Seriously, almost 200 flights on Terry ’s machines without a single problem related to the Paramotor or trike. Footlaunch is King, but once you decide to make the transition to wheels, 4 stroke is the only way to go. The Falcon is the most reliable and affordable PPG on the market
|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.
Motor: Polini Thor 100 (115cc)
Performance: Power: 20,5 HP at 8900 RPM
Carburetor: Walbro WB8
Empty Weight: engine 11.8Kg
Max. Weight: 22Kg frame and harness
Thrust: 59-64 kg with 130cm Propeller
Fuel Consumption: 2.7 L per hour at 6500 RPM
Propeller (2 Blade): Wooden or Carbon 125cm or 130cm n/a
Electrical System: Generator for 12v power
Tank: 13 Litre
Construction: A6 Aviation alloy
Propeller Frame: double hooped, 3 piece
Flight #482 &; #483 was at the training field with Eric Dufour and his students. Elisabeth was very generous and allowed me to fly her new Kangook trike with polini motor. Eric gave me a quick briefing on the machine. … How it started and to be aware of the left hand torque which, by the way was very mild and not really an issue. The wind was almost non existent but I would have to launch from a position that faced some tall pines. Not something I would be able to do with the Falcon but Eric didn’t make a big deal out of it so I took it on faith.
Then… Eric was gone to get his class together and I was alone on the foggy field. I taxied the Kangook at speed to get a feel for how it accelerated and around the corner to see what my options were for turning to gain altitude, just in case I couldn’t clear the pine trees at the get go. Ten minutes after Eric had pulled out, I was set-up and ready to launch. I waited another five, soaking in the quiet and thanking the gods. Life is good.
|Where is the Training Field?|
From high, I watched Eric coach one of the new guys into the air. It was a picture perfect launch and when he got to altitude I headed in his direction to ” go play”. Passing at 200 yards I swung behind and started to descend to the field. At the field Eric was gesturing strongly for me to move out of the area. The pilot was doing his first flight and he didn’t want me anywhere near his rookie. After 20 minutes I came in for a nice soft landing. Dawn and I chatted a bit and Eric explained where he was going to be working the new guys so that I wouldn’t be a concern. Then I reset and launched again.
|Dawn McLane looking good on the Kangook|
The rest of my universe is a total disaster but after months of waiting the Falcon has landed!
I can honestly say this was the first time I’ve smiled in 7 weeks. Pam the u-ship gal showed up an hour early and we unloaded in no time. Best of all she was able to take the Thumper back to Terry on her return trip. He will have it in the first days of Feb.
1. It has the best visibility of any of my previous trikes. I can see all points of the compass. For the first time I will be able to look back through the prop and it will be easy to check fuel level. It will be much easier to launch when I can see the wing inflate without using a mirror. It’s going to be great to be able to look behind and see in all the traditional blind spots. I’m thinking that it will be closer to the foot launch experience. The bucket seat puts you “out there” so… instead of being cocooned inside of a harness or low down in the trike buggy… you’ve got your ”knees in the breeze”, as Brett Cam would say. The forward rail is narrower and the front wheel is out of view which also reduces the “visible stuff” out in front. I’m really looking forward to flying this thing!
2. The bucket seat was a good option, designed for go carts it is very suitable for the Falcon. It fits my small frame great and I think bug guys will like it too. The side rails make great attachment points for the reserve and if I want I can mount a “saddle bag” on the other side for cameras, water, mini parachutes… toys.
3. The electric start was smooth but there is no optional pull start like the Briggs & Stratton. It’s not really an issue… since I never had to use the pull start on the Thumper. Terry relocated the ignition to a central point just forward of the bucket seat. Good move since the first thing I did with the side mount was to break the weld. It also does away with the pivoting arm that the switch was mounted to. Last spring I launched with the hang strap inside of the pivot arm. The strap stressed the arm and I killed the motor trying to sort it out.
4. It’s BIG ! With a 66 inch prop and one piece construction the rig is too big to get inside of my store…except for the front double doors. I can’t get it into the shop for hang testing. So… I’ll just have to stop at an elementary school on the way to my first flight. I probably should have had Terry make it so I could remove the cage but it’s not a big deal. I’ll cope.
5. The 5 point seat belt looks like it came off of a Russian tank. It’s 3 inch webbing with rough cast hardware. When I cinch it up I’ll be able to fly but I won’t be able to reach the GPS or do any weight shift. Most likely after the first few flights I’ll ditch the crotch and shoulder straps. The waist belt is very comfortable and I like the way it snug’s me into the bucket seat. The buckle is primitive but it is a good clean quick release. I’ll braid a lanyard to the Q.R. to make it easy to find in an emergency.
6. I was a little concerned about the wheels but the new mags are bigger than I thought, it will be no trouble rolling over the rough stuff with these babies. Also the rims are split which will make it easy to change out a flat. The front wheel is small so…I might have to use ramps on soft surfaces … Time will tell. I do like the reverse camber of the nose wheel. It will keep it tracking if I decide to be a jerk and take my feet of the pegs… :).
7. The battery came off during transport, so I secured it with zip ties and filled the gap in the battery tray with some stiff closed cell Styrofoam. It will probably benefit from one more Zip tie but it’s not going anywhere the way it is.
This year at the Salton Sea Fly-in I traded in my beautiful little FB Simonini Trike Buggy Classic for a hybrid CT Thumper Briggs & Stratton 4 Stroke on a Trike Buggy Deluxe. I’ve done some bone headed things before but this one is the worst.
I should have known this wasn’t going to work that first day on the Salton Sea. On the maiden flight I parablended my favorite cap right there in front of everybody. The 4 stroke was so quiet I didn’t think to put on my helmet and ear protection. Imagine….A machine so quiet you don’t notice your not wearing ear protection… until your cap goes through the prop. That’s a dangerous machine! Yea, I did go to idle the other day to use the cell phone… but so what?
Every day I find another flaw in this crappy machine. I used to love driving out to Centennial Airport for AV Gas. They let me drive onto the tarmac with the GA guys so I could fill my two 5 gallon gas jugs. I’d drive to the back of the line and wait my turn. Sometimes it took awhile to fill those big birds and when I got done reading the latest issue of Ultraflight I’d get allot of good thinking done sitting in the truck. Now, I don’t even need the jugs, I just stop at the gas station on the way to the field and fill the buggy right there in the truck. Where is the romance in that? And that reminds me of another thing. What am I going to do with those cases of TTS in my garage?
And speaking of the garage….my “Man Cave”… I haven’t had a good night working on the machine in months. Yeah sure, I can re-rig the footsteering or mount a strobe but mostly I just sit there and gaze at the machine. No changing tension springs on the exhaust or rebuilding the carb. Heck, I’m having a hard time finding a place that needs a little safety wire. It just isn’t the same I come in after 3 hours in the garage and I don’t even need to wash my hands. It just sucks!
And the flying is different too. Gone is that element of uncertainty, I sit down, buckle the seat belt and turn the key. There is no sense of accomplishment in that. No fooling with the carb or pulling on the starter till I’m bathed in sweat. The other day I flew 15 miles from the LZ and didn’t think once about what a drag it would be if I had to land out. Sure, I still keep an eye out for emergency landing sites but it’s really just an exercise anymore. I can still remember the thrill of an engine out, what a rush!
So take my advice, if you love the lifestyle, don’t by a 4 stroke.
Only 410 ft. to the trees…Hell….