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PPC vs PPG Trike - A Comparison

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Powered Parachute

(PPG Trike)

What is it?

A Powered Parachute (PPC) is a flexible winged, Light Sport Aircraft. A PPC combines a three or four wheeled cart structure, holding pilot and motor with a large wing similar to those used by parachutists. The wing itself is made of Nylon fabric with suspension lines usually made of Spectra or Kevlar. The thrust from the engine pushes the cart forward and forces air into the leading edge of the wing, causing it to "inflate" and pressurize, thereby keeping the shape designed to fly as an airfoil. Most PPC's use rectangular chutes, but there are new elliptical technology chutes that are changing the way these fly. A Powered Paraglider (PPG) Trike is also a flexible winged, ultralight vehicle (see description below) used for recreational purposes. A PPG Trike combines a three or four wheeled cart structure that holds pilot and motor with a paraglider. While similar to a PPC wing, the Paraglider wing is a higher performance airfoil which can be used for foot launched free flight, and is capable of soaring flight in thermals or ridge lift. Like a PPC, the PPG Trike inflates the wing by moving forward with the thrust from the motor. The airfoil shape of the paraglider is maintained in by the forward movement of the Trike through the air.

How do I control it?

A PPC is usually steered on the ground by a hand controlled lever or steering wheel attached to the front wheel. The parachute is controlled by steering levers operated by the pilot's feet, and have a limited range of motion designed to keep the wing within safe flying speeds. Throttle is usually on the front wheel steering lever, but can also be next to the seat or mounted somewhere else on the airframe. PPG Trikes are often steered on the ground using the pilot's feet, controlling the front wheel. The paraglider is controlled by the use of toggles in the pilot's hands, although many PPG Trikes, including the TrikeBuggy, can be fitted with a foot steering system that leaves the pilot's hands free for photos, videos, etc. A steering bar can also be added to most PPG Trikes, allowing one hand operation. Because the range of brake travel is so much greater on a paraglider, care must be exercised not to overcontrol or stall the aircraft. Power is typically operated by a hand throttle, although some PPG Trikes use foot throttles. PPG Trikes require pilot contact with the brake toggles on takeoff and landing, and in rougher air. In smooth conditions, the trimmers on the risers of the paraglider can be used to produce gentle turns on long cross country flights, freeing up the pilot's hands.

How big is it?

A PPC is quite large and heavy, certainly more than what is needed for one person to fly solo. The motor is often a Rotax or similar, with 400cc (around 40 hp.) or more of power, up to over 900cc (80-100 hp.). The motor alone often weighs several hundred pounds. They are around six feet wide and ten feet long. Canopies are from 400 to over 500 square feet in area, depending on payload (solo or tandem). There is new demand for 103 legal machines now, and there are many new models that are smaller and lighter. Some are even using 4-stroke engines, making the fuel consumption and noise level better than before. PPG Trikes are small and light, usually under 150 lbs. The motor is often fitted to the weight of the person flying the unit, and can be as little as 100cc in size, around 18 hp. More often, they are between 170cc and 325cc in size, somewhere between 20 and 35 hp. Most PPG motors are 2-stroke for increased power-to-weight ratio, but Bailey makes a great 4-stroke paramotor, and there is a new push to develop electric papamotors. The motor can also be removed from the trike and foot launched by the pilot, giving it extra versatility. The size of the trike can vary from less than four feet wide and five feet long to six feet wide and around the same length. Paraglider canopies range from under 200 square feet for solo flight to just under 400 for tandem use.

Can I take my friends?

Being able to take friends and family members along for flying is what still attracts people to powered parachuting. It also explains to some degree the heavier machines since larger payloads require larger engines, which then need heavier airframes. A machine that has the capability of taking along a friend or family member is a powered parachute (by FAA definition) and a light sport aircraft, and requires a Sport Pilot License to operate legally.

