Review of the Falcon 4 stroke paramotor

Don’t by a Falcon 4 stroke
Don’t buy a Falcon 4 stroke !

I’ve done some bone headed things but this is the worst.
In 2009 I traded my beautiful little two stroke Trike for one of Terry ’s machines.
I should have known that first day. 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 plugs. 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! Yeah, 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 the Airport for AV Gas. They let me drive on to 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 but it gave me some time ro read the latest issue of Powered Sport Flying. I used to get a lot of good thinking done sitting in the truck waiting for gas. 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 2 stroke oil 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 foot steering 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 those were!
So take my advice, if you love the 2 stroke lifestyle, don’t by a Falcon 4 stroke.

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

Pros and Cons of the Falcon 4 Stroke Paramotor Trike

The Falcon 4 Stroke … My “Sky Harley”

A couple of years ago I traded in a beloved Simonini Trike Buggy and became the proud owner of a Briggs and Stratton Trike buggy. The 4 stroke power plant was designed and built by Terry Lutke and the Flexfoil Trike was developed for PPG by Chad Bastion.   Last year I traded in my 23 horse Briggs  and Terry built  me a Falcon powered by a Generac 32 hp  with a 65 inch GSC triple prop..  The increased thrust more than made up for the increase in weight and and the climb rate increased from an average 125 ft/min to well over 300 ft/min.  After more than 100 hours it is still performing flawlessly.
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..

Reliable

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.
Quiet

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.

Smooth

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. 

The Falcon isn’t the perfect paramotor but it is certainly the champ when it comes to affordability …. reliability …and comfort. 

Kangook Paramotor Trike

The Kangook is everything that the Falcon is not.


Elisabeth Guerin
 Kangook is imported and sold by Eric Dufour of Paratour in Christmas Florida … http://www.paratour.com
From the minute we took it out of the shed I knew I was going to like this paramotor.  It is extremely light and so well balanced that pulling it around by the front wheel is effortless.  The frame and cage are the standard  Kangook that I saw at the Salton Sea.  There are three identical cage pieces making it easy to assemble.  The footlaunch unit has multiple hangpoints but this one was configured with solid bars similar to the “Power Loops” that Chad Bastian uses on the trike buggy.  Because Elisabeth’s machine is dedicated to the trike it has a bucket seat with a simple 3 point seat belt.  There is a foot activated brake on the nose wheel that allows the pilot to get situated and even run up the motor a bit before starting to roll.  Fiberglass rods provide suspension and the trike’s frame geometry insures rigidity.

 

The Polini motor is brand new to paramotoring but the company has been making motors for Vespa and others since the 40s.  They are reputed to be very reliable scooter motors and if they do as well in the PPG world… a new standard will be set.  Watch out Simonini !  The first thing I noticed was how easy it was to start.  I was able to sit down, reach over my shoulder and pull the starter cord very easily.  A new “Flash” starter is being introduced that will make it 75% easier.  This… I  have to see.   The second thing that caught my attention was how it sounded, it was more like a sewing machine than a two stroke, you couldn’t make a cell calls but it was much quieter than expected with little vibration.  The RPM is higher than other machines I’ve flown but  it was …oh so smooth.  According to Polini the 115 cc Thor 100 provides 140lbs of thrust with a 51 inch prop, I;m not sure what I was flying, but it would have been plenty at my home field of 5800 ft/ agl. The Walbro carb on my old snap 100 was problematic but this was sweet and the powerband was smooth from top to bottom.  I’m used to a 4 stroke generator motor where you have to anticipate every move, with the POLINI I can envision flying Glamis at six inches.  Nap of the earth at 25 mph!  The centrifugal clutch was a nice touch and a  great safety feature.  I can see myself using it foot launch when there is a breeze and using trike the rest of the time.
Footlaunch is KING !
Specs.
Manual Start Electric Start

Motor: Polini Thor 100 (115cc)
Performance: Power: 20,5 HP at 8900 RPM
Carburetor: Walbro WB8
Exhaust: tuned
Reduction: 3,43
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

I love my 4 stroke…
but the Polini 
had me Jones-ing for the good ol days! 
Maybe some day…
when I have a man cave again… 
I’ll give up my “Sky Harley”
and buy one of these
sweet little spaghetti burners.

