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Anorexic Equipment

Anorexic Equipment
Powered Sport Flying Magazine
July/August 2016

In the past five years, the popularity of powered paragliding has increased tremendously. Like any fast growing genre of fun, it’s been exciting to watch. Even more exciting has been the explosive growth of innovation within the sport. The drive for torque reduction has produced creative -and very effective- compensation methods which work quite well. The use of exotic materials like titanium and carbon fiber have added new dimensions in weight reduction while in most cases not reducing overall safety.

On the other hand, there has been a disturbing trend in achieving these same weight losses by reducing parts and materials, at the expense of safety. In the endless battle for the perfect paramotor, double hoops (cage rings) now seem to be a thing of the past and some cage nets are literally hard to tell apart from spider webs these days. These cage nets are intended only to keep the lines out of the prop but their function in an emergency could be considered nil.  This is more true when the prop is too close to a cage for any net to be of any good. The closer the prop, the stronger the net should be.

…there has been a disturbing trend at achieving this same weight losses by reducing parts and materials, at the expense of safety.

You Don’t Always Get What You Think You’re Paying For…
So what’s the point of reducing weight at the expense of safety? Answer: Chasing trends with the goal of sales. Money has been a powerful motivator for centuries, causing all kinds of obvious standards to be voided in the name of profits… And the race towards the perfect paramotor is no exception. Some would argue that this is the basis of capitalism; but capitalism works well with checks and balances where public safety issues are concerned. Example: It’s interesting and worth a mention that this was the entire premise for the formation of the CAA in the 1930’s (now the FAA) when so many pilots back then were getting killed with substandard equipment and practices.

For the newbies choosing a paramotor brand to trust their life and limbs with in 2016 though, it’s complicated enough already. Ironically, now they have the added weight of purchasing something that’s too light—too light in materials and too light in structural integrity, while trying to be light on the pocketbook. In certain cases it could even be said that we’re paying more for less in some ways now, and that almost 100 years of lessons learned in aviation perhaps hasn’t entirely sunk in. The fact that the FAA doesn’t regulate PPG motors and wings (ultralights) the way they do aircraft is a blessing that allows for unmetered innovation in our industry but still, one wonders what may be different.

So all this leads us to ask what we’re left with in the way of options: Options that we feel safe enough to trust our lives with. Not that anorexic equipment is the way the entire industry is moving but nonetheless, when you take a look at the current offerings, the notion can still readily present itself. One option though comes in the form of a simple part, as opposed to an entirely perfect paramotor. It’s unambiguously called, The Safety Ring.

Enter Jeff Goin: PPG pilot extraordinaire, FootFlyer.Com founder, USPPA founder, 737 Captain, and probably most notably, the author of The PPG Bible, currently in it’s 4th edition. Early in the last decade Goin started seeing a disturbing trend amongst experienced paramotor pilots. “The single hoop machines were involved in a number of seemingly preventable prop contact injuries, even among experienced pilots, so I decided to do something more active than promote it in the book and website…” Says Goin. He contacted fabricator and PPG pilot Leon Whacker. Together they’ve provided an easy way for most paramotors with light cage components, curved spokes and/or inadequate netting to regain some or all the safety and strength benefits of the (seemingly former) double hoop designs. In noble form, Goin gets no profit from their sale.

The Safety Ring is a simple design really, consisting of collapsible and lightweight curved aluminum tubing that’s inserted between the cage net and the cage spokes. It ships in four pieces that slip together at the ends. They stay together with pop fasteners located within the tubes. Once in place, the ring is secured with wire ties. That’s it, it’s that easy. I myself have have been using one and the additional weight is negligible, probably on the order of 1-3 pounds. In fact to be honest, I didn’t even notice the difference.

Moreover, the strength of my cage has at least doubled. Additionally, the netting on the particular unit that I am testing only stretches about a third as far as it did without The Safety Ring installed – This is a testament in itself. But most of all, my confidence in the unit has skyrocketed, and that is the most important thing. The Safety Ring is available at Leon Wacker’s website, Skycruiser Manufacturing. Here is the link: http://skycruisermfg.com/new_products

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Christopher Pine is a commercial airline pilot, PPG pilot, photographer, and blogger. You can see his photography at www.FeatherLIGHTPPG.Com. He also produces a podcast about PPG at www.ParamotorRadio.Com