For Paramotor Instructors, Pilots and Students
Know of an Accident?
Help us learn from mistakes already made and establish likelihood by reporting incidents. They can be completely anonymous. If you have had, or know of, an accident or potential accident or near accident or unsafe condition, please share it on our Incident database.
Safety in our Hands
Paramotoring is possibly the safest form of personal flight ever devised but it’s still aviation. Humans in flight involve significant and not always obvious risk. We are fortunate, though, in how much safety is at our disposal. The USPPA provides tools to help educate pilots and instructors but it’s up to pilots to use them. For example, instructors who don’t use the syllabus or students who don’t ask for its use are shortchanging the training process.
Besides staying healthy and flying into old age, improving safety brightens our sport’s reputation. That reputation will more likely get us accepted at desirable public sites, a welcome benefit.
Body contact with spinning prop continues to cause injuries. There’s some help, though, for pilots willing to add a “safety ring” to their cage. It’s an aluminum ring that mounts just forward of the radial arms with the same radius as the prop. You can see an example of it, along with other prop-related safety ideas at www.footflyer.com.
The Danger Zone
This was the site of a serious injury wire-strike crash. The bridge in front of the pictured flyer has wires running only 12 feet overhead and the poles are unusually far apart with one being obscured in trees. The area was only 2 miles from the pilot’s primary field.
Low is dangerous. Below 200 feet above ground level (AGL) is the danger zone. It commands enormous attention and is best avoided to minimize risk.
A recent wire accident highlights the significant risk from flying in the “danger zone.” A highly experienced pilot, flying in his familiar area, was cruising beside a road at about 75 feet. After being distracted, he clipped high tension wires that run within a mile of the field. Fortunately both occupants of the two-place craft escaped without injury but a power company manager (and paramotor pilot) who happened to be on-scene explained that only a very strange set of circumstances prevented them from being electrocuted.
Other fatalities have resulted from low maneuvering, including wire strikes. The significant lesson from this near-tragedy is that the risk is present even in a familiar area and to experienced pilots.
Remember that power lines push with between 4000 volts and 400,000 volts. At those levels, paraglider lines can easily be conductive and a pilot who climbs down with the wires still live, may well be electrocuted.
See & Avoid
Look first (clearly turn head) in the direction of turn.
Shallow bank to start so others see that you’re turning before the flight path actually changes much..
Look up and down in the direction of turn.
Turn with the desired brake pressure..
A simple flight around New Mexico became a tragedy when two pilots collided, one in level flight, the other turning slowly. From jumbo jets to paramotors, it is among the least survivable of all accident types. It is also the most preventable. Most “midairs,” aviation parlance for airborne collisions, occur in the pattern. Those that don’t tend to be merging collisions, where one pilot drifts into another. That is what happened in Albuquerque where the pilots were out of the pattern.
We’re all told to “clear our turns” but how? Most of the battle is simply the discipline to clear the turn every time. It’s easy to go into a shallow turn without looking and rarely is there ever a problem. But when even one other pilot is around, it can obviously be critical.
When planning a turn, follow these steps: “Look, shallow, up, down, turn.” That means turn your head to look in the direction of turn, then start a shallow bank in that direction to alert others of your impending turn, then look up and down in the direction of turn and finally start the turn. The up and down look is to catch a pilot that you may be turning towards who is above or below you and slightly behind. That is what appears to have happened in New Mexico.
The key is to make it a habit. If you catch yourself starting a turn without doing those actions, level out, do the actions, and turn. It is a habit that may save your life. The steps can be done in two seconds—lets help remind ourselves and our fellow pilots to be more vigilant next time if we notice turns executed without taking this precaution.
Also, keep up a periodic scan when flying with others and avoid flying side by side on cross country-type flights. It’s too easy to lose track of another pilot and drift into each other. Fly staggered so that each pilot is always in another’s periphery. Scan up and down, too. One near-collision occurred when a pilot below climbed into a pilot above. The top pilot was fortunately able to climb out of it since the closure rate was slow.
We have a lot of gatherings and even small ones carry enormous risk. The New Mexico tragedy had only 9 pilots in the air at the time. While the odds may be relatively low, the consequences are enormous.
