Greetings fellow aviation enthusiasts! My name is Gary Brown -- aka "Gadget Gary" (a nickname appropriately bestowed upon me by family/friends) -- and this is the start of my personal Internet site to detail my Powered Paragliding (or "PPG") ultralight aircraft flying adventures.
I'm a licensed private pilot and "certified air nut" who lives in the beautiful city of West Chicago, Illinois with my precious family who, among other blessings, were gifted with tolerance of my many hobbies. I've been flying fixed-wing general aviation aircraft since 1992 and fortunately my family has enjoyed that aspect of aviation by flying with me to various places. But I put my family's tolerance to the test when, back in 1999, I first witnessed PPGs flying at Singer Island beach and I shouted: "I want to do that!".
What is Powered Paragliding (PPG)?
In short: It's the most incredible form of aviation that I have ever experienced! It has proven more fun than any other general aviation aircraft I have ever had the opportunity to fly (including single-engine, multi-engine and jet aircraft). No kidding!
The longer answer: A powered paraglider is the ultimate in personal flight aircraft -- a small, safe, transportable, personal, foot-launched vehicle -- that permits a pilot to easily, safely and very controllably fly thousands of feet in altitude or just inches off the ground. Imagine the experience of running on your own two feet to take-off, fly and eventually land again... virtually anywhere! Yeah, it's very... "god-like".
A Powered Paraglider is classified as an Ultralight Aircraft by the FAA (primarily because it weighs under 256 pounds) and its operation is governed by FAR Part-103. A basic PPG setup is comprised of the following:
- Paramotor (backpack engine/propeller)
- Paragliding Wing (like a parachute)
The Backpack Motor
The backpack motor (or paramotor) is just that... a motor! But connected to a big spinning propeller. This is what provides the thrust for sustained flight. You might think that having a large, spinning, high-revolution propeller inches from your back might be completely unsafe... but it's not -- it does have a protective guard. It just deserves respect!
The paramotor is typically driven by a 2-stroke engine (although four-stroke motors are slowly emerging onto the market) or anywhere from 80cc displacement to greater than 200ccs -- depending on the amount of thrust required for the pilots weight. It typically weighs 50~100 pounds, produces 85-200+ pounds of thrust, carries enough fuel for up to 3-hours of flight and can be electric or manual (pull) starting.
The average cost of a paramotor is $4,500 - $5,500 (less when purchased used).
The Paraglider Wing
The paragliding wing (or parachute -- or, more accurately... "inflatable wing") is simply a paragliding wing (the ones used for the sport of Paragliding -- a non-powered version of the sport flown from mountains and beaches where the pilots use thermals (hot rising air) or wind shear to generate lift. Select a wing suitable for your weight.
The average cost of a paraglider wing is $1,800 - $2,300 (less when purchased used)
PPGs usually fly at about 20~30 MPH -- they take-off and land much slower (which is how you can launch/land on your feet). They can fly to very high altitudes (I think the record is currently ~18,000 feet above sea level) but are usually flow very low to enjoy the scenery. Duration depends on the efficiency of your wing/motor combination, but on the average a pilot can stay aloft for 2.5 hours.
Are these things safe? That's a very good question -- perhaps the most important (in my opinion). I'm a husband and loving father who has a passion for my family and this wonderful life I have been gifted with. I don't want to cut my time short with any of them -- I want to grow old with my wife and see my kids savor life.
That said... I've accepted greater risk by flying these and other aircraft. It is NOT risk-free. It is, however, safe -- just don't confuse safe with "risk-free". Many consider driving a car "safe"... but it's not "risk-free". Suffice it to say, flying is an added risk. But it can be done safely.
How safe? Very! A rule I follow is to avoid flying in thermal conditions -- thermals can be very troublesome to flexible wings like these -- and I restrict my flying to either 3-hours after sunrise, 3-hours before sunset or overcast days only where the sun's heating of the Earth's surface is significantly reduced. I also took professional flight instruction despite my already extensive aviation experience and being a licensed private pilot. It is my opinion that the wiser man always acknowledges that he doesn't know everything.
The moral of the story: Seek good flight instruction and choose your conditions wisely. A wisdom I've adopted from one of my former flight instructors: "The superior pilot uses his superior judgment to avoid using his superior skills."
The amazing part of the entire aircraft is that it is so small. It can be taken and flown just about anywhere. It will easily fit in the back seat of a car, bed of a truck or back of a van, can be disassembled to fit into a suitcase/carrycase for travel or, if you must, on the back of any vehicle using a simple cargo carrier or trailer.
I have flown from municipal airports, private airparks, public soccer fields, ballparks, backyards, open pastures... you name it (see the pictures section below)! And it goes with me just about everywhere so that I might enjoy the world -- wherever I go -- from God's view. It's an absolutely invigorating experience. I challenge you to name another aircraft that you can do that with?
Join the Fun
If you are like me -- looking for the ultimate thrill of flight, an affordable aircraft to own/operate, and friendship with other pilots and aviation enthusiasts -- then get into this sport NOW! I welcome anyone to contact me with questions -- I'm more than happy to help you get started.
"Go, go gadget backpack powered paraglider!"