19: Risk & Safety

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Risk is the inevitable price for our kind of fun. How much risk depends on what we do. Boating around up high in the calm edges of daylight incurs minimal risk, but even then you’ll eventually encounter surprises. This chapter aims to expose real risk and help cope with the unexpected.

Misunderstandings persist–even among some instructors–as to what causes most accidents. For example, training is a particularly dangerous part of a pilot’s career. That can be mitigated, though, by choosing an instructor as recommended in Chapter 1. It points out the dark corners, how to avoid them, and when appropriate, how they can be minimized or recovered from.

Some things that look crazy really aren’t, while some seemingly benign stunts are really asking for it. We help sort out the difference. Not all the nuances can be covered in this material (or the book) but a good instructor will.


Death by Physics: Steep & Low Strike a Blow

Someone sent me a link to this crash, apparently in Thailand but I’m not sure. It graphically exposes something that I’ve covered a lot: the extraordinary risk of doing steep maneuvering low to the ground. I’ve lost two friends from this. Much like...

Swatted out of the Sky

Big kudos to this pilot for sharing his video. If only we could all be so selfless. Also, check out his composure while lying there on the ground with broken things—that’s one tough dude. I got a question from a student learning to paramotor who is having second...

Icarus X Series Race Fatality

A pilot participating in the UK Icarus X Series paramotor race has died. It’s a tragedy on many levels but mostly for the family, of course. These are nearly always vibrant people in prime condition who love life. As one who competed for years in more...

Paramotor Tandem Trike Crash into Crowd

This was asking for it. A paramotor tandem was launching in a crowded area with people all around, including at the end of his “runway.” He barely gets airborne then, just a few feet above the ground, and barely climbing, he turns. The turn may have felt...

Structural Failure Fatality

A recent fatality in South Florida appears to have been structural failure. According to the accident report on USPPA.org all indications point to a riser failure. One riser broke and the pilot plummeted to his death. A reserve was tossed but not in time to open. So...

Flying Paramotor in Rain

Getting caught in the rain while paramotoring has a rightfully bad rap. It increases your chance of entering parachutal stall and may worsen the paraglider’s ability to recover from a collapse. Ehats worse is that, when combined with airflow degradation on the...

Where Paramotor Propeller Injuries Happen

Body contact with a spinning prop remains the most likely cause of serious paramotor injury and it can happen in unexpected ways. Here are some examples. Reducing these accidents starts with awareness, and it’s is a good sign that you care enough to learn. Limbs...

Spot Landing Risks

What a useful skill it is to be able to land where you want without power. Pilots of all craft recognize the importance being able to put it down after thrust stops thrusting. We PPGers are lucky in just how small of a place we can alight, even landing on tiny targets...

Stretching Glide: A Story

Click here for Stretching Glide to Shore, Road or Point While planning the Panama Canal flight an interesting subject came up regarding selection of altitude. We all know that the higher you go, the farther you can glide. This flight had one portion that followed a...

Water: A Fatal Attraction

“I’ve been in the water several times, it’s not so bad” is like saying “I played Russian Roulette several times, it wasn’t that bad.” The reality is that going into the water, even shallow water, without automatic flotation...

Safer Starting Stand for Paramotor

Passive starting safety for paramotor pilots, thanks to Randy Bridge It’s inspiring to see pilots making this sport safer while realizing that choices will be made. Such was the case of Randy Bridge who implemented an idea that will work with essentially any...

Prop Stopper and Prop Protector

Pap has a cool idea for their clutched machines. It was probably made to prevent the prop from free spinning during transport, but it can also provide some protection during start. Just like the “Rope Trick,” leave the prop cover on while starting. If the...

Rope Trick I: Paramotor Prop Stopper

For clutch equipped machines | Rope Trick II another version As we’ve covered, props eat body parts on a regular basis. Clutched machines are no better since, although the prop may not spin at idle, it sure spins up fast at throttle-up. Further, the fact that a...

Mid-Day Mishap

Thermally conditions dump experienced PPG pilot A mid-day sojourn in moderate winds went sour for one high-time paramotorist resulting in a nearly disastrous impact. Surprisingly, the pilot walked (probably limped) away. At 20 feet or so while landing, a quick...

Paramotor Fatality from Spiral

On Friday evening, several hours after I had left, tragedy struck when Richard Biggerstaff (right) was, according to two witnesses, doing a spiral from which he hit the ground. There was a small post-impact fire that was extinguished almost right away. Another pilot...

Experienced Vs. Safety

How Safety relates to Experience Experience gives you the potential for greater safety. You can either spend that margin on flying more often, or in a wider variety of conditions, or spend it on safety—flying in the same conditions but with wider margins. It’s...

Helicopter Rescue Gone Horribly Wrong

The lessons in this captivating and sad story could save my life, maybe yours, too. A hiker got lost in the woods and faced a cold night in deteriorating weather. This is the story of a helicopter rescue gone horribly wrong. It is a powerful reminder of forces that...

