The USPPA Tandem exemption 9751F has been renewed for two years. This was closer to the wire than we’d like, in spite of the renewal being requested earlier than last time. FAA personnel are working from home which slowed the process down, but we were in contact in the last weeks and they came through.
Instructors, please make sure to download the newest copy to have it available as required.
On May 23th between 7:10 and 7:20 PM at 355 Gum Tree Road, Coatesville PA, while flying his paramotor Henry “Clay” Baldwin impacted the ground first and subsequently a fencepost for a split rail wooden fence. He was hospitalized and placed on life support that evening.
On Sunday May 25’th, Clay was declared “brain-dead” with no chance of recovery and his wife Lisa made the decision to remove life support and he passed away 16 minutes later.
Clay was 55 years old, 160lbs, flying an Ozone Spyder 3 24M purchased in March 2020, and a Parajet Maverick Moster 185 purchased in January 2020.
Clay, from Coatesville PA, trained over 10 days Feb 7-17 2020 to the PPG 2 level and following the PPG2 syllabus in Wauchula Florida with 5 other students as part of a joint class between One Up Adventures, FlyMI PPG, and Paratour. His instructors were Kyle Mooney, Eric DuFour, Mike Cotter, Justin Fox, and myself. All are USPPA certified instructors with the exception of Mike Cotter. Although Clay met all practical and knowledge standards for PPG2, he chose not to pursue the rating.
Eyewitness accounts (which were relayed to me by his wife on the phone) described Clay as doing low to ground steep maneuvers before he made impact. After ground impact the remaining inertia carried him into a fencepost (see damage to cage hoop)
Tucker Gott graciously picked up his gear from Clay’s wife this past Thursday after the State Police released it back to her after their investigation. Tucker sent me photos, which I have attached below, and Tucker will be shipping the gear down to me this week.
Based on the photos, the engine was running at the time of impact (prop damage), and there is no indication of any pre-impact failures of the gear. I will inspect it again when it arrives here.
The weather history for that day in Coatesville can be seen here https://www.wunderground.com/history/daily/us/pa/coatesville/KMQS/date/2020-5-23
Clay was wearing a go pro, however the State Police reported that there was no video of the incident contained on the SD card.
I can only estimate that Clay has around 80 flights before the incident, his wife reports that he flew 2-3 times a day when weather was favorable. After his training in Wauchula, he had returned to Lake Wales in early March to get a few flights with me instructing him for his first few flights on his new Spyder 3 (his original glider was a Mojo PWR medium). During that time I observed and discussed with him the danger of him fly low while downwind. Clay always respected the training regimen.
Clay was also a volunteer throughout the Florida Fun Fest event in Palm Bay, FL.
Throughout the Covid period Clay had relayed a video to me via text of him doing low to ground steep maneuvers at home in Coatesville. I called and discussed with him the danger of those types of maneuvers, especially for his experience level, and convinced him to come back down to Florida for some intermediate training in early June which he agreed to do. I found out he had also sent video to at least one other student in his February class, who told him “you’re going to die if you don’t start slowing things down.”
I don’t know if weather played a factor, but may have as the weather history that day indicates light winds with 0 gusts until 7:15 PM when suddenly the gusts went from 0 to 14 MPH, and then gusts of 20 mph at the next observation at 7:35 PM. Conditions around the time of the incident were reported as fair to partly cloudy, winds variable at 7 gust 14, Temp 73, DP 64.
Clay was wearing a helmet and his wife reports it appears undamaged.
Cause of death was determined to be traumatic brain injury. I should note also that Clay had two past traumatic brain injuries during his life, the most recent 2.5 years prior.
It has come to our attention that an instructor may have flown his student on equipment that had not been properly tested and was not configured properly, which is obviously unacceptable. In this case, it was a wheeled machine where the front wheel(s) lifted off last, or “wheelbarrowed,” a dangerous condition that could cause a crash.
