25: Roots - History of Powered Paragliding
Apr 23, 2008 | Section IV Theory & Understanding,
Chapter 25: Roots-Our History
Pilots PPG Club
1999 Eric Marzewski
Parastars First Fly-In
There is a
complete chapter on PPG history but it ends when powered paragliding first
started in the U.S. This is an effort to both fill more detailed information
and extend it. Those who have made a contribution to the sport in some
significant way are included. If you know of any additional details that may
be of interest, or have any pictures, that would be most helpful! Please
send them to Jeff Goin.
This is a work in progress and will be updated as
new, verifiable information comes in. Thanks for your help. The tilde
(~) after a date or information means that there is no independent
confirmation of the information and it is less likely to be accurate. Some of the people interviewed did not
know name spellings so they will likely be wrong. Individuals
highlighted will have made a major contribution to the sport, including
especially those with involvement with USPPA or those who influenced its
A history of the USPPA appears (may be getting updated) on
Thanks to those who are contributing to help make this account
more accurate! Your input is greatly appreciate and I'm learning a lot
more about the sport as this comes together.
1793 Frenchman Jean Pierre Blanchard
develops the first parachute made from silk. Previous models had been
demonstrated but all were made with rigid frames. Andrew Garnerin garnered
the first recorded jump from a hot air balloon at 8000 feet using a fabric
1919 U.S. submarine tows up
parachutist to look for ships on the horizon.
parachutist Pierre Lemoigne cut slots in a round canopy to allow airflow and
thus forward flight.
1964 Pioneer Parachute Company develops the Para-Commander, a modified round
parachute that enabled some forward speed for military jumpers. It was
quickly adopted by sport parachutists. Pictures courtesy
Juan A. Fernandez.
1964 Domina Jalbert of Florida
develops a square canopy for kiting that he calls the Ram-Air ParaFoil.
Walter Newmark adopted it for taking humans up while being towed in what
became known as parascending.
1965 David Barish launches his
single-surface paraglider from a slope. The craft was being developed for
spaceship recovery. It didn't catch on in space or earth. Not yet. David
flew the craft from ski slopes and received a fair amount of press coverage
but, it would seem, the world wasn't quite ready for his invention.
1978 French parachutists developed a technique for launching
their ram-air parachutes from a slope near Mieussy, France. They were
saving money on airplane flights and unwittingly birthed the sport of
1979 Sees the first use of a
Paramotor, so called by its creator, Mike Burne. There is no production unit
and Mike's has no seat. He hangs from the harness for all of his short
Mike's then-new paraglider weighed 95 pounds and flights were usually in
the 5-minute range. Follow up units added wheels and the
first PPG trike was born.
1981 Barndt Bartig foot launches from
level ground but kept it secret until the machine he used became the first
commercially viable paramotor, the German-Built PagoJet.
1988 Jose Casaudemec starts Aerolight
in Venezuela, one of the first hang gliding and paragliding schools in
1989 Mar German born Chris Bowles eared his Class 1 paragliding
rating through the American Paragliding Association. He flew the newly
released Airwave Black Magic. He commented on being excited that it "had
more than 7 cells!"
1989 June~ German made Pagojet paramotor, using
a 3-cylinder Konig engine, offered to the public. It used a mouth throttle
where biting down increased power. A mercury switch in the throttle would
shut off the motor when the pilot dropped the mouth piece.
1990~ Italian made JPX paramotor offered to the public using the
JPX 425cc engine.
1990~ French made Adventure paramotor, based
on the Solo 210 2-stroke 210cc engine, offered to the public.
1991 July Francesco DeSantis
and his friend Arnm Vogel, both officers in the Canadian Armed Forces,
purchased Pagojets. The machines were delivered to Oshkosh, WI, with the
understanding that they would be demoed at Oshkosh before being given
Arnim went to pick up the machines at OSH and received rudimentary
training there. His first flight was from a nearby field. He brought both
machines back to Canada where Francesco took his first flight on one around
1991 Sept~ Eric Dufour, an experienced sky
diver, tries and loves paragliding in Quebec, Canada. Paratour was started
as a parasail operation with a boat and one parasail.
1991 Sept~ Arnim and
Francesco obtained their Commercial Ultralight License from Transport Canada
and obtained commercial insurance in Canada. They also obtained the required
written waivers to fly paramotors for commercial compensation without
the identification numbers.
1992 Apr Eric Dufour and Dino Svaldi
purchased three Adventure solo 210 motors. Eric became a defacto importer. Two
of the machines had reduction drives (F3 model) and one was a direct drive (F1). Eric started training with ITV
Meteor wing and Adventure paramotors. They had to wait 5 months to get their
1992 Apr - Sept Francesco DeSantis and Arnim Vogel flew 12
Airshows, with sponsors, in Canada.
1992~ June~ Gerard Thevenot,
owner of La Moueete Hanggliders, and world glass hangglider competitor, brought the first paramotor to
the U.S. It was the Zenoah 250 powered La Mouette. He and his wife, Sherry, started XC Magazine.
1992 July~ Longtime PG instructor Hugh Murphy adds PPG to his PG
repertoire near San Louis Obispo, CA.
