Considerations for New Motor Pilots
As you get involved in motoring there are some important considerations that are somewhat different than normal free-flight. We will test your understanding of these concepts when you arrive.
Being in close proximity to gasoline engines of any type can be potentially harmful or fatal especially if the unit is strapped to your back. Flying/kiting/standing with gasoline strapped to your back can result in burns or smoke inhalation because the wind may blow flames and smoke into you.
It is possible for carabineers to break in flight. Any component to a paramotor can break or fail at any time. A paraglider that has been tested to withstand as much as 16g's can fail with less force than that.
The tip of a prop is moving over 370mph and if it comes apart at any time can cause severe injury or death.
Reserve parachutes can fail to open or operate correctly even if deployed properly.
Here are problem areas that everyone has even after being well-informed:
- Being paraglider pilots they are used to leaning forward when launching so the trust is vectored up pushing them into the ground. They either fall down or run and run and can't get off the ground. They need to arch their back into the thrust of the motor and remember to run upright. Keep your chin up.
- As soon as they leave the ground they tense up and instinctively back off the power and immediately land again but at full speed without flaring. Of course since they think they are flying they pick their feet up and land on their fannies at high speed. No matter how many times you tell them not to do this a large percentage of people still do it anyway.
- They fall down or screw up a launch and forget to instantly kill the motor in which case they will break a prop, damage the cage and or suck their wing or body parts through the motor. They need to know exactly how to shut off the motor and it has to be instinctively the first thing they do if they land or abort a launch.
- Torque steer is very new to everyone, especially fre-flight paragliding pilots. They need to know not to try to turn hard against the torque steer because they could possibly stall or spin the glider. It would be the same as if you weight shifted all the way to one side and then tried to turn the other way.
- They also have to make sure they climb straight out and not let the torque steer turn them with the wind close to the ground. Stay on heading.
- Another thing they have to be very careful of is being smooth on the throttle. If they go full throttle, rip off the ground and then 10 foot up take their finger completely off the throttle they could potentially swing into the ground.
- Bystanders are another big concern. When someone falls down the first thing bystanders want to do is catch them or run to their aid. This is a very bad plan. Everyone around should be instructed to stay clear and to not attempt to help because if a PPG pilot turns to one side, even slightly, their prop can move a long ways and catch unsuspecting people standing even 5 foot away. Someone that falls down should be approached very cautiously and only by their instructor.
- Anyone with a motor on their back should never be approached by anyone other than their instructor and then only from the front after eye contact has been made. If you're launching where there are spectators make it a point to tell them that if you fall down not to attempt to help you unless the motor is completely off.
- Another big danger is starting, warming and tuning the motor. Extreme caution needs to be exercised by all pilots to ensure the safety of everyone around them. You don't want anyone within 20 foot of you, minimum, if Iyou're about to fire up your motor and at least 50 foot to the side of you in case the prop blows up. You should also discourage any helpers other than an instructor because it is so dangerous. There will be time for teaching and learning about how to get a motor ready but when we are helping a pilot get ready to launch that is not the time to ask questions or stand close to try and listen in.
- When you preflight your motor the first thing you should check is that your prop is tight, all the bolts are torqued correctly and that it hasn't been damaged or cracked and that there are no lines, strings, straps, or dangling things that can be sucked into the motor. Next check the muffler to make sure it is tight and there are no cracks. Then check all bolts to ensure nothing is coming loose or damaged. Prime your motor while doing that check.
- Check electrical to make sure wires are not frayed, melted, loose, cracking, brittle, dirty or in disrepair and that all my switches are working and are in the correct positions. Then you inspect the frame and cage to make sure there are no cracks at any of the stress points and that the cage is fully assembled properly. Look specifically for obvious cracks or distortions in the paint that can give clues to possible stress fractures.
- The main thing you look for on the cage is that all the Velcro is very tight and that it is fastened neatly and securely. Check for dents or loose netting that could possibly end up in the prop. Finish by fully checking your harness, carabineers, reserve, gas cap and gas level right before you strap in and hook up. Last after you're all hooked in you do a motor run-up by leaning all the way forward so the thrust is straight up and revving it up to full throttle numerous times to make sure it is running smoothly, has instant response, and Ithat you can feel the appropriate amount of thrust as it pushes down on your legs. You can immediately know if there are problems if you don't feel enough thrust. Remember that if you are launching at high altitude you won't have as much power and therefore need to have more runway than usual.
