Did your instructor use a thorough,
industry recognized syllabus?
'Winging it' doesn't muster—serious omissions are too
easily made. The
USPPA/USUA now has a well-recognized syllabus that was developed with input from many leading instructors.
There is just no reason why important material should be left out. Make sure
that your instructor uses this Syllabus. And just because they're certified doesn't
mean they use it. Ask.
If an instructor pooh pooh's the syllabus, you're on your as to whether
all the material and skills are covered. Humans don't do well at "just remembering"
all they need to. That's why checklists and syllabi underpin all aviation
training. Don't shortchange yourself.
Did you get some form of dual flight training before your first
It's a fact that a very few students will react adversely on their first time
aloft. There have been fatalities because of it. Students, especially those who
have never soloed any aircraft, should get some kind of
dual in-flight instruction before going it
alone with a motor. The best bet is a powered paraglider tandem but even a dual
flight in a powered parachute, where you have to control something, is better than
Low tows or hill training are a satisfactory substitute but *MUST* be
done by qualified instructors. Towing is extremely risky—make sure the
instructor is tow rated (by USHPA or USPPA/USUA) before letting them tow
Did your instructor have you rehearse emergencies
and other actions
while he causes
Live rehearsal in the simulator is your most important pre-flight
learning drill. The instructor first teaches the situations and responses then
has you to perform them in a simulator. Once you are doing them correctly,
he has you perform them while being distracted. The
distraction can be shaking the cage or running the motor but it must be as
realistic as possible. Having correct and automatic responses to
emergencies is the only way you can expect to handle them.
It can all be done while hanging in a simulator using
your own (or the school's) paramotor. A high quality simulator that has
risers and brake lines is most beneficial because you can interact in the
same way you will in flight.
Discussing emergencies that require an immediate reaction is not
enough. You can talk about them ad-nauseum but, without
rehearsal, reactions will not be dependable. The airlines, the
military and even general aviation has realize this and adjusted their
training with extremely good results. We're lucky in that our simulation
is so simple—it doesn't cost anything, either.
in the seat, parachutal stall, reserve toss, collapse, snagged throttle
cable, power loss after liftoff, brake line failure and other actions must be
rehearsed, preferably with distractions.
These are all covered in the PPG Bible and many are covered in the
must-see video "Risk & Reward."
The reason that distractions are important is because there will be so
many new sensations that your responses must be automatic. Students who
have casually demonstrated actions, even in the simulator, have gotten
them wrong in flight, causing a crash. Those who learn them with
distractions perform far more reliably.
Ensuring the reactions are automatic in this way will dramatically
improve your odds of a correct response. Distraction can be as simple as
having the instructor shake the cage while requiring you to respond to
his emergency callouts. Some schools may do this later in your training
(even after your first flight) but they should certainly do it before
you leave lest you be ill-prepared to handle them.
Did your instructor teach you about air law and airspace?
There is now absolutely no excuse for skipping this area since every student can have
book and go over questions with their instructor. And you should be clear on YOUR local
flying area, too.
Make sure you know it's legal to fly where you'll be flying. As good as the book may be, the instructor must bring
it to life.
Did your instructor have reliable equipment,
including a simulator, radio helmets and
A simulator is a must. It can be little more than a place to hang the
motor from but must allow the student to practice getting into the seat
and pulling on brakes. Hopefully, the USPPA simulator will be done soon as
it will provide a quality tool for an affordable price. Plans will be made
available for no charge, once it's completed.
Some instructors have wisely put two radios on their students so as to
decrease the chance of failure. They, of course, also have two radios
available. This can be done with a regular radio helmet and then also
having the student use an earbud plugged into another radio. A better
arrangement is where both radios can be plugged into the helmet but that
requires a special helmet.
Was your field adequate?
Flying into trees and power lines has proven fatal for pilots on their first
few flights. The smaller, more obstructed the field, the bigger the risk.
Did your instructor provide you with quality training materials?
Obviously information is what we are
all about. But even if you don't purchase The PPG Bible and
Risk & Reward, make sure you get good, appropriate materials. For
example, if you get another book on powered paragliding that is not
written for the U.S. market, make sure you get a book about our air laws
and airspace. There are indeed other great training materials out there
but none that concentrate so specifically on powered paragliding.
Passion. We fly at the pleasure of the people. A
nervous and unsupportive people at that. Bad press, horror stories and
other negative influences on our sport could incur more regulation or even
It's up to us, as pilots and instructors, to minimize this possibility. The
advice here is as much a reminder to me as it is to others.
far too easy for someone to watch an experienced pilot launch effortlessly
and think it a simple matter. It's easy not to take the sport seriously.
Pilots will sometimes learn rudimentary flying and then hang out a shingle
as an instructor. That is, in fact, one big reason for looking at
certifications. Of course, being certified does NOT make an instructor
I want to see the level of instructing improve and the
accident rate go down. My background in aviation helps but,
more importantly, it is my observation of so many different and
capable instructors that lets me see what techniques work. That insight should be shared.
is my good fortune that I
have no need to make a living with this endeavor.
In a nutshell, my
motivation is selfish - preserve the sport so I can enjoy it well into
retirement! Being born in the early 60's means that I'd like to be running
skyward for many years to come.
If you buy equipment from a dealer that provides
he's making a well-deserved $1500±$500. You can also buy inexpensive
equipment over the internet but you'll pay for training. That's fair and
add the benefit that, if you pay for training, there's an expectation of value.
single worst place to skimp is training. If a training program
doesn't cover what's listed here, or if you don't fill out a
USPPA/USUA syllabus, you're being
short-changed. Otherwise, how do you know if the instructor is covering
As to the claim
of free training on your motor, that's what marketing people call a "loss leader." Airlines nearly give away a very few tickets so
they can advertise it. It sounds good and indeed a very few people get
those seats. It's a sound marketing plan and gets many to
call the airline only to find "Sorry, there are no seats on that
flight...." Same goes for free training on your gear.
do you think an instructor giving "free" training will feel as
compelled to be as thorough? Human nature is what it is.
you value your time, life, limbs, gear and success, pony up to either buy gear
from your instructor or pay for training. It's well worth it!