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.
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.
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 🙂