Better safety while learning
Beginner wings get a bad rap. They're slow, don't turn well and just
aren't cool. And hey, I used to think this way myself until observation
of crashes and at least one fatality made me reconsider. If surviving
PPG's learning curve is important to you, read on.
It's simple: sporty handling wings for a new pilot can be deadly!
Paramotor dynamics conspire to cause incorrect action because body
movement is initially opposite to wing movement. Pull right brake and
your body briefly moves a few inches *left* as the wing banks
right, pivoting around a point just above your head. That causes new
pilots, and by new I mean those with less than 50-100 flights, to easily
get out of synch with the wing's motion. If they're on a sporty-handling
ride, that can quickly devolve into worsening Pilot Induced Oscillations
This has proven fatal! It has also caused many takeoff and landing
accidents and is why any capable instructor will insist that new
students NOT use any left-right steering inputs while close to the
ground during takeoff or landing.
I've flown a number of "beginner" wings that have quite sporty
handling, especially at wing loadings above about 9 lbs/sq meter (flat).
That's not what a new pilot needs. He needs benign handling that's
forgiving. Typically these are called "school" wings because they're
sometimes used by the school for initial learning -- a practice that I
wish were more common.
Training is the 2nd most likely time to die in our sport. It's true
that going into the water is worse but that's easy to solve: don't fly
where it's possible. Learning is, unfortunately, something we must all
In the past my experience with true beginner wings, those with super
sluggish handling, was that they were hard to inflate. That was
reinforced when I watched some students struggling with forward
inflations on a Power Atlas, trying to get it overhead in a 3 mph wind.
That should be nearly brainless but clearly wasn't. These were capable
people. Flummoxed, I asked to try it out. Sure enough, the amount of A's
required to pull it up curled the leading edge. I was able to get it
overhead but it was ridiculously difficult. In a bit more wind it's
obviously easier but why make it harder? While the handling on this wing
is perfect for a beginner, it's inflation characteristics are simply
I recently tried out a school wing with similar handling but that was
decent to inflate, the Axis Stardust. There are others, of course, and
now that I see their importance I'll take any opportunity to review
them. A key characteristic is that they must be very forgiving of brake
pull. I realize that larger sizes go a long way to achieving this so I
would be trying them in the 8 lbs/sq meter (flat) range. My motor and I
weigh 205 pounds so a 25 sq meter (flat) size is about right. That will
equate to about 22 sq meter projected.
To determine the appropriate size wing for you, divide your fueled
weight (you & motor) by 8.5. That's the approximate flat area of a
desirable school wing. Too lightly loaded (wing too large) is equally
bad so don't go less than about 8 lbs/sq meter (flat) which risks
parachutal stall and/or spins.
Of course there's balance and yes, really good training reduces the
chances of problems, but human behavior is unpredictable. I'd rather we
give new entrants the best chance of survival and this is an easy first
step. Once left/right pendular control is mastered THEN move into a
hotter handling ride. Don't fall for the "I wana be cool" trap. Choose
life. I'm glad that I learned on a benign ride.