What is a PPG Trike?
Unlike PPC's (Powered Parachutes), PPG Trike units are small and light, just enough power and size for either single or double place flying (2 persons: tandem - with certification and Tandem Exemption required). A PPC is very large, heavy and substantially overbuilt. The motor is typically 500cc or larger in size, often has a gas tank exceeding 10 gallons, and usually weight at least 300 lbs. A PPG Trike is light, around 100 pounds including the motor and trike. Motor size is anywhere from 100cc to 325cc, and the backpack motor is removable for foot-launched flight as well (with the same wing).
PPG Trikes are often small enough when fully assembled or foldable so that persons not wanting to pull a large trailer can easily transport their flying machine in even the smallest of vehicles. I take my Fly Products Kompress 172cc motor and Ozone Rush paraglider in the trunk of my Toyota Echo, and fold the Flash or TrikeBuggy down to fit in the passenger seat, now that's small!
PPC's fly specially designed rectangular chutes that are largely inefficient, but stable - requiring lots of power to climb or even maintain level flight. You cannot free-fly these parachutes without power. The wings that PPG Trike pilots use have more of an elliptical shape than the rectangular PPC chutes. They are more maneuverable than the PPC wings, and most work equally well for foot-launched free flight (no motor), PPG foot-launched flight and also with the PPG Trike. A paraglider is also a higher performance wing that has a better glide ratio, and because the weight load is less, the size is also much smaller.
Paraglider wings also undergo extensive research, development, testing and certification that PPC chutes do not. They are widely used around the world for both motorized and free flight by hundreds of thousands of paraglider and powered paraglider pilots. In the case of a motor-out, a PPG pilot will simply glide into a gentle landing, flaring the wing to gently touch down much the same as an unpowered paraglider pilot lands.
Some PPG Trikes use bicycle wheels in their design - great for rolling along hard packed surfaces, while others use big soft wheels to absorb the uneven surface of tilled fields or soft sand. Many simply use a wheelbarrow style wheel that is useable on a variety of surfaces. The Flyke (flying recumbent bicycle) is unique, in that it is the only PPG Trike with foot pedals that allow you to propel yourself to your nearest flying field without the motor on. The Flyke also has a unique articulating steering system, literally bending the trike in the middle as it leans you into the turn. This is particularly useful for taxiing to launch, as the Flyke follows the wing - there is no need (or way) to steer the trike while kiting, it simply follows the wing.
Many pilots now opt to build their own PPG Trike, looking to save money and explore the "tinkering" aspect of design and engineering. From stainless steel to aluminum to titanium to wood, a variety of materials are being used. Keep in mind that there are a lot of bases to cover when constructing your own PPG Trike including CG (center of gravity), thrust line, attachment points, harness seat position and hook-in (or seat belt), clearance, steering and general airworthiness (plus being able to withstand the occasional not-so-graceful landing). For a good discussion group focused on PPG Trikes, see Yahoo's Trikes & Flykes online Group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Trikes_and_Flykes). Sometimes, getting a tried and true (previously tested) PPG Trike is better than being the "test pilot" of your new invention. If you do build your own PPG Trike, always get a second opinion and inspection by someone that knows PPG Trikes and their specific parameters.
Who is a PPG Trike For?
Often, an accomplished powered paraglider pilot can simply get a trike and use his or her existing motor for the power pack. For newbies just getting started in the sport, it is a very good idea to seek qualified instruction, or the aspiring pilot may experience an "Accidental Launch" or "Emergency Takeoff", or worse, simply a launch accident or takeoff (not quite!) emergency. PPG Triking requires a slightly different set of skills to launch, but in many ways it is easier to learn because you do not have to carry the motor on your back. General paraglider piloting skills must be understood, practiced and mastered prior to liftoff.
The biggest risk in launching a PPG Trike is rolling the trike over, due to an imbalanced inflation and taxi run. As lift increases during the inflation and taxi run, the effective CG (center of gravity) moves upward making the PPG Trike somewhat unstable without the force of the wing. The paraglider must be balanced overhead and "flown" prior to takeoff under full control with no oscillations. An overcorrected oscillation will give a few moments of the sensation that the trike and wing are balanced again, but quite soon as the trike goes one direction and the wing goes the other, the result will often be to topple over.
The key is to settle the trike and the wing on the same "runway". Then, when there are no more oscillations or surges, the pilot may increase power to achieve liftoff. Takeoff then becomes smooth and controlled, with the wing clearly balanced overhead.
When do we use a PPG Trike?
PPG Trikes are perfect for those no-wind mornings or evenings when foot launching is the most challenging. They allow the pilot to easily roll into the smooth air of these exceptional flying times without the stress of trying to "pull off" a forward launch in no-wind - one of the most difficult PPG launching techniques. Also, they relieve the stress caused during flight wondering if you can land gracefully in the same no-wind conditions at the end of a great flight. Landing in no wind is simply a matter of gently touching down using a combination of throttle and toggle pressure, and can be done at full speed. Try running out a landing at 20mph with 60 pounds on your back!
Due to the magic of wheels, our PPG can roll for as long as is needed to launch into the air. Higher altitudes, lower density air, heavier pilots, slightly underpowered or smaller wings can all take advantage of a longer runway without risking the pilot's knees, ankles and back while trying to run fast enough with the motor strapped on! PPG Triking opens up new times and areas to existing PPG foot-launched pilots that may not have previously been an option.
Windy conditions pose the greatest challenge to the PPG Trike pilot. A gentle breeze is usually no problem for a PPG Trike, but above 8-10 mph, it is often better to foot-launch, since you cannot move to the side to balance the wing in a PPG Trike.
Where can we Trike?
A good rule of thumb for PPG Trike pilots is to always keep a landing field within glide in case of motor failure. This rules out flying low over water, forests, towns, or virtually anywhere you do not want a forced landing. It has been said that as far as engine outs, it's not a matter of if, but rather a matter of when. This still gives us plenty of options for cross country flying. For example, if you want to fly over the water, just do so at an elevation that always gives you a glide back to the beach. You can cross large bodies of water or unlandable areas simply by climbing as high as you need to glide back to the LZ (landing Zone). Once you have the glide either way back or forward to your new LZ, you can relax and cruise. Since you can expect at least a 4:1 glide with most trike/wing combinations, giving yourself a 45 degree glide will always be enough, unless you are confronted with a significant headwind.
Why a PPG Trike?
Many will use their new vantage point to capture pictures or video, while others will simply enjoy the feel of gliding through the air. Pilots have already made long cross-country flights like Will Gadd in Paraglide America, where they flew across the continental United States (www.paraglideamerica.com), or Eric and Till in East Wind (on DVD - a Flyke journey across Poland to the Black Sea). While a few fly alone, most will seek the community of pilots that is constantly growing. Flying with a few friends at the end of the day watching the sunset is one of the most memorable things you will ever do. It's not so easy to describe the feeling that flying gives each person, but if you try it, you will see what magic awaits you in the sky and beyond the horizon!