A FORMER ITN cameraman who now lives in Bradford on Avon has been part of Wiltshire team competing in the 2018 Icarus Cup.

John Boyce, 58, has been helping to pilot the Airglow human-powered aircraft for this year’s competition from July 14-22.

He was part of a seven-strong team from Marlborough competing against American opposition in the Icarus Cup at Sywell Airfield in Northants.

The competition finished on Sunday (July 22) with the USA team Aerocycle winning the Icarus Cup and a £1,000 prize. Originally, four teams entered but two were forced to drop out.

John, of Huntingdon Street, Bradford on Avon, said: “This is a fascinating event trying to get a human- powered aircraft to take off and fly in multiple challenges for the trophy.

The cup challenges include speed, distance, shortest take-off, spot landings and a slalom that consists of zig-zagging along a straight line.

The private charter pilot and former ITN cameraman, producer and writer said: “You have to pedal the aircraft, be very fit, as well as being a pilot. You don’t get any lessons in flying these experimental aircraft.

“You have about five seconds to get a feel for the controls and the aircraft response, then fly it with minute control, compensating for wind changes, all the while pedalling at your absolute maximum power output.

“The aircraft is incredibly unpredictable and vulnerable to any changes in wind speed and direction and you have to make split-second decisions.

“You control the aircraft with a tiny electronic joystick, while making judgements and pedalling furiously to the limits of human endurance.

“The Airglow team was second overall last year and we were hoping to take the trophy this year but it wasn’t to be.

“Sadly, we again finished second, having experienced a lot of mechanical problems during the week and a really bad crash on the last day.”

Mr Boyce was part of a five-strong team of pilots, who included Reuben Arkwright from Lockeridge, Sam Morley from Calne, Ioan Hill from Swansea, and David Clark from the West Midlands.

They were supported by Roger Warren from Ludgersall, and Robin Craike from All Cannings, who are both founder Airglow team members and pilots.

Mr Boyce added: “I was asked to join the team as I have been a private pilot since 1987 and have flown microlight aircraft in the past in rallies and competitions.

“I am also a cyclist with the Woolley Wheelers who meet at The George public house in Woolley Green.

“Although I am the oldest pilot in the competition, I can still hold my own with the youngsters. The Woolley Wheelers have been very supportive during my training for the event.

“Flying for the Icarus Cup was from dawn, around 4 am to 8am, then again at 6pm if the wind didn’t pick up.”

Airglow was originally designed and built 1989 in Cambridge by John McIntyre, who lives in Ullapool in Scotland.

The aircraft includes the brakes from Mr McIntyre’s son’s old bicycle, while the rest is made from carbon fibre lightweight materials, mylar and balsa wood.

It was donated to the Royal Aeronautical Society in the 1990s and is now in the custody of Bill Brookes from the RAeS, who loaned it to the team for this year’s Icarus Cup.

Airglow weighs only 45 kilogrammes and has a massive 30-metre wingspan but the super-light materials make her very fragile.

It is this fragility that ultimately cost the Marlborough team dearly, as Airglow suffered mechanical problems following a couple of bad crash landings.

The team is now looking for new sponsors to help them make improvements to their aircraft for next year’s Icarus Cup.

Mr Boyce said: “The aircraft was originally designed and built nearly 30 years ago so she is now a vintage aircraft and she’s already led a hard life with multiple crashes and repairs.

“The team wants to focus on upgrading Airglow and making her more competitive for future events but we need sponsorship.”