The vast majority of paramotor entrants enthuse
over the sport's simple elegance, affordability and minimal regulation. Indeed,
that is what got me so juiced, too. But there are some
surprising dark corners that, while easily avoidable, are not obvious.
Through several years of aggressively exploring the craft, I learned about
many of them--a few the hard way. I learned even more by talking and spending time with the sport's most prolific and skilled instructors.
These were people who knew what was actually happening and had
developed ways to improve the situation.
It was obvious that we, as a community, needed to get the word out.
After one particularly harrowing experience, I set out to create "The
USPPA Safety Video." It started with an outline that eventually
became a script, listing the the ways that pilots were actually getting
hurt and what could be done to prevent those injuries. That script was
passed around to a number of highly regarded instructors who gave valuable
input which was incorporated.
It turns out that a huge majority of wing-related accidents shared a
common thread: too much brake pull—a reaction aggravated frequently by
having or holding too much power. It wasn't the wing's mis-behaving, it
was the pilot's overreaction that turned a minor bobble into a major
crash. In fact, nearly all PPG accidents where the wing does something
unexpected was a result of the pilot pulling too much brake.
Worse than that was where serious injuries were occurring. They came not
from flying at all but rather from the propeller. And most of those occurred
during start or runup.
There are a host of other maladies that needed attention and were
covered—aspects of paramotoring where risk was present but not readily
apparent. It was my hope to present the problem and, whenever practical,
Another major goal was to show why proper instruction is so critical.
Seeing all there is to know would hopefully make any pilot heed the
admonition to get good, thorough training. It shows why choosing an
instructor who uses a standard syllabus is better guaranteed to cover the
necessary material. Any instructor not using the USPPA syllabus, or one
that covers at LEAST the same material, is denying their student the
advantage of collective wisdom.
It Can't Cover Everything
We wanted to address the major causes of calamity in 60 minutes (it
turned out to be 72 minutes long). Obviously, it can't cover everything.
Free flyers, for example, put themselves in strong conditions necessarily.
They rely on rising air that's strong enough to remain aloft and sometimes
climb to great heights—an endeavor that carries a price. Turbulence
associated with such lift has proven deadly; even highly experienced
pilots have succumb to malfunctions in strong conditions. According to the
U.S. Hang gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA),
the major cause of serious accidents in paragliding is wing deformations
resulting from turbulence. That should send a powerful message. But for
paramotor pilots that is not their greatest worry so it gets much
less time in the video. R&R does, however, offer a concise solution to
the vast majority of maladies caused by turbulence that are likely to be
Clear avoidance of strong conditions is far better than recovery. It
goes without saying that any pilot is best armed with the tools of
prevention and recovery, but it is equally obvious that staying out of
strong conditions is even more effective.
Hopefully somebody will someday produce a "Paragliding: Risk &
Reward." But alas, even though I'm an avid free flyer, it has never become the
passion that paramotoring has.
Another video, Instability II, does a spectacular job addressing wing
maladies and handling them. It is clear, concise, accurate and well done—a
perfect adjunct to Risk and Reward. Produced by extremely skilled pilots,
it vividly points out how some maladies, particularly those that cause
sudden or steepening turns do require immediate action. A cravat,
for example, where part of the wingtip gets caught in the lines, is one
such case. While the vast majority of cravats that happen to PPG pilots
will be minor and allow almost normal flying, getting a big one that causes a
steepening turn requires immediate correction (this is covered in Chapter
4 of the Powered Paragliding Bible).
You bet. I made no money on the production, it was a product of
passion. A project, like the
later-appearing PPG Bible, that needed to be done. To a large degree, it's a selfish
attempt at preservation. Preserving what has proven so rewarding and
has become such a large part of my life. Many of the admonitions don't
sound "cool" but rather are practical and effective. Human
factors techniques are used, like the ones employed so successfully in the
I strongly believe that Risk and Reward, like The Powered
Paragliding Bible are building blocks to a foundation of knowledge that
will help insure every pilot's longevity and, hopefully, the sport's
longevity. A good instructor and thorough training are, of course, even
more essential but why not start out with with the proper tools?
From an article first
published in the May 2005 issue of Powered Sport Flying Magazine
As said by a famous man two millennia ago, “It is Finished.”
After over four years, six locations, countless shoots and two recording sessions with William Shatner, the USPPA project “Risk & Reward is finally in the can. The 67 minute packed show was expertly produced by Phil Russman of Lite Touch Films and involved many, many people in the scripting, filming, and contributed footage.
It is a must-see for anybody currently flying powered paragliders or expecting to start training. The intent is this: Expose the risks of our sport and, whenever possible, reveal how to minimize them. You won’t learn how to hook up your risers, that is the purview of an instructor, but you will learn when it’s a good idea not to hook up your risers.
The intent, from the start, was to make sure people flew their craft with knowledge of what risks are being taken. Rather than say “Don’t fly low,” it says, “If you fly low, here are the risks and a few simple steps to minimize them.” Having a pilot come to grief after knowingly taking risks is bad; having it happen because without knowing about the risk is a travesty.
William Shatner, a paramotor pilot himself, participated in the project when he cut his parts back in late 2001. While only
had 13 flights, he wanted to help spread our message and help preserve this awesome freedom.
Phil Russman narrates with music courtesy of a movie industry provider who is also a paramotor pilot. He chose to remain nameless but his contribution was no less important.
Thanks to the many who provided input to the script, video footage and participated in the filming. The credits are long; fortunately they’re at the end!
It is priced at $39.95 but is being offered to USPPA members for $19.95 and non-members for $29.95 to help get the information out there. For ordering information please visit www.USPPA.org and click on “Risk & Reward” at the top Favorites section. To get the member price (one per year per member), log in and click on “Risk & Reward”.
Hopefully through education we can give pilots the opportunity to become aware of risks that lurk and maybe find out what they need to learn. Through this and other efforts we can preserve our ultimate freedom for our own future and those that follow.
Risk & Reward
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Many, many hours were
spent getting it right. Phil Russman did some incredibly close flying to
obtain the gorgeous shots that appear in the film. We had to carefully
manage our own risk in seeking out the reward of perfection.
Much of the filming was done from and of this Paratour SD unit which proved
to be a reliable and functional platform.
Dozens were involved in
the project including this Southwest Airlines pilot, Vinny, who
"crashes" into a PPG at one point.