Abby Air Powered Parachute Accessories; chute pack system, tube sadles, connectors, ppc tirm adjustor, onboard wind indicator

Rockin John Carr's 25 Safety and Maintenance Tips
By Rockin’ John Carr – Copyright 2003

Here are a few tips culled from a vast array of information presented over the last seven years in my "Ask Rockin’ John" column.

ULTRAFLIGHT Magazine has hosted my powered parachute Q&A column since 1995.

If you were not an early subscriber, these tips and many more will be available in a new book of over seventy columns, hundreds of letters, that will be released in the not too distant future. For now, I present you with twenty-five good safety and maintenance tips that should assist you in your quest for safe and trouble free flight.

1. Use of Safety Wire – Many PPC’s (powered parachutes) use safety wire in areas such as prop bolts, etc. It is a good idea to check your machine over and see if you can find any areas that could benefit from adding safety wire. Nylock nuts are good, but safety wire is better. Critical areas subject to a lot of vibration might be better served with stainless steel safety wire. They call it "safety" wire for a reason.

2. Keep your Fuel Tank Full – With an FAA Part 103-fuel limit of five gallons; it is in the interest of safety to make sure you always fly with a full tank. Even those who fly two-place PPC’s with eight or ten gallons can benefit. The slow fixed flying speed of a PPC sometimes makes it difficult to penetrate a head wind. Running out of fuel and having to land in hostile territory is not a good option.

3. Preflight – Never, ever forgo your preflight. Always take the necessary time to check your PPC over thoroughly. Even if you just landed and want to take off again, it is wise to at least do a cursory check of your machine.

How else can you know if something came loose on your last flight?

Distractions can cause you to miss critical areas. Concentrate and don’t talk to anyone while you are doing your preflight.

4. Get a Sectional Chart – Most small airports can sell you a sectional for your area. These charts will show you if there are any high towers or obstructions in the area you will be flying over. They are filled with a ton of valuable flight information that will help make your flying safer.

If you are unfamiliar with how to read one, ask the airport manager – he will be glad to help you out.

5. Check your Tire Pressure – A low tire on one side can give you control problems on your takeoff run. Make sure that all your tires have the same required pressure for your PPC. If you do not carry a pressure gauge, squeeze each tire with your hand and compare them. If you sense any differences, you can then use a gauge to check and add air as required.

6. Mutual Preflight – If you fly with a friend, to kill time during lulls in flying – preflight each other’s plane. After you both do your own preflight, swap places and see if you can find something that the other person missed. If you make a game out of it, you will be surprised at the number of anomalies you may have missed. This exercise will improve the preflight procedure for both of you.

7. Listen to your Engine – While instrumentation is vital for keeping you engine functional, you can often use your ears to highlight it. Get to know what a healthy engine sounds like. If you detect "pinging" for instance, it can mean your fuel mix is lean and your engine is about to seize up.

Wearing earplugs can actually enhance your detection ability by muting the low frequencies and allowing the high pitch sound through clearly. You cannot monitor your instruments at all times, but your hearing is always vigilant.

8. Land with Power – Save the flare for emergencies. You should know how to land with flare or power. However, if you hit some sink or a down draft and you have already flared, throttling up does not react quick enough to prevent a hard landing. If you fly in with power, you will have a full flare available to compensate for any quick drop in altitude that was not anticipated. Flaring reacts faster than throttle.

9. Check Hidden Nylock Nuts – These nuts are used extensively on all PPC’s.

Nuts that might be hidden from view can be loose or even missing. Slide your hand into hidden areas and feel for the nut. If that is not possible, use a small inspection mirror and a flashlight to visually check.

10. Check Carburetor Sockets – Rubber carb sockets used on many two-cycle engines to mount the carb to the engine have been known to develop cracks.

This can allow excessive air into the mixture and cause a lean condition.

If cracks in the rubber are found, replacement of the socket is necessary.

After-market carb sockets are especially vulnerable. Engine seizure can result from a lean fuel mixture.

11. Gasoline Transport – Never carry gasoline in the trunk of a car.

Gasoline is highly volatile, meaning that it evaporates rapidly. If you tighten the cap on a plastic gas can, it can build up pressure and burst the tank. If you leave it loose, highly flammable vapors can escape and create an explosive situation if any spark is present. Gasoline should only be carried in a manner that is open to the air.

12. Intake and Exhaust Covers – Engine intake and exhaust openings should be sealed with a cover after flying. Especially if you trailer your PPC, dirt and other foreign objects can find their way into the cylinders on any two-cycle engine, reducing its life span. Covers are cheap insurance, just be sure to remove them before starting your engine.

13. Secure Spark Plug Caps – These caps have been known to come loose from vibration and shut down the engine. A simple plastic Ty-wrap around the rubber cap can prevent loss of the electrical connection.

