June 04 Frederick Scheffel
FAQ: Frequently Asked
Questions – Part 1
[Part of the following is an excerpt from the “PPC Guide & Training Manual”]
you are a powered parachute “new-be” or “want-a-be”, then I bet you are excited
about getting into powered parachuting. (Now if you are already into the sport
of PPC’s, then I
you are excited!) And I
would also guess that as a new or potential PPC pilot, you have a ton of
questions that you have already compiled and hence you desire the answers.
Well, instead of the conventional approach where you hold the questions in the
corner of your mind, while you read (or perhaps more likely – skim) the
currently small selection of PPC manuals & training videos, and search for the
answers to the questions that you can remember – let’s do it a bit different.
Let’s answer those common questions right off the bat. Then you can relax a
little about trying to remember all those questions (that PPC Instructors
commonly get) and concentrate on absorbing the details and point-by-point
explanations that give you the ‘BIG’ picture of powered parachutes during your
next visit to a NAPPF (North American Powered Parachute Federation) educational
seminar. [Please visit
www.NAPPF.com for more information about the NAPPF – a
PPC Pilots organization that excels at Representation,
Education, Safety & Standards for the powered parachute Pilot’s world.]
What happens if the engine quits?
This has got to be the most frequently asked question. Unfortunately I just
don’t have the time to go in to it here.
OK, just kidding, just for you, I will make time.
The simple truth – it gets real quiet!
Then life seems good again. Stress is removed. You truly begin to soar with
the birds. Well, at least this is what happens when you intentionally shut-off
the engine, after you have been properly trained. (Note: Due to the intense
satisfaction received from Engine-Off flights, you may observe the addiction of
the experienced PPC pilots who has acquired an appetite for this flight maneuver
– some do intentional power-out flights A LOT!
Now, on the other hand, if you have an actual engine failure (not a very common
occurrence but one you should absolutely prepare for) then you will find that
the PPC is truly more stable and more maneuverable with the engine off, than
with the engine running. [You’re not fighting the engine’s torque, you are not
being swung by a too-fast throttle movement and you are not being distracted by
the engine’s noise.] So, essentially you will have an easy time gliding your PPC
to your previously picked-out landing zone, and then sitting your
‘bird’ down safely. With an easy to learn ‘flare’ maneuver, your PPC can
‘grease’ a landing just as straightforward as using the throttle to land.
Honest! Ask an instructor - most love the opportunity to land ‘power-off’.
Why a powered parachute? Boy is this a broad question – are you sure you want
this to be your next question?
OK, OK, well, because:
It is probably the
most fun you can have in the air in 3-dimensions with your clothes on.
It is the easiest
flying vehicle we know about – there are only two airborne controls. One to
control your rise and decent as you sail through the skies, and the other to
make turns (usually via the foot steering bars).
It is affordable
Easy to maintain.
Besides keeping the unit sturdy, clean & dry, the most common part of the
maintenance schedule is changing the oil and the plugs.
You don’t need a
hangar. It takes very little room to store it – a single car garage can hold
It is also very easy
to transport – a common utility trailer can easily carry your PPC to any fly-in.
Hec, some people just add an extended shelf to the rear of their pick-up trucks
and put the PPC there (without any trailer). Or, if you have a Paraplane
manufactured powered parachute, just pack it into the trunk of the car.
You can complete
your basic training in 3 days.
You can fly year
It requires no
ground crew; you can easily unpack, take-off, land, and re-load your PPC all by
It has an incredible
safety record (despite the fact that mere humans are allowed to fly it).
And, as a true 103
ultralight – it requires no medical; there is no age limit, and no bureaucratic
required paperwork (i.e., no license or registration is needed).
It is relatively
easy to safely land should the engine fail.
You have ‘tons’ of
options for a ‘take-off’ runway (i.e,. a Farmer’s field, a dirt-road, an
aircraft carrier – all of these can work just fine)
You can safely land
in a short field (~100 ft)
PPC’s are the
fastest growing segment of the ultralight market
It is the most
colorful way to ‘sail-the-skies’
The ability to fly
‘slow & low’ allows the pilot the gift to view and appreciate the intricacies
and the beauty of the unique contours of our land.
Flying a powered parachute is the closest you may ever come to actualizing those
childhood flying dreams. It is the closest you will ever come to soaring with
the eagles. It is truly a ‘magic-carpet ride’. Another aircraft may never match
the slow & low abilities of the PPC. It is an incredibly safe and fun way to
‘sail-the-skies’! Ok, ok, perhaps I am drifting into ‘space’ here…and so I
digressed a little from the original question. I believe the subject was “What
does it feel it?”. Well, it feels like, oh, how do you say… WONDERFUL, AMAZING,
ASTONISHING, GREAT, FANTASTIC!
From the factory, a typical 2-seat PPC with a 65-hp engine will normally obtain
around 15,000 feet with just an average size pilot, and around 11,000 feet with
two occupants. As of September 2001, the altitude record was over 17,600 feet -
by Bud Gish over Birchwood, Alaska.