Student equipment should be hang-tested, and where possible, flight-tested by the instructor. A flight test may not be wise if the instructor is too heavy/lightweight to do it safely, and is less necessary if the product is flight-tested by the manufacturer (some wing makers do this).
The minimum standard is that equipment must be hang-tested to ensure proper behavior in all power ranges. This could expose unwanted hang-angles and unwanted twisting/turning tendencies. A simple hang test of the cart would have revealed the dangerous condition before exposing a student to risk. If running the prop would be too risky for a particular situation, apply force at the prop in the thrust direction to simulate behavior under power.
Although this advice is included in our Wheel-Launch syllabus, it has been added to the “simulator” section for better clarity. Instructors should download the newest syllabus from the “Instructors” page.
Two officer positions are up for election, President and Treasurer.
If you’re interested in one of these positions, please submit your interest according to our bylaws, by December 31, 2019.
Rich Greenwood, a trained accident investigator, took on the task of uncovering as much detail as possible on an unusual fatal crash that involved an in-flight break up. He was helped by Michael Pohlman. We paid for the metallurgic testing but these folks donated time and expertise. Download the whole report PDF here for pictures and detailed descriptions from all available witnesses. Accident Investigation Team
The Mishap Flight (MF) was a three-ship recreational flight of wheeled Powered Paragliders (PPGs) consisting of the Mishap Pilot (MP), Wingman 1 (WM1) and Wingman 2 (WM2) operating under Title 14 Chapter I Subchapter F Part 103.
The MF departed Gator airfield (3FD4) at approximately 6:45 AM on 29 July 2019 and headed Northeast. During the flight, the MF decided to fly over a friend’s house, Ground Observer 1 (GO1), who was another PPG owner/operator. The MF arrived over Lake Beauclair at approximately 7:20 AM at 1500 feet AGL. The MP texted GO1 that they were approaching his house. GO1 and his friend, Ground Observer 2, (GO2, was not a PPG pilot) then went outside to watch. GO1 requested that the MP “get low over us” via text.
WM1 was ahead of the MP and WM2 was slightly behind.
Witness statements indicate the Mishap Aircraft (MA) then began a very aggressive right-hand turn, so aggressive it was disconcerting to both WM2 and GO1. (The initial turn was not observed by WM1) After about 1 and ¾ turns GO1 and GO2 saw the wing collapse, a “dark object” fly off, and the reserve open. (GO1 described it as the reserve while GO2 said something “white” which was the color of the reserve.
The dark object was later determined to be the MP in the front part of the MA.) WM2 reported seeing the MA in a spiral and then the wing “split in half” but did not see the “dark object” fly off. WM2 radioed to WM1 that the MP was in trouble.
WM2 watched the reserve parachute and began a descent to follow it as it landed in the water, after which he turned on his video camera. While circling the debris field with the reserve parachute, WM2 noted a secondary debris field in the water about 750 feet northeast of the first. When circling the second debris field, WM2 noted the MP’s head and shoulders under the water. He and WM1 then proceeded to land at a golf course near GO1 and GO2. Meanwhile, GO2, seeing the events, called 911.
The Sheriff’s office responded and approximately 3 hours later the MP and the wreckage were pulled from the water. The MP received fatal injuries during the event.
The following recommendations were listed in the report and are included here for convenience.
- The USPPA and instructors should include in their training syllabus the hazard of overstressing equipment, both airframe and wings, when discussing steep spirals.
- Pilots who choose to fly with a reserve parachute should contact the manufacturer with regards to their recommendations on reserve parachute installation. The installation should consider the airframe failure noted in this report.
- Pilots should carefully consider their type and location of flying and the possible consequences of the decision to deactivate the automatic activation feature of floatation devices.
- Pilots should understand that there is no guarantee of any load carrying capabilities when flying non-certificated equipment.
- Pilots should read, understand and adhere to all manufacturer’s instructions when purchasing, assembling and installing any aftermarket equipment.
- The USPPA and instructors should include in their training syllabus a review of the information in Advisor Circular 103-7, with emphasis on Para 4a.
