How was my training?
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far the most complete and recognized authority on Powered Paragliding"
- Phil Russman
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Powered Sport Flying
Copyright © 2009
Powered Paragliding is awesome, of
course, but options are good, too.
1980 - 2007 Models 737-200, 300, 500, 700
I definitely don't own one of
these but, since they pay for the others, it only seemed fair to include
The baby Boeing is surprisingly a lot of fun to fly, especially when
it's lightly loaded. More nimble than you'd expect, its roll control is crisp
and, although artificial, its feel is well balanced. Once you get used to the speeds and
the control latency (where it keeps rolling a bit when input is removed) the airplane
is quite conventional.
The basics are the same: more power makes you go up or go faster (take your
pick) and less power lets you go down or slow down. The numbers are just
different. It takes a lot longer to slow because, not only is it
aerodynamically clean, but you're usually slowing from a much higher
speed. Dollars roll out the tailpipes with ridiculous thrust, it's good to
have 137 people helping pay the bills.
Don't be too intimidated by the speeds, though. After all,
it's more about relative position of the pointers than what it's pointing
at. Zero is still pointing straight up and the bottom of the white arc
still means the same thing as it does in a small plane: you'll soon go
from flying to falling.
The 6000 fpm climbout on light flights is fun but don't tell my
boss, we're in contract negotiations.
1) Thankfully the motor's not running. Notice how they're perfectly
sized to ingest human shapes. They don't come with pull starters, either.
A 737-300 on Approach. by Bert Garrison.
I've owned an airplane or share
of an airplane since just after college. My first was a Cessna 150, bought
for a whopping $3200 for a half-share. I flew the paint off that thing. It
was certified to fly
instruments and I was silly enough to do so. Frequently. I
flew places and conditions where I had no business flying a Cessna 150—legal
does not mean wise! By the time
my partner wanted to move onto something bigger and better (and costing much
money) I was able to buy him out. For probably 15 years that airplane served Yeoman duty.
outgrew the 150 and wound up in a 9-way partnership with a 4-place
Cherokee Cruiser. That worked well until I moved to a residential airport. They didn't allow
clubs and so the Cherokee had to relocate, leaving me with a hangar in my back yard and no airplane.
Actually, there was a
Citabria (pictured left) renting the hangar but it
wasn't mine. I did get checked out in the airplane, another story in itself, but
alas it ended up biting the dirt (its owner was ok) anyway. That's when a
neighbor and friend, Al Anderson, mentioned that he was interested in
selling his Beechcraft Bonanza.
Perfect! I'd been flying the airplane
occasionally and loved the way it handled. Within a week, Bubba was
Since then I've added an autopilot,
coupled GPS, new interior and paint. That all added up to more than the
entire new purchase price but such is the price of speed. There are faster
airplanes out there but not with this much room. I've packed two paramotors
in there with room for wings and luggage and another body. Plus I absolutely
love the handling.
1. Bubba was repainted in 2003 and sits here, awaiting
flight in about 2005.
2. A full
3. Al Anderson, the
airline pilot and airframe inspector who keeps it healthy, lands after a
1969 Enstrom F28
Helicopter, updated June 16, 2007
In 1998 I set out to realize a
life-long desire: flying a helicopter. Just an introductory flight, I
figured, to get it out of my system. 8 months later I was the proud owner
of a 1968 Enstrom F28A Helicopter. Ooops.
It was my lifelong desire to fly low and slow but it was
always too risky in airplanes and in helicopters could handle it much
safer. Little did I know that within months I was going to discover the
sport of powered paragliding. In a way, the timing was propitious—had
I discovered PPG first, I would not likely have been motivated to buy
The Robinson that I learned in was a great machine but was a lot more
expensive and had no cargo area beyond what you could stuff under its tiny
seats. The Enstrom's wide cabin became a real boon after learning to
paramotor—my Fly 75 would fit inside and the wing squeezed into that
cargo area. Yehaa, helicamping with PPG!
1) Arriving down the taxiway. 2)
preparing. 3) Pushing over to launch. Helictopers can take off straight up
but doing so leaves fewer options after an engine failure. 4) Arriving.
Photos by Tim Kaiser
Mostly I give rides, go to paramotor flying fields and
scope out new places to fly PPG. Tim Kaiser and I have found numerous
out-of-the-way sites right around the Naperville area that have turned
into reliable launches.
In 2003 I also flew her around the Chicago area with a
cameraman who was filming for the TV series "Airline." Being a
private pilot in rotorcraft means I was only allowed to share expenses
which essentially meant they paid only for most of the fuel (a relatively
small part of the operating expense). That was fine, though, the flying
was a blast.