- Preflight just prior to take off: AIR123TW
- A - Air, how is the air, do I see any virga, thunderstorms or signs of possible weather threats and is the wind at a constant pressure or is it gusting a lot
- I - How am I? Am I ready to fly? Do I have a cold, sprained ankle or am I severely pissed off or have any other mental issue that could impair my judgment?
- R - Radio, is my radio setup and working properly and does it have enough battery life for more than twice as long as I'll be airborne?
- 1 - Pull the chinstrap on your helmet to make sure it is fastened correctly.
- 2 - I have 2 carabineers, are the risers hooked in correctly and do I have my trim tabs or speed system in the correct position and setup properly? Is the throttle positioned so that I won't accidently throttle up or hit the kill switch?
- 3 - Pull on your 3 harness straps to make sure the 3 connections are all fastened correctly and are adjusted properly.
- T - If I'm doing a reverse which way are my lines twisted? Which way will I have to turn to untwist?
- W - Is my wing laid out correctly and or did I build a wall and check all my lines are free and clear of brush, weeds and obstructions? I also like to do this as I'm launching and immediately after launch to make sure no lines are tangled, no brush, grass or other objects are hanging from them and I don't have any cravats or obvious dimples in my wing that would signify a problem.
- If my AIR123TW drill takes more than 30 seconds then I do my motor run-up one more time right before I launch.
- Landing or kiting in higher winds with a motor unit can be different, even a little difficult, than with a standard paragliding harness. In higher winds paraglider pilots are trained to lean forward into the torpedo, driving the pig, or bird position to be able to really dig into the wind and prevent themselves from being dragged over backwards by the wing. This is not as easy on a motor unit because of the weight, lack of flexibility, and the cage. You can lean forwards a little but not near enough to prevent higher winds from dragging you over backwards if you aren't prepared. If you are kiting a motor unit in higher winds you need to have the power on to push you forward and use the power to prevent you from falling over backwards or you need to turn around into a reverse position. There are a few other motor units with the hang points fixed in a lower position like the Walkerjet but the majority are not. Motors with higher attachment points may make it easier to turn around but they are near impossible to kite in high winds because of the high hang points. On a Walkerjet, and those few other machines with lower fixed hang points, which you'll find helps prevent riser twists in the air and gives you a lot of stability in flight, it is difficult to turn around to a reserve position in higher winds while kiting because the comfort bars hold the risers apart so they don't come together as easily as on a free flight harness. Kiting any of the motor units is slightly harder than in a normal paragliding harness but as long as you remember to put some effort into your turn around you won't have a problem. If you land in higher winds or are kiting in higher winds you really need to throw that motor around to get the desired twist in your risers. You will also untwist very quickly if a gust should pop you off the ground so don't even try to kite in super high winds without becoming completely confident in milder conditions.
- Walkerjets have skids below your seat and have a low center of gravity, which make them safer in that they act as a crumble zone, but it can be awkward to run backwards because your legs can hit the gas tank. You can walk backwards easily enough but running can cause you to fall over backwards. This is only a problem if you are trying to do a reverse launch in no wind. You may consider only doing a reverse if there is enough wind to pull your wing over your head without needing to move backwards very much, if at all. With wind less than ideal for reverse launching you should seriously consider a forward launch. Practice your forward launches with your paragliding harness until you can do at least 10 in a row effortlessly. If you want quick access to the flying the motors in our clinics, come prepared with a solid forward launch. Learn to stay under the center of your glider as it comes up, to keep moving, and to dampen the surge if the glider tries to accelerate past your head.
- Here are basic instructions for making a smooth forward launch:
- You want to explode out of the hole like a sprinter. Messing up launches is no fun at all so you want to put 100% effort into every launch to make sure you nail it first time. Make sure you are lined up into the wind, even set streamers down your launch line to confirm you are straight into the wind. Start with the engine at idle; then walk backwards into your lines so you're only about 6-8 feet from your wing. Make sure you move the lines out to the side of your motor so they are fully clear and won't get caught on the skids when you run forward. While holding your "A" risers sprint to the end of the lines hitting them hard but still with the motor at idle. Lean forward while doing this, which not only helps with your sprint but by leaning forward it holds the skids out of the way of your legs so you can take nice powerful strides. This should rip the wing off the ground and over your head very quickly, but remember to consider surge control if it feels as though it's goin to fly past your head. If the glider is coming up slowly be prepared as the wing locks in above your head to let go of the A risers and hit full throttle. Now is when you'll transition your run from leaning forward and sprinting to standing upright and letting the motor push you forward. It is important to make this transition without any hesitation or any pause or stop in forward momentum or speed. If you feel as though it's not going to happen keep moving forward and hit your kill switch. By still moving forward you will reduce the risk of dropping lines or canopy into the prop. It can take a few seconds for the prop to stop spinning after using the kill switch so keep the glider and lines behind you during an abort.
