Rockin John Carr's 25
Safety and Maintenance Tips
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
411 West Spruce St.
P.O. Box 485
Abbotsford, WI 54405-0485
Ph. 715- 223-4131 Fax. 715- 223-3352
© Abby Air, LLC All