And as of September 2003, the new record is over 20,000 – via Ed Neff in a
factory Powrachute Pegasus over the heartlands of
Since there is considerably more to flying a PPC, than moving an altitude
control, or pushing a steering bar – I would have to say “NO” for
safety’s sake! And honestly, anyone that says that they can safely complete
your training in a day – is not giving you the complete picture; too much
information would have to be skipped - go elsewhere for your training! [Note:
Do not confuse flying your first successful solo flight with being trained.
There are lots and lots of “Murphy’s Law” situations – hundreds of “slings &
arrows of outrageous misfortunes” out there that you will NOT be prepared to
handle without proper training!]
The saying goes: “You can pay now for training, or you can pay later for
Sure people have trained themselves in the past (I am one of them). However, I
would bet ya that these people wished – strongly wished – that they would have
had the training materials – books, NAPPF seminars, videos (like the newly
released video magazine “Flying 101”) that are available today, to study, to
research, before they paid the price of self-taught aviation!
This is going to have to be a 2-part answer: one part for true single-seat 103
PPC’s and one for the 2-seat trainers, the FAT, the non-103 legal PPC’s.
Relative to legal FAR 103 PPC’s: No license or registration is needed.
HEY – this sounds good! No medical, no certifications – “YEA-HA FREEDOM!”
[Note: a true 103 ultralight will weigh under 254 lbs, have a single seat, fuel
capacity that does not exceed 5 gallons, go slower than 55 knots (63 mph) and
have a stall speed less than 24 knots.]
Relative to a 2-seat trainer, the non-103 legal PPC’s: You will be able to fly
under your Instructors Exemption at the completion of training (for a maximum of
90-days). You will however need to obtain a Waiver (i.e., become a BFI (Basic
Flight Instructor or equivalent- UFI) in order to have anyone other than a
current PPC Instructor in the rear seat. To become a BFI/UFI, you will need to:
Have 25 hours of flight time in a
[Please note that some of the FAA approved associations, may require 40 hours,
as opposed to the 25 hours.
Also, remember that as a student pilot, you can fly the 2-seat trainer under
your Instructor’s exemption (exemptions will be explained later) as you work
toward your 25/40 hours of flight time.]
Spend 10 to 15 hours with a
current BFI/AFI (UFI/UFIE) to cover Ground and Flight tasks associated to a
2-seat trainer. Please note that usually a minimum of
3 to 5 of these 10 or 15 hours
needs to be in the air, with the Instructor in the rear seat.
Take a couple of written tests:
A practical BFI exam, and
A FOI (Fundamentals of
Pass the tests
Take a practical flight exam
Have your Instructor endorse you
for your own exemption (waiver for a 103 2-seat trainer).
Become a member of the ASC, EAA or
Send in your:
Along with the written endorsement
of your Instructors,
Dues for your membership &
certification (usually around $110 - 150 per year).
The weight of the unit and the occupants, along with the drag of the chute
determines the air speed of the PPC. On average under a typical rectangle wing,
a single-seat PPC will cruise around 26 mph and a loaded 2-seat machine around
You should never fly in winds that exceed your flight skills – whether this is
2-mph or 10-mph. And, it is generally recommended that all PPC pilots should
avoid flying in winds above 15 mph – remember the average PPC only has an air
speed of 26-32 mph.
NO. Most full-time training centers will have PPC’s that you can use or rent
for training. Actually, I recommend that you take lessons in the PPC’s of the
training center or a rental before purchasing a PPC. This way, you can learn
the pluses and minuses of each PPC design before making a purchase.
As a side note: Be cautious of Instructors that will not train you in their
PPC. If they are not confident enough to use their personal PPC to train you,
then perhaps they are not competent instructors.
The sound principles of flying a machine in a pendulum configuration are what
contribute to the safe and stable facets of the PPC.
Due to various flying techniques we can obviously only deal with averages here,
but easy to say that the single seat, true 103 PPC can stay airborne a little
over an hour with 5 gallons of gas, and the 2-seat trainer, over 2 hours with 10
gallons of gas. So again, depending on how you fly, you will burn around 4 to 7
gals per hour on average in a PPC. According to the Rotax manual, a 503 will
use 6.6 gal/hr during full take-off performance and 4 gal/hr at 75% throttle;
582 will use 7 gal/hr during full take-off performance and 5.4 gal/hr at 75%
throttle. (Please note that all ‘gal’ refer to
There are a few factors that come into play when considering this answer.
The strength of the PPC frame
The size and condition (strength &
porosity) of the wing
The quality of the wheel bearings
The HP of the engine
The length of the runway
The density altitude
Ordinarily however, I will venture to say that around 450-500 lbs of payload is
workable for a 2-seat trainer with a conventional rectangular, 500 sq-ft wing.
Again, weight, wind and weather (density altitude) come into play here. But for
two people, you will need about 500 to 1000 feet for take-off and around 50-100
to comfortably come to a full stop after landing.
