There is a complete chapter on PPG history but it ends when powered paragliding first started in the U.S. This is an effort to both fill more detailed information and extend it. Those who have made a contribution to the sport in some significant way are included. If you know of any additional details that may be of interest, or have any pictures, that would be most helpful! Please send them to Jeff Goin.
This is a work in progress and will be updated as new, verifiable information comes in. Thanks for your help. The tilde (~) after a date or information means that there is no independent confirmation of the information and it is less likely to be accurate. Some of the people interviewed did not know name spellings so they will likely be wrong. Individuals highlighted will have made a major contribution to the sport, including especially those with involvement with USPPA or those who influenced its policies.
Above pictures from Francesco “Check” DeSantis who says they were taken in 1998. Given the dearth of production paramotors in 1989, it’s not surprising that French paraglider enthusiast, Axel Charles-Messance, and a friend, built his own. He is pictured flying the unit under an Alien wing built by Custom Sail (a wing Francesco also flew). Axel is a journalist living in Bethesda Maryland, having just moved from a 2-year stint in London. He got back into powered paragliding (on 2009 Nov 28) but now with a much, much lighter weight machine. Welcome back Axel!
A history of the USPPA appears (may be getting updated) on www.PPGTruth.com.
Thanks to those who are contributing to help make this account more accurate! Your input is greatly appreciate and I’m learning a lot more about the sport as this comes together.
1793 Frenchman Jean Pierre Blanchard develops the first parachute made from silk. Previous models had been demonstrated but all were made with rigid frames. Andrew Garnerin garnered the first recorded jump from a hot air balloon at 8000 feet using a fabric parachute.
1919 U.S. submarine tows up parachutist to look for ships on the horizon.
1963 American parachutist Pierre Lemoigne cut slots in a round canopy to allow airflow and thus forward flight.
1964 Pioneer Parachute Company develops the Para-Commander, a modified round parachute that enabled some forward speed for military jumpers. It was quickly adopted by sport parachutists. Pictures courtesy Juan A. Fernandez.
1964 Domina Jalbert of Florida develops a square canopy for kiting that he calls the Ram-Air ParaFoil. Walter Newmark adopted it for taking humans up while being towed in what became known as parascending.
1965 David Barish launches his single-surface paraglider from a slope. The craft was being developed for spaceship recovery. It didn’t catch on in space or earth. Not yet. David flew the craft from ski slopes and received a fair amount of press coverage but, it would seem, the world wasn’t quite ready for his invention.
1978 French parachutists developed a technique for launching their ram-air parachutes from a slope near Mieussy, France. They were saving money on airplane flights and unwittingly birthed the sport of paragliding.
1979 Sees the first use of a Paramotor, so called by its creator, Mike Burne. There is no production unit and Mike’s has no seat. He hangs from the harness for all of his short flights.
Mike’s then-new paraglider weighed 95 pounds and flights were usually in the 5-minute range. Follow up units added wheels and the first PPG trike was born.
1981 Barndt Bartig foot launches from level ground but kept it secret until the machine he used became the first commercially viable paramotor, the German-Built PagoJet.
1988 Jose Casaudemec starts Aerolight in Venezuela, one of the first hang gliding and paragliding schools in Latin-America.
1989 Mar German born Chris Bowles eared his Class 1 paragliding rating through the American Paragliding Association. He flew the newly released Airwave Black Magic. He commented on being excited that it “had more than 7 cells!”
1989 June~ German made Pagojet paramotor, using a 3-cylinder Konig engine, offered to the public. It used a mouth throttle where biting down increased power. A mercury switch in the throttle would shut off the motor when the pilot dropped the mouth piece.
1990~ Italian made JPX paramotor offered to the public using the JPX 425cc engine.
1990~ French made Adventure paramotor, based on the Solo 210 2-stroke 210cc engine, offered to the public.