PPG Trikes are Ultralight Vehicles, and are made for a single occupant only, they are used or intended to be used for manned operation in the air by a single occupant for recreation or sport purposes only. This is the essence of these small trikes, to provide the flying experience to the pilot, and not so much to give rides.

How do I transport it?

Most PPC's weigh many hundreds of pounds, making it necessary to trailer or truck the unit to the runway. Moving the aircraft around is relatively easy, since there are three wheels to roll it easily along the ground. Ramps are needed to get the vehicle onto a trailer, and often another person is needed as well to push it up onto a trailer. There are some PPC's that attach to a car's trailer hitch, allowing you to tow the aircraft. Most PPG Trikes are easily dismantled and folded for transport. The PPG motor often fits into a large suitcase or equivelent, and the trike is often folded or disassembled to fit into most car's trunks. Paraglider wings fit into a mid size backpack.

How fast does it fly?

PPC's fly at a relatively constant rate of speed all the time, due to the fixed forward glide speed of the airfoil design. Full throttle, half throttle and engine off have little effect on the forward speed, only on whether the craft is ascending or descending. PPC's fly at speeds of somewhere between 26 and 35 mph. PPG Trikes are similar - to climb, simply add throttle; level flight is about 2/3 throttle; idle or engine off to descend back to the ground. Airspeed of a PPG Trike is somewhat slower that that of a PPC, around 20 - 25 mph, but with trimmers, higher speeds can be attained.

How much wind can I fly in?

It is not recommended to fly PPC's in wind conditions exceeding 12-15 mph. Since this aircraft is heavier, it can be flown in slightly higher winds than a PPG Trike. Most PPC and PPG Trike pilots prefer to fly in the morning, late afternoon and into the evening when the wind conditions are smooth and calm. As a beginner, we do not recommend flying in winds of more than 5-8 mph. Once a pilot has more experience, they may choose to fly in higher wind conditions, although the inherent beauty of this type of aircraft is being able to launch and land in calm conditions with minimal effort. Windy conditions can cause either a PPC pr PPG Trike to "turtle" onto its back, or simply be unpleasant and unsafe, due to turbulence.

Where can I fly?

PPC's need a bit of a runway to roll out into flight. While they often operate at the same fields that PPG Trikes do, many times they will need a larger space for launch and landing. Both PPC's and PPG Trikes must be flown with respect to landowners and legal airspace, always check your Sectional map! PPG Trikes are small enough to launch on a very short runway. Quite often, roads, beaches, fields and dry lakes are used to achieve flight. A PPG Trike is small and light enough to "wheelbarrow" through walkways to a launch site.

What happens if the engine quits?

No need to worry! In the unlikely event of an engine out, the pilot simply parachutes back to Mother Earth. Since a PPC is quite heavy, the landing can be quite hard, since there is limited ability to "flare" for a landing and the glide slope is quite steep. It is always recommended to keep a useable landing zone within glide at all times in both PPC's and PPG Trikes. With a PPG Trike, if your motor ever quits, you glide back down to land just like a paraglider - with a good flare to round out the landing, setting the craft down gently. Because the PPG Trike uses a regular paraglider, the glide slope is significantly better than a PPC. Paragliders also fly slower than PPC's and use brake toggles in your hands, so executing a good flare to land softly is quite easy.

How long can I fly on a tank of gas?

PPC's with 10 gallon fuel capacity can fly for up to 3 hours. Smaller PPC's with 5 gallons or less can fly for up to 2 hours. Due to the larger motor required to fly Powered Parachutes, the fuel consumption is considerably higher than a PPG Trike, around 3 gal/hr. A 4-stroke motor will usually consume much less fuel than a 2-stroke model, extending your flying time and range. PPG Trikes vary widely in their manufacture. Some get only two hours of flight time before needing to be refueled, while others sip gas at a lower rate and/or have a larger tank that holds more fuel. Since the engine is so much smaller than a PPC, the fuel consumption is much less overall. Three to four hours of flight time is possible on many PPG motors, although your bladder may not be able to keep up!

