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Powered Parachute - parachute wing

Powered Parachute - eliptical wing

Powered Paragliding - trike attachment


What is the difference

Understanding the Technology
There is much confusion about the differences between a powered paraglider (PPG) and a powered parachute (PPC). Even the FAA has so far failed to come up with in a clear delineation between the two.

Why the confusion? Each aircraft category has expanded into "hybrid" aircraft to include features of the other. These hybrids have blurred the lines that once separated PPG's and PPC's.

Why differentiate? For single place aircraft, the FAA doesn't care if it's a picnic table attached to a bed sheet as long as it's under 254 lbs and qualifies as an ultralight. However, for two-place aircraft, the FAA has decided that PPC's with be Sport Pilot and PPG's will operate under a special FAA exemption.

The 3 main characteristics that currently differenciate between PPG's and PPC's are:

• Wing Design
• Landing Gear
• Wing attachment

PPG Hybrid PPC
Wing Design paraglider eliptical or
parachute or eliptical
Landing Gear foot launch
or wheels
wheels wheels
Wing Attachment harness harness/frame
In Flight responsive, efficient between a PPG
and a PPC
very stable,
not efficient
Engine Size 14 to 30 hp 35 to 45 hp 45 to 85 hp
Tandem Flight Ultralight
????? Sport Pilot

Gliding vs. Plowing
Some PPG pilots refer to PPC's as airplows because a parachute has some much more drag than a paraglider. Parachutes are far less efficient and have much less roll response. While some prefer this stability, with the introduction of eliptical wings, somewhere between a paraglider and parachute, PPC hybrids have moved closer to the efficiency and responsiveness of PPG's.

Wheels make it easy
Launching a PPC is easier than launching a PPG for two reasons... Parachutes are easier to ground handle than paragliders, and launching in light winds on wheels less work than a long hard run. Now, the introduction of light weight wheel attachments for PPG's has made launching easier for tandem operations, pilots with physical limitations, and high altitude operations.

Attaching to the Wing
With heavier aircraft like PPC's, the wing usually attaches to a solid tube or part of the frame instead of the harness. However, some single-place PPG's are attached to the wing by the frame, and some of the largest PPC's have harness attachments directly to the wing, and some of each use a combination. Using wing attachment as a way to define an aircraft category makes little sense, yet this appears to be the plan for the FAA.

Freedom to Explore
The big advantage of PPG's over PPC's is the ability to easily transport, set up, and launch in a wide variety of locations, all over the country and indeed all over the world. Transporting a PPC requires a trailer and shipping it is usually cost prohibitive. PPG require shorter take off runs requiring smaller launch and landing fields. In the event of an engine failure, PPG's can glide twice as far as a PPC, increasing opportunities for safe cross country flights.

Learning PPC is easier
Yes learning to fly a PPC is easier and less physically demanding. Though a wheel attachment for a PPG does close the gap on this issue, the PPC is far more stable and therefore much more like driving than flying.

Which do you choose?
It depends on you, your location, and what you'd like to accomplish with your flying. Watch DVD's like Risk and Reward. That's the best way to get to feel of powered paragliding as compared to powered parachuting. The most important thing is... if you've got that crocked gene that makes you need to fly, get out there and do it!

Photo to the left
Phil Russman and Mo Sheldon fly in formation south of Pheonix, posing for Jeff Goin's camera in order to get a good shot for the cover of the PPG Bible.

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