1. On approach.
2. Flying the Sears Tower, Downtown Chicago.
3. Bubba and Ellie both live in this hangar—a tight squeeze at best.
Paramotors, Wings & Jeff Goin's PPG History
This is where the
most fun is. Added 2006-11-23
Apco Santana 28: In March 1999 I set out to join
the sport of powered paragliding, having seen the sport's virtues extolled
by Nick Scholtes, I headed for California and hopefully my P2 paraglider
rating with Jeff Williams. I don't have any pictures of myself flying
during this training because Jeff was too busy biting his nails every time
I went airborne.
took two trips to California to get the full training and I had a great
time along the way. Jeff was patient and passionate. He was a stickler,
too. The requirement was 5 consecutive forward inflations and so
that's what I did.
The Santana, pictured
left, was a horrible wing to inflate in no wind. Of course I had no idea
because it my first exposure to the sport. Plus, paraglider pilots rarely
fly in no wind and so that's not a big deal. As I later learned, it is a
huge deal for paramotoring.
(Left) On March 25,
1999, Jeff Williams snapped this shot of me standing atop Marshal, a
soaring launch site near San Bernardino, CA. Shortly afterwards I did my
first high flight in a paraglider. Exhilarating. It was this picture that
I sent to my mother informing her that I'd "gone off the edge"
and soloed a paraglider. She has since forgiven me. (Right) A tandem
landing during my training. Strangely, I never did a tandem flight but
rather did "bunny hops" to prepare.
Mark Sorenson became my first paramotor instructor when he sold me this
modified Fly 70 and agreed to give me instruction with it. The motor
worked perfectly for my small 150 pound frame. In spite of my best efforts
to the contrary, Mark got me airborne while he worked with another
This motor has made the rounds and, amazingly, continues to serve.
It's primary redeeming quality is that it fits in the helicopter without
disassembly. That turns out to be a handy way to get back from the
helicopter shop when I need to leave it.
were just getting to the point of usefulness as this early version shows. Pardon the picture quality.
Sky Cruiser Top 80: At my first PPG event, 1999's Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Fly-In, I saw the
Miniplane. I picked it up and heard it fly. Lightweight and powerful
but quiet, too. Cool, I
thought, but there were only a couple in the country. I didn't want to be
an early adopter and meet with potential maintenance
Then, in the spring of 2000, Francesco DeSantis and Jim Jackson
were showing their new Sky Cruisers off at a Florida show. They used the same gas-sipping Top 80 motor, were more transportable and promised to have good support.
A few months later, on a trip to Florida, Check let me take
one out for a test drive.
To try it
was to fall in love with it. After one flight I put my order in and
in about May of 2000 I took delivery. One of it's maiden voyages
became fodder for a favorite story—the "Eager Beaver" prop.
I still have that prop. Eventually I'll get the story up here on
It had a flexible cage and no weight shift, that
would have to weight for a number of years. It required a technique of
inflating the wing before powering up but that wasn't too hard to master.
I've since discovered that you can power up early but don't do so with big
wings or great vigor lest the cage flex into the prop.
Digital cameras had
improved, too, thus the better quality. I was preparing to launch from
this field with my new Sky Cruiser. I'd just taken delivery.
Arcus 28: In
late 2000 I wanted to get an easier-to-inflate soaring wing that would
good for motoring. After trying several, I settled on the
Swing Arcus. It was
large and slow but had a low sink rate, decent handling and was far easier
to launch with no wind than the Santana.
It had no trimmers, a staple of modern motor wings, but
would accelerate nicely with speedbar. That made it a good soaring
wing but make sure to hook up that
speed bar. The speed range went from real slow to slow otherwise.
I had a parachutal stall with this wing while flying in mid-afternoon
conditions during the summer of 2000 in spite of minimal brake pressure.
That was an eye-opener as my paraglider training suggested
stall was largely a thing of past technology. Not so fast. After reporting
the event on a newsgroup I discovered that numerous other PPG pilots had
experienced the same thing. They recounted their own episodes (privately)
and it became clear that training standards needed modification. It
was the seminal event that motivated me to start working on "Risk
This sized Arcus would be a good
wing for a heavier pilot so I sold it to a friend who weighed about 30
pounds more than me.
This picture of an
Arcus flying along the beach at Coats Cliff, Baja, Mexico formed the basis
of the USPPA logo.
in 2001 I tried the Fresh Breeze Silex wing. I'd flown a number of wings
up to that point and they were all fine creations, universally easier
to inflate than my Santana but handling was middling. The Silex changed
It was incredibly responsive, easy to inflate (certainly relative to the
Santana) and gave up only a very small amount of efficiency. I bought one
and it quickly became the only wing I wanted to fly. In 2002, when I
launched the Enterprise, I bought another Silex to keep aboard so I wouldn't
have to schlep a wing back and forth.
