Reading my last post, I realised I alluded to the Zee PHG photo without actually publishing it.  Daft.  Here you go:

Brent flying his powered hang-glider with Hout Bay in the background

While the uninitiated might presume this tiny aircraft to be a microlight, it is actually a powered (aka motorized) hang-glider – the wing is a perfectly normal standard hang-glider with which (unlike a microlight) you could run off any handy hill or mountain and have a soaring or thermic flight sans engine or undercarriage.  The undercarriage and engine are designed to be super light-weight, allowing the entire assembly with pilot to fall within the allowable maximum weight for the glider wing.  This means that if flies just like a normal hang-glider, albeit with slightly more drag.  They are designed to allow pilots to take off from a handy spot, fly to the nearest hill or thermic area, turn off the engine and soar.  Yes, you do need a license – first as a hang-glider pilot, and then a power conversion to fly the PHG.  You’ll recall from earlier blog posts that I went off and learnt to do this some time ago, before unexpected circumstances landed a powered paraglider kit in my hands.

Looking down the Cape Peninsula from 3000ft - click for enlargement

This was the first time we’ve flown the PHG and PPG together, and although we didn’t do formal tests we made a number of observations.  Launching the Zee in zero wind was an absolute breeze (hur hur), with the machine accelerating smoothly across the beach on its big bubble wheels.  By comparison, I took three sweaty attempts to get the PPG airborne: no-wind takeoff in deep sand with a paraglider and 30+kg of kit on your back is a challenge.  Once in the air, the paraglider (I fly a MacPara Eden 4 Powered with a PAP125 engine and on this occasion a 125cm carbon prop) seemed to climb more rapidly, or at least at a steeper angle.  Cruising speed was identical at trim, with the PPG a little faster on cruise with the trims open.  Both aircraft felt the rotor turbulence behind the big peaks; I had one 60% asymmetric collapse and Brent described a few significant bumps, but I think he had more confidence in his rigid wing.  I could lose height very rapidly by putting the paraglider into a spiral, but lack the hang-glider’s ability to accellerate into a steep descent in a straight line.  Landing the PPG in a limited space is of course  very easy; by the time we returned there was a 10 knot wind blowing, and I was able to make a precision landing a few meters from the car, whereas the Zee needed a bit more space and rollout.

Considering flying to Rio for tea?

For about 1h20 flying time, including several climbs from low level up to 3000ft, we used 5.5 litres of fuel (petrol) for the PPG and 8 litres for the PHG.  We didn’t have anyone specific to assess the relative noise, but onlookers who I spoke to said they couldn’t hear either aircraft from the moment we climbed out over the bay until we were setting up for landing – good news for environmental and noise-abatement reasons.  Grins on the pilot’s faces were equally wide, and the post-flight beer/cider at Dune’s Restaurant 50m from landing tasted equally good!

What’s the verdict?  We need to fly more 🙂