Not normally – there may be a rare exception to this however due to the
personality, ground terrain and experience ranges of humans. When you have an
aircraft with the safely record of the PPC, it is extraordinarily difficult to
find one with an emergency chute. I have never seen one attached, but I have
heard of people saying they have. On the other hand – can too much safety
equipment be used in aviation? (Be careful, there is not a clear ‘black &
white’ answer here! Perhaps this could be a subject for another article.)
The PPC is so ‘right’, so usefulness when it comes to search & rescue
operations, that sometimes, the Civil Air Patrol will get a little jealous about
the PPC. Except for getting to the ‘lost’ sight quickly, I personally and
strongly believe there is no better ultralight aircraft than the powered
parachute for aiding in the search of the lost. (Hec, you could find a lost
rabbit with a PPC! As a member of the county’s S&R squad – my PPC is constantly
being called into - very rewarding – use. Please visit the website:
http://www.ellass.org for more information about using your powered
parachute to assist Search & Rescue organizations)
No, you cannot fly at night without a waiver from the FAA. However, if you have
a qualifying strobe light, you are allowed to fly thirty minutes before official
sunrise and thirty minutes after official sunset in UNCONTROLLED
For a legal FAR-103 ultralight, there is no age limit; for the 2-seat trainer,
the Exemption of the issuing organization will state the minimum age.
Currently, for most 2-Seat Training Exemptions, the pilot must be at least 16
years old before starting solo training, and 18 before they can be given an
No. Currently there are no medical certification requirements to fly a PPC.
However, in the near future (perhaps for Sport Pilot) the FAA may require a
State Driver’s license, as proof of a minimal medical condition of the pilot.
There has always been confusion over this question. Except for hazardous areas
like the Grand Canyon, the FAA has no penalty restrictions on the air space over
National Parks – it is however STRONGLY requested that you
maintain a minimum of 2000 feet AGL (Above the Ground Level) when over a
National Park. However, the Park Service will probably severely ticket (and
yell) at you for violating Noise & Disturbance laws, if you fly too low! I
would definitely talk to a Park Ranger, before attempting to fly in or near a
National or State Park. Many times we have been given the privilege to fly in
otherwise ‘forbidden areas’ for helping with the Park’s Search & Rescue
efforts. And many times the Rangers would really like (and do) take advantage
of an opportunity to see ‘their’ park from the air – during an Introductory
TRAINING flight of course!
! And damn-it, if I see you smiling and having fun while flying a 2-seater
under the exemption – you WILL BE ‘tarred & feathered’!
There are times (beyond training) that a 2-seat PPC is legal to fly. The
following exceptions to training are common to most 2-seat Exemptions:
To transport or ferry the unit to
To acquire flight skills – such as
when a student is acquiring their hours to qualify for the BFI requirements.
To check-out mechanical conditions
of the PPC (especially for the maiden voyage, and to verify other mechanical
To maintain Currency
To maintain Proficiency
(Note: It is for proficiency that allows competitions of 2-seat PPC’s.)
No, if you can change the plugs and change the gear oil (i.e., chew gum and hold
a screwdriver at the same time) you will be fine. Most PPC pilots however will
send their engines to authorized repair centers for anything beyond the basics.
You are not required to register your single seat, legal FAR-103 PPC. But under
your 2-seat training exemption, you are required to register your 2-place PPC
with an association under the FAA (like ASC, EAA or USUA).
During the December 1996 meeting of all the exemption holders, a uniform
agreement that all exempt vehicles must be registered was adopted. The FAA
accepted that agreement without incorporating it directly into the exemption, as
long as the exemption administrators (ASC, EAA & USUA) require registration.
The requirements, of an annual or 100-hour inspection and the limitation against
endorsing those under 16 for solo, were imposed at the same meeting.
What is the average ‘life’
of a PPC WING (the chute, canopy, full-time-recovery system)?
The question of how long something will last is always an interesting question -
because there are always so many variables that go into the answer. And this
question is no different. I have seen some wings fail inspection with less than
100-hours of flight time. And I have seen wings with over 300-hours – still in
very good condition. So, the answer is: Somewhere between 100 and 800-hours,
depending on the care and the length of time the wing is exposed to the UV (UltraViolet)
rays of our Sun.
I see some powered
parachutes have the large, really LARGE rear wheel tires. Why do some PPC have
the thinner tires?
[Preface: I am not a big fan of large or tundra tires.]
do indeed believe that large or tundra tires help little to the functional
aspect of a powered parachute with a good suspension system. [Note however,
that some PPC manufacturers actually require the larger tires as part of their
suspension setup.] Yea, they do look great; they do help in the snow and on the
sandy beaches…but they…
Make the PPC much harder to push
Require a wider, larger trailer,
Yes, they do require more skill –
especially to a new student – to safely handle a crosswind situation or an
“out-of-position” wing during take-off.
Can I fly in the rain?