Paramotor Torque Twist and Crash

One of the sport’s more common control-related accident types See also Understanding Paramotor Torque, Fixing Torque By Hand At this point he has twisted 90 degrees to the wing, looking towards his right hand, and still under power. This is the natural torque...

Paramotor Caught in a Thunderstorm

Rapid wind change ensnares PPG Pilot. Thanks to the submitter for his willingness to share. The evening started with little wind and clear skies. A friend and I launched at 7:20pm from our favorite flying field just east of Colorado Springs. The first half hour of...

Powered Paragliding (Paramotor) Fatalities

2010-04-01 Thanks to Mike Nowland whose 2005 compilation was used and to Steve Scruton on UK fatalities. Staying alive while paramotoring is made easier by following this advice. Overall, the risk can be made extremely small. Most accidents happen for predictable and...

Safety: Prop Injuries to Legs and Starting

You wouldn’t think this could happen. During launch the pilot somehow got his calf muscle into the prop while making large strides. As of Sept, 2007, I know of two similar incidents. The only solution to this is make sure your machine doesn’t allow it. Is...

Paramotor Crash: Distractions and Hangar Thwack

by Phil Hyland, submitted by Jerry Starbuck. Thanks to USUA Club#1 It’s insidious. You look down for just a moment to take care of some problem and lose focus on your primary task: aviating. Jets crash due to it, too. Plus, focusing on distractions frequently...

Training Risk

See also “Free Training In 50 States: Kurt Fister” It’s well established that skimping on training is a bad trade, especially the “Free Training” offers. Some may succeed but many more fail afterwards due to frustration, equipment damage...

Emergencies

Chapter 19 covers emergencies that involve analysis, Chapter 4 covers emergencies that requiring more immediate, essentially automatic, action. Feeling unwanted wing turn just as you lift off, for example, is a Chapter 4 type immediate action emergency. Students...

Is Paramotoring Safe?

Is paramotoring safe? By learning from others’ mistakes we can make this sport safer by not repeating the causes of past tragedies. Its prevention through anticipation–what the airlines have done so incredibly successfully. These accounts and articles dig...

A Better Paramotor Harness

See also A Better Paramotor | A Better Cart | A Better Throttle There have been at least three accidents resulting in pilot paralysis. In one, a reserve parachute may have saved the day but in the other two it would not have since they were doing low level...

The Launch Decision: Paramotor Hotel Hell

Being committed has limits A dozen little variables affect e ach launch decision. Some are settled when we plop our wing down and lay it out. Others get processed quickly and almost automatically during the precarious initial inflation until the wing is overhead and...

Risking Others

We’re given enormous freedom to risk our own necks—not others. Our rules are written to lust us risk ourselves when we fly—we must work to keep it that way. Continued self regulation depends on it. The incidents below shows what’s possible and what’s...

Paramotor Fire

Thankfully this is as rare as it is fearsome In about March 2011, a pilot with 50 flights under his belt was foot launching. After a good inflation and run he stumbled, hitting the ground hard enough that his propeller flexed into the fuel tank, slicing through and...

Distractions

It’s insidious. You look down for just a moment to take care of some problem and lose focus on your primary task: aviating. Jets crash because of this, too. Plus, focusing on distractions frequently breaks the all-important routine. Surprisingly simple little...

A Better Paramotor

Safer machines for the real world. Updated Apr 22, 2015 to add brake toggles/prop protection Yes, they have to be fun, comfortable, light, powerful, look cool and be convenient. The most talented designers will accomplish all that and provide decent protection. No,...

Paramotor Propeller Safety

Hardware Improvements Here is a centralized location to learn all about the causes and cures of our sport’s most likely serious injuries: body contact with spinning prop. It is broken down into several sections to ease the search. There are a number of hardware...

Reserve Parachutes Overview

See also Reserve Parachute: Safety Considerations & Repack Video Emotions run high regarding the decision to carry a reserve, or rescue parachute. It’s a safety device, like many others, that has benefit with some tradeoffs. If you do choose to carry...

Power Lines & Spin

Read is a paramotor pilot who doesn’t do much free flight but launched from the base of a well known free flight site, Point of the Mountain. He was man enough to post what happened on Facebook and agreed to let me share it. Here is his story. Action and...

After 15 Years: Power Lines

Power lines are a common cause of paramotor accidents. They frequently incur serious injuries but, strangely, are rarely fatal, possibly because the altitude is very low and the lines touch each other causing the power to shut off before the victim becomes a filament....

Tragedy: Wingover Fatality

Fatalities | Steep Maneuvering Risk Article | Condolences to the family and friends of a fallen pilot. For the third time this year, a paramotorist has died doing steep maneuvering, making paramotoring as risky as paragliding. This reminds me of the effect speedflying...

Flying Alone

It seems innocuous. We find a nice flying site, maybe not easily visible from the road, and launch into the coolness. This is one of powered paragliding’s great draws–how easily we can just head off from the most unlikely of sites and be independent. But...

Damien Leroy Jumps from Paramotor

Jupiter, FL, young pilot jumps from Powered Paraglider Video and news reports showed a pilot in a shallow right descending turn. He is seen coming out of a riser twist then hanging from his harness for a few seconds before letting go and falling from his paramotor,...

