|Foot Launch Aircraft|
Foot launch is the fastest growing sector of the
microlight market and the cheapest to enter !
There are 2 types of Foot Launched powered aircraft:
Both types of aircraft were developed into their current form during the late 90's and are continually being refined. All aspects of training and regulation now come under the BHPA (British Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association) - see links page.
"There has never previously been a time in history when powered flying has been more affordable or convenient!"
Powered Hang Gliders.
A specially designed hang glider harness fitted with a lightweight, 2-stroke engine converts a hang glider into a self-launching glider, giving the pilot the ability to foot launch from a convenient flat field and climb away to find the lifting thermals that glider pilots rely on to make cross-country flights. Alternatively, the pilot can cruise around, sightseeing, retaining the uncluttered view that the hang glider pilot enjoys. The power units cost around new £3 - 4,000, to which you need to add the cost of a new or second hand hang glider.
Like the paramotor, the engine can be detached and the glider used to soar without power; this flexibility is in itself an attraction, as is the leisurely flying speed, and the relatively small packed-down size that these machines offer. They can be carried in and on a normal car.There are basically two types of powered hang glider dependant on the flying position: -
Prone – where the pilot lies horizontally head first in flight (you soon develop strong neck & shoulder mussels!).
Seated (supine) – where the pilot sits in the harness through the ‘A’ frame of the glider. Almost as comftable as an armchair and superb visibility and with only an approximate 10% increase in drag over a prone unit!
Mosquito NRG - the most numerous prone units worldwide. Doodlebug Seated Unit (minus glider!) Picture by courtesy of Flighlight Ltd.
In both cases the harness articulates (see heading picture) to allow the pilot to assume an upright position during take off and landing bearing the full weight of the glider and some of the power unit when standing. Small wheels support the rear of the power unit including the engine and drive and prevent the propeller from contacting the ground.
You must to be able to run but you don’t need to be an athlete!
Ground power check prior to take-off - 45 Kg of thrust. Mouth throttle used until well clear of the ground and hands are free.
Almost without exception powered hang gliders use the Radne Racket (Swedish for Rocket) 120 cc go-cart engine. A two stroke in a fairly low state of tune it produces 12 to 14 BHP. It drives through an 3.56/1 belt reduction to turn a 1.3 m diameter prop @ 3,500 rpm. This means that the tips are approaching supersonic speed at full power less than a metre behind the pilot! Some have folding props for drag reduction engine off. Most use a two-stage silencer to keep noise to a minimum and give a small power increase.
Performance (typical for a flexwing Hang Glider).
Flying speed - approx. 25 mph (22 knts).
Max speed - 45 mph (39 knts).
Stall - 14 to 16 mph (12 to 14 knts).
Typical rate of climb - 300 to 400 fpm.
Max Fuel - 10 litres by law.
Range - up to 100 miles.
Endurance - 2 to 4 hrs. (without thermal assistance).
Fuel consumption - as low as 2 ltrs/hr. in cruise.
Hang glider weight - 24 Kg. typically.
Power unit weight - 25 Kg. typically.
Maximum weight excluding pilot – 60 kg by law.
Max. altitude - Std. units have been flown to over 12,000'.
Sink rate (engine off) - 200 fpm.
Take-off run dependant on windspeed - approx. max. 200 to 300' in nil wind.
Most units can be air restarted using a foot stirrup or electric start.
Mouth throttle for take-off, then throttle lever, pull/pull cord or foot/hand throttle.
The latest development in ultra-light aviation, paramotors (also known as Powered Paragliders or PPG) combine the easy flying characteristics of a paraglider with the autonomy and range of powered flight. They are quickly and easily rigged and de-rigged, and once dismantled can be put in the boot of a car.
Paramotors are the simplest of all powered aircraft consisting of a small motor driving a propeller, worn like a backpack under a paraglider wing and providing thrust to take off, climb and maintain level flight. Once airborne, the paramotor can be used to motor along and watch the world go by beneath you or, if conditions permit, soared in thermal lift to make long cross-country flights. The motor can be stopped and restarted in the air - many types have electric starters - enabling the pilot to adapt his or her flight to the prevailing conditions. With the paramotor unit disconnected before take-off, the wing reverts to a paraglider, offering the freedom and excitement of engineless flight. Many paramotor pilots are paraglider pilots looking for more flexibility in their flying, many others are new to flying but become interested in paramotoring and pure paragliding flight.
The performance of paramotors and powered hang gliders are broadly similar except that paramotors take-off, fly and land a little more slowly. Also having no wheels the condition of the ground is slightly less important. Unlike powered hang gliders, many paramotors use larger capacity, slightly heavier but more economical four-stroke engines. As the weight of the rest of the unit is less then the overall weight is quite manageable.
Also uniquely there are tandem paramotor units which allow you to experience paramotoring as a passenger. In this case the total weight limit in law is increased to 70 Kgs.
Powered Hang Gliding and Paramotoring Costs.
With a budget of £5,000 to £7,000 or so you'll be able to buy new equipment and cover the cost of a training course. Second-hand equipment will reduce that figure considerably. You'll also need a flying suit, flying boots and a helmet and may consider other equipment as you progress. Running costs are minimal, making powered hang gliding and paramotoring perhaps the cheapest form of powered flying available.
Learning to fly a Powered Hang Glider or Paramotor.
Courses at BHPA schools take around seven to ten days for would-be pilots with no hang gliding or paragliding experience as appropriate, as some time is needed to learn the basic glider control prior to the addition of power. You will also learn in ground school the basic principles of flight, meteorology, aviation law and navigation.
Training at BHPA registered schools takes place in safe logical progression to an approved and proven syllabus and cumulates in an exam and pilot assessment. The rating also gives ten hours credit towards a microlight licence if you later desire. For more information on learning to fly, finding a training school, BHPA membership & insurance etc. see links page.
nb. Powered hang gliders or powered parachutes that take-off and land on wheels are classed as microlights and are outside the scope of this section. This includes the new sub 115 kg class of microlight. For information on microlights see the other sections or the British Microlight Aircraft Association Website (see links section).
“Any aeroplane where you’re the undercarriage concentrates the mind”