1993 May~ Eric Dufour starts teaching
powered paragliding in Quebec, Canada.
1993 April~ Don Reinhard
starts Personal Flight, importing the La Mouette. His wife Sheri, also flew
1993 Apr~ - Sept~ Francesco DeSantis, still an Air Traffic
Controller with the military, and Arnim Vogel flew 8 Airshows, with
sponsors, in Canada.
1993 June Chris Bowles takes first PPG flight,
using only his paraglider training since there was no practical motor instruction
1993 Sept Chris and Tammy Bowles starts
working at MoJos Gear in Texas. He also develops the Solo 210 powered
Cloudbase Paramotor. It had low attachments and small redrive. It was
intended for free flight pilots to transition into power.
Paramotor, Inc 1993 Alan Presari forms Paramotor Inc. and trademarks the
word paramotor, causing a ruckus in the community since it was already in
common use, especially in Europe. He began building large (relatively)
quantities of the Zenoah 250 powered machines which were copied from the the
La Mouette. He added a solid outer ring which gave it great rigidity at some
expense in thrust compared with the LaMouette.
1993 Nov~ Philipped Renaudin of Sup'Air does part time
training for Paramotor Inc. until Apr, 1994.
1994~ June~ Nancy and Marie start
teaching Powered Paragliding in Tow, TX.
1994 Mar~ Eric Dufour and Francesco DeSantis travel to the Dominican
Republic to fly for the Presidential Election Campaign of General Ballaguer.
1994 Apr Francesco DeSantis accepted a full time training position
Inc. of NY and worked there until March 1995. He left for full time
training in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, returning to St. Petersburg,
FL in October 1995 where he bought U-CAN-FLY-2 from James Vander Griff, a
former Paramotor Inc. dealer. Being fluent in English, French, Italian and Spanish
helped him since the motors were primarily being built
1994 June~ Chris Bowles earned his American Paragliding Class 2
1994 June~ DK (Daiichi Kosho) rep visited Eric Dufour in Canada.
1994 July~ PPG Industry meeting near La Salinas, Baja, Mexico. Nearly
all the paramotor manufacturers and importers were present: Paramotor,
Adventure, Cloudbase, DK, La Mouette. Pilots/reps: John Yates, Alan
Chuculate, Pierre Renauldin, Chris and Tammy Bowles, Eric Dufour, Nancy and
A tape was filmed there by Fred and Claudia Stockwell, PG Pioneers and
founders of the American Paragliding Association. They lived near famous
soaring site Point of the Mountain, UT. They also put together what turned
out to be the only issue of Paramotor Magazine (not related to the current
Paramotor Magazine) as a result of this gathering.
1995 Jan DK representatives visit Philippe Renaudin of Sup'Air
USA. Francesco was invited to fly the unit and did so. Francesco wound up
buying it. He then shipped it to
Canada for Eric Dufour to try. The motor was picked up by truck driver Eric
Sigier, whose son David was one of Eric's students at the time. Eric tried the
little DK Beat and liked it, but continued to import Adventure due to their more
complete product line at the time.
1995 Feb Francesco DeSantis met the owner of LaMouette, Gerald
Thevenot. who had just returned from a trip to Brazil. He had been test
flying his company's first tandem unit, the ZR250-bi on a Nervures Erebus glider. Francesco flew this tandem unit with James Vander Griff
as passenger. Jose Casaudoumecq was on hand for the flight but did not fly that day.
They flew from Francesco's then-training field just East of Brandon Florida,
a private ranch called Pruit Ranch.
1995 Feb Jose Casaudoumecq earns his USHGA Advanced
Instructor and Tandem Instructor ratings.
1995 Mar Aerolight was created in Miami, Florida for teaching
paramotoring as the East Coast distributors for La Mouette Paramotors (Don
Reinhardt handled the west coast). They moved from the La Mouette to the Fly
Castelluccio in about 1997 but only for one year. Then they became Aerolight
USA and took over the Fly Products line.
1995 Apr Eric Dufour
starts flying tandem training flights using a towed assisted launch under a
1995 June~ Scott
Alan visited Eric Dufour for training in Toronto, CA, video taping the
process. He acquired two flights under Eric's tutelage. Within a year, Scott
started Paraborne Aviation near Orlando, Florida, teaming up with Aero
Sports Connection (ASC). He became the importer for Japanese maker DK, an
electronics company tnhat branched into paramotors, hoping it would be a
large market endeavor. DK started with the direct drive Beat, followed by
the reduction drive Whisper. DK Made their own engines.
At the time it was
common practice for prospective pilots to buy a machine, come down to
Florida for a weekend of training and leave with their Basic Flight
Instructor rating (BFI). No other organizations were dealing with paramotors
nor were there many instructors. The BFI also technically allowed these
pilots to fly tandems although few did.
1995 June~ Chris and Tammy
Bowles, Eric Dufour and Francesco DeSantis earned their USHGA paraglider
1995 July~ Chris and Tammy Bowles start
Southern Skies, importing Fresh Breeze paramotors and offering both
paraglider and paramotor training from the Moore Mountain area in North
1995~ Aug~ Bill Fifer of Traverse City, MI adds
paramotoring to his long-running hang gliding business. He becomes a DK
dealer for Scott Alan selling DK Beats and DK Symphony wings.
