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Aerochute

May-2013.

Aerochute, Powered parachute (PPC) stuff.



First draft - this will be changed.

Not sure of the best way to write this. It was going to just be an aerochute page but I really need to talk about other makes as well. I'm not really in the position to compare them ATM. Other PPCs have some very desirable features but without direct experience I can only repeat what is already online with a bit of my own speculation.

Disclaimer.

The above flight is currently my total experience with aerochute. I'm not an expert and this page may contain errors.

First impressions.

I will sometimes be comparing aerochute/PPC to gyrocopters
I have already listed some comparisons on the gyrocopter page. I will also mention gliders and other aircraft.
The gyro stuff was written before my aerochute flight so now I have a slightly better idea of what they are like.

Watching video like mine and others does give a good idea of what flying one is like but you really need to fly one in person to fill in the details.

I was particularly concerned with motion sickness. Turbulence in general doesn't make me sick but swinging under a canopy certainly could. I also need to see how comfortable it is without an wind protection. The controls are also quite different to the stick and rudder I'm used to.

The aerochute seemed quite easy for one person to move about. Gyros can be moved fairly easily but the aerochute more so - gliders are a pain move and usually need extra people. Too move the aerochute it is picked up at the front and balanced on the two main wheels. It can then be pulled around quite easily.

Laying out the chute was pretty much as expected but facing the wind seemed fairly critical and this could be a problem on some airfields - particularly ones without a cross strip.

It felt like Mal struggled a bit for the first bit of the takeoff. We were aimed maybe 30deg left off the centre line and seemed to need most of the width of the runway to get canopy up and turn to stay on the mowed grass.
The ground run seemed longer than the 50 metres I'd read about. The new hummer is supposed to lift in 15-20 Metres.

Once in the air I felt fairly comfortable - more so than in the gyro. It was a cool day but still t-shirt weather on the ground. The long-sleeved shirt I wore for the flight was enough. The wind was not uncomfortable at this time of year at least. The headphones did a good job of keeping out the otherwise deafening roar of two-stroke.

The view is from an open cockpit at 500' is something everyone should try to see.

The air was fairly smooth for flying most types of aircraft but a bit on the rough side for aerochutes. The bumps are sort of soft - you can't really go negative-G. I did feel a bit queezy a few times and didn't like it much. Generally the flights should be smoother and I should be OK.

Being new to this I was pretty tentative on the controls when it was my turn to fly. I did a downwind and base turn and ended up pretty much where I wanted to be. I'm not sure I'd want to fly for hours with my arms up but I can't really tell from 3 or 4 minutes flying.

We landed across the strip to align with the wind. I think this is less problematic than takeoffs because the landing is so short - maybe 25M.

Packing up the chute was basically stuffing it into a bag. The lines were left attached and the chute parked on the seat.

Pros and cons.

There are no perfect aircraft - especially if you are on a budget.
The aerochute like other aircraft has both positive and negative attributes.
Other makes of PPC may be slightly different on some points.

Lets start with some of the negatives.

  • No good in high winds,cross wind or rough air
  • Relatively high fuel consumption - particularly for distance traveled.
  • Slow.
  • Poor glide angle.
  • Poor range.
  • Noisy - like most powered aircraft.
  • Limited to 5000' altitude - higher if fitted with VHF radio.
  • Need runways - like most aircraft.
  • Somewhat prone to roll-over.
  • Degrade in sunlight.
  • Open cockpit.
  • Non-certified two-stroke engine.
  • Airframe is a bit ugly.

On the up side.

  • Very good safety record - particularly here in Oz.
  • Relatively cheap to buy.
  • Relatively cheap to maintain.
  • Relatively cheap to repair.
  • Two seats - side by side seating if you like that feature.
  • Reasonable payload.
  • Easy to store.
  • Easy to move by road.
  • Easy to fly.
  • Easy to ground handle and rig - no extra crew required.
  • Fairly short take-off and landings.
  • Open cockpit.
  • Some crew protection is case of roll-over,fence or wire strike.
  • Simple design with few critical parts.
  • Good access for aircraft inspection.
  • The canopies are pretty.
  • They appeal to the general public.

If you just want to get airborne, don't want to go far and you're happy to only do it in calm weather then a PPC may be to thing for you.

Weather.

PPCs mostly fly early morning or late afternoon when the wind is least. They also fly at other times if it is calm enough.

Fuel consumption.

Aerochutes use about 15 litres/hour of unleaded two-stroke petrol while only traveling solo at 60-70KPH.
Dual you can expect to use 20ltr/hr.
So at say 23 ltr per 100K they are not green or cheap way to travel. Counting other expenses running costs are around $45/hr.
Even so there are situations where flying at 70 cents a Klm is cheaper than land and water based transport.

Poor L/D ratio and glide angle.

The lift/drag ratio and glide angle are more or less the same thing. High drag is bad for a number of reasons. It is the main reason for the high fuel consumption - the propeller has to provide about 100kg thrust just to fly level. If the noise stop the drag causes a rapid decent. This shortens the time to plan an emergency landing. It makes the landing heavier and reduces the range you have to find a landing surface.