- It is important to get your body upright before you nail the throttle or the thrust vectored upwards can force you to the ground. With the motor full throttle and your body upright simply keep your legs in front of you. Let the motor do pretty much all the work pushing you along the ground and take fairly short but fast strides. At this point your hands are on the brakes but all the way up to the point where you're only pulling enough brake to be able to feel what is going on with the wing. The power of the motor, especially the RR, should get you up to speed very quickly. Once you reach the point at which you can't run any faster, start adding a little brake but only to the point of optimal lift over drag, "minimum sink", which is generally no lower than your chest. Never try to flare before you get full speed or you'll stall the wing and it'll fall right back behind you, even if you're at full throttle. If you apply too much brake you can stall the glider before you leave the ground, if you don't use any brakes you'll have to run just a bit faster but you can still make a successful launch. Always error on the side of not having much brake applied. As you take your last few steps and are just barely leaving the ground you'll slowly let your hands back up to trim and focus on feeling what the wing is doing. It is important to get off the brakes smoothly and up to trim position as you leave the ground to make the risk of "power stalling" as small as possible. Power stalling would be a combination of excessive brakes and the high angle of attack the thrust of the motor creates.
- As you leave the ground smoothly back off the power just a little, depending on how powerful the motor is, so that you make a more gradual climb out without an excessive angle of attack and torque steer. As you climb out start adding brake to the side that will prevent the torque steer moving you off course, unless, of course, you want to have a slight turn. Torque steer is the effect of the thrust and "P factor" of the spinning prop and makes the glider want to turn more one direction than the other. This is more or less an issue on some machines than others and goes away when you throttle back down. The faster you climb the more brake you have to pull on one side so you can climb at a smooth, steady, straight, but reasonable pace. On the other hand, you'll find you can simply let the glider turn with the thrust and just make circles as you climb out. Under no circumstance should you try and turn opposite of strong torque steer. Severely backing off the power or letting off the power completely anywhere during your launch can really screw you up. Think "let the motor push you, stay on heading, soft brake useage, and smooth throttle use".
- Dell reports the following considerations for himself, "During my launch I never back off power unless I take either a full frontal, half my wing folds or the wing pitches completely to one side. Anything less than that and I just hold on the power. If you back off the power at all during your run it will severely slow you down and make controlling the wing a ton more difficult, so unless there is a major problem with the wing and you simply need to fully abort the launch then hold on the power and keep your speed up and let the wing fix itself by adding as much wing loading as possible and a little brake on either side needed to keep it straight enough to launch. You really need to be in charge when you launch."
- "The faster you get your speed up and the more aggressive you are at making the launch happen, the more successful you will be. If you hesitate at all then you should probably fully abort because pausing and then trying to start again is a bad idea. You really need to hit your launch with the attitude that you are going to make it happen. If you have even the slightest attitude of just feeling it out to see if launching is possible, thinking you will just build up to it slowly, then you will really have trouble. Either launch and get off the ground or don't. There is no try, you either do or you do not."
- " The next problem area is right after you find yourself off the ground. This is the worst time to take your finger off the throttle. If you cut power after you are a few feet off the ground you will immediately land but at full speed with almost no time to flare. If you kill power 10 foot off the ground you could pendulum to the ground. Imagine trying to drive a car and flooring the gas then letting all the way off and then flooring it again. Make sure you are very smooth on the throttle. A positive and confident attitude is very important, if you are unsure of your launch and can't really visualize making it happen then you should work on forward launches with just a paragliding harness until you absolutely know you can launch. Once you know you can do it and can see yourself making it happen then it will be time grasshopper."
- As usual, there's the whole waiver issue, so make sure and think through the following as we'll have you write out this paragraph when you train with us.
I understand that participating in the activity of paragliding or powered paragliding or being within 100 miles of anyone that is participating in the same activity is guaranteed 100% to cause my death, injury or dismemberment and I willingly accept this risk and agree to hold harmless, even for negligence, Marty Devietti, Dell Schanze, Ocean Air, Inc. TotallyAwesome Flying Sports LLC, Walkerjet, Sky Paragliders, Windtech Paragliders, the State of Arizona and Cliff Dweller's Lodge and any employees of the forementioned entities.
At all times you will be resonsible for any damage to equipment