The ParaPlane: A Flexible-Wing Flying Machine

Richard Freudenberger shares his experience flying a flexible-wing flying machine known as the ParaPlane for the first time.

| September/October 1985

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    I was strapped squarely in the seat of a unique flexible-wing flying machine—the ParaPlane—and just seconds away from taking off even though I'd never piloted any aircraft before.
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    The 160-pound ParaPlane can be readily disassembled and carried in the trunk of a full- size car. With the power plant and drive package removed, the carriage can be folded up, the canopy bagged, and the propeller guards dismantled.
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    Two 210cc, 2-cycle Solo engines drive the counter-rotating 51 inch propellers, which are mounted on concentric hubs. (This modified system uses expansion- hamber mufflers to boost power.) The tubular circumference guards also serve as a roll cage for added safety.

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The ParaPlane is a flexible-wing flying machine even this first-time pilot can maneuver easily. 

The ParaPlane: A Flexible-Wing Flying Machine

"Power up . . . full power!" Flight instructor Nathan Taylor's words came crackling through my helmet radio as I eased the throttle forward and began to maneuver down the center of the grass strip. I was strapped squarely in the seat of a unique flexible-wing flying machine—the ParaPlane—and just seconds away from taking off even though I'd never piloted any aircraft before.

For a moment I concerned myself solely with keeping the cart on course and pointed into the wind, as instructed. But before I could really worry about ground-steering control, that problem was suddenly behind me: The ParaPlane lifted its nose and gently rose into the air. A belated peek at the machine's only instrument—a convex mirror mounted just behind the nose wheel—assured me that the airfoil canopy overhead was indeed fully inflated and doing its job. A quick check of the ground below confirmed the fact that I was climbing . . . though perhaps a bit more rapidly than I'd have liked.

Resisting the urge to throttle back, I remembered what Dave Erney, ParaPlane Corporation vice president, had said earlier: "A lot of first-flight students think, well, I'll just take a short hop and see how it feels. They don't realize that the ideal training altitude is three or four hundred feet off the ground, where there's plenty of safety buffer in all directions."

Now that I was high enough, I'd lost reference to things on the field below. I knew I would totally enjoy this new world in the sky—as soon as I learned to maneuver this bird to my satisfaction.

Suddenly, the voice in my ear said, "You're looking good up there . . . reduce power and make your first turn." With my left hand, I nudged the throttle rearward in half-inch increments, which dropped the roar of the twin 210cc, two-cycle engines to a comfortable drone and brought my suspended platform to a level plane. Then I pushed the right foot lever forward about four inches, which initiated a gradual right turn. When I released the lever, the ParaPlane eased out of its mild bank and continued on a straight course.

11/10/2008 11:09:35 AM

This would be a great way to get aerial views of the new homestead. Not to mention a heck of a lot of fun to pilot.

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