Middle School PPG Demo

May 20, 2009 Paramotoring for 100 teaming, bright and curious kids

A month ago, my brother David asked me if I would do a powered paragliding demo at his sons' middle school in a Chicago Suburb. I agreed and yesterday was the day.

The school didn't have enough area for a flight so time didn't matter. I scheduled it for noon to avoid rush hour driving and let me use the good morning air for competition practice, which I did.  I told them my demo would be to merely get the wing up, turn and run with the motor pushing so they could see the basics. But privately I held out hopes for a short flight if all the stars lined up.

We set up cones around the area so I could get ready with out having kids tangle in lines and keep a safe distance. It's amazing how an inflating wing grabs attention as it billows out. From a bundled pile of fabric in the middle of the playground, I pulled life into the paraglider, filling it with a whoosh of rustling nylon, taking shape and coming overhead. Kids came running. That was just kiting.

Next, the principal (I don't remember principals being that young and fit in my day!) got the kids behind a line we had designated, and the demo began.

I explained what I'd do, that the winds were swirling around the many surrounding 40-foot trees and that the wing may go sideways or do other gyrations. And also about how we typically fly in calm morning or evening air. None of that mattered to them, of course, they just wanted to see this thing go.

After firing up the motor and clipping in, I brought the wing up in a sufficiently steady wind and kited it there for a moment before turning around and walking forward. Once on the grass, I throttled up just enough to get me running. It felt good so I throttled up for a short flight. Yeah! Now we're talkin'! It wasn't more than 20 feet but that was enough. They loved it.

I was wearing a kiting harness, primarily in case I didn't feel it was safe to use the motor. So now with the powered portion done, I walked back over and showed them how we learn to handle the wing without the motor. They were fascinated by the whole thing. And why not? I can only imagine my reaction to such a demo when I was their age. After that, the kids were corralled back into the school and reformed in the auditorium for a talk on the sport and professional flying.

After describing some basics on the sport and my background as an airline pilot I opened it up for questions. My original time goal was a 10 minute talk and then left it up to them for a time limit on questions. I had no idea how many questions they would have. Good questions, too, not much unlike adult questions I get at these things. What's funny is that only a very few questions were about the 737 or commercial flying, they were interested in paramotoring. I had the motor and wing up on stage along with some of the items we'll be using in competition (ball and kicking stick).

The questions went on for at least a half hour before time ran out and they seemed genuinely interested. I was impressed with the kids and school leadership. They'll have a bright future for the taking, it seems.

One point in the presentation was fascinating to me. David had picked out a section of the LiteTouch Films video "Why We Fly" which he cued up on their projection screen. Halfway through my presentation, I had him play that. Not only did it enthrall the kids but, about a minute into it, everybody started clapping to the beat! Mind you, there wasn't much beat. If you've seen the video, you'll know what I mean, it's just singing with beautiful (and I do mean BEAUTIFUL!) flying scenes. It was the darndest thing to witness and completely unexpected.

I had a good time and the whole event went well. Hopefully it was a good impression and will offer some spark of motivation in the generation that will eventually be taking care of us. Enjoy your options kids and I'll hope to see in the air!

1. Getting ready for the flight demo. Photo by David Goin

2. Google Earth image of the school from above. Trees abound with houses all around. That's why the flight was just a hop inside this green field.

2015 Jeff Goin   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!