I hear the darndest things sometimes.
One frequent misconception regards paramotor harnesses. Over zealous sellers try to sucker people in to their gear using misinformation that requires a lack of understanding. If you ever “this is the only _____, and everything else is crap,” run away! You’re almost certainly being fed a line.
A quick refresher. PPG harnesses can be defined by their attachments: high and low. You’ll hear about “mid,” but in flight they’re still essentially high hookins. Free flight rigs (no motor) all have low attachments.
There’s less difference than meets the eye and it’s really a continuum. Look at the machines in flight and you’ll find they vary by only about 12 inches. One significant reason is that many low attachment systems have short pieces of webbing that the carabiner hooks to (see the picture at right). It does not increase stabilityï¿½it merely positions the risers up at a more comfortable location.
High hook-ins are where the risers attach above the shoulders, usually near or above eye level. Examples include the straight-arm Miniplane, Blackhawk, SD, Fresh Breeze, La Mouette, Paracruiser, Paramotor, Sky Cruiser, and similar. Some of these models offer optional articulating arms for weight shift.
These machine’s put the carabiners on their harness webbing rather than J-bars. When sitting on the ground their attachments look lower, but once in flight they’re identical height to the J-bar machines.
Low hook-ins have the attachments down closer to the pilot/motor’s center of gravity. Modern versions have gooseneck “S” arms that bring the pivot points up closer to the thrustline. They get good weight without the wobbliness of older styles. Older low hookin machines didn’t use the S-arm geometry and imposed more fore/aft tilt during power changes. These include the Pap, Airfer, Free Spirit (in its default configuration), HE, Vortex and Fly Products low attachment option. The carabiners attach to a frame hard, almost always articulating arms, to improve weight shift.
Myth 1: Low hook-ins are only for advanced pilots.
Its true that most PPG instructors find students learn quicker on high attachment machines. However, once the basics of inflation are learned, the success rate seems to be the same. A few instructors teach quite successfully on low attachment machines.
In some European countries, many schools teach exclusively on low attachment machines. It might be that, in Europe, free flight is far more widespread and so pilots are frequently adding power instead of starting with power from scratch.
Myth 2: High hook-ins are for beginners.
Some of the most experienced pilots in the country fly high hook-ins. It’s a matter of personal preference more than anything else. I’ve flown all three types a fair amount find no difference whatsoever in my ability to fly precisely or steeply.
Myth 3: Low hook-ins are dangerous.
Each system has its own issues. On many low hook-in machines the brake toggles get close to the cage during launch and are more susceptible to being sucked in to the prop. However, high hook-ins seem to have more occasion for excessive-brake pull type mishapsï¿½possibly because the pilot has more brake authority.
Low hook-ins do tend to lean back in flight which can aggravate torque effects, especially during launch. A high hook-in machine can have the same problem if the harness is misadjusted, but it’s far more likely on a low. I’ve not seen any trend or statistics that suggests low hook-in machines are any more dangerous.
Myth 4: Advanced pilots use low hook-in machines
Poppycock! The best Cloverleaf time recorded in the U.S. was turned on a high hook-in SD by Eric Dufour. The top three finishers at the 2006 U.S. competition flew high hook-in machines. It’s about skill, not equipment.
The top 3 winners in the 2006 English Nationals flew mid hook-in Baileys. No articulating arms, minimal weight shift, just pilot skill.
Skilled pilots fly the wing and it really doesn’t matter what’s pushing them.
Myth 5: High attachments get rid of torque
More poppycock. Check out the PPG Bible for what causes “torque turns”. There are significant reasons besides torque.
High hook-in machines can reduce turning effects by virtue of allowing the pilot to liftoff with a more vertical propeller plane. But if a high-attachment machine is setup to be angled back, or the thrust line is offset, it will torque just as much as a low attachment unit.
Myth 6: High attachments don’t allow weight shift
Go read the reviews. When I do a paramotor test I measure how far the risers move differentiallyï¿½that’s the whole goal of weight shift (riser shift is a better term). Give me a pully equipped weight shift system on a Blackhawk or a Fresh Breeze with the Wingman harness and I’ll get nearly the same riser shift that’s possible on a Pap. It’s all about the technique and it takes some effort to master on any machine.
When I first started flying low hook-in machines I couldn’t get as much weight shift as my Sky Cruiser with moving arms. Then I flew with the Airfer manufacturer and saw how he did it. Ahhaaa! Then I could, indeed, get a lot of weight shift although that turned out to be about the same as my machine.
Myth 7: One articulating bar machine is as good as another.
You would be surprised at what a few inches can do.
When Sky Cruiser came out with pivoting weight shift bars hinged on the frame uprights it wasn’t very effective. In fact, it was less effective than the add-on system which was hinged 2 inches aft by nature of its add-in. Then I saw the Arnon Lufi’s Vortex paramotor in 2004 and noticed how they went to the trouble of hinging its articulating bars aft about 2 inches. Voila. Later, I noticed Pap did the same thing (Vortex, no doubt, copied Pap). That’s why the add-on system worked better.
There are other placements and settings that can vary the amount of available weight shift dramatically such as chest webbing tightness, limiting straps and where the bar hinges on the frame vertically. Weight shift will be reduced if the pivoting bar is angled upwards in flight
Not all weight shift machines are created equal and sometimes subtle differences have a big impact. Talk with an experienced pilot or, if the machine has been reviewed, read about it here.