The glide ratio could be improved dramatically using an different style of chute but the trade-off is safety. The draggy square chutes are almost impossible to stall.
With a low drag (elliptical) chute a light single seater can fly on as little as 3.3 ltr/hour (but possibly at slower speed).
I've seen some criticism of the aerochute's glide ratio as being particularly poor.

The glide angle range of 3.1 to 6.1 seems to be widely quoted online - most likely this comes from a single outdated source.

An elliptical wing such as the paramania taxi wing halves the fuel needed. The legality of such a mod is a grey area.

Of course some of the drag comes from the airframe so your unlikely to see really good glide figures unless that is addressed as well.


Range.

The nil wind range with standard 29ltr tanks is about 120Klm. If you keep a keep 20 minute reserve then more like 105Klm. So roughly 50KLm out and back and less if there is wind. Extra fuel can be carried but reducing fuel consumption would be a nicer way to extend range.

5000 foot altitude limit.

A legal ceiling of 5000' in Australia is widely quoted - but this is when flying without radio.
10,000 should be OK provided to are in the right airspace and don't freeze.

Roll-overs.

Rollovers happen from time to time. Fortunately they tend to be minor events with little damage or injury.

UV damage.

The canopies degrade in sunlight.

Two-stroke engine.

Two-strokes tend to be less reliable and are more thirsty than four-stroke engines.
Four-stroke is usually heavier and more expensive.
Certified engines are too expensive and cost more than the entire aerochute.
Even certified engines can fail but less often.
If you fly a lot a four-stroke will pay for itself in fuel savings - so will a better chute.
Something like this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HKS_700E could be a good rotax replacement.

Safety.

Safety is the main reason I'm looking at PPC.
I seem to be more concerned with air safety now than I was when I learned to glide in my late twenties.
It is actually a little illogical because even taking up one of the more dangerous aviation sports I'd still have a far greater chance of dying of something else.

All the air-sports I've looked into talk up how safe they are but aerochute is the only one with a record to back it up. I'm not certain about other PPCs but at the moment aerochute have had no fatalities in Australia (about 500 flying) and very few overseas with many thousands in operation.

There have been accidents resulting in broken bones but no deaths or serious permanent injuries - such as spinal injuries.

By comparison my rough estimate for the last few years is gyros were killing about 0.2 percent of members per year. Light sport aircraft maybe 0.1 percent. Gliding is a maybe a little better but in the same ballpark. These a similar numbers to motor cyclists. Pedal bike aren't great either.
As I write this page there was a double fatality in a para-glider.

Future statistics could be quite different.

With any of these activities you have some control of the risks but sometimes it seems to come down to luck.

Logically I think the risks of gyro flight are acceptable but I get very nervous about actually flying one solo. I feel a lot more comfortable about flying a chute.

After having said all that I'd definitely consider making them less safe by using a higher performance chute but unlike gyros rescue chutes are a practical way to improve your odds should you get into an otherwise unrecoverable situation. I'd don't have a good handle of how risky these alternative chutes are at the moment.
(Later)
I now think the risks flying an elliptical wing are not high - possibly even safer than square.
The chance of stall accidents is higher but the extra performance in engine outs may compensate.

Relatively cheap to buy.

I mean relative to other types of aircraft not relative to other PPCs.
A new hummer with trailer and accessories is in the order of $30K.
I know this is out of reach for most people but still cheaper than most other new aircraft.
It is a similar cost to the single seat gyro I was considering but much cheaper than a two seater.



Relatively cheap to repair.

It you roll a gryo you can expect to pay in the order of 10K for a new rotor and mast even without labor. A roll over in a PPC is unlikely to cost more than a few hundred dollars.
If you shred a chute that will cost more but that shouldn't happen too often.

Easy to store.

Again I'm comparing to other aircraft. An aero-chute will store in places to small or low for most of aircraft. It will do under a low garage door even while on a trailer.

Easy to move by road.

They are easy to put on a trailer and light enough to tow behind a fairly small car.

Easy to fly.

In flight they only have two primary controls - power and steering to the left and right.
On landing left+right flares the chute.
There are no elevators, ailerons or other controls to worry about. A conversion for a pilot of other aircraft could be done in a day.

Fairly short take-off and landings.

PPCs can takeoff in metres under the right conditions. This will obviously depend on load, wind and other factors. Landing is also short.

Open cockpit.

I've listed this as both good and bad. Sitting in the breeze would be quite pleasant on a warm day but not so on a frosty morning.

Some crew protection is case of roll-over,fence or wire strike.

The aerochute looks like one of the better PPCs when it comes to crash protection. Some of the others look like the are designed to guide wire to your head in the case of a wire strike.
It the case of a complete roll over (rather than a fall over onto the side) the aerochute looks like it would offer more protection than most.

They appeal to the general public.

When I show people photos and videos of PCC a lot seem keen to have a ride. I don't see this with gyros or other aircraft.

Next - Other

Links.

http://www.aerochute-qld.com/
http://poweredparachuteperth.com.au/powered_parachute_perth/Specifications.html
http://www.raa.asn.au/

Created by system. Last Modification: Friday 16 of August, 2013 04:23:19 EDT by eddie.

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