Chapter 36: Tandem Training (Not In Book)
Oct 21, 2009 | Section VI: Getting the Most
Out of PPG
This material really belongs in a book on Paramotor Instructing but,
alas, that book isn't due out until 2034 so I figured I'd get an early
After the long process of obtaining an FAA tandem training exemption
for USPPA, it seemed appropriate for me become a tandem instructor
myself. So I did a clinic with one of our sport's most prolific, and
founding tandem instructors, Eric Dufour. The others had already been
doing tandems but I was starting from scratch so had do the whole thing,
flying both as pilot and as passengers for others to get the requisite
five flights and one as a passenger. Now I'm flying off the additional
required 19 tandems with a certified pilot as passenger (Tim Kaiser
most things paramotor, the most important skill is wing handling. And
handling a big wing is a test for even the best kiters. In strong
winds, the enormous pull will guarantee a sliding inflation, and in
light winds, forward launches are difficult because the wing pulls back
so hard, making it difficult to run hard enough.
Before I fly with a student in stronger winds, I'll check conditions
by kiting the wing to insure that I can control it by myself. I've been
doing this for solo flying for years. While it will be easier to manage
with the weight of motor and passenger, Its obviously better to only fly
in conditions that are manageable solo—you've got more margin of
control. If you can't manage the wing by yourself, it's probably best
not to try flying tandem.
Since Sept of 2008 the only legal way to do tandems is through an FAA
exemption for foot launch. The
such an exemption and doesn't charge anything for access to it. In fact,
a pilot getting the requisite instructor rating, can get a $200
reimbursement for earning the ratings. You won't find many other orgs
The exemption works more like the USHPA's where an instructor first
earns the basic rating by successfully completing 5 tandems at a clinic
then must go out on his own and fly 24 tandem flights with a USPPA PPG2
or USHPA P2 rated pilot. Its also worded such that the pilot and
passenger must support their own weight. That was done to allow
instructors, especially smaller ones, to rig up wheels on their motor so
they don't have to carry the full weight of a motor powerful (heavy)
enough to fly twice their weight or more.
seen a number of setups for doing tandems and have now flown with two.
Observation and experience points to the U-Bar as the most effective
method. Support is through the same type of tandem spreader bars that
free flyers use. Here are the ones I've seen.
1. Just using tandem spreader bars. My only comment is: don't.
I realize that's how it was done for a long time, and indeed its
possible but its far, far from ideal. Every highly experienced
instructor who does foot launched tandems have echoed the same thought.
The problem is that motor thrust pushes on you but not the passenger in
front who invariable gets pushed beside you and against the cage,
dangerously close to the prop. Plus, there is no way for the passenger
to know when you need to move or turn left or right since there's
nothing (or very little) force pushing him left/right.
2. Tandem spreader bars with fixed geometry. This is where the
spreader bars have some form of cross braces, making them rigid, so as
to allow some amount of directing the passenger. It is a vast
improvement on just tandem spreader bars.
I've only seen this setup once and, although its convenient to hook
up, its not as effective at steering the passenger as the U-Bar
mentioned next. It is a a mix of convenience and functionality.
3. Tandem spreader bars with a U-Bar. The passenger harness is
attached to the U-Bar so that thrust is pushing on his harness in
addition to conveying left/right steering desires of the pilot.
Wheels could be added to the paramotor (see diagram above left) and
also to the U-Bar bar as long as the passenger and pilot both have to
support their own weight during the launch run. Castering wheels would
seem like the best solution so the pilot could still move left/right.
Otherwise, an off-kilter wing could topple the whole affair.
In the United States, tandem is only allowed for instruction purposes
and only for foot launches. If you want to fly wheeled tandems, it
requires sport pilot certification. And believe me, the FAA has no
desire to change that. We didn't get our foot-launch exemption until we
pulled out the reference to wheeled craft. If you're an instructor
interested in doing tandems, seek out a USPPA tandem instructor who can
take you through the program.