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

Powered Paragliding Bible

Chapter 21: Free Flight Transition

Sept 30, 2007 | Section III Mastering The Sport

Whether transitioning from free flight to motors or vice versa, there are important differences. It's a lot more than just adding/subtracting a motor and those who pooh pooh the transition do a serious disservice to its challenge. And you will find those who like to fancy themselves as superiorbe immediately leery of them.

From Free Flight To Motors

A day with a good motor instructor will be money well spent. The PPG bible devotes an entire chapter but here are some of the things you want to learn.

1. Learn about the extreme risk of getting injured by the prop. There's more to it than meets the eye.

2. You must not lean forward during launch. Free flight pilots are drilled to lean and run. A skilled transitioning pilot will figure this out quickly: you must stand up straight to let the motor push you. I've seen my share of free flight pilots who ignore this advice and end up falling face first when they start to power up while leaned forward.

3. Be light on the brakes while climbing. For one you are closer to parachutal stall or spin which is more likely with a motor.

4. Learn about torque. Avoid turns against the motor's natural torque turn direction. If the motor tends to turn right, let it. Plan your launches accordingly. A common crash happens when pilots try turning away from the motor's natural tendency. The pull brake, not enough happens and they pull more brake then, before they know what's happening, the wing has spun.

From Motors to Free Flight

Launch and landing sites are frequently in tight spaces with little room to maneuver. Plus, you may be sharing the site, especially launch, with numerous other pilots. It's not the place to have marginal wing handling skills. The USHPA has a ratings program where the P2 is most common. But don't just get the rating. Poor kiting skills can be dangerous for both you and your launch mates. With motors, we usually have the luxury of room, not so on most hills.

Find a qualified and experienced soaring instructor who knows the site you're wanting to fly.

Here are some of the areas you'll want to address when going powerless.

1. Have good kiting skills in strongish winds. Most free flight sites have unforgiving options for a pilot getting thrashed by wind and strong winds can come up quickly when conditions are soarable.

2. Know what active flying is all about. Basically, you want to be adept at keeping the wing under control without even thinking about it. In fact, its knowing how to use the least amount of brake pressure to keep the wing mostly overhead. Fighting every nit and tiddle is just as bad as doing nothing. And knowing that movement is far different than pressure. In strong turbulence it can be possible to have full deflection of the brakes to maintain pressure. But knowing when to let off the brakes is equally important.

3. Fly with and learn how to use a reserve. Any condition strong enough to keep you aloft has opportunity to re-bag your wing. You want another.

4. Learn about micrometeorology. Knowledge of how wind flows around obstructions, where rotors are likely, and how thermals work becomes critical.

5. Don't skimp on back protection. I'm sorry to say, but the current crop of harnesses have developed their safety features on the broken backs of numerous paraplegics.


Each endeavor has its own needs and idiosyncrasies. Respect them and you'll do well, slough them off and the risk goes up dramatically.

Far left: This mountain harness offers no back protection. It's a serious risk trade-off.

1. Steve Mayer, Cloud 9 Soaring is a premium transition instructor. This site, Point of the Mountain, is a great place to cut your teeth on strong wind kiting.

2. Ken Hudonjorgensen is another. He took several of us to this tight site near Salt Lake City.

3. Phil Russman loves soaring small. Small hills, small wings. You can see how he's struggling to have fun here.

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