Would you fly in one of these things?
The enormous propeller behind the passenger whirs. Then it begins to howl as the pilot hits the accelerator.
The wheels bump along the desert and a small jolt tugs on the safety belts. A chute billows into the sky. A few seconds later, the strange-looking machine lifts off. It floats away like a dandelion spore catching the wind.
So what's a powerchute?
"It's the closest thing to being a bird that you can imagine," said Randy Long of Arizona Powerchutes.
Powerchutes are a fantastic way to view wildlife. But coyotes don't like the engine noise too much. The aircraft have used powerchutes in search-and-rescue efforts.
What do they look like? Picture a dune buggy with a massive parachute attached to the back. The front end resembles a three-wheeled stroller. The massive propeller looks a little like an oversize house fan.
Yes, it's a little odd-looking. And it provides a flying experience unlike any other. The takeoff is quick and exhilarating. But the actual flight is even better.
The name powerchutes is short for powered parachutes. They are similar to powergliders. Both are small-engine flying machines. Powerchutes have a range of about 50 miles. The top speed is about 28 mph. The machines can fly as high as 10,000 feet.
Unlike most aircraft, powerchutes are allowed to fly down to the surface in uninhabited areas.
Powerchutes allow passengers. They require a sport pilot license to operate. They're considered one of the safest aircraft around. As Long puts it, the safety equipment (the chute) is already deployed before it leaves the ground.
Powerchutes can soar up high for spectacular views. Or they can dart along from just above the treetops.
The machines don't need much space to get airborne. Pilots can take off from backyard strips, small airports or even open fields.
Powerchutes are flown all over the country. But they tend to be more popular in places with warmer climates.