Leah Cattulo is passionate about seeing USA paramotor pilots be able to compete on the international stage, something they have not been able to do for the past few years since the USUA decided to not keep their NAA membership due to expense and (then) lack of interest.
Jeff Goin is stepping down from the Chairman position so Leah can take over and help build a sustainable competition in the U.S. and help with tools required to compete internationally.
It is hoped that we will be able to become an NAA member which will allow U.S. paramotor pilots the ability to make FAI recognized world records and compete in internationally sanctioned competitions.
The committee members are as listed on our about page near the bottom.
There may be occasion to verify membership status or ratings for insurance, property owners, international flying, or other reasons. You must have your member number and last name you used to sign up for membership.
Getting USPPA Rated PPG 1 through PPG 3
You want like to earn your USPPA pilot ratings. Here are answers to some common questions.
How much does Certification Cost?
USPPA does not charge for ratings but the instructor or administrator will likely charge for their time. If a new membership card is desired before the annual cycle, there may be up to a $15 charge although there is none currently. Ratings can be verified online here.
I’m starting out, how do I get a Footlaunch (FL) rating?
The best way is to get trained by a current and active USPPA Footlaunch Instructor. Here’s a list of instructors who are actively doing ratings. It obviously takes more work because you must demonstrate the necessary skills. PPG 2 is the rating most pilots get before setting out on the own and there is still a LOT to learn.
How about a Wheel Launch (WL) rating?
Same as for footlaunch (above) but you must go to a WL Instructor.
I’m experienced, how do I get a rating?
Go to a WL or FL instructor according to the rating you seek. He’ll take you through the PPG 1, 2 and 3, prepare you for and have you take all 3 tests, then demonstrate the skills required of the ratings. For a skilled pilot, this CAN take as little as 1 full day but must include calm wind launches and stronger wind launches, so that makes it harder.
Getting USPPA Rated as Instructor
Attend a clinic given byan Instructor Administrator (here’s the list) for the launch type you desire. An Administrator can give any instructor rating that he holds, including tandem. It’s entirely possible that the administrator may find that you’re not quite ready to teach under our program but it should be considered a learning experience in that case. He should explain areas where you can work on and that you can come back again. Refunds for courses are not likely and are at the discretion of the Administrator.
Instructor: Giving Ratings Q & A (FAQ)
This will help understand the ratings program for instructors and administrators. It is paramount that ratings are earned with all the material covered! We would rather have fewer ratings given if it means they remain meaningful. As always, attending a clinic is never a guarantee of a rating. If no rating is earned, consider it a learning process.
You are a FL Instructor:
What ratings can I give?
PPG 1 FL rating: Submit signed PPG 1.
PPG 2 FL rating: Submit signed PPG 2 syllabus with PPG 1 also checkmarked.
PPG 3 FL rating: Submit signed PPG 3 syllabus with PPG 1 & 2 also checkmarked.
How do I become a WL Instructor?
Become HIGHLY competent at WL flying! Then go to another WL Instructor who will:
- Go through the PPG 1 through 3 Wheel Launch syllabus.
- Witness you demonstrating competency as listed in the PPG 1 and PPG 2/3 syllabi to PPG 3 WL standards.
- Submit your rating.
- Contact any Administrator who can immediately issue the WL Instructor rating if the process has been completed as described here. He will log in, check that you have a current instructor rating, that you now have a PPG 3 WL rating, and give the WL instructor rating.
How do I become a FL Tandem Instructor?
- Meet all the skill requirements listed in the Tandem Program, especially being highly competent at ground handling large wings.
- Go to a Tandem Clinic that is administered by a Tandem FL rated Administrator who is offering FL Tandem ratings. An administrator can administer any rating he possesses.
How do I become a WL Tandem Instructor?
- Get your WL Instructor rating as described above.
- Go to a Tandem Clinic that is administered by a Tandem WL rated Administrator who is offering WL Tandem ratings. An administrator can administer any rating he possesses.
You are a WL Instructor:
What ratings can I give?
