here we see the prototype Tiger Cub 440, G-MBUE, c/n 001,  (first placed on the British Register in April, 1982) suspended from the roof beams of a hangar at Newark Air Museum, Nottinghamshire.

Amongst the unusual features of the aircraft is the alloy-tube structure, joined at 90 degrees by metal fixtures; even the wing struts are constructed the same way. The power is provided by an inverted Fuji Robin EC44PM, a 2-cylinder, 2-stroke engine producing 50 hp. Three toothed V-belts run from the crankshaft pulley at the front of the engine to a larger drum, which is connected to the 2-bladed propeller at the end of a short, longitudinal shaft (turning at a reduction ratio of 2.4:1 in the prototype, 2.6:1 in other aircraft). The Tiger Cub was unusual for a microlight, in that it was a biplane (most aircraft in this category couldn’t afford the weight penalty associated with a biplane) and also that the wings could be folded back against the fuselage, making it easy to tow on a trailer. There is a photograph of G-MBUE on a trailer at the Biggin Hill Air Fair in May 1983, with the legend ‘Micro Biplane Aviation’ painted on the fuselage sides.

The EC44PM engine was used in other microlights, such as the Lightning DS/Tri-Flyer 440,  and Gemini Sprint 440 (both by Mainair Sports Ltd) and the Panther XL-S by Solar Wings Ltd, also, amazingly, by Polaris snowmobiles and the Turbo Wedge 235 hovercraft! Most of the early microlight companies mentioned have now ceased trading, including MBA, as the first-generation microlights were marginal performers and there was, in general, little after-sales support.

Several MBA Tiger Cub 440 microlights were preserved. G-MMIX was collected by the Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum, Heathall, Dumfries, Scotland, and G-MJSU is on display at the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum, Flixton, Suffolk. Newark’s G-MBUE is unfortunately incomplete; it is minus the panels which would normally surround the ‘cockpit’ and partially cover the engine. Not only that, if you look closely the undercarriage wheels are NOT those with which it was fitted at Biggin Hill, but instead bear a suspicious likeness to those found on a garden wheelbarrow!

Despite this, the MBA Tiger Cub 440 is an important exhibit, since it was one of the earlier microlights, and fits nicely into Newark Air Museum’s acquisitions policy, as it was locally built in Nottinghamshire.

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