How much training do I need?

PPC dealers often state that you can learn to fly in 2-3 days. While this is true, this is quite often not enough supervised training to produce a safe pilot for the long term. There are many factors that are in play when we fly, we can't simply pull the plane over to the side of the road like we can our car! A Sport Pilot License will require more training and study to complete, and is required in order to operate most PPC's. PPG Trikes use modern paragliders for their airfoil. Many factors must be considered and skills need to be mastered before we can be considered pilots. Our first solo flights are often made during the first weekend of training, but for certification we will need a minimum of five flying days under supervision. Remember, this is for your benefit! Competent, safe pilots fly for years - the rest of their lives, not just the rest of the week.

Do I need a license?

For most Powered Parachutes, you will need a Sport Pilot License, since most PPC's weigh more than 254 lbs and carry more than 5 gallons of fuel. PPC's will also need for you to register, N-number and obtain an Airworthiness Certificate for Special Light-Sport Aircraft. There are some 103 legal PPC's now available that are under 254 lbs and carry only 5 gallons of fuel, allowing them to operate under FAR Part 103 (see below).

Powered Paraglider Trikes, like foot launched PPG's, are still considered Ultralight Vehicles, and do not require a license to fly. PPG Trikes also do not require registration with the FAA, N-numbers or Airworthiness Certificates. Most flying sites, however, require pilot certification to make sure there has been adequate training for the pilot to fly safely. Respect the pilot community and their desire to keep flying where they do - Get certified instruction!


FAR Part 103 Ultralight Vehicles

SOURCE: Docket No. 21631, 47 FR 38776, Sept. 2, 1982, unless otherwise noted.

Subpart A - General

§103.1 Applicability.
This part prescribes rules governing the operation of ultralight vehicles in the United States. For the purposes of this part, an ultralight vehicle is a vehicle that:
(a) is used or intended to be used for manned operation in the air by a single occupant;
(b) Is used or intended to be used for recreation or sport purposes only;
(c) Does not have any U.S. or foreign airworthiness certificate; and
(d) If unpowered, weighs less than 155 pounds; or
(e) If powered:

1. Weighs less than 254 pounds empty weight, excluding floats and safety devices which are intended for deployment in a potentially catastrophic situation;
2. Has a fuel capacity not exceeding 5 U5. gallons;
3. Is not capable of more than 55 knots calibrated airspeed at full power in level flight; and
4. Has a power-off stall speed which does not exceed 24 knots calibrated airspeed.

§103.3 Inspection requirements.
(a) Any person operating an ultralight vehicle under this part shall upon request, allow the Administrator or his designee, to inspect the vehicle to determine the applicability of this part.
(b) The pilot or operator of an ultralight must, upon request of the Administrator, furnish satisfactory evidence that the vehicle is subject only to the provisions of this part.

§103.5 Waivers.
No person may conduct operations that require a deviation from this part except under a written waiver issued by the Administrator.

§103.7 Certification and registration.
(a) Notwithstanding any other section pertaining to certification of aircraft or their parts or equipment, ultralight vehicles and their component parts and equipment are not required to meet the airworthiness certification standards specified for aircraft or to have certificates of airworthiness.
(b) Notwithstanding any other section pertaining to airman certification operators of ultralight vehicles are not required to meet any aeronautical knowledge, age, or experience requirements to operate those vehicles or to have airman or medical certificates.
(c) Notwithstanding any other section pertaining to registration and marking of aircraft, ultralight vehicles are not required to be registered or to bear markings of any type.

Subpart B - Operating Rules

§103.9 Hazardous operations.
(a) No person may operate any ultralight vehicle in a manner that creates a hazard to other persons or property.
(b) No person may allow an object to be dropped from an ultralight vehicle if such action creates a hazard to other persons or property.