PPG 1 WL rating: Submit signed PPG 1 syllabus and PPG 1 WL Syllabus Addendum.
PPG 2 FL rating: Submit signed PPG 2 syllabus and PPG 2/3 WL Syllabus Addendum (they don’t have to demonstrate the PPG 3 items).
PPG 3 FL rating: Submit signed PPG 3 syllabus and PPG 2/3 WL Syllabus Addendum.
How do I become a WL Tandem Instructor?
- Go to a Tandem Clinic that is administered by a Tandem WL rated Administrator who is offering WL Tandem ratings. An administrator can administer any rating he possesses.
I have a student who wants a FL rating, Can I administer it?
Can I administer a WL rating to another instructor?
Yes, but you’re just giving the PPG 1 WL through PPG 3 WL. To become a WL Instructor they must still go through an Administrator who will make sure their documentation is accurate and enter the WL Instructor rating.
You Became an Instructor before 2011
I was already flying with wheels, can I get the rating?
Yes. If you were certified BEFORE 2011 but didn’t get a wheel launch rating (we didn’t have the rating at first), do the following.
Have another current USPPA wheel launch instructor who has observed you flying with wheels attest that you meet the skill level listed in the ratings program. Email your request and an image of his signed statement to our Membership Administrator.
A new page for members has been added to convey information intended for members only. The password will come via email, and in the future, through the welcome letter. It may change periodically. It is largely for information that only pertains to members and where we’ve been asked to limit distribution (like the Sun-N-Fun discount code).
Thanks for your support and enjoy!
by Chris Santacroce, USPPA Tandem Admin
Thanks for your participation in the USPPA tandem program. We should start by reflecting on what an amazing privilege it is to have an exception to FAR 103 that allows us to fly tandem for the purpose of instruction. We hope to enjoy this amazing liberty over the decades but we must be diligent.
Above all, we should remember the reason why we have the FAA’s support is strictly so that we can make solo flying safer and is nothing to do with providing anything akin to a ride.
It’s a tremendous responsibility and we all do well to be as diligent as we can be. High on the list of challenges is that few if any paramotors are certified to any official requirement. The same is true for tandem spreader bar arrangements. Most are produced in such small quantity that each unit ends up being a prototype of some kind. The responsibility to have an airworthy package falls firmly on the shoulders of each and every tandem pilot.
If some elements of the harness, motor, glider, riser, spreader bar arrangement don’t work perfectly together then it will be exclusively the fault of the pilot.
Please, practice a high level of due diligence not just for the quality and condition of your tandem equipment in general but for every flight that you conduct. It would not be out of the question to check hang arrangements in a simulator before every flight. This is because different passenger types including weight, build etc. can have far-reaching implications on how things work.
We’d ike to take this opportunity to highlight a number of areas of concern and to highlight some potential pitfalls hoping that USPPA tandem pilots get the benefit of all of the experience and history that have brought us to this point.
Paramotor Hang Point
A hang point which is perfect for solo flying might not be perfect for tandem. Depending on the spreader bar set up – there may be contact between the pilot and passenger that may make the motor hang in a different way. This can be sorted out in a simulator but will also be revealed on first flights with a given set up. After a hang check, try to take your first flights on a given set up with a pilot who can help you to figure things out and who might be able to help you if the system isn’t rigged perfectly.
Paramotors In General
Remember that paramotors aren’t certified for the most part. That means that tandem pilots have to take personal responsibility for every connection and that there may likely be some elements of your paramotor design that should be backed up in general but especially for tandem. This may include the safety back ups that are in place already, it could mean using webbing or hardware to back up the connection of the shoulders of the harness to the motor, it could mean motor mounts or any number of things.
There are so many different configurations that it’s nearly impossible to speak about them other than to say that we all are responsible to test each set up in a simulator and confirm that it meets with our satisfaction in terms of hang height, structural integrity and ability to withstand adverse conditions. If it is a part of your system and it looks like it needs to be backed up, it does.
