Forward Launch Tips
I repair propellers for pilots all over the U.S. and Canada so I find out how they get broken. It seems the most prevalent occurrence is during the forward launch, which parallels my own experience.
Comparing my experience with bad launches and broken props against that of other pilots, I’ve found a couple of common denominators. The most common problem occurs during the initial inflation. At this point the wing is coming up slowly, which provides the opportunity for it to fall off to one side or the other. This can lead to wing oscillation, and if not corrected or aborted, it will result in the pilot hitting the ground rather hard shortly after becoming airborne. The result is usually a broken prop or worse.
One method employed to overcome slow inflation is known as the “power-on forward launch.” There are several ways to perform a power-on forward, but I believe the safest and easiest is to add about 1/3 power immediately after the wing starts to inflate. This is the time when you’re starting to push very hard into the harness to get the wing to inflate. Adding power at this point will prevent the wing from going through the prop wash and will provide a cleaner launch. It’s like getting extra leg muscle to assist with the launch. One must be careful not to add too much power. It’s also important to keep running so the wing will not over-fly and cause a frontal collapse. Using this method, the wing will pull up straight and a lot faster. Be ready with the kill switch during your first attempts.
The other common problem occurs because the wing has not come all the way overhead. It is hanging back a few degrees for various reasons. This can occur during forward or reverse launches. If power is added at this point, you will take off before there is sufficient airspeed to keep you up, and you will sink back to the ground. This is very common if you’re using a motor with marginal thrust. If you don’t have your feet ready to go, the cage hits the ground, and you’ve broken another prop. Sometimes when power is added, the wing will surge forward. When this happens, you will find yourself having to run very fast to catch up with a wing that is not providing any lift. With the lack of lift, the thrust of the motor can push you off balance and cause a fall and yeild the subsequent broken prop.
The cure to this problem was discussed on World Talk Radio recently. I tried the recommended method offered by Bob Armond, and it worked perfectly. Keep your hands on the A risers while the wing is overhead. If it’s “hanging back”, pull slightly on the A’s. The wing will accelerate and climb those last few degrees in an instant. This does not require a big pull on the A’s. Just pull down on them slightly. As the wing comes forward, add power and take off. I would recommend trying this with the motor off the first time because if you pull down too much, you could cause a frontal collapse.
I hope these tips will assist with your forward launches. If you’re lucky enough to have an instructor close by, discuss these methods with him before
Forward Launch in Light and Vaiable Winds
I’m always looking for articles and information on forward launches, so I thought I would present what I have learned thus far. I have been flying PPG’s for four years and have accumulated 300 plus hours of flight time during 550 plus flights. I started out with ultralights, and flew my old Quicksilver 260 hours before discovering powered paragliding.
Most of my launches are forwards due to conditions where I fly, which is from the local airport in Forks, Washington. The winds are usually very light, zero to four MPH, and variable. It’s the variable that presents the greatest challenge. You get all set up and ready to launch, and the wind changes. It can be very frustrating, as I’m sure a lot of you can relate. If the winds here get strong enough to reverse, there is too much turbulence to fly.
I went to the Paratoys Saltan Sea fly-in this year and experienced perfect launch conditions. The winds were greater than 8 MPH, steady, and very smooth. All launches were reverse and presented no real challenge. Launching the way it should be; but alas, not reality where a lot of us fly.
So, there you are. All set up, and the wind decides to blow 45 degrees from your planned direction of launch. You unhook, reset your wing, and it changes again! You can try it again or just go home. I found two ways to handle the wind change that are better than going home and actually make a variable wind launch a fun challenge.
One of the greatest aids to launching is a good portable windsock. I got mine from Bruce at Ohio PPG. It is tall enough to give the correct wind direction, and is easy to break down and transport. A wind meter is also a good idea unless your good at judging wind speed.
First, if you have enough wind, try resetting your wing by building a wall. Instead of unhooking and turning around, try this: Let your lines go slack to the ground, step over your lines with your right and left foot. You end up facing the wing in the reverse position. No, you cannot do a reverse from this position, as your risers would be twisted. Build a wall into the wind, then step over your lines, starting with your left foot, and face forward again. This is actually easier to do than explain and should be practiced with the motor off the first time.
