Powered parachutes are easy to fly
A powered parachute is simpler and easier to fly, and less expensive to own and operate than typical aircraft. With modern technology PPC perform well and burn less fuel. Most of the new powered parachutes are designed to burn less expensive auto fuel.
Powered parachutes are known for being flown low and slow, so you can see the earth from a different point of view. The PPC’s typical airspeed is about 25-35 mph (40-60 km/h). You’ll typical operate at heights between 300 and 1500 feet (90-500 meters). But you can ground skim just a few feet off the ground (a popular use of the aircraft) or go to altitudes as high as 18,000 feet (5.5 km). Equipped with a 15 gallon fuel tank, you can typically fly for about four hours and go about 120 miles.
You can make flying a powered parachute light-sport aircraft (LSA), like most adventure sports, as safe or dangerous as you want. You can enjoy years of injury free flying as long as you are trained properly, follow basic safety guidelines and use well maintained equipment. Ways you can make it safe are to receive instruction from a certified professional, fly well maintained and reliable aircraft — professional schools will create a safe and controlled learning environment.
Flying a powered parachute light-sport aircraft is an outdoor sport and Mother Nature is unpredictable — weather is always a big consideration. The primary safety factors are personal judgment and attitude. You must be willing to learn, use good judgement and have an appropriate attitude. If you do, then you can powered parachute as long as you want.
Is flying a light-sport powered parachute scary?
Flying a powered parachute light-sport aircraft is one of the most accessible ways to fulfill your dream of free flight! Even if you have a fear of heights, it will rarely be a factor, since there is no sensation of falling. You will not fall from the sky if the engine stops.
Choosing the appropriate PPC LSA is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a new sport pilot / light-sport aircraft owner. You should consider your needs and lifestyle when deciding which one is right for you. Considerations will include aircraft speed, range, wind limitations, airport operations, portability, storage, cost, controls and unique pilot skills or athletic ability, learning time and previous experience.
Powered parachutes fly at one speed…slow…typically in the 26-35 mph range. Most powered parachutes are sold with rectangular wings that present a lot of drag. In recent years, more streamlined elliptical wings have been developed. These wings give powered parachutes a little more speed, but not much more. Those lower speeds equate to easier flying characteristics and smaller takeoff and landing fields can be used.
With speed comes range. Assuming two to three hours worth of fuel, a powered parachute LSA can travel from 50 to 500 miles, depending on the aircraft’s speed, engine, and fuel capacity. PPC LSA are powered by two-cycle or four-cycle engines. Four-cycle engines burn more efficiently than two-cycle engines and therefore offer better range with teh same fuel capacity. Pilot and passenger comfort and baggage storage capabilities become considerations in LSA that have a longer range.
Powered parachutes have the greatest wind limitations
Powered parachutes need to be flown in calm or low-wind conditions. PPCs do not taxi or takeoff well in crosswind conditions because the wing needs to be pointed straight into the wind to keep it inflated above the undercarriage. Crosswind takeoffs in a PPC require more advanced piloting skills. Trikes and fixed-wing aircraft can taxi, takeoff, and land in comparable crosswing conditions. The configuration and size of the wing affect crosswing capabilities. Higher-speed aircraft typically have greater crosswing capabilities because there is less crosswind component when flying at higher speeds.
Powered parachutes are more suited to large grassy fields where takeoffs can be made into the wind in any direction. Some PPCs have successfully been phased into airports with grassy areas. However, landing on paved runways is not recommended for PPCs as the hard surface can damage the cloth of the wing. Also, if a the PPC wing is dropped on the runway other air traffic may be held up until it is cleared from the runway.
Powered parachutes are the most portable aircraft
The PPC wing can be stuffed into a duffle bag about the size of a large trash bag which can then be stored in one of the seats of the undercarriage. A PPC can be stored in a garage or a road-worthy trailer. (A 7-foot wide trailer is typically the maximum width needed.) Many PPC enthusiasts are drawn to PPCs for this reason. They trailer their PPC behind a RV or truck and travel the country, unpacking the PPC to fly when scenery and weather conditions offer great flying. Similarly, a trike wing can be detached from its undercarriage and then folded and fitted into a compact tube measuring 16 feet long with an average diameter of 10 inches.
At a typical weight of around 110 pounds, it can be easily stored along with the undercarriage in a hangar or garage. Most trike undercarriages will also fit into trailers making travelling with them in tow possible. Most trikes have a one to two hour setup and takedown time. Some fixed-wing aircraft have folding wings, which allow the aircraft to be transported in larger trailers or stored in a garage or hangar. Non-folding wing aircraft are most often limited to storage at an airport or landing strip. The cost of storing your aircraft should be included when figuring your operating expenses.
Powered parachutes are generally the least expensive aircraft
Like many recreational vehicles, the cost of a LSA can vary greatly. Powered parachutes are generally the least expensive aircraft, ranging from $8,000 to $45,000. Still PPC LSA generally are less expensive to purchase, operate, and maintain than most GA standard category aircraft.
While most pilot skills will cross over all three aircraft types we’re discussing–radio usage, map reading, and interpreting federal aviation regulations (FARs), there are some pilot skills unique to controling the different aircraft types. Most fixed-wing aircraft have three-axis controls, early ultralights and Ercoupes aside. Those three-axis controls are: ailerons, elevator, and rudder controlling roll, pitch, and yaw. Combined with the throttle these are used to control the direction and speed of the aircraft. Powered parachutes, by contrast, have only one-axis of control–roll (direction). There is no yaw, pitch, or speed control. The PPC pilot then only has to learn directional control and use the throttle for altitude control.
No athletic ability required to fly powered parachutes
Athletic ability? The PPC light-sport arcraft doesn’t require much athletic ability or stamina to fly. And since PPCs have only two controls (roll and throttle) and the slowest flying speed, it is the easiest and simplest LSA to fly. This is perfect for the person who wants an easy way to get their feet off the ground. It is great for the pilot who cannot, or doesn’t want to spend a lot of time learning to fly or staying current.
“What if I have previous aviation experience?”, you ask. Flying a powered parachute is easy to learn and transition to because of the simple one-axis control plus throttle for vertical speed. Many career airplane pilots choose to fly powered parachutes because they are so simple and decidely different from anything they have flown before.
The transition from flying General Aviation (GA) standard category aircraft to flying Light-Sport Aircraft is easy and will be the choice of many GA pilots. The new Sport Pilot rules and PPC category make it especially easy.