Educational by Chapter of the Powered Paragliding Bible

I: First Flight

01 Training Process

02 Gearing Up

03 Handling the Wing

04 Prep For 1st Flight

05 The Flight

06 Flying With Wheels 

II: Spreading Wings

07 Weather Basics

08 The Law

09 Airspace   

10 Flying Anywhere

11 Controlled Airports

12 Setup & Mx

13 Flying Cross Country

14 Flying With Others

III: Mastery

15 Adv Ground Handling

16 Precision Flying

17 Challenging Sites

18 Advanced Maneuvers

19 Risk Management

20 Competition

21 Free Flight Transition

IV: Theory

22 Aerodynamics

23 Motor & Propeller

24 Weather & Wind

25 Roots: Our History

V: Choosing Gear

26 The Wing

27 The Motor Unit

28 Accessories

29 Home Building

VI: Getting the Most

30 Other Uses

31 Traveling With Gear

32 Photography

--- Not in book ---

33 Organizing Fly-Ins

34 Places To Fly

35 Preserving the Sport

36 Tandem

Chapter 6: Flying With Wheels

June 27, 2007 | Section I   Cart Choices   Detachable Cart

See also Sport Pilot as it relates to adding wheels for tandems.

"Eventually, we'll all be on wheels."

That may be true but I've seen some 70+ year old foot launchers making it look easy. One prolific Instructor, Don Jordan continues to fly and teach foot launch at 71 years old (as of 2007).

Many pilots choose to roll instead of run for its own sake. It's fun. There are distinct advantages, too. For flying at high elevations or doing tandem instruction it's dramatically easier than foot launching, allows pilots to carry more, is easier on the legs and back (with proper suspension/protection) and is less dependent on perfect winds.

Most powered paragliders can be quickly mounted/dismounted to a wheeled cart, giving the pilot a choice.

A powered paraglider trike (or quad) is, by definition, a foot launchable unit with wheels added. What separates wheeled powered paragliders from powered parachutes is the wing. Paragliders are efficient which is why we can use small enough motors to foot launch—but they require more pilot expertise. Powered parachutes are easier to learn but require gobs more power to plow their inefficient square canopies skyward. Elliptical powered parachutes wings close the gap with heavier PPG trikes. One trike, developed by Chad Bastian, has foot steering hookups intended to be connected in flight. That's how powered parachutes are almost always flown—with your feet.

Recent Observations of Wheels

In 2007 I tripled my experience with trikes. The picture at left shows my first foray into high powered PPG trikes, flying Jim Doyle's Hirth powered behemoth down the runway while keeping the nosewheel aloft. It was flown under a Sting 250 paraglider.

What I've discovered is that, if you can competently handle the wing, transitioning to wheels is quite easy. I've also learned a lot about the different dynamics of trikes vs quads, line holders, attachment points, wheel choices, frame styles and riser connection methods. After seeing some expert trike pilots through many launches, I've discovered that you can recover surprisingly crooked launches with appropriate finesse. I've also seen how quickly a new pilot can flip his craft and break an arm. Proper training and student attention to their instructor is just as critical for learning trikes as it is with foot launching.

Something else that has become clear is power. Unless you're planning to foot launch your unit, thrust is good. Although it can twist pretty good, wheeled craft typically torque less than foot launch because the axis of torque is farther away from the axis of twist. Overall, more power is easier to manage on a trike and more beneficial to launch.

Innovation continues apace and it will show up periodically here when appropriate.

Trike Risks

As pointed out in the PPG Bible, the biggest risk on wheels is tipping over during takeoff or landing. Designs should protect the pilot in a rollover such that his head would not impact the ground.

The vast majority of trike injuries come from rollovers where the pilot puts out his hand and it, or the arm, gets broken. That happens regardless of protection because pilots don't keep their arms in. Obviously if your unit won't provide proper protection of your head in a rollover there is little choice. Most provide some protection by virtue of requiring a cage hoop that sticks well above the pilots head.

If you have a design that has good protection, rehearse what to do in a rollover: hands in, head down, kill the motor. "tuck, roll and terminate (the motor)"


To make launching easier, A-Helpers (also called A assists) are sometimes used.

A Helpers are lines that go from a frame part to the A-risers so you don't need to hold the A's during launch. As the wing comes overhead, geometry is such that the A-Helpers go slack—perfect since they're not needed anymore.



1) Probably 90% of all tandem powered paraglider training is done on wheeled units.

2) Big power keeps this powered parachute flying in order to overcome both the heavy weight and inefficient but stable square canopy.

3) Quads increase ground stability but do not eliminate rollovers.

© 2016 Jeff Goin & Tim Kaiser   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!