Guest of Paratour

Dawn and I got up at 4:45 and amazingly were on the road by 5:10. It is a 50 minute drive from the Orlando World Center to Christmas Florida where Eric Dufour and Elisabeth Guerin have established Paramotor City East and Paratour. I was concerned that there would be no flying due to the ground fog, but when we arrived everybody was confident that it would burn off before they arrived at the field. Eric was training two new pilots and retraining an instructor who had started his career with Dell but seen the light.

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.

local mascot
The Eden III came up clean and I was in the air very quickly. Climbing at 350ft/min I was able to clear the trees with ease and found the highway without problems. The terrain was thick pines all the way to the wetlands where Eric was training so I climbed to 1300 feet to give me lots of room in case of a motor out and then I headed East looking for the gang.
Where is the Training Field?
The sky was a beautiful pale orange softened by ground mist. Small lakes were scattered in the pines, off to the east I could see where the trees abruptly stopped and the wetlands began. Ten minutes into the flight I saw a mowed field 300 yards off the highway and a wing laid out ready for launch. In the top corner of the field I could just barely make out the word PARATOUR cut into the grass.

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.

training field
Dawn McLane looking good on the Kangook
After my second flight, Dawn and I watched Eric train his students and later he put on a motor and treated  us to a few minutes of the Dufour Magic…Foot Drags… wing overs … etc …  the master of fine wing control.  It was….a
Great day …
Thanks to Eric and Elisabeth of Paratour for making it happen.

Colorado Falcon lands in Denver !





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.
Quick observations
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.

Don’t buy a CT 4 stroke !

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.

302 & 303 Dumb Chute Story: The longest run out ever..1840 feet

Beautiful Morning at Meadowlake

Headed toward the junk !

1840 ft. Take off run !

Only 410 ft. to the trees…Hell….

It looked a lot less than 400 ft. to the trees, when I finally started to get some lift and was able began a slow turn along the north perimeter of the field. All I know is that I wasn’t about to abort until I had to. I’d plowed through 1500 feet of tall grass, crossed the ultralight runway and nearly clipped a big airport windsock. I was just barely touching the ground and the weeds were holding me back. The GPS clearly shows that I was going 27 mph which is plenty enough speed to take off. It was really ‘touch and go”, I was running out of field and the trees and junk were coming up fast. I knew that in another few seconds I would have had to abort or go into the trees.

I didn’t quit, even though I probably should have and I managed to clear the area without mishap…but the next time I go off into tall grass, ……I hope I know the area better.

There might have been a low level wind gradient because at 300 feet it was blowing from the SW but at the field the windsocks were all hanging limp. Whatever it was… I’m betting on a down wind take off .
Next time I’m at Meadow Lake in nil wind

I’m going to use the micro light dirt strip.

The first flight was 35 minutes and nice smooth air. I chased some antelope and followed Mathew to the east end of the field. Climb was 125 ft. /min even though the RPM’s were slightly down. Later, when I came back, the wind was building from the South and it made for a nice landing.

Second flight was short and sweet because it was starting to get ratty. I backed up on the entrance road and took off to the right of the vehicles. Much quicker launch with short grass.

When the thermals started and the wind came up we goofed around the field and kited. John Black was working with a 28.5 obsession and putting on quite the show, doing cobra launches and generally working the all of the risers instead of just the brakes. Jerry did some kiting and I even pulled out the Eden III for a bit. It’s a great place to kite and I’ll have to remember to bring the harness next time.

I got a chance to drive the S-trike.
It’s a well engineered cart using light weight aircraft tubing, joined with rivets and lugs. The IVO motor seems ok but I never really goosed it. The Flat Top frame is ok. I prefer the rigidity of my one piece cage. Twin brake and steering pedals were “Trick” BUT… lost motion in the cables made the steering feel sloppy and while it may be the same pedaling as GA aircraft, it’s counter intuitive. The reverse cambered front wheel wants to follow the wing but I can see how that could make for oscillations until you get the hang of it. It’s light but the CG is higher and I felt like I was in some kind of kids pedal car. I’m sure it flys great but it would take some getting used to. It just wasn’t as stable feeling as the heavy “ol buggy” with my ass inches above the dirt.

Later the six of us went to Frankie’s for breakfast. It’s all good.