Back: Safety

USPPA’s Top 10 Tips on Safety

Why Use a Certified Instructor?

Gear is expensive, hospitals outrageous and we’d like to keep you as a current or prospective member for some time to come. Only the living contribute to our efforts! Here are some safe flight guidelines that will go a long way to reducing the risk inherent in our activity. They will never make up for simple good judgment and knowing when an operation is beyond your level, but they will help.

More is available in the USPPA Safety brochure which can be downloaded from here.

1. Get good, thorough, training from a USPPA/USUA certified instructor that uses best practices for training.

2. Respect the prop. When starting, assume the motor will go to full power and brace accordingly. Have someone help start whenever possible. Never reach back towards the prop while in flight. Seek out equipment whose cage is sufficient to protect against prop strikes. Over half of all serious accidents in our sport revolve around this issue and it’s easily one of the most preventable

3. Avoid steep maneuvering, especially close to the ground.

4. Avoid low flying (below 200′) especially downwind. Stay well above wires, which can be fatal, and keep enough room to land into the wind if the motor quits.

5. Avoid tight or obstructed launch sites. A safe power-out option must always be maintained.

6. Fly in good weather. Avoid mid-day, strong winds, thunderstorms (even if they LOOK far away), frontal conditions, and anything that feels weird. Don’t fly in the wind shadow of obstructions. Call 1-800-WX-BRIEF before launching.

7. Stay legal. Know where not to go: airspace, congested areas, TFR’s (temporary flight restrictions), and others. If you don’t know the area, check with a local airport to ask.

8. Always have a safe landing option. Especially avoid flying over water beyond gliding distance to shore unless adequate flotation is carried. Note that even with flotation you may be suspended in a position where you cannot breathe and also may become tangled in the lines in the water.

9. Avoid in-flight distractions (taking photos, competitions, or during ground activity) as much as possible. If engaging in one, check the flight path often. These times have proven very risky. Get above obstacles before beginning the distracting activity.

10. Limit formation flying and only fly in loose V-formations where the preceding pilot is continuously in your field of view. Clear all turns by looking, starting a shallow turn, looking harder (up and down, too) then banking. Don’t “surprise” another pilot and never touch wings with either your wing or a part of your body. Be mindful of other pilots’ wakes and stay well clear of wakes from heavier craft such as powered parachutes.

There are, of course, many other ways to help improve safety but these are ones that would have prevented most of the serious accidents in the past. Safety gear such as a reserve parachute, hook knife, boots, string (for tree extractions) is also helpful. A cell phone or 2-way radio is valuable, too, along with making sure somebody knows where you’re going.


It’s important to know that doing any of these things on your own, without appropriate precautions, supervision, and skills is extremely risky. It can and has proven deadly.

Maneuvers are generally recognized as training or descent techniques that have applicability for regular pilots. B-line stalls and spirals are examples of descent techniques used when a pilot inadvertently encounters lift that’s too strong for a normal descent.

Frontal and asymmetric collapses are examples of training maneuvers that teach recovery techniques. These are situations that can occur in normal flight and it is certainly better to have experienced them in a safe environment and be able to handle them, than to just be surprised by them. The point isn’t to do the maneuver, it’s knowing how to recover from it.

Remember…it’s even better yet to use good judgment and keep yourself out of situations requiring such a technique.

Flying in a conservative manner and conditions will mean you will not likely ever encounter the need for them. But sometimes we are surprised by even the most benign weather…it is in those times that having been through a “Maneuvers Clinic” could be very helpful.

Only attend a clinic given by a reputable and skilled pilot using all the normal precautions. The tow operators should be USHGA or USPPA certified for such tasks as should the instructors.

Aerobatics are maneuvers meant to explore the limits of PPG and are frequently employed for demonstration purposes. Any aerobatics increases the risk of flying but even more so in our craft. Among other things, a PG/PPG is incredibly intolerant of negative “G”s (where you feel weightless in your seat).

Aerobatics done outside of established guidelines and without expert supervision dramatically reduces our safety margin and has proven quite deadly.

We offer guidelines for those individuals who have gone through a training course (not offered or sanctioned by USPPA) and make the choice to take on the increased risk.

But keep in mind, even for the trained expert there are pitfalls:

1. A PPG cannot endure negative G’s…the pilot could tumble toward the wing and when (s)he comes back down, reloading the wing, could easily tangle lines in the motor. The uneven line length would likely yield an uncontrollable spiral.

2. Since there are no certification requirements on the motors, there is no guarantee the various structures and mounts will be able to withstand the load imposed by aerobatics. Remember the sudden shock of a re-opening wing can be dramatically higher than loads imposed by the maneuver itself.

3. Throwing a reserve with a motor on can save your life. However, its success is less guaranteed with a motor.

4. Operational

5. Recovery should be above 500′ AGL


The pilot should have been through a training program for the maneuvers and possible emergencies.



Getting towed aloft has proven quite risky. Tying yourself to something or getting towed up using a vehicle is frequently catastrophic. Unfortunately, it usually happens to people without the benefit of education on the sport. There have been fatalities related to towing although they don’t get counted usually because the victim is usually unknown to the association.

Only tow with an experienced tow operator and, even then, be extremely attentive to all instructions.

A turn-around pulley carries significant risks that must be managed. This is where the line goes from its spool, out to a pulley anchored in the field and back to the pilot. A few instructors use it so they are close to the student during launch but it can quickly become catastrophic in certain failure modes. It must be done with the utmost care and only by tow operators with proper equipment, personnel, and expertise. Another option, probably safer, is straight-in towing.

Pilots, ignorant of the risk, have been crippled or killed while towing. It seems like such an innocuous endeavor but harbors some serious hidden risks.


– A hook knife should be in a position where quick and easy access is available even underwater.

– Reserve must be of sufficient size for the pilot plus motor weight and the pilot must be proficient at throwing it from a simulator under the guidance of an instructor.

– If flying over water, have a boat available and sufficient floatation gear on yourself and the motor.

– Equipment should be inspected by an experienced aerobatics instructor before using for the first time. Additionally, it must be inspected even more thoroughly before each flight.

If you like to fly low over the water here is a hazard probably never considered! It is obviously best to avoid over-flying water owing to the possibility of drowning after an engine failure. Pilots have drowned in just a few feet of water after being dragged by moving water so much they could neither unclip nor keep their heads up. Pilots have also drowned in completely still water only a few feet deep after being trapped in their gear. Avoid water!

500 Westover Dr. #2384
Sanford, NC 27330
866-37-USPPA (87772)