AMRC engineer spreads his wings to invest in the future of the UK’s sole hang glider manufacturer

12 April 2017

AMRC Composite Centre Technical Lead, Dr Tim Swait is taking on a new venture. Alongside his role at the AMRC, Tim is to take over Avian, the only UK manufacturer of hang gliders, a small business based in the Sheffield region.

Avian has been building the finest engineered hang gliders in the world for nearly 30 years and the owner and founder is passing on the baton to Tim.

Dr Tim Swait said: “Hang gliding is the closest a human being can get to the freedom that a bird feels, soaring the rising air currents across the sky. It’s something I’m passionate about and the photo gives some idea of the feeling you get. This was the first time I climbed over 10,000ft, just using the rising air generated by the sun warming the ground. I want to share this passion with as many people as possible.

Tim is an engineer by training and a pilot by passion. He has a First Class Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering, a PhD in Composites Materials, and a Chartership from the Royal Aeronautical Society.

His role as a Technical Lead for the AMRC Composites Centre sees him work on projects for companies such as Boeing and Rolls Royce to help them manufacture products from carbon fibre more efficiently. He’s therefore more than equipped with the skills and experience in engineering that is required to build gliders to the highest standards.

“I’ve always had a passion for flight but I started hang gliding in 2013. Since then I’ve clocked up a few hundred hours at sites across the UK and Europe. I’ve recently started flying in competitions and won the “Sport Class” in the UK Nationals last year. I’ve had too many memorable experiences to list, but some of the highlights have been circling wing tip to wing tip with griffon vultures in Spain, thermalling to above 10,000ft in France and a magical flight in “Wave” lift right here in the Peak District in January.”

Tim’s first glider was an Avian, which took him through school, cross country flights and into his first competitions. Tim first worked with Avian while at the AMRC, supervising a student design project set by the company. The AMRC frequently works with small businesses both in the Sheffield region and more widely.

Avian is a vital part of the hang gliding community, not only manufacturing exquisitely engineered gliders but also repairing, maintaining and servicing all makes and models of gliders to keep pilots safe in the air. It is the only UK based manufacturer and provides factory support, servicing and repair for any make and model of glider.

Tim looks forward to applying the skills and expertise which the AMRC applies to large scale aerospace to further improve the gliders.

“Technically, there are plenty of methods that are currently applied in the civil and military sectors that could be applied to manufacture hang gliders more efficiently. Also, I’ve learnt a lot at the AMRC about managing large complex projects which I think will be very applicable to managing a business. Generally I like to apply my knowledge to solving interesting and difficult problems, and designing any sort of aircraft is certainly that. I think the first flight on a glider I’ve built, when I test fly it, will be pretty special.”

Tim has set up a Crowd Funding page to help him take over the business.

“The money raised through this campaign will allow me to take over the business with working capital to invest in constantly improving the already great products and presenting them to as many people as possible. The support I get from the community will mean that I don’t need to rely so much on the vagaries of banks and private lenders.”

In return for pledges, offers are available to receive money-off vouchers when buying an Avian hang glider.

“I want Avian to be an integral part of the UK and world-wide hang gliding community, so I’m giving all pilots (and those “not-yet” pilots) an opportunity to invest in the future of Avian,” added Tim.

Tim’s Crowd Funding page can be found here.

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