Perhaps this question is not in the “Top 10”, but it is still surprising how
often this question is asked. And the answer is: “YES”. Many new PPC Pilots
fear that the open cells of the ram-air wing will fill with rain, and thus send
you crashing to the soggy ground below.
The next time you enviously watch a PPC flying low, take the time to notice the
angle of the leading-edge open cells. They point down. Thus a little
‘umbrella’ is over the opening. Also, the 1st 6-inches or so of the
wing’s open cells contain fairly turbulent air, thus forming another little
barrier to the rain. Bottomline: Yes, you will get some water accumulation in
the tail of your wing if you fly in a heavy rain for sometime, but it is not an
emergency situation that would require you to land immediately. You could turn
your PPC around when the rain starts, and fly back to your field. The thing
that bothers me the most when it starts to rain during a PPC flight – the
stinging! Those little rain drop hurt when you fly.
Will the Flying 101 video
ever be released?
[Note: The following is an
absolute blatant plug…]
You-bet-cha! The 14-hours
of educational (starring Scott Hughes &
Frederick Scheffel) and comedic (starring Bubba & Beaudro) powered parachute video is now
available. The format is somewhat different than initially anticipated – but
much better. Instead of being a ‘training video’ per-say, the initial 14-hours
of PPC training tape are being converted into a Video Magazine. A DVD issue of
this unique PPC video magazine will be released 6 times a year. The cost is
$199 for a year’s subscription.
Each issue of the video
(DVD) magazine will contain powered parachute sections on…
Our novice (and hap-hazard) “trying to
learn” students: Bubba & Beaudro
A Student Education segment
A PPC flying segment – to music
An intermediate Education segment
A Featured powered parachute (Send us
video of your favorite PPC - perhaps next month it will be our featured
And a featured PPC Innovation (Have an
ideal that you would like to share - send us your video & pictures)
Bloopers (production mis-haps, if you
don’t laugh at these, Scott will consider giving you your $$$ back!)
A Crash (most with detailed analysis)
And when Sport Pilot is released –
updates and info on this new FAA program
that we welcome Sponsors for this NEW video magazine. Current sponsors are
Chute-the-Breeze, SkyTrails Ranch, Inc., and CoolFlight.com
And if you PPC pilots ‘at
there’ would like to have your favorite powered parachute highlighted as an
Issue Feature – please send pictures or video to Tom Janetzke (see
And if you think you or someone you know has
come up with a PPC innovation – please also send us pictures – a written
explanation – and/or video (also ship to Tom)
Until next time…keep
preparing for the possible by maintaining a position with options and remember
that the easiest way to solve a (flying) problem is by avoiding it!
Frederick Scheffel, CEO,
Southwest Regional Director - NAPPF
Frederick is the author of the “PPC Guide
& Training Manual” and the lead AFI of SkyTrails Ranch, Inc. – a full-time,
year-round PPC training center in the beautiful color country of southern Utah.
May 04 Frederick Scheffel
CONSIDERATIONS…Yes, considerations, and a
few reminders. As PPC pilots, there are a few things that I would like us to
consider, things to remain aware of, to remember – as we continue to safely fly
our powered parachutes.
[The following is an excerpt from the “PPC Guide & Training Manual by Frederick
I know you may have just
finished the assembly of your new powered parachute, and I know you want to fly
first thing in the morning – and the only thing left is to ‘Break-in’ the
engine…but if you lived next door, would you want to listen to that engine for
over an hour (especially at full RPM) while your favorite TV program is on?
Please keep your distance above
and beyond homes. Even if there is just one home within 1 mile – not everyone
is going to find you & your flying machine a beautiful asset to the sky. And
some homeowner’s eardrums appear to be very very sensitive! I would recommend
2000 feet to the side and 1000 feet above any home. (Note: 500 feet above and
500 feet to the side is usually accepted as the minimum requirement. But from
the homeowner’s perspective – this is just too close!)
A ‘Touch-n-Go’ is fun and good
practice of throttle control for landings, but a Farmer might have just spent
days planting a field. And they just might not be able to find their ‘sense of
humor’ when they return to find your tire tracks messing up their seeded rows!
Do NOT hold-up a runway. When
landing at an airport, be prepared to taxi. Do your best to taxi to a locale
that would allow your chute to fall in an area that does not interfere with the
normal procedures of other aircraft – whether they be General Aviation (GA) or
On Take-off preparations,
consider laying out your chute outside of the runway, or better yet, outside of
a taxiway – perhaps on the nearby grass, and then kite and taxi your chute to
the runway, whenever possible.
Please have an
aviation radio. Please let the other aircraft know your location & intentions
when arriving or departing an airport (or ultralight park). And of course,
always let other aircraft know when you are clear of the runway. Also, even
though you may not have taken-off from the airport, and even though you may have
no plans on landing there – please, when you fly within 5 miles of an airport
(whether controlled or not) and you climb higher than 500 feet – please advise
the local air traffic of your location & intentions.
