Would you fly in one of these things? Randy Long powerchuting on a sunset flight over the Sonoran Desert in Peoria, Arizona (AP photos)
Would you fly in one of these things?
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The enormous fan-like propeller behind the passenger whirs, then begins to howl as the pilot hits the accelerator.

The wheels bump along the desert and a small jolt tugs on the safety belts as the chute billows into the sky. A few seconds later, the strange-looking machine lifts off the ground, floating 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 from above, though the coyotes don't like the engine noise too much. Law enforcement agencies also have used powerchutes in search-and-rescue efforts because the machines move slower and get to more places than regular aircraft.

Picture a dune buggy with a massive parachute attached to the back. The front end looks a little like a three-wheeled stroller. The two back wheels splay out for support under the engine. The massive propeller looks a little like an oversize house fan positioned behind the passenger.

Turning is controlled by foot levers that pull on the tension cords attached to the chute.

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.

Powerchutes short for powered parachutes are similar to powergliders in that both are small-engine flying machines. Powerchutes have a range of about 50 miles and top out at around 28 mph. The machines can fly as high as 10,000 feet and, unlike most aircraft, are allowed under FAA rules to fly down to the surface in uninhabited areas.

Powerchutes allow passengers and require a sport pilot license to operate. Powergliders either have a motor that attaches as a backpack or has a small buggy that goes with it, while powerchutes are larger with more powerful engines and bigger chutes.

They're also considered one of the safest aircraft around because of their stability. As Long puts it, the safety equipment (the chute) is already deployed before it leaves the ground.

The range of altitude and the relatively slow speeds of powerchutes provide an exhilarating flying experience, from soaring up high for spectacular views to darting along riverbeds from just above the treetops.

And because 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 tend to be more popular in places with warmer climates.

Critical thinking challenge: Why might powerchutes be safer than other aircraft?

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COMMENTS (74)
  • LiamSwagxco
    10/16/2014 - 12:06 p.m.

    The main idea is that power chutes are a safe, fun, and useful way of air transportation. It tells you that it is fun and exhilarating and that it is used in search and rescue missions. I think it is safe because it flies at a low speed.

  • Daniel71505813
    10/16/2014 - 12:09 p.m.

    it is about a air craft that can go across the ocean. it uses powerchutes to make it go . it is one person on it at a time i like it because it can fly acrss the ocean

  • jadziah2001
    10/16/2014 - 12:14 p.m.

    flying. I wont fly in one of those thing because I am afraid of heights and I would want to know idf that thing is stable or not. how did they even make that thing to fly it must cost a lot of money.

  • Amada.7
    10/16/2014 - 12:14 p.m.

    "Would You Fly in one of These?" was a very interesting article. I found it very amazing that soneone discovered how to make a dune buggy fly! I don't think that I would want to fly in one though.

  • ethanc-Orv
    10/16/2014 - 12:42 p.m.

    Why might parachutes be safer than other aircraft?because you don't have to think about the string getting cot in the fan
    and why dont they put a dome on it?

    ..

  • IM2000food
    10/16/2014 - 01:07 p.m.

    power chutes might be safer than other aircraft because there are closer to the ground. also it may be more fun to go in to power chute.

  • ShaniaWentz-Ste
    10/16/2014 - 01:26 p.m.

    I think that this is a really cool invention that has lots of uses. First, you can use it as a rescue vehicle when someone gets lost or when they are looking for a criminal. Second, you can use it for recreation. And, finally, you can use it if your car would break down. This is a genius idea, and I would love to take a ride in it.

  • MasonSk-Wil
    10/16/2014 - 01:27 p.m.

    I have seen these before,and they are very interesting.Their main power source is the fan . They run and start the engine it at the same time.

  • KMartin-Sti
    10/16/2014 - 01:47 p.m.

    I think these machines are cool. If i had a chance to fly one i would because they are small and agile. they may be slow but yet they are a cool one person flying craft

  • BrigitteA-3
    10/16/2014 - 09:29 p.m.

    A new type of aircraft has just been created, the Powerchute. According to Randy Long, the founder of Powerchutes, it is like a dunebuggy with a parachute. A Powerchute is more efficient when it comes to search and rescue parties because it is slower, and can get to more places and closer to the ground then most search and rescue aircrafts. Pilots can get a bird's eye view and can take off from mostly anywhere, such as a open field, or a backyard strips. the Powerchute is a effiecient, and easier way to get transportation in the air, or to have a search and rescue team. I personally think that the Powerchute would be a cool way to fly. Sometimes, it might be a little bit scary for me to be that high up in the sky without total closure as in a regular airplane.

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