A powered parachute (PPC) light-sport aircraft (LSA), also known as a PPC LSA, is a dune buggy-style vehicle with an aircraft engine, and a parachute-style square wing attached. This aircraft can be safely flown on most calm weather days and requires minimal training by aviation standards.
Powered Parachutes can be either an ultralight vehicle (single occupant/person) or a Light-Sport Aircraft which can hold two people (pilot and passanger)
In the U.S., the FAA definition of ultralight vehicles is defined in FAR 103. Vehicles falling within the U.S. ultralight specifications are extremely light-weight (less than 254 pounds if powered, or 155 pounds if unpowered), are intended for manned operation by a single occupant, have a fuel capacity of five U.S. gallons or less, a maximum calibrated airspeed of not more than 55 knots, and a maximum stall speed of not more than 24 knots. In the U.S. operation of an ultralight vehicle does not require pilot licensing, medical certification, or aircraft registration.
Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA)
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) basic specifications for a powered parachute light-sport aircraft (LSA) which can hold two people are:
- weigh less than 1320 pounds (600 kilograms) operated from land, seaplane 1430 pounds (649 kilograms)
- either one or two seats (typically two seats)
- fly slower than 138 mph (120 kts / 222 km/h) full power level flight or stall slower than 45 knots (83 km/h)
- have a fixed landing gear, single electric motor or reciprocating engine, and a fixed-pitch or ground adjustable propeller.
The U.S. definition of an LSA is similar to many other countries’ definition of “microlight” or “ultralight” aircraft. The other countries’ microlight definitions are typically less restrictive and do not limit airspeed or the use of variable-pitch propellers.
If properly equipped, and the pilot has a private pilot rating, an E-LSA and S-LSA powered parachute LSA can be flown at night.
Some people ask, “Is flying a powered parachute the same as parachuting?” Parachutes are designed to be deployed during free-fall from an airplane and to then descend to the ground. By contrast, the powered parachute light-sport aircraft is a dune buggy-style cart with an aircraft engine and a propeller. A parachute-style square wing is attached that is inflated on the ground with the engine used to gain speed to takeoff, gain or maintain altitude.
Often a powered parachute is confused with a powered paraglider. A powered paraglider, known as a paramotor outside the USA, is a backpack-style aircraft engine, designed to convert a paraglider wing to a powered paraglider (PPG). The powered paraglider pilot usually runs on his/her feet to gain speed and takeoff. The pilot is than is suspended in a sitting position in the backpack-style harness with an engine.
The powered paraglider wing folds up into a 30 lb. pack in about five minutes and, along with the motor pack, can be easily transported in a small vehicle on on the airlines as baggage. The powered parachute, due to its weight and larger dune buggy-style undercarriage cart for 2 people with wheels, must be transported in a trailer.
It’s somewhat easier to learn to fly a powered parachute light-sport aircraft. It takes more physical agility and stamina to launch a powered paraglider by running than it does to take off while sitting in a powered parachute light-sport aircraft with wheels. A powered paraglider motor weighs anywhere from 35 to 100 lbs., and is carried on your back, in contrast to a powered parachute light-sport aircraft which you sit in and takeoff on wheels.
The exact definition by the FAA is:
Light-sport aircraft means an aircraft, other than a helicopter or powered-lift that, since its original certification, has continued to meet the following:
(1) A maximum takeoff weight of not more than—
(i) 1,320 pounds (600 kilograms) for aircraft not intended for operation on water; or
(ii) 1,430 pounds (650 kilograms) for an aircraft intended for operation on water.
(2) A maximum airspeed in level flight with maximum continuous power (VH) of not more than 120 knots CAS under standard atmospheric conditions at sea level.
(3) A maximum never-exceed speed (VNE) of not more than 120 knots CAS for a glider.
(4) A maximum stalling speed or minimum steady flight speed without the use of lift-enhancing devices (VS1) of not more than 45 knots CAS at the aircraft’s maximum certificated takeoff weight and most critical center of gravity.
(5) A maximum seating capacity of no more than two persons, including the pilot.
(6) A single, reciprocating engine, if powered.
(7) A fixed or ground-adjustable propeller if a powered aircraft other than a powered glider.
(8) A fixed or autofeathering propeller system if a powered glider.
(9) A fixed-pitch, semi-rigid, teetering, two-blade rotor system, if a gyroplane.
(10) A nonpressurized cabin, if equipped with a cabin.
(11) Fixed landing gear, except for an aircraft intended for operation on water or a glider.
(12) Fixed or retractable landing gear, or a hull, for an aircraft intended for operation on water.
(13) Fixed or retractable landing gear for a glider.
PPC,s are not new. They have been around for many years. The new sport pilot and light-sport aircraft rule has brought powered parachutes to the attention of the masses.
There are two types of powered parachute (PPC) light-sport aircraft (LSA) to choose from. To choose the one that is right for you, consider the difference in cost; who can maintain it, whether or not you want to use it for training, and if it can be rented.