Forward launches by Paul Mahony

Please note, there are many experienced pilots out there who may do things differently with varying amounts of success and there are some wings out there which dictate a slightly different technique, too. This is just a pretty fool-proof way of teaching a complete beginner how to nil-wind (or low wind) forward launch on an easy to launch, safe, paramotor wing. Other comments are most welcome.

1) Wing preparation : As with paragliding, the secret to a perfect forward launch in nil wind has much to do with good wing prep. Lay the wing out square to the wind and in a nice crescent shape. It is imperative that the centre A lines are the first to go tight during the launch run. Next, I gently pull the leading edges near each wing tip to curl up the complete leading edge of the wing. This ensures that within the very first few centimetres of the wing being pulled up by the A risers, the cell openings are already "catching" the air and helping to evenly inflate the glider.

2) Attaching yourself : Place the (pre-checked and pre-warmed) machine in the centre of the trailing edge and attach it to yourself and the wing.

3) Power checks : Stand up and turning about 90 away from the wing so as not to disturb it (making sure that lines, spectators, etc, are clear), do your power checks.

4) Center yourself : With the trimmers set and brakes, risers and throttle all sorted out in your hands, walk forward with your hands / arms in the launch position until you feel equal pressure on each set of A lines / risers. A brief look over your shoulder should confirm that you are central with the wing. Put a marker on the centre cell at the leading and trailing edge to facilitate this. Then take one or two steps backwards. Modern wings do not take kindly to a full blooded snatch launch as this causes them to bow in the centre. Furthermore, snatch launching is NOT how they are DHV tested when they were given their "easy & instantaneously" award for launching.

5) Go : With a blip of power to aid your T/O run, run forward accelerating smoothly straight into wind and feeding the wing up with the risers as it begins to rise up off the ground. Stay on those A's and maintain a little power to keep your momentum going. It is important to maintain this energy and forward motion through the risers to the wing. A wing is far easier to control when YOU are telling it where it has to go rather than letting IT tell you where it wants to go!!

6) Direction : If the wing feels as if it is going off to one side, correct by a slight change in your direction of travel. DO NOT think about correcting with brake as the wing is still not flying and this will just pull it back down onto the ground.

7) Final check As the wing comes past the 50 - 60 position, it should be easier to bring up the rest of the way using a little less power and energy but do not stop moving forward! As you "feel" the wing getting to the 80 position, this is where you do your visual check. Look straight up - not to one side or over your shoulder!! Twist your head side to side to check the whole span and if OK, then look forwards again. You will probably only see the front edge of your wing but that is usually sufficient. This will only take about 1 second to do. A knotted line or twig entangled in the lines will manifest itself (usually) by a deformed wing surface which is easily visible. If the knot is too serious, your wing would probably not have come up anyway.

8) Lean back and full power : At the 80 position and after your check, with your hands up (brakes off) lean back whilst applying full power. Run forward almost as if you are resisting the power of the engine. The more you 'trust the thrust' and lean back against it, the easier and quicker will be your launch. If any course corrections are needed, make them slowly and measured as any large sudden movements with the engine at full chat will swing you around all over the place. IF AT ANY STAGE THINGS ARE NOT GOING RIGHT OR YOU ARE UNHAPPY WITH THE LAUNCH - STOP!! There is no face to be lost or shame in aborting a launch in front of your mates! Hell, I do it often enough - just to demonstrate the principle, you understand!!

9) Accelerate away : You should become airborne quite quickly but this obviously depends on wind, wing, weight, welly ....and technique! I do not strictly advocate to students a dab of brake to "unstick" as this can lead to the brakes staying on and then gradually being increased whilst trying to gain height from the ground resulting in a feet up arrival on full power as the wing tries to climb out. The wing needs to accelerate to flying speed to function efficiently.