Monday, December 18, 2017
Transport Canada - Aviation Safety Letter Regulatory Requirements for Flying Powered Para-gliders

Regulatory Requirements for Flying Powered Para-gliders

by Martin Buissonneau, Recreational Aviation Inspector, Flight Training Standards, Quebec Region, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada

This article focuses mainly on powered para-gliders. The regulation for obtaining a pilot permit—ultra-light aeroplane restricted to powered parachutes applies to both powered para-gliders and powered parachutes with trikes. However, flight instruction techniques differ for these two types of aircraft. A tandem trike can accommodate the instructor on board; on a powered para-glider, the instruction and supervision of the student-pilot is conducted from the ground.

Given the rise in popularity of flying powered para-gliders, the following is a review of the regulatory requirements to legally fly a powered para-glider in Canada. Firstly, it should be noted that four types of aircraft are grouped into the category of ultra-light aeroplane:

  • the three-axis ultra-light aeroplane;
  • the powered hang-glider (also called a trike);
  • under the general term “powered parachute,” the powered para-glider; and
  • the powered parachute with trike.

A powered para-glider usually consists of an elliptical flexible parachute-type aerofoil made up of cells—also called a para-glider wing or parafoil—and a frame assembly, which is attached underneath by suspension lines. This frame assembly provides the support frame for the harness (in which the pilot sits) and for the engine, attached to which are the reduction gear and the propeller that propel the powered para-glider. These aircraft do not have cockpits, and the pilot is completely out in the open, with his legs acting as the landing gear upon takeoff and landing. The powered para-glider is also called “paramotor,” depending on the community.

Paramoteur

Photo: M. Buissonneau

Flight in a powered parachute

The powered parachute with trike also has a flexible parachute-type aerofoil and suspension lines, which can usually support more weight than a powered para-glider. The wing’s suspension lines are attached to a trike with three or four wheels, and the powerplant is attached to the trike. The pilot sits in the trike and does not have to support the weight of the powerplant or run to take off.

Under similar atmospheric conditions, the performance of powered parachutes depends on various factors including the wing characteristics, the engine power, and the weight of the pilot with the frame assembly or trike (depending on the type of aircraft). The powered parachute’s slow cruise speed and straightforward piloting allow for recreational flight at its best. Except for training flights, no commercial or passenger transport activities are allowed in powered parachutes. Operating limits for powered para-gliders and powered parachutes with trike, such as wearing a protective helmet while flying on board these types of aircraft, are defined in Canadian Aviation Regulation (CAR) 602.29.

As is the case with other types of ultra-light aircraft in Canada, a pilot permit is required to fly a powered para-glider, the powered para-glider must be registered, and the owner must have liability insurance covering risks of public liability. We will now go into more detail on CARs requirements.

A) Requirements for a pilot permit—ultra-light aeroplane restricted to powered parachutes

The following is a summary of CAR 421.21.

1- Age and medical fitness

The minimum age required to hold this type of permit is 16. The minimum Medical Certificate category is 4 (without the option of having the signature of a doctor approved in Canada). A request for a category 4 Medical Certificate is made by completing the Medical Declaration for Licences and Permits Requiring a Category 4 Medical Standard (form number 26-0297), which can be found on the following Transport Canada Web site: www.tc.gc.ca/civilaviation/general/personnel/apps.htm. Category 3 and 1 Medical Certificates may also validate ultra-light aeroplane pilot permits restricted to powered parachutes as well as student-pilot permits, which should be issued before conducting solo flights during training.

2- Knowledge

An index of Canadian flight training units (FTU) can be found on the following Transport Canada Web site: www.tc.gc.ca/aviation/activepages/ftae/index.aspx. Two main fields should be completed: “Region” and “Category” (type of aircraft used). In this case, choose “Powered parachutes,” which includes both powered para-gliders and powered parachutes with trikes.

As with other categories of aircraft, powered para-glider flight training is divided into two parts—theoretical and practical—which are usually taken simultaneously. The theoretical part (ground school) is usually a lecture-type class given to several student-pilots at once. The mandatory subjects covered are air law, practices and procedures, aerodynamics, air navigation, meteorology, engines, airframes, flight instruments, flight operations, human factors, the pilot decision-making process, and emergency procedures. A complete subject list can be found in CAR 421.21. In addition, details of each subject are grouped together in Transport Canada’s publication Study and Reference Guide—Pilot Permit—Ultra-light Aeroplane (TP 14453), which can be found on the following Web site: www.tc.gc.ca/CivilAviation/publications/tp14453/menu.htm.

Ground school training must be a minimum of 20 hours in length and cover the subjects mentioned above. Once ground school has been completed, an 80-question written exam must be taken at a Transport Canada office and passed with a minimum of 60 percent. The time allotted for the written exam is three hours.

3- Experience

Within the 24 months preceding the date of application for the permit, the applicant shall have acquired a minimum of 5 hours of flight time, including a minimum of 30 takeoffs and landings, in a powered parachute (powered para-glider) under the direction and supervision of the holder of a flight instructor rating—ultra-light aeroplane or —aeroplane. Given the configuration of powered para-gliders, which usually only have one place, the flight time and takeoffs and landings will be conducted by the student-pilot in solo flight. Two-place powered para-gliders do exist; however, they are primarily used for familiarization flights, and they do not have dual controls. This explains the exemption from dual instruction flight time included in CAR 421.21(7)(c). Since there is no room for the instructor on board the powered para-glider, a “flight simulator” may be used to prepare for the flight. This “flight simulator” consists of a frame that suspends the student a few feet off the ground so that the basics of safe flight in a powered para-glider can be taught. During in-flight training, the instructor—who remains on the ground—guides and corrects the student-pilot using two-way radios. To avoid loss of concentration or an increase in workload while in flight, the student-pilot may respond with leg movements using predetermined signals. Some FTUs use a winch as the launch method for takeoff at the beginning of the training. This allows for a better transition after the “flight simulator” lessons.

