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
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
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!