Another method used is safety wire, but a non-metallic cure is preferred to eliminate possible shorting of the high voltage to ground.

14. Keep a Logbook – Always record all of your flights and maintenance in a logbook. This may be a less than desirable task, but in the long run, you’

ll be glad you did. Information logged will assist you in analyzing problems that may develop over time. A bonus is that you will be able to read your comments at a later date and remember every flight you’ve taken in great detail.

15. Torque Seal Lacquer – This is a product that you can paint on bolt threads to verify that the bolt/nut setting has not moved. If a bolt or nut should loosen, the paint will crack; allowing you to know the connection has loosened. Using this sealant will greatly shorten your preflight time. A simple look will verify the integrity of the mechanical connection.

16. Takeoff Line Check – Turn your head around both left and right to check your chute lines on your takeoff run. Chute mirrors are helpful, but a direct look at the lines is mandatory. It is the only way you can be sure all your lines are free and not tangled. Make this procedure part of your preflight – if you detect any problems, you can and should abort your takeoff.

17. Fuel Replacement – It is a good idea to drain and replace your fuel/oil mix after a few weeks or months of inactivity. Today’s gasoline is especially vulnerable to causing problems over time. Older fuel can thicken and clog tiny carburetor passages. Don’t discard the old fuel. You can use it in your lawnmower, chain saw, or any non-flying application. Two-cycle mix can even be used in your car with no ill effects.

18. Use a Torque Wrench – At least once a year, check every bolt and nut on your PPC with a torque wrench. Torque all bolts to factory specifications.

Many bolts may be in need tightening. If you do not have a torque wrench, pick one up. It is a very valuable tool for preventative maintenance.

19. Spark Plug Tightening – Do not over-tighten spark plugs. Most engine heads are aluminum and you can easily strip out the threads. Use a torque wrench and torque to specifications. If a torque wrench is not handy, after the spark plug base contacts the head – With new plugs, tighten one-half turn. With used plugs, tighten one-quarter turn – no further.

20. Wooden Propellers – Keep them horizontal when not in use. If kept vertical, gravity can cause residual moisture in the wood to migrate down to the low end over time, causing an out of balance propeller. Any unbalanced condition can cause vibration and failure of equipment.

21. Owner’s Manual – Read it thoroughly, and do what it says. Many people never bother to read their owner’s manual. This is unacceptable when it comes to flying. Your owner’s manual can often answer any questions you may have about your PPC. If not, contact the company and ask them – they may have to update the manual to reflect your concerns.

22. Parachute Inflation – Too much power applied while kiting up your chute can result in a possible cart rollover. Watch power settings in the early stages of kite-up, full power too early is risky. It is far better to abort your takeoff if things aren’t going right, than to roll over and have to replace costly damaged components. Add a lot of power to jump the chute off the ground and through the prop wash, then back off. Never exceed the power setting that will lift the cart while inflating your chute and you will never roll your PPC.

23. Personal Condition – How you feel is as important as preflight. Ask yourself – should I be flying today? If you do not feel 100% for whatever reason, it is wise to put your flying on hold. Physical and mental acuity is important when flying any aircraft – do not push the limits. Never, never drink alcohol and pilot an aircraft. Allow at least eight hours between drinking alcohol and flying.

24. Weather Conditions – Never fly if weather conditions are borderline.

Check the weather forecast for your area, and the wind at your field. Will the wind shift? Will it increase? Will that storm front come in early? Is it getting too late in the morning or evening for safe flight? If in doubt, stay grounded. Keep in mind that old adage; "I’d rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air, than in the air wishing I was on the ground."

25. Emergency Procedures – Practice emergency procedures frequently. Never fly low over hostile territory (trees, power lines, water, etc.) Altitude is your friend. Know how to execute a power off landing. Practice lining up for a landing using only one steering line. Always remain vigilant while flying. Look out for other aircraft. Always look for potential emergency landing areas while flying. Engines can and do quit running when you least expect it. Fly safe.

Final word – The key to any type of ultralight flight is proper training. Without full and competent training you cannot expect to be a proficient pilot. While training is of the utmost importance…it is not enough! You must apply what you have learned. You can know all there is to know about flying, but you must be able to put it to practice. Flying well is an acquired skill, and no amount of training will help you if you do not learn how to properly employ what you have been shown.

The key to mastering any type of flight is practice, practice, practice and more practice. The more you practice, the better you will get and the more confident you will become in your abilities. You can never know enough about a subject, and you can never be your best without practice. We have the ability to show the world that ultralights of all types can be the safest and most enjoyable recreational activity of all, with preventative maintenance, PRACTICE and PREFLIGHT.

Abby Air, LLC
Powered Parachute Accessories
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P.O. Box 485
Abbotsford, WI 54405-0485
Ph. 715- 223-4131  Fax. 715- 223-3352
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