“We have men who can do anything… We have men who can fly!”

Blog post by Jonathan Starr.  Jonathan has worked as an Automation Project Engineer at Superior Controls for four years and enjoys flying in his spare time.

An American diplomat tells this to a Moroccan sultan in the 1975 Sean Connery vehicle “The Wind and the Lion.”  The Sultan is claiming that it is impossible to put a road through the desert. The American remains un-cowed by the challenge. Views on this type of manifest-destiny-like thinking have soured in recent years but sometimes you just need it done and could use the type of person who is un-cowed by the most treacherous of tasks. Superior Controls has these people.

At Superior Controls, we do have people who can fly. I’m one of them, and here’s how it happened. I was on YouTube one night, and saw a bro fly himself to McDonald’s. He used two things to accomplish this world-altering task, a big fan and a curved parachute. He laid the parachute out flat and strapped the fan on his back like a backpack. Then he turned the fan on and ran into the sky.

A week later, I bought a paramotor (that’s what one calls the big fan). Now after months of study and several weeks of flight instruction, I still haven’t flown to McDonald’s BUT in the immortal words of R. Kelly, “I Believe I Can Fly” …to McDonald’s.

Now some random thoughts on the actual details of slipping the surly bonds of earth on a folding lawn chair and strip of tissue paper. Weight matters when the first steps of a flight are pick-up aircraft then run until it pushes you off the ground. On the weight front, paramotoring is like all other edge-of-possible sports – lightness costs (I recommend the Nitro-200 from Air Conceptions if you can afford it). However, you don’t want to start at the motor for capers like this. You want to start with the instructor. When casting one’s body out into the void, DON’T BE CHEAP!  Find an instructor that is USPPA certified. Then, buy whatever gear he recommends. When picking an instructor, personality counts.  Your life is in his hands – don’t work with someone you don’t trust. There are “self-trained” paramotorists but the mortality statistics are not good…

After you find an instructor (who has time to take you on), you will feel acute pain in your wallet. This is easily remedied by looking at the price of a new Cessna. There is then a period where you want to fly but need to read instead. READ. After you get studied up, you must learn to handle the parachute on the ground. This is called kiting. If you can’t handle the parachute on the ground in the same wind and field conditions you plan to launch into, don’t launch!

After a few weeks of kiting when you have maybe 10 to 20 hours in, then add the motor. On motors, they are hot during and after running, so be careful. The propeller has a deep and enduring desire to perform a maneuver we call “parablending,” where things like parachute shroud lines and fingers go in and nothing desirable comes out. Respect the motor – only start it when it is on your back and you are strapped in, or when it is clipped into a motor carrier. Be ready to hit the kill switch at any moment. Test the kill switch before you fly. When you have mastered the kill switch, then you should simulate the first flight in a simulator. A simulator is just a giant swing set. Finally, after all that, you will fly.

At Superior Controls, if you need to change your schedule on a moment’s notice to take your flight lessons (because the northeastern wind is a fickle and unreliable master), you can. The view from my supervisor’s office is if I get my 45+ hours per week in and all my automation projects are on schedule, he doesn’t care how I get there. This has proven invaluable to me for getting aloft.

So, if you find yourself on YouTube and want to travel to a fast food dispensary in style, for a mere $15k and few months of not talking about anything else, you can!

Safety advisory: The U.S. Air Force has a phrase “24 hours from bottle to throttle.”  It is not a bad standard. Also, use a preflight checklist for your own sake!