Yes, the pond is beautiful, and
yes it would be great to fly with the ducks and geese, but many local citizens
do not appreciate your flying over the pond and intentionally or unintentionally
causing the waterfowl to fly away!
And yes, it is great to spot a
deer in the wood and fields. And it would be fantastic to fly down for a closer
look of nature’s beautiful creatures. But you need to be respectful of the
wildlife. [Note: Whether coyotes deserve the same respect is still under
debate.] And from the law’s point of view… well many Game Wardens consider
it to be wildlife harassment (a chargeable offense) when you make multiple
“low-passes” over wildlife, even for just a closer view, or a few pictures of
And now please don’t bring up
the following argument:
“So, it is OK to kill the
animals during hunting-season – that’s not harassment, but I can’t fly
over them for an observational view – because it makes them run! That makes no
sense! Sure I know that there are PPC idiots that run the wildlife (deer or elk
to be more exact) to exhaustion. But that is not me, I just want to see them.
And it must be obvious that I am not running the animals into the ground!”
Well, that may be true. But
how is the Game Warden to know everyone’s intentions? The Game Warden gets to
subjectively draw the line, relative to your flying actions, between harassment
and observation! And then you have to prove otherwise. And if you fall on the
wrong side of that line - he confiscates your PPC! It is sort of like taxes and
the IRS – you are guilty until you prove your innocents.
And while we are on this
subject, you should also be aware that it is illegal within a day of the hunt
(in most States), to spot wildlife for hunting reports. If a hunter wants to
hunt, let them do it – from the beginning to the end, without the tremendous
advantage of knowing exactly where the animals are located. So get it out of
your head right now, that you are going to make a legal-living leading hunting
parties with your ultralight!
Please be aware that your
actions do not just reflect on you and your powered parachute. Observers
normally group all PPC craft and their pilots into one category. So, when you
violate a law, or irritate a homeowner, you are causing problems and creating a
negative image for all PPC pilots. Hence, do more than just stay within the
local regulations, and well within the broad confines of FAR 103. Please - do
everything possible to maintain good relations with your community.
Not everyone will have the will
power to hold-strong to their Flight Code standards. [Note: We will talk
about Flight Codes in a later article.] So please, do not pressure your
friends to go flying when their experience and training has not taken them to a
skill level that allows them to handle the current or forecast flying
conditions. Yes, we know you want company on your flight. And yes, eventually
all pilots will need to improve on their flight skills to handle the flying
conditions that you are now comfortable with – but let them challenge themselves
on their time and in their space. They may or may not decide to advance their
flying skills to your level.
If your friends are not
comfortable flying in the current conditions, and they decide not to fly now,
congratulate them on their stand – don’t tempt them into a flying situation that
may come back to haunt you the rest of your life!
Peer pressure can be an
extremely strong motive to force someone to fly in conditions that they simply
are not ready to fly in. If they are pushed to far, to fast - then they are not
safe to fly in the questionable weather condition and they will not be safe,
just because you are close by – you will not be holding their hand!
The Sun is usually a problem.
The ultraviolet rays of the sun are public enemy #1 when it comes to destroying
the structure of the canopy material. Both porosity and strength will be lost
via the sun’s constant ultraviolet rays. So don’t leave your chute lay – spread
out – absorbing these harmful rays while you ‘chit-chat’ with your friends.
Take the time to bag your chute, or at the very least, bundle your canopy into a
small ball while you consider the possibility of the next flight (or gab about
the answers to the universe).
Another Sun liability: Your
skin. Don’t forget to protect your skin with a sunscreen (recommend 45-spf or
higher). Remember, two factors: the higher you fly and the longer you fly, both
directly correlate to the sun’s damage to your skin. And don’t forget to protect
your lips with a lip gloss (like Chap Stick).
However, the Sun can be used as
an asset: Placing the canopy between you and the sun while you are flying is a
great way to inspect your wing. You can immediately spot most defects in the
material of the canopy when the sun is behind it; regardless of what side of the
wing the defect is located.
When you attend a fly-in,
remember that you are a guest. Your behavior at these events affects the
attitude of the local community about powered parachutes. After the event,
while you are back home watching TV, the local PPC pilots that sponsored the
event have to continue to deal with your actions while you were at their
‘home-turf’. The City Officials that heard of your illegal ‘mid-night’ flight;
the farmers whose homes you ‘buzzed’; the spectators (and possible clients) that
witnessed your unsafe flying shenanigans and overheard your rumors, these people
are all going to negatively affect the reputation and freedoms of the local PPC
pilots you left behind. So please be considerate.
Most PPC events are put together
by local Dealers. Some of these dealers make their sole livelihood by selling
and training-on powered parachutes – this is not a part-time job (hobby) for
them. There is a considerable amount of time and money that goes into producing
some of the powered parachute events. Sure these dealers do have the event so
that we can have fun, camaraderie, and advance our PPC education. But they also
generate the event as marketing tool. These dealers need to make a return on
their time and investment – so please, do not try and take advantage of the hype
& excitement of the spectators and steal a local sale. Consideration of the
local dealer’s welfare should also be part of your business ethics – not to
mention common courtesy - while attending the event.
