Can we legally do wheel launched tandems using the USPPA Exemption? | Exemptions & Sport Pilot Yes! As of November 2018, the limitation for footlaunch was removed. The text below is retained to remember the history of it. Here is the 2018 USPPA 9751 exemption allowing wheels.
Powered paragliding operates under the ultralight rule (FAR part 103), which limits us to solo flying only (103.1a).
Prior Exemption Operations
For many years, tandem (two place) training was allowed under “exemptions” to FAR 103 until abuses essentially forced the FAA to create the Sport Pilot rule which ended all tandem exemptions, including those for powered paragliders. That left no way to conduct even foot launched two-place training so I went to work on behalf of USPPA.org to get a new exemption.
For years we tried mightily to get wheels incorporated in a new exemption but they would have none of it. In fact, we weren’t successful until all reference to wheels was removed and applicability language allowed only foot launched operations. The only concession they gave was to allow the motor to support it’s own weight during launch and landing, an allowance that I fear is now at risk. A couple months after USPPA got its exemption, ASC got theirs with almost identical wording except that it also applied to unpowered paragliders and hang gliders which we weren’t interested in because USHPA already has a very good training program for.
USPPA’s exemption was renewed in March of 2010 to continue through October 2012 with no change in wording. ASC’s was also extended, apparently last month, and with no change in wording. And that’s where things go amiss.
For whatever reason, ASC chose to put out a “press release” suggesting that “Foot Launched” could now be interpreted as “Foot Launchable.” Nothing changed besides Jim Stephenson’s (ASC) interpretation of the exemption. He even went so far as to say that it applied to tandems that launched on carts.
Mind you, we would all *LOVE* for this to be the case, to be able to do tandems on wheels, but think it’s remarkably reckless to unilaterally define it so. I mean I’m not fond of having to get my helicopter inspected every year but don’t think it would be wise to unilaterally reinterpret the word “annual.”
Judge for yourself—here is the applicability verbiage for both exemptions (emphasis added):
USPPA #9751A: “This exemption applies only to flights for the purpose of giving instruction in foot-launched, two-place powered paragliders.”
ASC #9785A: “This exemption applies only to flights for the purpose of giving
instruction in foot-launched, two-place powered and unpowered paragliders”
Look similar? Notice the use of “foot-launched”? Does that sound like “foot-launchable?” Mind you, we completely agree that it would be better for the sport to allow wheeled tandems but obviously fear that “reinterpreting” the rule to our favor may is not a good long term strategy.
I’m not AT ALL a fan of what happened with Sport Pilot but this is the reality that we live in. My worry is that if we abuse what we’ve got, we risk losing it.
Preserving this tool as a valid training method is important to me and is why I worked hard at getting it through in the first place. I can envision a scenario where, after a year or so the FAA gets complaints from Sport Pilot Manufacturers saying “what’s up with these guys flying these wheeled two-placers while we need to go through certification?” The FAA looks around and sees this unilateral reinterpretation of “Foot-Launched” to “Foot-Launchable.” It wouldn’t surprise me one bit that they’d just withdraw the exemptions and conclude we weren’t responsible enough to administer it.
I’ve sent a letter to the FAA requesting clarification on the matter and will see what they say but, in the mean time, I hope we can collectively do the right thing and, regardless of our opinions of government bureaucracy and/or competency, not take liberties that are obviously beyond their intended scope.
Is “foot-launched” the same as “foot-launchable?” I hope so but will await official word.
Please note that ASC charges $100 per person who signs up for their program. USPPA doesn’t, and never has, charged anything for its program. In fact, USPPA pays out to those pilots who earn ratings in an effort to encourage thoroughness.