Depending on the student-pilot’s age, physical condition, skill level, co-ordination, ability to concentrate, and many other factors, the duration of in-flight training may exceed the required 5 hours of flight time and 30 takeoffs and landings. It is important to note that these regulatory flight time requirements represent the minimum experience necessary. To be issued a pilot permit, the student-pilot must demonstrate the ability to conduct the appropriate normal and emergency manoeuvres for a powered para-glider—which were learned during the training program—to a skill level equivalent to that of the holder of a pilot permit—ultra-light aeroplane restricted to powered parachutes. Therefore, the amount of flight time necessary to reach that skill level may vary from one person to another.

The student-pilot must have been issued a student-pilot permit beforehand in order to legally be allowed to act as pilot-in-command of the powered para-glider and thus gain solo flight experience until a pilot permit—ultra-light aeroplane restricted to powered parachutes is issued. These solo flights must always be carried out under the direction and supervision of a qualified flight instructor. To be issued a student-pilot permit, the student-pilot must meet certain administrative conditions, obtain a medical certificate, and pass the FTU’s pre-solo examination. The subjects covered in the examination and the requirements for being issued a student-pilot permit are described in CAR 421.19(2)(d)(i).

Once the levels of knowledge, experience, and skill required to obtain a pilot permit—ultra-light aeroplane restricted to powered parachutes have been met (within the 12 months preceding the permit application), the student-pilot will be given a letter of competency signed by the qualified instructor in order to apply to Transport Canada for the permit. The Application for Flight Crew Permits/Licences (form number 26-0194) should be completed and the appropriate fees paid.

When issued, the pilot permit—ultra-light aeroplane will be endorsed with “parachutes only,” whether it is a pilot permit for a powered para-glider or a powered parachute with trike. If permit holders later wish to have the restriction removed, they will have to be trained on the type of aircraft chosen, gain the required experience, and submit a request to Transport Canada to have the permit changed.

Holders of a recreational pilot permit—aeroplane or a private pilot licence—aeroplane or higher have the right to act as a pilot-in-command of a powered para-glider or any type of ultra-light aeroplane, as per their aviation document. However, it would be appropriate to receive training with a qualified instructor, who is skilled on the type of aircraft chosen, given the significant differences in design and flying techniques between an aeroplane and a powered para-glider. For holders of a pilot licence—helicopter, —glider, or —balloon, or of a pilot permit—gyroplane, the regulatory requirements for obtaining a pilot permit—ultra-light aeroplane restricted to powered parachutes apply: powered para-glider flight training must be successfully completed. Some credits may be granted.

B) Registration of a powered para-glider

In Canada, powered para-gliders must be registered. The applicant must submit an Application for Registration of Ultra-light or Advanced Ultra-light Aeroplanes (form number 26–0521) to Transport Canada, along with a document certifying title to the aircraft (for example a bill of sale), a photo of the powered para-glider’s data plate clearly showing the name of the manufacturer, the model, and serial number, and the fee payment. The registration marks should be displayed and clearly visible on the powered para-glider (CAR 202.01).

C) Liability insurance covering risks of public liability

Powered para-glider owners must have liability insurance covering risks of public liability in an amount that is not less than $100,000 (CAR 606.02).

D) Bilingual placard

Since powered para-gliders do not require a flight authority, such as a certificate of airworthiness, a bilingual placard that states “This aeroplane is operating without a certificate of airworthiness/Cet avion est utilisé sans certificat de navigabilité” must be affixed to a surface in plain view of any occupant seated at the flight controls (CAR 602.29).

Restricted operator certificate with aeronautical qualification

Some powered para-glider pilots communicate with each other using small two-way radios called family radio service (FRS) or general mobile radio service (GMRS). These little walkie-talkies broadcast on the UHF band. However, these devices are not compatible with frequencies reserved for aviation, thus preventing powered para-glider pilots from hearing and being heard by aircraft equipped with approved aviation radios.

There are two-way aviation radios on the market today that are about the same size as the FRS and GMRS. In order to communicate using these devices, the pilot must pass an exam to receive a restricted operator certificate issued by Industry Canada. Industry Canada-accredited examiners, who usually work in the field of aviation, conduct the exams and take care of the administrative procedure. The exam may also be conducted at one of the Industry Canada district offices. More information about the certificate may be found on the following Industry Canada Web site: www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/sf01397.html#sect3.

For more information about the subjects discussed in this article, visit the following Transport Canada Web sites: www.tc.gc.ca/civilaviation/general/recavi/Ultralight/menu.htm and www.tc.gc.ca/CivilAviation/Regserv/Affairs/cars/Part4/Standards/421.htm#421_21. You may also contact your Transport Canada regional or district office.

Please note that the latest revision or amendment to the CARs and their related standards constitutes the official document. You must always refer to the official document. In addition, the official document ALWAYS has precedence over the information presented in this article.

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