1991 July Francesco DeSantis and his friend Arnm Vogel, both officers in the Canadian Armed Forces, purchased Pagojets. The machines were delivered to Oshkosh, WI, with the understanding that they would be demoed at Oshkosh before being given handed over.
Arnim went to pick up the machines at OSH and received rudimentary training there. His first flight was from a nearby field. He brought both machines back to Canada where Francesco took his first flight on one around July 25.
1991 Sept~ Eric Dufour, an experienced sky diver, tries and loves paragliding in Quebec, Canada. Paratour was started as a parasail operation with a boat and one parasail.
1991 Sept~ Arnim and Francesco obtained their Commercial Ultralight License from Transport Canada and obtained commercial insurance in Canada. They also obtained the required written waivers to fly paramotors for commercial compensation without the identification numbers.
1992 Apr Eric Dufour and Dino Svaldi purchased three Adventure solo 210 motors. Eric became a defacto importer. Two of the machines had reduction drives (F3 model) and one was a direct drive (F1). Eric started training with ITV Meteor wing and Adventure paramotors. They had to wait 5 months to get their motors.
1992 Apr – Sept Francesco DeSantis and Arnim Vogel flew 12 Airshows, with sponsors, in Canada.
1992~ June~ Gerard Thevenot, owner of La Moueete Hanggliders, and world glass hangglider competitor, brought the first paramotor to the U.S. It was the Zenoah 250 powered La Mouette. He and his wife, Sherry, started XC Magazine.
1992 July~ Longtime PG instructor Hugh Murphy adds PPG to his PG repertoire near San Louis Obispo, CA.
1993 May~ Eric Dufour starts teaching powered paragliding in Quebec, Canada.
1993 April~ Don Reinhard starts Personal Flight, importing the La Mouette. His wife Sheri, also flew tandems.
1993 Apr~ – Sept~ Francesco DeSantis, still an Air Traffic Controller with the military, and Arnim Vogel flew 8 Airshows, with sponsors, in Canada.
1993 June Chris Bowles takes first PPG flight, using only his paraglider training since there was no practical motor instruction available.
1993 Sept Chris and Tammy Bowles starts working at MoJos Gear in Texas. He also develops the Solo 210 powered Cloudbase Paramotor. It had low attachments and small redrive. It was intended for free flight pilots to transition into power.
1993 Sept~ Paramotor, Inc 1993 Alan Presari forms Paramotor Inc. and trademarks the word paramotor, causing a ruckus in the community since it was already in common use, especially in Europe. He began building large (relatively) quantities of the Zenoah 250 powered machines which were copied from the the La Mouette. He added a solid outer ring which gave it great rigidity at some expense in thrust compared with the LaMouette.
1993 Nov~ Philipped Renaudin of Sup’Air does part time training for Paramotor Inc. until Apr, 1994.
1994~ June~ Nancy and Marie start teaching Powered Paragliding in Tow, TX.
1994 Mar~ Eric Dufour and Francesco DeSantis travel to the Dominican Republic to fly for the Presidential Election Campaign of General Ballaguer.
1994 Apr Francesco DeSantis accepted a full time training position with Paramotor Inc. of NY and worked there until March 1995. He left for full time training in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, returning to St. Petersburg, FL in October 1995 where he bought U-CAN-FLY-2 from James Vander Griff, a former Paramotor Inc. dealer. Being fluent in English, French, Italian and Spanish helped him since the motors were primarily being built in Europe.
1994 June~ Chris Bowles earned his American Paragliding Class 2 rating.
1994 June~ DK (Daiichi Kosho) rep visited Eric Dufour in Canada.
1994 July~ PPG Industry meeting near La Salinas, Baja, Mexico. Nearly all the paramotor manufacturers and importers were present: Paramotor, Adventure, Cloudbase, DK, La Mouette. Pilots/reps: John Yates, Alan Chuculate, Pierre Renauldin, Chris and Tammy Bowles, Eric Dufour, Nancy and Marie.
