The Travesty Of “Free” Powered Paraglider Training & Kurt Fister

Think about it for a moment. How much value will an instructor put on something they’re giving away? You’ll more likely be treated like they’re doing you a favor. How compelled will they be to be thorough? To guide you through the difficult beginnings of becoming a well-rounded PPG Pilot? Will they be motivated to put their heart and soul into it? Committed to going through the entire USPPA syllabus?

How would they answer these questions (click here)?

This is about quality training. I’ve heard MANY stories from people who bit the “Free Training” apple only to find a worm. Eventually they may go to a real instructor after either breaking up their gear or their body–expensive detours that cost way more than real, quality instruction by someone who uses best practices. 

And if an instructor pooh pooh’s going through the syllabus, don’t expect to cover what’s necessary. Be realistic, you’re operating an aircraft, in the national airspace system—if they can’t take the time to cover what’s in that syllabus, you’re doing yourself a disservice by trusting them with your life. It’s like a checklist. Do you know why airlines rely on challenge-response checklists? Because they work! It’s the most reliable way to insure a human covers what’s necessary.

The most glaring example is a traveling instructor who promises this free training and then does a cursory course with sometimes no more than 3 flights even though there is opportunity for more. It’s one thing when weather gets in the way, that can happen to anyone, but to leave a student with 3 flights is just a travesty.

How “Free” Is It?

You may be asked to pay for the “instructor’s” travel and hotel. That’s certainly not free. Then, more than anything, if the instructor is not committing to get you through the skills and knowledge of a PPG2 rating, with at least 25 flights, you will be far more likely to damage equipment or flesh in the aftermath of that training. The rating isn’t what counts, either, it’s thoroughness.

Kurt Fister of Flight Junkies is one of these operators to beware of. He promises this training but frequently only gets the student 3 flights, leaving students dangerously unprepared to go out on their own. This is America and I relish the freedom to choose, but after watching the carnage that so frequently follows such woefully inadequate training, I feel compelled to warn others. I’ve held off for way too long.

Ethics

Also, do the sport a favor and look at their ethics.  Ask yourself if this is what you want to support. Flying sites are one of our sport’s treasures and anyone willing to risk someone else’s site by flying intentionally irresponsibly should be shunned. Can you imagine your own horror at having an out-of-town pilot come to your local field, buzzing nearby houses, and getting your site shut down? We must have no tolerance for this. An accidental flying too close is one thing, intentional disrespect is despicable.

Questions to Ask Your Prospective Instructor

We now know what causes training accidents and one consistent cause is not being disciplined. Not surprisingly, when best practices aren’t followed, accidents happen. Humans behave in remarkably predictable ways that a conscientious instructor can avoid. The article below provides list of questions to ask your prospective instructor. 

How Good is (was) my Training?

If these questions make your potential instructor angry, ask yourself why.

Finally

While it’s certainly possible to succeed in spite of woefully inadequate training, it’s a crap shoot. Training is absolutely the last place anyone should skimp. It’s FAR less about gear than learning how to use it. Those who do survive such initial marginal instructors usually do so only after seeking out real instruction or by finding a group to fly with.

A good training PROGRAM is the single most important thing you will buy as a new paramotor pilot–far more important than gear, make sure to find a certified instructor who goes through the entire USUA/USPPA or USHPA syllabus. Being certified is not the end-all, either, the instructor must be willing to take you through a complete course, preferably ending in a rating. It is more work for you and the instructor but the benefit is becoming a more knowledgeable pilot who has worked up to the skills for a PPG 2 rating. These are clearly spelled out. Most students will also need to practice on their own to actually gain these skills, probably taking 40 to 50 flights to reach the PPG 2 skill level, especially on spot landings. But you will be so much more ready to face life aloft!

Treat yourself to quality, thorough, training. Survive, thrive and enjoy this incredible sport. As of 2012 the USPPA will even reimburse you $100 for earning the PPG 2 rating to help offset a part of the extra cost thoroughness entails.