Canopy Stays Inflated
Rapid Launch USA (the company) claims their Rapid Launch
powered parachute is the "world's only amphibious powered
parachute." The helium-filled canopy system "is adaptable
to all major brands," Rapid Launch says. The canopy (shown
here on a Buckeye powered parachute cart) rises to fill the top
of your hangar. Below: A pair of SlipStream floats was mounted
to the amphibious powered parachute displayed to the ultralight
Powered parachutes are seen as one of the fastest growing and
most innovative segments of aviation. Reasons for this include:
new powered parachute pilots often are able to solo in as little
as a single day, and powered parachutes are very portable - no
hangar is required and they are easy to transport from home to
field. But powered parachutes do have their limitations - limitations
like flying on floats.
Now, according to a company called Rapid Launch USA, not only
float flying, but amphibious float flying can be done safely
on a powered parachute. The Rapid Launch system features a retractable
pneumatic landing gear system with a CO2 safety backup system,
hydraulic disc brakes and four-cavity fiberglass floats. "The
system has been in development now for 4 years," Rapid Launch
says, "and has the advantages of increased safety, superior
convenience and the lowest cost per use of any powered parachute."
Rapid Launch combines the buoyancy of pressurized helium gas
with the latest in ram-air parasail technology, to make a canopy
that is "virtually impossible to collapse," the company
claims. The helium-filled canopy can thus be used safely for landing
and taking off from water, as well as land. According to Rapid
Launch's Gordon Belena, the "lighter-than-air wing"
is not your "standard" powered parachute canopy, but
rather one that has been developed during the past 4 years. It
is 574 square feet in canopy area, and because it is a "rigid
wing" (pressurized with helium), it has an excellent descent
rate, turns on a dime, and has a better flare than a "conventional"
powered parachute, says Belena.
Adding to safety is the fact that unlike regular powered parachute
canopies - which initially lay out behind the cart and require
inflating (by accelerating the powered parachute cart forward)
before the pilot can "inspect" his risers - the Rapid
Launch system starts overhead - so the risers are visible
to the pilot at all times. This, of course, also makes it ideal
for float operations, since the Rapid Launch canopy floats overhead
rather than sinking into the water (as a "normal" powered
parachute canopy would when it deflates after landing).
How do you store your Rapid Launch? Drive the unit into its
own hangar, so that the canopy rests overhead in the hangar arch
(see photo). The cost for filling the canopy with helium gas is
about $100 per season of flying, according to Rapid Launch USA.
If a bag were to fail in-flight, the cell then becomes a ram-air
chute, with no difference in the flight characteristics of the
powered parachute, Rapid Launch indicates. The bags can be easily
repaired (or replaced, if necessary).
The amphibious system was recently displayed to the ultralight
industry, mounted on a Buckeye powered parachute, and took about
2 days to set up, but it is adaptable to all major brands, according
to Rapid Launch USA. Setup can be done by factory representatives
at your location or at the Rapid Launch USA factory in Alexandria,
- Report filed by Dave Loveman
Info: Rapid Launch USA, 25271 Terrace Grove Rd., Dept
UF, Los Gatos, CA 95033.
Phone: (866) 889-5989.