Enterprise trip in Florida I stopped to fly the Silex West of Orlando. Photo
by Andy Bauer
Sky Cruiser Snap
100: As much as I like the Top 80, there were times I wanted more push
for high altitude flying. I tried the Snap 100 in Albuquerque in 2004 and
it worked quite well. It continues to serve me although I have discovered
that a really good-running Top 80 puts out almost as much as thrust as the
Snap. I still have, and will probably keep flying, a pair of Top 80
paramotors that put out great thrust. On the "Jeff Sea Level Thrust
scale", the Snap is a 100 pound thrust machine while the Top 80 is a
95 pound thrust machine.
This particular machine is the one that went on the Baja trip with Jeff
Hamann aboard his sailboat, the GloriaMaris. It worked flawlessly while
being left on the beach for nearly 8 straight days.
The Sky Cruiser
Snap 100 was one of the nicest looking machines but never quite lived up
to its thrust promise. The Snap motor is heavier than a Top 80 by a few
pounds but has only a bit more thrust. This machine has served me well,
however and has never left me stranded. Photo by Jeff Hamann
Blackhawk 172: At
a fall competition in 2005 I doomed myself. My just-purchased Black-Devil
powered machine puked as I inflated up for the first task of the event. It wouldn't
start again. I would have no way to win without the points on that day's tasks and knew
it was over.
My mistake was then taking Phil Russman up on his offer to
ease my frustrated psyche with a flight on his machine, a Blackhawk. I found
it very comfortable, more so than my previous models in spite of its
left-handed throttle. So I took up Bob Armond on an offer to trade my
machine (which I got running by then) for the Blackhawk. It has turned out to be a good trade.
unit now lives on the Enterprise and has carried me aloft on many
high-altitude missions. At 145 pounds I don't really need the power
for most flying but it sure is nice in thin air. I'll
admit that it's kind of nice even down low.
I wanted the Black Devil power for my frequent
high-elevation flights and competition. In competition, the steepness of
your turn is significantly related to thrust, especially in thin air.
Without enough thrust, you have to shallow the bank lest the ground rise
and and smite thee.
Paratoys Blackhawk 172. Photo by Tim Kaiser
Spice 22: I'd heard Alex
Varv talk about the handling of this new prototype wing and was intrigued. It supposedly had spry
turning along with high efficiency.
Alex brought over a demo, at the time called a Manta and I wound up
falling in love with it. By this time I'd flown dozens of other wings
including several DHV 2-3 models and an aerobatic model. But non fit the
desires of my flying like the Spice. I didn't need to go super fast and I
didn't want to require lots of thrust. In a nutshell, I wanted handling
I have yet to fly a wing with handling as sporty as
this. During a back-to-back comparison flight with my Silex, the Spice
required 400 less RPM while flying with the Fly 75 (yes, I still fly this
The Spice's efficiency also allows it be soared although
its small size means that it will take more lift than a normally sized
It not for the faint-hearted. It's twitchy in flight,
requires more effort to keep in place and is more prone to collapses at
high speed than some other wings. Even worse though, the extremely
sensitive handling has caused a number of crashes just from
over-controlling. So, like all things in life, especially aviation, there
Alex Varv Kites the
Manta which became the Spice.
2000 Cosmos Samba
with Topless Hang Glider wing
Hang gliding was
one of the first things I wanted to do, right along with soaring, but my
parents (probably wisely) kept me away. Well after leaving the nest,
though, my curiosity came back and HG trikes looked like little aerial go
carts. I was concerned with the controls all being backwards and warned my
instructor that I'd me more difficult than most.
Fortunately, the training went well and, even after a
scary first solo, I really liked it. Harry Rosset and I went in together
to buy a small, very efficient single-seater, the Cosmos Samba. It uses a
regular high-performance hang glider wing that was used for unpowered hang
gliding competition. That made it a bit slippery but, with all the cart's
drag, it wasn't that difficult to fly or manage glide.
It's got the same engine I've seen used on a few older
paramotors, the Zenoah 250 cc but its power aplenty on this platform.
especially since it's really designed as a soaring trike. These are
sometimes called Nanolights. But then, by that measure, what the
heck would you calla 45 pound Top 80 paramotor?
Ironically, the fellow who soloed me in his mammothly
powerful tandem unit, was the same instructor who took me up on a towed
hang glider introductory flight 10 years earlier. He was a gem then and
again for this training. God bless his patient, understanding demeanor.
Treasure that if you can find it and enjoy your training. You certainly
It climbs my 150 lbs carcass at nearly 300 fpm and my
friend's 200 pounds at probably 250 fpm. With a 3 gallon fuel tank it can
go for at least a couple hours. Handling is awesome compared with the
tandem. More slippery and with a delay that takes a some acquaintance, but
overall well balanced. It turns to the left (even unpowered) and we can't
figure out how to fix that but will eventually get it to someone who
really knows what they're doing.
the Samba at Harryport in Northern Illinois. Photos by Dr. Jeff Neilsen.