Are you the type of personality
that is going to push the envelope on safety limits? If so, after you take even
ONE small step over the recommended Safety Limit - what is next? Will two steps
be enough for you? Were will it stop? Will you be signing the PPC incident
Do the spectators, and of course
your pilot peers – really need to know just how “good” you are?
(Who hasn’t seen an EGO produce flying complications?) Why do you need
an audience to prove yourself? Isn’t it enough that you know what you can do?
For who are you performing the experimental flight maneuver that pushes the edge
of the envelope? Why do these people – the spectators - need to be impressed by
you – are you that important? How is your risky action going to help anyone?
When one considers these things – isn’t your silly stunt really just
narcissistic and ineffective – to say the least - in helping the PPC community?
[Note: If you want to pursue
new, unique flight techniques, then do so on your own time, in your own space.
And do so in order to advance the sport and to establish solid safe,
well-grounded techniques. Then perhaps your practiced & reputable flight
routines can be enjoyed by most at the next controlled Air Show.]
Related word of advice: Long
hour pilots have learned to lean to the conservative & safety side!
time…keep preparing for the possible by maintaining a position with options and
remember that the easiest way to solve a (flying) problem is by avoiding it!
Frederick Scheffel, CEO, AFI
Southwest Regional Director - NAPPF
March 04 Frederick Scheffel
Relating the “Learning to fly” experience to the real world… WITHOUT
the Fundamentals of Instruction jargon and technical terminology. What is the
flight training/learning process all about…
Well, let’s see if we can break this ‘learning’ thing down a little…taking my
views and advice as a Teacher-to-Student (and with a few comments as a
Modifications to current habits & routines
Background – your related history
Your view of the process & materials
You need to be where you want
to be when it comes to learning new skills. If someone is requesting or forcing
you to learn materials that you could care-less about, then you are wasting your
time. You cannot be forced to learn – no matter how great your teacher!
[Note: This rarely ever happens when it comes to flight training. I mean, let’s
face it, most people really want to learn to fly. However, there are those who
will think they are ‘above’ the ground schooling – and they do not want to be
bothered with reading & homework - they just want to know how to be the PIC and
fly the aircraft.]
You need to be healthy and you need to have the aspiration to learn. And
when it comes to piloting, you need to have the desire to want more than just to
learn how to fly – you have to crave every bit of information that concerns the
subject: preflight checks, weather, communications, protocols, emergency
procedures (“what-if” scenarios), equipment, engines and safety routines. As
long as “Murphy” lives, you will someday fly in conditions that far exceed those
relatively windless, safe days of your first solo flights. You need to crave
information that will prepare you for the vast majority of ‘worst-case’
scenarios. The best way I have found to approach a new subject is to learn
enough about it that after digesting the materials, and combined with additional
research outside of class – I should be able to teach the new subject at hand.
When I approach new class materials, I take the attitude that I will be teaching
the same class in the near future – that way I try to anticipate the questions
my imaginary students may ask, and then educate myself for the possible
answers. And when I actually do teach a flight training class – I advise my
students that tomorrow one of them will be selected to re-teach a small portion
of the same subject matter to the class as a review. You may be surprised how
much better they pay attention after that comment.
Expect plateaus of learning –
we all go through them. Don’t over ‘push’ yourself.
Keep your study time per day to a maximum of 6 hours – ‘cause when you are
tired, you just don’t feel like learn’in it! When you’re tired and the ‘drive’
is gone – your effort counts for only a very little towards the learning
And there will be times when, even though you are well rested, it just seems
like you can’t make it to the next skill level. Now these times are when
determination and persistent are the characteristics that will take you to the
next beyond. Now is the time to be patience & relax. Your determination, your
desires will move you forward when your mind and body have decided that the
digestion of your current knowledge and skills are complete.
Relative to powered parachutes – I would surely advice that you let go of the
technical. The PPC is not an aircraft that flies well by instruments. Relax.
Feel the machine…be the machine…(”nana-nana-nana” - Chevy Chase in Caddyshack
– remember?). No really, you need to fly a PPC by the
“seat-of-your-pants”. When you get to the point of really feeling the PPC – you
WILL GO to the next skill level. You won’t need to look at your
altimeter to know you are climbing, you will feel your butt push just that
little bit harder against the bottom of the seat. And with just a little foot
pressure on your steering bars, you will feel the crosswind push against the
wing and be able to anticipate the coming swing, and adjust the drag of the
wing’s tail to minimize the motion.
MODIFICATIONS TO CURRENT HABITS & ROUTINES
It is easier to teach totally
new routines, then to change existing, similar routines. For instances, if you
are already a General Aviation pilot – please let me remind you that the powered
parachute is a very unique aircraft. You will be flying a pendulum. Skills that
are not common manuevers in a GA aircraft will soon be routine in a PPC.