A tape was filmed there by Fred and Claudia Stockwell, PG Pioneers and founders of the American Paragliding Association. They lived near famous soaring site Point of the Mountain, UT. They also put together what turned out to be the only issue of Paramotor Magazine (not related to the current Paramotor Magazine) as a result of this gathering.
1995 Jan DK representatives visit Philippe Renaudin of Sup’Air USA. Francesco was invited to fly the unit and did so. Francesco wound up buying it. He then shipped it to Canada for Eric Dufour to try. The motor was picked up by truck driver Eric Sigier, whose son David was one of Eric’s students at the time. Eric tried the little DK Beat and liked it, but continued to import Adventure due to their more complete product line at the time.
1995 Feb Francesco DeSantis met the owner of LaMouette, Gerald Thevenot. who had just returned from a trip to Brazil. He had been test flying his company’s first tandem unit, the ZR250-bi on a Nervures Erebus glider. Francesco flew this tandem unit with James Vander Griff as passenger. Jose Casaudoumecq was on hand for the flight but did not fly that day.
They flew from Francesco’s then-training field just East of Brandon Florida, a private ranch called Pruit Ranch.
1995 Feb Jose Casaudoumecq earns his USHGA Advanced Instructor and Tandem Instructor ratings.
1995 Mar Aerolight was created in Miami, Florida for teaching paramotoring as the East Coast distributors for La Mouette Paramotors (Don Reinhardt handled the west coast). They moved from the La Mouette to the Fly Castelluccio in about 1997 but only for one year. Then they became Aerolight USA and took over the Fly Products line.
1995 Apr Eric Dufour starts flying tandem training flights using a towed assisted launch under a BiMerak glider.
1995 June~ Scott Alan visited Eric Dufour for training in Toronto, CA, video taping the process. He acquired two flights under Eric’s tutelage. Within a year, Scott started Paraborne Aviation near Orlando, Florida, teaming up with Aero Sports Connection (ASC). He became the importer for Japanese maker DK, an electronics company tnhat branched into paramotors, hoping it would be a large market endeavor. DK started with the direct drive Beat, followed by the reduction drive Whisper. DK Made their own engines.
At the time it was common practice for prospective pilots to buy a machine, come down to Florida for a weekend of training and leave with their Basic Flight Instructor rating (BFI). No other organizations were dealing with paramotors nor were there many instructors. The BFI also technically allowed these pilots to fly tandems although few did.
1995 June~ Chris and Tammy Bowles, Eric Dufour and Francesco DeSantis earned their USHGA paraglider instructor ratings.
1995 July~ Chris and Tammy Bowles start Southern Skies, importing Fresh Breeze paramotors and offering both paraglider and paramotor training from the Moore Mountain area in North Carolina.
1995~ Aug~ Bill Fifer of Traverse City, MI adds paramotoring to his long-running hang gliding business. He becomes a DK dealer for Scott Alan selling DK Beats and DK Symphony wings.
Traverse City HG/Paragliding – Air Sports Air Sports
1996 June~ The first large Fly-In, with vendors, thrust tests a video. The Powered Paragliding Guide, by Fred C. and Claudia Stockwell is produced along with a video.
Clewiston, FL Fly-In. Grant Rumundt of Paramotor Aviation, Eric Dufour and others were present.
1996 July~ Eric Marzewski starts the Pilots PPG Club BBS (listserve) on the website www.gmountain.com/clubs.htm of his company, Green Mountain Unlimited, 1463 Graham Farm, Severn, Md. 21144-1086, Telephone was 888-629-6742. See article here.
1997~ Mar~ Mark Sorenson, A DC-9 pilot for Valujet (later renamed AirTran), starts selling Fly Products paramotors and teaching powered paragliding near Fort Lauderdale, FL.
1999~ Jun~ Parastars, the first dedicated paramotor club, is formed in the Tampa, FL area with Terry Alford as President and Bill Hocker as Vice President. They would go on to host the first U.S. Paramotor Convention in 2001.
