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Mach .85 – Mach .05 = A Lot to Learn

Powered Sport Flying Magazine

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June 2013 Edition of Powered Sport Flying Magazine


The AuthorIn flying commercial airliners for a living, a large portion of my life in aviation revolves around things like on time departures, passenger issues, weather, mechanicals, what hotel we’re staying in, and so on. The aviating part is still there of course, but for the first and last 10 minutes or so, when we’re closest to the ground, it’s augmented by checklists and flight deck procedural flows. In cruise flight the workload is decreased, allowing us to really take in the view from 30,000+ feet, but there’s not much sensory appreciation of the ground going on since we’re so high above it. Still, as commercial pilots I think I can speak for a lot of us when I say that the longing for why we got into aviation is ever present, and for a lot of us that means pursuing the freedom that truly free flight affords. Enter PPG.

PPG: It’s Lure to Commercial Pilots

The Author: Having Fun :-)One of the things I was most amazed by upon starting out in PPG was just how many airline pilots were doing it. The motor and wing I purchased belonged to the friend of a fellow airline pilot who is also a PPG pilot. My USPPA instructor is also an instructor and line captain with my airline. I could identify with them right off the bat in what I thought were a few of the reasons I myself was most attracted to PPG. Here are some of those reasons: Although a given, it still needs to be reiterated – All pilots really, really like one thing in particular: Safety. Additionally, I think its fair to say that a lot us airline drivers like myself appreciate it when our money is wisely spent.. Doesn’t everybody? Or should I say, our ‘bang for the buck’ factor seems to be quite high. Perhaps it’s the constant action vs. result reality of our jobs. Humorously, flight attendants like to tease us and tell us we’re cheap. I beg to differ though; We just like to know we’re getting a good deal. Again, doesn’t everybody? But back to safety… Flying airliners tends to spoil us airline pilots in the sense that everything we rely upon to keep us safe is not only completely state of the art (usually), it also (usually) comes in pairs: From the engines, to the flight deck instrumentation, to the various components that make up the individual systems found in the aircraft… For instance the hydraulic system in the aircraft I fly is actually three separate hydraulic systems, all redundant. Additionally, as it’s nice to fly aircraft that have a consistent ability to draw an ace to the sky Gods in the ongoing game of weather poker. In the case of thunderstorms, we can do that by going over them. If that doesn’t work, then we just put on extra fuel and go around them – When you’re doing 400kts across the ground, it takes only fifteen minutes or so to cover 100NM or more.

…as an airline pilot, it’s nice to fly aircraft that have a consistent ability to draw an ace to the sky Gods in the ongoing game of weather poker

So, how all this relates to PPG amounts to the following: The safety in PPG is backed up by the statistics as well as the overall concept and use. First, the statistics don’t lie: PPG is remarkably safer then most other forms of ultralight aviation. And the overall concept? It’s simple: You’re flying a wing, but with parachutal benefits. Finally, PPG is flown in calm air primarily, and over the terrain of our choosing. With characteristics like these, it’s not hard to see PPG’s attraction to someone whose job is flying the state of the art in safety for a living. For me, the decision to fly PPG’s was an easy one.. But I think it also takes an additional yearning, a yearning to be truly free… Which I’ll touch on later.

Attitude is Everything: Repeat Until Blue in the Face

Author: Feet Crossed in Bliss…And patience is a virtue. If there’s anything confusing about that last sentence, please repeat it too. As Jeff Goin said in The PPG Bible, PPG can make a mockery of prior experience…. Even if that experience involves tens of thousands of hours of flight time, dozens of different aircraft, and enough “there I was” stories to put even a pirate in an open bar to sleep. The reason we airline drivers have many, if not most of the same struggles when beginning in PPG as anyone does has a lot to do with the ‘pendulum consortium’ I’ll call it that’s involved in this unique form of flight – Actually to me it was a completely foreign notion until getting into PPG. Conceptually speaking, everything up until grasping that factor was quite similar to conventional aviation and easy to understand, at least mentally. It was not until I was kiting a paraglider for the first time that I realized I would have many of the same struggles as anyone starting out in PPG… Or PG for that matter. Where prior aviation experience does help though comes in the post kiting understanding of why the pendulous forces at work in a paraglider act in the way they do. I hate to have to say it but having a humble attitude just coming into PPG is most important for people with lots of prior experience in aviation, be it from the airlines or otherwise. Not only will it expedite the learning experience, but good instructors already know the hurdles that airline and otherwise high time pilots face, which are the same hurdles anybody faces upon just starting out. And because good instructors know the common pitfalls of just starting out, they do not expect airline pilots to be any better at grasping the unique flying characteristics of a paraglider, more so then anyone else.

…because good instructors know the common pitfalls of just starting out, they do not expect airline pilots to be any better at grasping the unique flying characteristics of a paraglider, more so then anyone else

For Professional Pilots The Flying Hurdles are the Same, Just Interpreted Differently

The Author: Checking Instruments One of the hurdles I faced when just starting out in PPG just was just kiting… I mean, how hard could it be, I thought? As it turns out it was tremendously hard. When you don’t know what to anticipate because you don’t have any prior experience running around beneath a pendulum whilst just trying to balance it overhead while not hitting anything (like a park bench), you can end up sideways fast. It’s not until you learn the anticipation in kiting, as well as the resultant corrections, that you learn kiting and intern really learn the wing and it’s unique behavior on the whole. And learning kiting for someone like me who came from solely flying conventional airplanes was a sweet twist.. Both mentally and physically! For one thing what should have been more like an airplane’s aileron on one side of the wing, the brake, created a reaction opposite to that of an aileron! I’ll use the following paragraph to go into detail on just that one big difference.

Parasitic Vs. Induced Drag: Just One of the Big Differences with Paragliders

When an aileron comes down on a conventional airplane wing, the wing goes up, due to the increase in lift because of the increase in the angle of attack. Most of the resultant drag is called induced drag, and is created at the wingtips in the form of vortices created intern by the differences in air pressure over and under the wing trying to equal itself out. There is a bit of parasitic drag going on, but usually not enough on a conventional hard wing to beat the induced drag in amount. It’s the parasitic drag created by the downward trailing edge on a paraglider when you pull the brake that effects a paraglider’s turn the most… The scale of ‘most’ between airplane ailerons and paraglider brake deflections having more to do with the parasitic drag’s relatively easy ability to overcome the featherlight weight of the paraglider’s wing by you pulling down the brake. Further, the induced drag created upon a conventional hard wing’s outside aileron deflection by the resultant increase in angle of attack pulls the wing back just like parasitic drag does to a paraglider’s inside wing. As a result the airplane yaws away from the turn about its vertical axis and the pilot uses rudder to counteract that yaw and truly affect the turn. Where Paragliders shine is in that they don’t have anything running length wise about their longitudinal axis (such as the fuselage on an airplane), that needs a rudder to keep it aligned with the direction of turn. Of course there are other significant differences between paragliders and conventional aircraft which are deserving of attention, but they are beyond the scope of the original intent of this article.

In the End PPG is a Gift to all of Us Who do It

The Author: SelfieI think for a lot of us professional pilots, PPG fulfills a tremendous amount of what we were pursuing by getting into aviation in the first place. Further, I think I can sum up the lure to PPG as being very similar across the board to everyone who try’s it… We all do it for the freedom, to see the world from a totally unique perspective, and to have the ability to enjoy a lot of the same freedoms that birds do. And finally at this very point in our long history on Planet Earth, we are able to.