Feelings in flight (hanging in a pendulum) that are initially uncomfortable when
related to a fixed-wing aircraft will become un-noticed and again routine in a
PPC. The pendulum scenario of the PPC makes it not just safer, but in some
ways, quite different than the flight characteristics of a fixed wing aircraft.
In a powered parachute, the more in-tuned you are with the ‘seat-of-your-pants’
feelings, the better pilot you will become.
Then, after you are taught the new flying procedures, you need to make these new
routines HABITS! So fly often, and cement the new PPC techniques.
BACKGROUND – your related experience/history
If you have previously studied
weather; if you already have an education in aerodynamics – obviously, you will
be more comfortable with your ground schooling. And certainly if you are a
Painter by trade – you will more easily take to the controls of a PPC. WHAT?
What does painting have to do with PPC piloting? Well, let’s throw this
question to the audience – ANYONE? Any thoughts?
Well, I have found that a painter (or anyone that works often with their wrist
and hand pressures) has a smoother, more even hand motion on the throttle – and
it is throttle finesse that makes a superb PPC pilot. A smooth, slow throttle
motion on a PPC equals to a graceful, flowing powered parachute.
VIEW OF THE PROCESS & MATERIALS
First, I must mention that your
initial opinion of your instructor and his/her abilities is crucial. If you do
not trust your instructor, or you feel that their qualifications are minimal at
best – your learning experience is going to be greatly hampered. You have to
trust & respect your flight instructor.
This same judging process will
apply to the aircraft to be used, the condition of the training field and the
training materials presented. The human (personality) chemistry between an
instructor and a student will not always be there – but professionalism should
always be present! Bottomline, if you are not comfortable with your instructor,
if may well be worth your time to local another. Get references, ask about the
training materials used, contact alumni of the instructor, and even ask other
PPC professionals about your selected instructor.
And remember, learning any skill can become overwhelming depending on how it is
presented or how hard you believe the process will be, even the fun and common
skill of flying a kite! [Just visualize for a moment – how an engineer or
attorney might explain to a space alien ‘how to fly a kite’! See. Any process
can be presented to appear complicated, and on the other side of the coin, any
learning process can be made to be easily digestible.]
So as an Instructor – please take every process and break it down into
simple, easy to comprehend steps.
And as a Student – do not
overwhelm yourself by thinking beyond the current lesson plan. Concentrate on
just the current lesson being taught; concentrate on the skill at hand. Do not
try and guess the next step or fear tomorrow’s lesson. Stay with the here and
Additional note to Instructors…your job is not to impress your students with
your flying skills. Your job is to take every procedure, break it into its
basic simple components, convey their meanings, and then perhaps just as
importantly – insert a sense of humor. Your student gains nothing by being
impressed with your overwhelming skills & knowledge. This only tends to
intimidate – and intimidation does not encourage a learning atmosphere. Instill
into the new student the methods of how to keep this sport safe (and make it
safer) but also make the experience of learning to fly a PPC FUN. A little
humor goes a long way in relaxing your student, and helping them reduce their
fears and thus enhance their learning potential.
Additional note to the Student…more than the words of a manual or the
information sheets you receive, or the comments of your instructor, EXPERIENCE
is going to be the optimal learning tool. Indeed, you will use your knowledge
and the wisdom of your instructions as the bases of your PPC understanding and
safety practices, but those things will only be the foundation upon which you
will develop your lasting flying skills – skills that will grow only through
your own safety routines and repeated experiences.
Immediate feedback to the
student may be the most powerful learning tool; feedback after every written
exam; feedback after every flying task. Feedback allows the student the
opportunity to effectively evaluate and correct their learning progress!
Feedback will also evoked conversation and allow other facets of the material
to come to light. And the more angles a subject is approached from, the
stronger the ability of the humans of this planet to remember.
Once your flight training class
is completed, your learning process should not end. There is one more procedure
the student needs to take…REVIEW.
Read, and re-read the manual (or information sheets). Like every other human,
you will probably have missed something on the first read of the information.
So give yourself the full opportunity to digest all of the contents. With the
addition of your recent class training – your review of the training materials
will have a higher level of comprehension. Give yourself this valuable learning
reinforcement. Re-read and continue your research; build upon your experiences;
learn from the experiences of others; and make safe flight your highest
Frederick Scheffel, CEO, AFI
Southwest Regional Director - NAPPF
February 04 Scott Hughes
I sat down to write this article I began reflecting on my first flight in a
Cessna 150 36 years ago and my first/second solo flights in a powered parachute.
I was fifteen when I took my first flight in the Cessna 150. That was so cool.
It seemed as long as I keep my speed above stalling, engine in the green and my
nose on or around the horizon the plane would basically fly. What a great
feeling, I was a bird. The other thing I recall about my early fixed wing flying
was my instructor. He wanted all of his pilots to be smooth. I especially
remember him slapping my knuckles if I used more than two fingers on the yoke or
throttle. It seemed like he was truly possessed by a demon. His goal was to
build smooth and perfect pilots. In the process he either gave me or I bought a
great of information to study and read.