Second, if conditions are not strong enough to build a wall from the reverse position, launch crosswind. If you attempt to launch crosswind without doing something different, the wing will rise up on the upwind side, and you will blow the launch. Let’s say the wind is about two or three MPH and is coming from your right. In the above example, the right side of the wing will come up first causing you to run to the left to get under the wing to save the launch, which doesn’t always work.
For better success at the crosswind launch, side step down wind after you are centered on the wing. If the wind is coming from your right, take one side step to the left. You will be off center, but that’s what you want. When you launch, the wing should come up straight or at least make it easier to get under and correct. This method requires some trial and error to determine how much side step is needed for the wind conditions. I have used this method to launch with a 90 degree crosswind in a three MPH breeze. If the wind is four MPH or greater, I would reset using the first method or try a reverse.
I have found articles and information regarding the forward launch at the following wedsites: www.usppa.org , www.poweredparaglider.com , www.paratoys.com , and on World Talk Radio at www.worldtalkradio.com . If you don’t belong to USPPA, I would strongly urge you to join. You get UltraFlight magazine with your membership, and it is a valuable resource and worth more than the cost of membership.
You’ve never experienced a motor out off-field landing? That’s probably because you haven’t flown PPG long enough or you’re extraordinarily lucky. It is an inevitable part of the sport, and adds some excitement to say the least.
In my case, it’s usually a selng failures, plug wires falling off, spark plug thread failure, a propeller failuref-induced phenomenon. Some causes have been; engine seizures, beari, spark plug failure, inadvertently hitting the kill switch, starter rope in the prop, plug wire melted against the cylinder, and miscellaneous parts falling off and destroying an otherwise perfectly good propeller. But, I’ve never run out of gas—yet.
I’ve lost count of how many times my noisy little motor has suddenly gone quite. My engines have died on the takeoff run and various altitudes up to 1500 feet. Almost every time, I’ve been within gliding distance of the airport or launch site. Notice I said almost. Sooner or later you will have to walk. It is just a matter of when and how far. There are two kinds of PPG pilots, those who’ve had an off field landing, and those who will.
It was a perfect day to get airborne and enjoy some great fall flying. The wind was at 2 mph straight down the runway. I usually don’t spend a lot of time at the field doing pre-flights because I work on the pesky pile of junk on such a regular basis modifying or improving some part it. Besides, the beautiful blue sky was beckoning. Familiarity breeds complacency and probably contempt in this case. This time I missed a developing problem that caused a prior power out adventure.
The wing pulled up straight and settled in overhead. I piled on the power as I continued to run and felt the familiar tug at the harness as the wing built lift. This is my favorite and most thrilling part of flying PPG. A moment later, I was off the ground and into the harness. I settled in, had a drink of water, and enjoyed the view as I gained altitude. I made a few circuits around the airport to make sure the motor was running correctly. I was testing a new air scoop for the Solo 210, and I checked it with a mirror to ensure all was well. I suddenly realized I left my cell phone in the truck. Not to worry. I always make it back to the field, and I wasn’t going that far anyway.
I decided to head across the highway toward the fields on the east side of town. I was about 250 AGL approaching the highway when the motor shut off. No sputter or putter, just instant silence. I turned toward the airport, let out the trimmers, and calculated I would land in the power lines just short of my desired objective. This was not a desirable option.
I was above three fields and the local supermarket. One field had horses so scratch that one. I would have to glide over power lines to get to the third, and that didn’t appeal to my sense of adventure. My next decision was where to land in the other field. The biggest space would require hauling the paramotor over a barbed wire fence. Too old and lazy for that option, which meant I would land behind the pizza joint on the open side of the fence. Of course, I would be in full view of everyone at the supermarket. That would give the townsfolk something to talk about for a few days. Of course, I would get the “I heard you crashed that parachute thingy” inquiry about a hundred times. Landing in the power lines would be more fun.
I made a spot-on landing with good style points. It was just not a perfect spot. I figured I would be swamped with on-lookers any moment, but it didn’t happen. A quick check of the motor revealed the culprit. I repositioned the plug wire when I installed the air scoop and failed to notice it was lying against the cylinder. The plug wire melted until the inner wire touched the cylinder fin, which gave the unexpected shut down.
I went into the pizza parlor and used the telephone to call my wife. Nobody there saw anything. Turns out they couldn’t see the landing and everyone else must have thought I stopped for a pizza.
My First Motor