Other practices include 1) avoid “sneaking up” on a pilot, 2) avoid close formation flying, especially with less experienced pilots, and never touch wingtips, 3) when flying formation always have an out that you can execute immediately, 4) photography is risky due to the distraction factor, be especially vigilant, 5) establish and use a takeoff/landing pattern at new flying sites.
PPC Fatality reported as PPG
There was a tragedy in Newcastle, Wyoming involving an Infinity Powered Parachute under an ASAP elliptical wing. Our condolences go out to the family. It was originally reported as a powered paraglider although the distinction must be minimized since the facts of the accident are very relevant to us all.
After talking with the County Coroner, it appears that a minimally trained pilot was flying in unusually strong conditions early in the morning. The wreckage was found downwind of a large terrain feature that rose more than 300 feet AGL. Damage to the unit was consistent with a nose-low hard impact on the right side and immediate rollover to the right. Ground scarring was minimal beyond the initial impact.
The ASAP Thunderbolt wing was an elliptical type which is generally similar to a PPG wing and therefore more responsive with more active control required in turbulence.
The pilot’s typical flight involved flying low to inspect his land and so it seems probable that he encountered strong rotor in the lee of the hill and got into an oscillation that worsened until ground impact or simply lost control. Damage to the propeller suggested a high power setting.
The fact that this is a powered parachute is of little consequence — a powered paraglider would have been just as susceptible. The pilot was flying in the morning and thought that would relieve him of the need to be an expert wing handler. Rotor doesn’t care what time it is — if there is wind and obstructions, there is rotor in the lee. It is a great reminder of natures power and how much respect that power deserves.
The Riskiest Part of PPG?
It says something about the safety of our flying…unfortunately, before the flying is the starting. A look at incident reports and other accounts paints a clear picture: The greatest risk for serious injury is an encounter with the propeller!
The hardest part of avoiding this risk is complacency – we start this thing constantly and every time it pops and idles. No problem. Or maybe it doesn’t start and we begin trouble shooting – trying the throttle in different positions, using different holds on the frame, etc. but getting more complacent with each failed attempt.
Force yourself to check the throttle linkage before pulling it – verify that the carburetor goes to idle after releasing the throttle.
Force yourself to make sure the throttle is in a position where a thrusting motor won’t push it more.
Force yourself to hold the frame in ready position to accept full power if it happens. Better yet, start it on your back with someone’s help. If the option exists, use it. This is where a fully charged electric starter is a benefit – start it on your back!
We want our members (and everyone else, for that matter) to keep their throttle fingers, heads and other extremities available for future fly-ins!
Did You Use a Syllabus?
Every USPPA Instructor is provided with and encouraged to use the USPPA syllabus or an equivalent. airspace? Site Selection? Did you learn about emergencies? More importantly, did you rehearse reaction to those emergencies? Airlines, even with their highly experienced crews, have found that only rehearsal ensures that procedures will be done correctly. Rehearsing various maladies has proven critical.
The syllabus covers these and many other topics. If you didn’t get this training, you should!
Both the instructor and student initial each item as it’s completed. Schools should either use this syllabus or their own version that requires initials and includes at least the same material.
The experienced pilot was doing aerobatics with a Fresh Breeze “Flyke,” a bicycle-looking wheeled PPG craft. It was supposed to be a loop but he didn’t quite make it over the top.
After the cart flipped over and got some lines caught the pilot, Andi Siebenhofer, thought the glider would likely start an uncontrollable spiral and tossed his reserve.
The landing under reserve was cushioned further by going through the edge of trees and the craft wound up on it’s wheels, essentially un-damaged and with the motor still running (he shut it off immediately thereafter). The trees can also make such landings far worse if they collapse the chute causing the pilot to drop more quickly through them.
This demonstrates both the risk of aerobatics and the value of a reserve. Understand that while the vast majority of reserve deployments succeed in saving their user, not all function properly and so they should be viewed as a last chance in scenarios where the alternative is far worse.
Also, proper installation and training are critical for successful use.
The still series is excerpted from an upcoming book. The original video, used by permission of Fresh Breeze, can be found at www.SouthernSkies.net.