My instructor would fly by the numbers. On downwind I would reduce my airspeed
to 85 mph. Once adjacent to the threshold (end of the runway) I would pull the
throttle back to 1700 rpm. Add one notch of flaps and start my base turn while
slowing down to 75 mph. I would add another notch of flaps and reduce my power
to 1500 rpm. Turning final I would slow my speed to 65 mph and maybe full flaps
depending on the type of landing I needed to do, i.e., short filed, soft field,
etc. Then I would fly it down and hold it off until I greased the landing. If I
were flying a Twin Beech Baron or a 777 I would be doing something similar with
only the power, flaps and speed settings changing.
Let me digress just a little and talk about my PPC experience. I was lucky
enough in 1982 to get a flight in/on one of Steve Snyder’s PPC’s that he had
just developed. It was called a Paraplane. It had two twin solo engines on it
with a skydiving chute for a wing. To be honest back then when I weighed 185
pounds I was pushing the upper limits of this contraption. It was a blast but I
was having too much fun with my part time job skydiving for Budweiser and Coke
all over the country on weekends.
It wasn’t until some 7 years ago that I decided that selling powered parachutes
would be the therapeutic job I was looking for versus working in the medical
industry. (Great Decision by the way) I bought 2 PPC’s so that I could become a
dealer. When I went to pick up my new toys and get trained there was a slight
miss communication between us. They assumed that because I had thousands of
skydives, thousands of hours in fixed wing airplanes, a CFII, MEI, EIEIO and I
had my first flight in a PPC in 1982 that I was already a PPC pilot… oops.
I had driven all night to pick my new toys and attend a training class. When I
had arrived at the field to pick up my first 2 planes the class had already
started. They began with the flying portion due to bad weather coming in. I
basically watched the last two students fly and then it was my turn. I listened
very intently to every word they had told the previous students. I remember
giving it the gas and the chute popped up like when I used to play with my
skydiving chute and away I went. I did the routine they wanted me to accomplish
plus a little extra, (I’ll explain the little extra another time). The landing
was uneventful and I stopped in their landing circle. I had a ball.
However later that day they discovered that I didn’t have the hours yet to
qualify to become a BFI. Matter of fact I only had about a half hour before my
morning flight. I went home and got 35 hours over the next 2 weeks. I flew
almost every day…
and let me tell you that was a lot of fun. Two weeks later I was a BFI. However,
knowing what I know now I was very lucky not to do any damage to my new toys.
In a powered parachute (PPC) it is so much different. I was at first surprise
that the PPC was not nearly as responsive as a fixed wing aircraft or a
skydiver’s wing. However, I did find some inherent qualities that lend itself to
safety, namely the pendulum effect. The PPC would generally correct itself when
hit with adverse gust of wind. What I did find was that over time I could
anticipate and use the pendulum to assist me in my flying. Now after a lot of
flying and practice I have come to know that the PPC can be very aerobatic and
extremely precise.*See below
Lisa my wife said that I was like a kid in the candy store. I, like most of us
when we get into this great sport, was like a sponge and began looking for
training information and any type of resource material. Unfortunately not
much was to be found. The training information that I did find at the time was
very, very basic and in many cases nonexistent. Most of the information out
there was written for fixed wing aircraft or from a fixed wing point of view.
There was nothing like the material I had received from my fixed wing
instructor. Trial and error was the standard approaches used for many students
that I had talked to. I learned a lot over the next couple of years and began to
develop more in-depth lesson plans and a training manual. So far we have been
very lucky and haven’t had any incidences or problems during any of our 400 solo
flights and 6,000+ first time introductory training flights, (knock on wood).
This brings me to the reason for this article. I wanted to share some of the
resources that I have come to use for information. I believe that the motto of
NAPPF “Safety through Education” isn’t just lip service. So with no further
adieux here are some of my favorite resources.
# 1 Number one source of information is, “YOUR INSTRUCTOR!!!”
is why you want to take Fredrick’s advice from last month’s article and make
sure you invest in a good one, one that knows their stuff. It’s your money…
invest it wisely.
# 2 Regional Flyin’s or your clubs get together/meetings.
There are often speakers with a great deal of experience and/or a seminar to
learn from. One piece of advice I would give you is to be very cautious of the
“flyin land mines”. (Flyin
mines are laid usually by someone without a lot of time and/or experience
sharing their new found expertise and stating it as fact. Be sure to check back
with your instructor, manufacture or other experts in the field before you do
any of the following; a radical new maneuver you heard about or saw someone do,
modify or tweak your engine or make modifications to your plane. Also at a flyin
remember, PLEASE REMEMBER, all chutes are not interchangeable from plane to
plane. Designed performance of a chute could be dramatically changed if you
change A chute from one machine to another. In fact, some might be down right
dangerous to mix.