1996 June~ The first large Fly-In,
with vendors, thrust tests a video. The Powered Paragliding Guide, by Fred
C. and Claudia Stockwell is produced along with a video.
Clewiston, FL Fly-In.
Grant Rumundt of Paramotor Aviation, Eric Dufour and others were present.
1996 July~ Eric Marzewski starts the Pilots PPG Club BBS (listserve)
on the website www.gmountain.com/clubs.htm of his company, Green Mountain
Unlimited, 1463 Graham Farm, Severn, Md. 21144-1086, Telephone was
888-629-6742. See article
1997~ Mar~ Mark Sorenson, A DC-9 pilot
for Valujet (later renamed AirTran), starts selling Fly Products paramotors
and teaching powered paragliding near Fort Lauderdale, FL.
1999~ Jun~ Parastars, the first dedicated paramotor club, is formed in the Tampa, FL
area with Terry Alford as President and Bill Hocker as Vice President. They
would go on to host the first U.S. Paramotor Convention in 2001.
1998 Mar Eric Marzewski moves the
Pilots PPG Club email group to Onelist.com, an email "listserver" that
got swallowed by Yahoo groups in about 2000. He sold Explorer Paramotors,
built in South Africa, and had information about the
sport on his website. At this point there are about 700 members of the list
1998 Apr During Sun-N-Fun, Mark Sorenson (Fly Products
importer) and Natalie Rogers (Fly Products Representative) approached
Aerolight to take over the distributorship. Aerolight accepted, becoming the
sole U.S. Importer of Fly Products equipment.
1999 Mar I (Jeff Goin) am lured into the sport
by a friend's call. After getting advice from Nick Scholtes, I sought
training from his instructor, Alan Chuculate who, unfortunately, was attending some USHGA function in
Nashville and so wend with another recommendation, Jeff Williams.
Thankfully, he turned out to be equally capable and
patiently guided me through the USHGA PPG2 rating after two visits of 4 days
I then contacted several people but eventually found Aerolight who sold me a Solo 210 powered Fly 70
direct drive motor and included training from Mark Sorenson. It was slightly
modified, having a bit longer prop (75 cm) and appropriately larger cage.
Albuquerque Balloon Festival is hosted by Jerry and Michelle Daniele.
This was an awesome experience. Besides being my first gathering, there
were some incredible people and flying.
A more thorough account is
Jeff Goin before launching from Marshal (San Bernadino,
CA) on his first paraglider high flight.
2000 June I (Jeff Goin) had a parachutal stall accident while
flying a large, slow wing during climbout at full power and quarter brake.
Common paragliding wisdom suggested such an event was unlikely at best. After
publicizing that accident, I received many emails about other pilots with
similar experiences. So began my awareness that specific motor training was
sorely needed along with training standards and a syllabus developed by a
consortium of experienced pilots.
2000 Aug~ NAPPG.com is started as
little more than an idea and a website. The intent was to establish training
standards and a ratings program. Having come from a USHGA background, I was
in favor of the effort. However, the effort drowned in details and no
elected body was ever formed.
2001 Feb After talking with several
people who shared an interest in seeing the sport well represented, it was
decided to start the United States Powered Paragliding Association. Alan Chuclate was the first president.
Greg Anderson was VP, It would be organized as a non profit
and have elected leaders.
2001 Mar The Parastars club Hosts the
first truly national PPG Convention in Florida. This first class event sets
many standards and is the best attended fly-in of all.
See the invitation
Apr~ The Parastars convention in Florida earns Guiness's title for the
largest number of pilots airborne at any one time. The Mass launch at The
Powered Paragliding Convention at Fantasy of Flight was a resounding
2004~ June~ There is a fatal accident
in Canada where a student, getting into his seat, didn't let go of the brake
toggles and stalled the wing. He did not survive the 50 foot fall. This
accident affected me strongly since it seemed so preventable. Even though I
talked with the instructor and he had done what was normal and reasonable,
it motivated me get the USPPA syllabus finished. So I called Alan Chuculate
who was working on it, and and asked to take over the project. He agreed and
offered his help.
In the process of working on the syllabus I talked to
several instructors to see what book they used. The answer was always
preceded by a "well..." meaning that they may sell a particular book but
don't actually use it for much.
There were two books out there, one a translation from French and the
other by a British paraglider pilot who learned to paramotor mostly for the
purpose of writing a book. That's actually a good way to do it because the
learning process is fresh, but it was cursory and had nothing to do with our
law or airspace.
In conversations with Alan Chuculate I knew that he and Dennis Pagen had
talked about writing a book together but it hadn't happened yet and we
desperately needed it. So I called Dennis Pagen to ask him what the plan
was. He said those fateful words: "I decided not to do it but, if you write
it, I'll publish it." Uggh. That wasn't part of my plan. It was an
intriguing thought, and I had wondered what it would be like but the market
was small and I had no idea if it would be accepted.
As history makes
clear I went on to write the book, splitting the publishing cost with