The Actual Costs for Tom Zoner
Tom Zoner is meticulous with records and logs both his flying experience and expenses related to PPG. Like other analysis, it shows that, when all costs are figured in, there’s more than meets the wallet. It can be quite affordable, of course, but that depends on a lot, including some luck. Most of the luck has to do with your equipment working. Lets face it, these things aren’t terribly reliable and, whether or not your motor works well out of the box, is a bit of a crap shoot. Every brand has its lemons. EVERY brand!
Pardon my need to mention the effect of training on cost–an effect that can be dramatic. Besides the serious risks of falling with a running motor, the cost of a prop, cage, netting and possibly more can easily top $1000. Let alone the possible injury that’s possible from a fall, especially if you get a body part prop-struck.
Find a USPPA instructor who is willing to take you through a PPG2 rating. That at least insures you cover the necessary minimum material and get to a point where you can operate on your own.
Your instructor should never have you attempting launch with a running motor until you are competent at kiting the wing with the motor on but not running. Obviously you must first be good at kiting with just a harness, a skill that will require a good 15 to 25 hours minimum practice. And I don’t mean just standing there kiting, either–you should be bringing the wing up, controlling it, turning around, walking forward, turning back around and bringing the wing down under full control. You gotta be good at that before strapping on a motor, even if the motor’s not running.
Before flying with a motor, you must be able to do all the wing handling with the motor on but not running. Be able to bring the wing up, control it, turn around, have the instructor push you according to throttle squeeze, turn back around, continue kiting the wing for at least 10 seconds then bring it down. You’ve gotta be decent at that in various winds or no winds. If you’ll be flying in no wind, you must be competent at handling no wind forward inflations withOUT the motor running.
Good communications with the instructor is another must. Also, heavy gear will make it all more difficult as will low hook-ins. The low hook-in difference is small but most instructors find that non-paragliding students have better luck with high hook-in machines. If you take paragliding lessons first, this difference seems to disappear.
Some schools do a first solo on wheels with heavy instructor guidance and that has met with success, too, but when it comes to foot launching, good ground handling skills are a must in order to keep your costs and pain down.
Off my soapbox, and on to the costs. When Tom told me of his exacting records I asked if he would let me share them so I’ve included the results at right. The results aren’t far off from others who’ve seen $60/hr values.
Mind you, some pilots do have dramatically lower costs. If you buy a used motor and wing, get 100 hours out of it without anything breaking, then you may be well under half of these numbers. But buying anything used is a a crap shoot so be careful. And I’m a big fan of the practice–just know who you’re buying from or get a recommendation. Even then there are no guarantees.
To summarize the results of Tom’s records, he had a cost of $65.89 per flight and 60.61 per flight hour. That includes purchase price, special tools, repairs, fuel/oil repairs and miscellaneous PARAphenalia.