Tribute to Scott Adair

We’re reminded again how fleeting life is. And how some people make it so much better. And how we can take them for granted. Powered Paragliding lost one of its great contributors, Scott Adair, to a gyrocopter crash April 29th in Valkaria, FL. Our hearts go out...

SafeStart Tested

Passive starting safety for paramotor pilots I mounted it to my Miniplane Top 80 and it’s working. Unfortunately, the motor’s idle must stay below 2700 RPM which may be a problem for pilots who frequently have their motors go above that RPM causing false...

Salton Sea Collapse and Crash

Wrong Place at the Wrong Time | Titanium Balls & Judgment The weather was clear but had become quite turbulent. Enough so that two highly experienced competitors had decided not to fly but a number of others continued including Michael Mixer. You watch this fellow...

Titanium Balls & Judgment

Knowing When To Stop | Salton Sea Collapse and Crash Competitions exude a can-do attitude that easily clouds judgment. You’re already confident in your flying ability or you wouldn’t be there. Everybody else is flying so it must not be that bad—an effect...

Pylon Racing Accident Analysis (FL)

Michael Mixer’s 2012 Recon Collapse during competition This one was a surprise to us. Conditions were good, the pilot competent, and his flying wasn’t overly aggressive. During the second run of the 2012 U.S. Pylon qualifier, Michael Mixer was making good...

Tribute to Bob Armond

One of my early memories of Bob Armond was in Mexico. He had just started instructing and decided to have a casual just-for-fun gathering at Baja Seasons resort in La Salinas, Baja California, Mexico. A lot off his students showed up but so did a lot of other with...

Paramotor-Balloon Midair Collision

It’s easier than you think | Updated 2010-Nov 30 to add EAA’s article. It’s easy to dismiss the risk of midair collisions because they’re so rare. But they’re also severe and, tragically, seem to happen to conscientious pilots with the...

Crossing the Road: Luck And Tragedy

Thoughts on a Fatal Powered Paragliding Accident One of our own is gone. Even though I did not know Andrew personally, undoubtedly he would have been an instant friend–a lover of life and of flight. He died while launching his paramotor after being hit by a...

Getting Shot At

Not Ticking People Off with our paramotoring takes on a new Twist. Thanks to Ken Morrison I’ve had a guy walk out of his house with a shotgun once. He leaned against an out building and just stood there watching me fly (legally and with permission) from an...

Fatal Turbulence and Collapse

Analysis of fatal paramotor crash involving turbulence and its improper handling. A fellow lover of flight went out one day to pursue his passion. He did not return—an incredible tragedy for the loved ones he leaves behind. We can only hope to learn from this tragedy...

A Better Throttle

Safer gear is an important element to reducing injuries. | A Better Paramotor | Safety Ring Retrofit | A Better Cart Another major improvement to safety can likely be realized with a simple throttle change. Most of the injuries happen while a pilot, facing his motor,...

Colorado Collapse Paramotor Crash

A good one for analysis because the pilot hass been willing to talk about it. First, we are happy that the pilot is able to discuss his brush with death and, secondly, that he is willing. In fact, he offered up the video, recorded by his brother-in-law, so the world...

Paramotor Safety Improvements

Here are some things observations of positive developments in paramotor safety. It would be cool for every machine to provide basic protections against the inevitable: falling, unexpected thrusting, and others. Check out A Better Paramotor. Here is a celebration of...

Tribute to Bob High

Longtime light flyer and supporter passes I was saddened to hear of Bob High’s passing.  The last time I saw Bob was when I snapped these pictures as he took his quicksilver aloft. Bob High Quicksilver taxiing Bob High putting helmet on Bob High airborne in his...

Tribute to Mike Rish

I lost a friend. Its always sad to hear of a loss, especially when it happens doing what we all love, and to someone we’ve spent time with. I’m sorry mostly for his family and close friends, my pain pales in comparison with theirs. Mike leaves behind two...

Engine Out With a Twist

How do you know if your paramotor is about to quit? It’s running. Elburn, IL Saturday was one busy day with paramotor flyin g early and late and a hang glider trike adventure in the middle. That became my very first engine out landing in corn. Well, touchdown...

A Better Paramotor: Quick Shutoff

Passive and Active safety to help shut off the motor if necessary | Safestart Ken Morrison Emergency Shut Off Here is an idea for reducing the possibility of a motor leaping forward and into an unsuspecting pilot. It incorporates two frame-mounted switches. One for...

High Time Pilot Seriously Hurt

Freeflight Instructor Gabe Jeb seriously hurt at free-flight site Sunday afternoon, Feb 18, well known Torrey Pines instructor Gabe Jeb was injured while soaring at a popular hill near San Diego. He had brought a group of students to Otay Mesa in southern California....

Tribute to Alan Chuculate

Alan Chuculate died Nov 6, 2005 in a powered hang glider after hitting wires during approach. It was just after sunset. He was with two others landing just off the beach in a field about 4 hours south of San Diego.  Alan had an immense influence on my flying by...