It is widely know that the main hang point for connecting spreader bar to tandem paraglider should be steel. Other hardware should oftentimes be revisited when it will be used for tandem. This includes buckles and shackles, screw gate links and carabiners. If it can break, it will break when it’s used for tandem. The loads on the equipment increase exponentially due to higher wing loading and longer lines etc.
If you don’t know your checklist by heart and say it aloud every flight then please have a laminated card to remind you. Remember that everyone feels better with a pre-flight. If you are teaching someone with an aviation background, they will fault you for not doing a preflight. You and the passenger will takeoff with a greater confidence if you use one. Even when a good preflight is used things are forgotten and overlooked . Without a preflight, it’s only a matter of time.
It is widely known that reserve parachutes should be connected to the top of the spreader bar arrangement when flying tandem. It is not ok to use your normal reserve with it’s normal shoulder connection. We acknowledge that there is not a lot of history of reserve parachute use tandem but that only means that our statistical likelihood of needing to use one goes up by the day. It’s also important to know what will happen in the case of an inadvertent deployment. You will be remiss if your reserve is connected at your shoulders. Consult with any number of industry specialists to figure out the ideal reserve set up for your tandem.
Your choice of tandem paraglider will say a lot about you as a tandem pilot. If you choose to fly a small one at heavy weight then we hope that you have some other elements on your side. We hope that you have a soft or sandy landing area with a nice breeze. It reflects poorly on you as a pilot if you choose to use an inappropriate glider for tandem. In the extreme case that a solo paraglider is the most appropriate tool for the job then it might also be that you are flying in a wind that is too strong. If something bad happens and you are flying in wind over 15 then your actions will be perceived as being negligent.
Remember that solo risers are long, tandem spreader bars make risers seem even longer. If you have a high hang point unit then they will be even longer. The result can be surprising and it has been the cause of some terrible accidents. Specifically, pilots find that they can’t get their hands up high enough. That means over braking on takeoff, potential stall spin accidents right after takeoff etc. Most damning of all, it you let go of the brakes, you might not be able to reach them again. In many cases, it’s not an easy fix. Oftentimes, tandem risers are the best solution.
Remember that if something bad happens, you could be perceived as being negligent if you use a glider that its not recommended for tandem. You could be perceived as being negligent even if your choice of tandem glider or rigging had nothing to do with the event. Lots to consider. All of your affairs should be in order and having a certified tandem glider that’s been recently inspected is a great start.
Note: Operating under the USPPA exemption now requires certified gliders that are operated in their weight range.
First and foremost, passengers are thrilled to be in the air. They may enjoy some mild maneuvers but it might be best to leave them wanting more. Consider tempting them with a second flight including some harder turns. Remember that it is neither kind or professional to make someone sick. People are not having fun when they are queasy. If you choose to turn aggressively, remember that the passenger won’t really know the difference between a hard turn, a wing over, a SAT or a spin. This means that if you are doing any of the aforementioned maneuvers then you are doing them 100% for you. Meanwhile, it’s not about you. You are probably doing the passenger a disservice. It’s more risk, more gambling that the equipment will hold together, greater chance of making the passenger sick. Please be a thoughtful tandem pilot.
Many pilots land with the engine still running. This is ill advised for tandem pilots. We owe it to our passengers, to the USPPA, to the FAA and to whoever signed your rating to use best practices for tandem flying. That means engine off on landing, helmets, flotation, ear protection. If the environment is inhospitable then full length shirt and pants, gloves and knee pads.
Please be selective about your use of social media. Your tandem flying community won’t be impressed if you don’t have the minimum safety equipment. If you are doing aggressive maneuvers, if you are too close to the clouds, if you don’t have ear protection or a proper reserve. You will be judged. If you share pictures of your indiscretion then we have a responsibility to question the wisdom of you and your tandem admin. Please help us to continue to enjoy this amazing liberty over the years. Remember that if you have something bad happen on your watch then it takes the fun out of it for all of us. We are your team – make us proud.
Speaking of social, here is a Facebook video for your consideration —> Some Tandem Tips