1998 Mar Eric Marzewski moves the Pilots PPG Club email group to Onelist.com, an email “listserver” that got swallowed by Yahoo groups in about 2000. He sold Explorer Paramotors, built in South Africa, and had information about the sport on his website. At this point there are about 700 members of the list worldwide.
1998 Apr During Sun-N-Fun, Mark Sorenson (Fly Products importer) and Natalie Rogers (Fly Products Representative) approached Aerolight to take over the distributorship. Aerolight accepted, becoming the sole U.S. Importer of Fly Products equipment.
1999 Mar I (Jeff Goin) am lured into the sport by a friend’s call. After getting advice from Nick Scholtes, I sought training from his instructor, Alan Chuculate who, unfortunately, was attending some USHGA function in Nashville and so wend with another recommendation, Jeff Williams. Thankfully, he turned out to be equally capable and patiently guided me through the USHGA PPG2 rating after two visits of 4 days each.
I then contacted several people but eventually found Aerolight who sold me a Solo 210 powered Fly 70 direct drive motor and included training from Mark Sorenson. It was slightly modified, having a bit longer prop (75 cm) and appropriately larger cage.
1999 Oct Albuquerque Balloon Festival is hosted by Jerry and Michelle Daniele. This was an awesome experience. Besides being my first gathering, there were some incredible people and flying.
A more thorough account is here.
Jeff Goin before launching from Marshal (San Bernadino, CA) on his first paraglider high flight.
2000 June I (Jeff Goin) had a parachutal stall accident while flying a large, slow wing during climbout at full power and quarter brake. Common paragliding wisdom suggested such an event was unlikely at best. After publicizing that accident, I received many emails about other pilots with similar experiences. So began my awareness that specific motor training was sorely needed along with training standards and a syllabus developed by a consortium of experienced pilots.
2000 Aug~ NAPPG.com is started as little more than an idea and a website. The intent was to establish training standards and a ratings program. Having come from a USHGA background, I was in favor of the effort. However, the effort drowned in details and no elected body was ever formed.
2001 Feb After talking with several people who shared an interest in seeing the sport well represented, it was decided to start the United States Powered Paragliding Association. Alan Chuclate was the first president. Greg Anderson was VP, It would be organized as a non profit and have elected leaders.
2001 Mar The Parastars club Hosts the first truly national PPG Convention in Florida. This first class event sets many standards and is the best attended fly-in of all. See the invitation here.
2003~ Apr~ The Parastars convention in Florida earns Guiness’s title for the largest number of pilots airborne at any one time. The Mass launch at The Powered Paragliding Convention at Fantasy of Flight was a resounding success.
2004~ June~ There is a fatal accident in Canada where a student, getting into his seat, didn’t let go of the brake toggles and stalled the wing. He did not survive the 50 foot fall. This accident affected me strongly since it seemed so preventable. Even though I talked with the instructor and he had done what was normal and reasonable, it motivated me get the USPPA syllabus finished. So I called Alan Chuculate who was working on it, and and asked to take over the project. He agreed and offered his help.
In the process of working on the syllabus I talked to several instructors to see what book they used. The answer was always preceded by a “well…” meaning that they may sell a particular book but don’t actually use it for much.
There were two books out there, one a translation from French and the other by a British paraglider pilot who learned to paramotor mostly for the purpose of writing a book. That’s actually a good way to do it because the learning process is fresh, but it was cursory and had nothing to do with our law or airspace.
In conversations with Alan Chuculate I knew that he and Dennis Pagen had talked about writing a book together but it hadn’t happened yet and we desperately needed it. So I called Dennis Pagen to ask him what the plan was. He said those fateful words: “I decided not to do it but, if you write it, I’ll publish it.” Uggh. That wasn’t part of my plan. It was an intriguing thought, and I had wondered what it would be like, but the market was small and I had no idea if it would be accepted. Plus, it would be financially foolish by taking away from my real job.
As history makes clear I went on to write the book, splitting the Edition 1 publishing cost with Dennis.