We’ve all heard the inspirational quotes and overused sayings about flight depicting man achieving a bird-like freedom to roam around. Unfortunately, that just isn’t how it has evolved. Today, flying an aircraft is extremely intimidating for aspiring and daydreaming pilots. I don’t speculate either, as I achieved my Private Pilot Certification in 2006 and know full well what goes into becoming a proficient pilot. Just imagine how much work goes into learning the way an aircraft works, how to fly it, how to recover from emergency situations, how to ensure your aircraft is in mechanical working order and how to fix it if it is not. All of that is the easy part. The hard part, and why I ultimately decided to discontinue my pursuit for flight, is the logistics, laws, and requirements being enforced by the governing bodies of airspace. The air above your head has more restrictions than you can imagine, much more than the streets on which we drive every day. There are agencies you need to contact at certain times, medical and skill certifications you need to regularly renew, invisible borders you need to avoid, altitudes to maintain when going certain directions, high-stress unnatural communication, among other constant stresses on the pilot during any given flight. The result is a feeling that is anything but a sense of ‘freedom.’ Overwhelmed, stressed, broke, and distraught, I left my aviation career behind after obtaining my pilot’s license, as well as any hopes (or desires) to return to the skies again. For years I stared at the planes passing overhead, and as I thought about what the pilot was doing at that given moment I would think ‘what a waste of a good day to fly.’
Then, in 2011, I discovered powered paragliding (PPG).
PPG is much like paragliding, but instead of relying on thermal activity and upward winds for lift, you can solely rely on an engine and propeller that are strapped to your back. What really drew me in was the freedom that this form of aviation offers. Because PPG is a form of ultralight, they fall under FAR Rule 103, which means there are no required certifications, no required medical checks, no required equipment, and no required licensing. So long as you obey simple airspace regulations in place, and employ some common sense, PPG is one of the most unrestricted forms of motorized flight you will be able to find today. Imagine throwing your aircraft in the back of your vehicle, driving a few miles out of town to a dirt lot, assembling you PPG in under 10 minutes, and flying around for 3+ hours with almost no requirements. This is the potential of PPG, and there are thousands of people flying these aircraft every day. Through PPG, I rekindled my desire to get in the air, and found that the dream is alive and well with others who share my sentiment. The best part? You can be flying your own equipment in under two weeks, for less than $8000.
PPG has enabled average people with no history of aviation to fly at leisure with almost no stress and very fine control over their aircraft. I, myself, intend to be one of them. I have decided to create a series that focuses on PPG. Eventually, I will be spending 2 weeks camping in the foothills of Draper, Utah while I train to fly and buy my own PPG. I will be using RigCast as a vehicle to publish this experience, but in the meantime, I plan on exploring the many aspects of PPG that appeal to some and don’t appeal to others.