|In process …note the low center of gravity|
Unlike the Trike buggy that had the “Power Pod and Cage” bolted on, the Falcon is a “one piece construction” of all mild steel. With one piece welded trike…frame… and cage … there are very few connections to work loose. The motor mounts have been checked regularly but have never needed to be tightened. The bucket seat is also bolted on but has remained tight. On a couple of occasions I have had spectacular crashes that would have destroyed most paramotors but without exception the mild steel bent rather than broke and it was always an easy fix. Either a few minutes with a bicycle frame bending tool or some quick welding. When a section had to be replaced the raw material was easily obtained at Home Depot.
The biggest downside to going 4 stroke is the lack of fun things to do while not flying. Having spent the last 7 years immersed in this sport, I was comfortable with all the the wonderful little things that are a normal part of a PPG pilots life. The nights spent in the garage replacing compression springs or driving to the airport after dinner to pick up AV Gas. If I wasn’t searching the Internet for the best buy on Castrol TTS, I was waiting for the UPS man to deliver a 160 dollar starter sprocket. I was either working on the machine or flying it.
For every minute in the air there was an equal or greater amount of time occupied with the care and feeding of my 2 stroke paramotor. If it was blowing too hard to fly…no problem, I always had a carburetor to rebuild or a pull start that needed maintenance..
The heart of the Falcon is a Generac, OHVI 4 stroke motor. Thousands of these motors are built every year and the economy of scale makes it possible to produce a very affordable motor with excellent manufacturing tolerances and a beautiful fit and finish. They are designed to run thousands of hours at peak horsepower, so it’s not unreasonable to expect to fly hundreds of hours with nothing more than an annual check-up and oil change. When necessary, parts and expert service are readily available at the local lawnmower repair. Gone are countless hours tinkering with the machine. No mixing fuel, exotic tools or translating owners manuals. Now ,when it’s too windy to fly, the best I can do is wish for better air. You still have to be ready for a “motor out” and have an emergency landing site within the glide slope but the reliability of this motor instills a confidence that allows for flights that would not have attempted before.
When it is flyable, the Falcon is always ready to go and the first thing you notice is the happy rumble of the Generac. On my first flight it was so quiet that I completely forgot the step where I put in the ear plugs and put on the helmet. I realized my mistake just as I was taking off and few seconds later so did everyone at the Salton Sea when my ball cap went through the prop. …..WAAK….ear protection is still necessary but with a four stroke power plant, noise is reduced by thirty percent or more. At cruise with the RPM’s reduced it is possible to have a cell phone conversation.
The next thing you notice is that the Generac doesn’t suffer from the constant vibration that plagues two stroke motors. With a well balanced prop its possible to forget all about the power plant and enjoy the ride. Flying a two stroke I was often ready to land at 45 minutes or an hour. Without the vibration I’m much more relaxed and feel like I’ll be able to fly as long as the gas and weather will permit. Cross country flights of 100 miles or more are certainly possible.
Now for the cons…
First…There isn’t the instant power you get with a two stroke. The big prop takes longer to wrap up and you can’t modulate the throttle like you can with a two stroke. It is still possible to fly the contour of of the dunes but you have to anticipate the power requirements and use the brakes very carefully to get that extra little bit of lift when you need it.
It is not as agile or sporty but the more I fly the less I care to pull hard banking wingovers or swoop dive. Another thing is the all up weight is almost 400 pounds and without going to a huge tandem wing, its way over placard. I have no doubt that the wing can handle it but the brakes require more pressure and it will probable shorten the normal lifespan of the wing.
Take offs are faster and require more runway. You give up some flexibility when you go from foot launch to trike and you give up a little more when you go from a light trike to a heavy one. The days of pulling off the highway and launching on a whim are not gone … But … the opportunities are few and far between. At the least you have too look a little harder for an LZ. The trike itself is stable on the ground at high speed but trying to launch from a bumpy horse pasture can be a challenge, especially when a bump pops you up a little too soon. My most spectacular crash occurred when I was launching at Bubba’s “High Altitude Fly In” and was popped up at high speed, but… not high enough. When the trike came back down I was not perfectly aligned causing a roll on two axis. The buggy was slammed hard but the damage was minimal. It bent but did not brake.