Homebuilt Powered Parachute

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robmet

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Has anyone built a Powered Parachute (PPC)? From a kit or from scratch? I'm interested in hearing anything about the experience.
 

Dana

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I built a powered paraglider (PPG, backpack) from scratch. The motor unit, of course, not the wing, nobody sews their own wings. I'm a design engineer by trade, and despite the simplicity of the machine it was surprisingly one of the more difficult (but fun!) design projects I've undertaken.
 

Riggerrob

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Back during the late 1980s, I sewed together a pair of kit parachutes. They were pre-cut by "Lone Star" and later "Para-Kit" from Texas. The supplier pre-cut and pre-marked F-111 fabric and flat-braided Dacron suspension lines. The first was a 210 square foot 7-cell that looked like a Para-Flite Cruiselite - that it replaced - from a distance. The second was a 220 square foot 9-cell that flared better. I put 250 jumps on the first parachute until my weight increase made landings too hard. I put 350 jumps on the second parachute until Zero-porosity fabric became the new norm.
Par-Kit ads claimed that you could sew an entire canopy in 40 hours, but I probably spent 40 hours reading the manual and accompanying cassette tapes. Mind you, my anal retentive sewing methods meant that the chapter on "compensating for your previous sloppiness" was un-needed. I sewed both the those canopies on a home Pfaff 230 sewing machine, but now I use a Sailrite. Any of the older, heavier, cast iron sewing machines will do fine. They just need to be strong enough to hold #21 needles and size 69 nylon thread. Zing-zag is nice, but not mandatory. A dedicated bar-tack machine is way more expensive than you need for basic canopy sewing.
Sewing a canopy for a powered parachute would be time-consuming, but doable for an amateur. You only need the long table to cut fabric panels. After that, you can do all of the sewing and line work in a corridor.
 

robmet

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Thank-you to everyone who replied.

I have an interest in building an airplane, and I am also working on getting my PPC Sport Pilot certificate. My thinking is that building the cart portion of a PPC is probably easier than building an airplane. Maybe I would save a little money too.. (?)
 

Dana

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There aren't a whole lot of PPC guys here. You might want to ask the question on a PPC forum, where I'm sure the subject of homebuilt machines comes up from time to time (it did on the PPG forums when I was active in that area).

I do know that homebuilt PPC carts have been made from welded steel tubing, bolted aluminum tubes, and wood. I also suspect that many if not most PPC manufacturers offer their machines in bolt-together kits (no fabrication, just assembly) if only to save on shipping costs.
 

robmet

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No clue about the Herbie Hog. I've only been paying attention to PPCs this year.
 

Riggerrob

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Just curious, being a chute guy have you ever heard of a Herbie Hog parachute? Have to go back to early '80's I suppose.

I vaguely remember that "Herbie Hog" was a sport parachute made in small numbers during the 1980s. The "Hog" part of the name implies that it was a piggyback container, with both the main and reserve parachute containers stowed on the wearer's back.
 

Turd Ferguson

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I vaguely remember that "Herbie Hog"
Yes, I believe Herb Graves sewed everyone of those parachutes himself. I knew him in high school although he was a few yrs older than me. I didn't witness it but rumor has it he was suspended in his Sr. yr for jumping off the roof of the gymnasium with a homemade parachute.
His dad owned a trailer store where they built, repaired and sold utility trailers. He originally made parachutes in a back room. The trailer store is still in business.

Interestingly, an AD was issued on the HerbieHog in 1984. Seems the plastic pull handle could break when pulled leaving no way to deploy the reserve chute. We used to tease him he was the only person in the US walking around with an AD issued on him.
Anyway, in 2016 he was at home one day, had a massive heart attack and passed away. Age 65 I believe.
 

Riggerrob

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Yes, I believe Herb Graves sewed everyone of those parachutes himself. I knew him in high school although he was a few yrs older than me. I didn't witness it but rumor has it he was suspended in his Sr. yr for jumping off the roof of the gymnasium with a homemade parachute.
His dad owned a trailer store where they built, repaired and sold utility trailers. He originally made parachutes in a back room. The trailer store is still in business.

Interestingly, an AD was issued on the HerbieHog in 1984. Seems the plastic pull handle could break when pulled leaving no way to deploy the reserve chute. We used to tease him he was the only person in the US walking around with an AD issued on him.
Anyway, in 2016 he was at home one day, had a massive heart attack and passed away. Age 65 I believe.