§103.11 Daylight operations.
(a) No person may operate an ultralight vehicle except between the hours of sunrise and sunset.
(b) Notwithstanding paragraph (a) of this section, ultralight vehicles may be operated during the twilight periods 30 minutes before official sunrise and 30 minutes after official sunset or, in Alaska, during the period of civil twilight as defined in the Air Almanac, if:
(1) The vehicle is equipped with an operating anticollision light visible for at least 3 statute miles; and
(2) All operations are conducted in uncontrolled airspace.

§103.13 Operation near aircraft right-of-way rules.
(a) Each person operating an ultralight vehicle shall maintain vigilance so as to see and avoid aircraft and shall yield the right-of-way to all aircraft.
(b) No person may operate an ultralight vehicle in a manner that creates a collision hazard with respect to any aircraft.
(c) Powered ultralights shall yield the right-of-way to unpowered ultralights.

§103.15 Operations over congested areas.
No person may operate an ultralight vehicle over any congested area of a city, town or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons.

§103.17 Operations in certain airspace.
No person may operate an ultralight vehicle within an airport traffic area, control zone, airport radar service area, terminal control area, or positive control area unless that person has prior authorization from the air traffic control facility having jurisdiction over that airspace.

[Doc. No. 23708, 50 FR 9259, Mar. 6, 1985]

EFFECTIVE DATE NOTE: By Amdt. 103-4, 56 FR 65662, Dec. 17 1991 §103.17 was revised, effective September 16, 1993. For the convenience of the user, the revised text follows.

§103.17 Operations in certain airspace.
No person may operate an ultralight vehicle within Class A, Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport unless that person has prior authorization from the ATC facility having jurisdiction over that airspace.

[Doc. No 24456, 56 FR 65662, Dec. 17 1991]

§103.19 Operations in prohibited/restricted areas.
No person may operate an ultralight vehicle in prohibited or restricted areas unless that person has
permission from the using or controlling agency, as appropriate.

§103.20 Flight restrictions in the proximity of certain areas designated by notice to airmen.
No person may operate an ultralight vehicle in areas designated in a Notice to Airmen under § 91.137, § 91.138, § 91.141, § 91.143 or § 91.145 of this chapter, unless authorized by:
(a) Air Traffic Control (ATC); or
(b) A Flight Standards Certificate of Waiver or Authorization issued for the demonstration or event.

[Doc. No. 24454, 50 FR 4969, Feb. 5 1985, as amended by Amdt. 103-3, 54 FR 343311, Aug. 18, 1989]

§103.21 Visual reference with the surface.
No person may operate an ultralight except by visual reference with the surface.

§103.23 Flight visibility and cloud clearance requirements.
No person may operate an ultralight vehicle when the flight visibility or distance from clouds is less than that in the table found below. All operations in Class A, Class B, Class C, and Class D airspace or Class E airspace designated for an airport must receive prior ATC authorization as required in §103.17 of this part.

Airspace Flight Visibility Distance from clouds
Class A (18,000' MSL & up) Not Applicable Not Applicable
Class B (former TCA) 3 statute miles Clear of Clouds.
Class C (former ARSN) 3 statute miles 500 feet below. 1,000 feet above. 2,000 feet horizontal.
Class D (radio controlled tower) 3 statute miles 500 feet below. 1,000 feet above. 2,000 feet horizontal.
Class E: (open airspace)
Less than 10,000 feet MSL 3 statute miles 500 feet below, 1,000 feet above, 2,000 feet horizontal
At or above 10,000 feet MSL 5 statute miles 1,000 feet below, 1,000 feet above, 1 statute mile horizontal

Class G: (open airspace)
1,200 feet or less above the surface (regardless of MSL altitude)
1 statute mile Clear of clouds
More than 1,200 feet above the surface but less than 10,000 feet MSL
1 statute mile, 500 feet below. 1,000 feet above. 2,000 feet horizontal.
More than 1,200 feet above the surface and at or above 10,000 feet MSL
5 statute miles, 1,000 feet below, 1,000 feet above, 1 statute mile horizontal


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