Bummer,
Saddened to hear that he died of a heart attack at only 65 years old. That is too young.

Herbie Hog was not the only parachute affected by that Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airworthiness Directive grounding plastic ripcord handles. Back around 1984, I remember the Canadian Sports Parachuting Association (CSPA) grounding all non-metal reserve ripcord handles. This Service Bulletin was aimed primarily at the small diameter, white plastic ripcord handles debuted by Strong Enterprises. From a distance, they looked like military specification (MIL SPEC) single-lobe Martin-Baker ripcord handles. Strong also sold a bent version for their Pop-Top chest-mounted reserve container. The plastic handles were an effort to reduce weight and production cost as bespoke skydiving gear filled the market after gov'ts stopped selling military surplus parachutes intact. Skydivers were also trying to shave off every spare ounce that might impede their winning a Ten-Man Speed Star competition. The white plastic handles were plenty strong enough when new (MIL SPEC 600 minimum breaking strength), but they rapidly deteriorated when exposed to sunlight. After a few plastic handles cracked, they were grounded.
The last time I saw a cheap plastic reserve ripcord handle was in Strasbourg, France circa 1987. It was on an early piggyback built by EFA. I informed the drop zone manager of the American and Canadian recalls, but declined to break the handle off the jumper's harness. That white plastic handle was cracked half-way through ... so weak that I could easily have broken it with my bare hands.
That CSPA recall also grounded similar handles made of fiberglass. The fiberglass handles were thicker and much stronger. I could never have broken a fiberglass handle with my bare hands, but CSPA still insisted that I replace it with a MIL SPEC metal handle.
During that same era (mid-1970s to mid-1980s) there was also a batch of cast aluminum ripcord handles in use. I never heard of any problems with the cast handles.
Before and after, most sport reserve ripcord handles were/are made of welded stainless-steel tubing and easily exceed the 600 to 900 pound minimum breaking strength in the FAA Technical Standard Order ... C23B, D, F etc..

Bottom line, homebuilders need not worry about those weak plastic handles in pilot emergency parachutes (PEP) because the problem was identified almost 40 years ago. Any PEP inspected and repacked since then would have gotten a replacement steel ripcord handle. A second reason is that few riggers will repack any parachute older than them. While many European nations ground parachutes more than 20 years old, there were also some ADs about acidic mesh back during the mid-1980s and conscientious riggers refuse to repack parachutes if they cannot find manuals. It can be difficult to find manuals, Airworthiness Directives or Service Bulletins published before the internet became fashionable. For a example, when I did a quick internet search for "Herbie Hog" I only found a couple of vague references, but no manuals. I cannot remember if I ever repacked a Herbie Hog, but that would have been back during the 1990s???????
 
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wktaylor

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Some possibly useful RELATED info.

PIA-P-7567 PARACHUTES, PERSONNEL, DETAIL MANUFACTURING INSTRUCTIONS FOR [was MIL-P-7567]

PIA-STD-849 INSPECTION REQUIREMENTS, DEFINITIONS AND CLASSIFICATION OF DEFECTS FOR PARACHUTES [was MIL-STD-849]

FAA AC105-2 SPORT PARACHUTING

FAA-H-8083-17 PARACHUTE RIGGER HANDBOOK

FAA-H-8083-29 POWERED PARACHUTE FLYING HANDBOOK

etc...

Useful USAF Technical orders, if You can find, them are...

00-25-120 GENERAL FABRIC REPAIR

13A1-1-1 REPAIR, CLEANING, INSPECTION, AND TESTING OF AIRCRAFT SAFETY BELTS, SHOULDER HARNESS, AND MISCELLANEOUS PERSONNEL RESTRAINT EQUIPMENT

NOTE1. Parachute materials [fabric, tape, lines, etc]... and parachute 'hardware' [metallic, non-metallic parts/assemblies] are unique/specialized to the profession. Lives depend on all of it working together.

NOTE2. When I was an engineer at SA-ALC in the 1980s, working T-37s, A-37s, OV-10s aircraft structures/systems. I also had the duty of mishap investigation. This is when I was abruptly introduced to ejection seats, parachutes and related life support equipment... and had the fortune to work with the corresponding life-support/egress engineers. OMG. I was clueless... but developed a deep appreciation for the complexity of these 'systems'.

I always appreciated the subtle [wink-wink, think-about-it] motto of the parachute/ejection-seat/life-support shops... 'Egress will be the last to let you down'
 
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