Rapid Launch Amphibious Powered Parachute

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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 industry recently.

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, Minnesota.

- Report filed by Dave Loveman

Info: Rapid Launch USA, 25271 Terrace Grove Rd., Dept UF, Los Gatos, CA 95033.
Phone: (866) 889-5989.

Heat Advisory

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A little wing shade can help beat the heat, whether you're a lion from a South African veldt or an airshow spectator.

These lions (above) found their shady spot after a bush pilot delivered some medical supplies to a hospital in South Africa, and stopped for a quick lunch. Eager to get to his next appointment, the pilot returned to his plane only to find that the only piece of shade around had become verrrry popular. His takeoff was somewhat delayed.

 The other shade-seeking group are members of Valley Ultralights (USUA Club 59) in Fresno, California, seeking respite from the heat during a recent club fly-in. "When it comes to Mother Nature, man and beast are not all that different," says Valley Ultralights contact Bill Leidenroth. - Photos submitted by Bill Leidenroth.

BRS Records 4 More Saves

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Rare Incident is Second for Same Pilot/Aircraft

In an extremely rare event, an ultralight pilot in Germany has used his BRS emergency parachute system to save his life for the second time. Helmet Grossklaus became BRS save number 135 after his trike-style ultralight suffered a catastrophic structural failure on May 23. He escaped the harrowing incident "without a scratch," reports German BRS agent Jürgen Schubert.

Grossklaus was towing hang gliders using his Silent Racer trike when another pilot suddenly turned in his direction. In an attempt to avoid a midair collision that would have endangered both pilots, Grossklaus was forced to make a rapid maneuver that upset his aircraft. His Silent Racer was flipped violently enough to cause structural failure. "His wing totally collapsed," said Schubert, who added that Grossklaus is the only human in history to have used his BRS rocket-deployed emergency parachute twice from the same aircraft.

BRS designs, manufactures, and markets ballistic parachute systems that lower aircraft to the ground in the event of an in-flight emergency. Through 20 years in business, the company has delivered more than 15,000 parachute systems for use on certified and recreational aircraft. So far, the company has recorded a total of 138 saves that represent 117 airborne incidents with 21 such incidents involving two persons on board the aircraft. The latest two saves are related below.

On June 23, Wallace Clark deployed his BRS parachute, becoming save number 136 on the growing list of saves recorded by the South St. Paul, Minnesota-based company. Clark's engine developed problems shortly after takeoff from a tree-lined airport in Alabama. With the airfield a quarter mile behind him and no optional landing areas, Clark deployed his BRS from only 200 feet above the ground. He landed in wood so dense that it gook 6 hours to reach the plane when he and friends went to extract the mostly undamaged Hurricane.

And while America celebrated its annual July 4th Independence Day, two more people were spared their lives when the pilot had to deploy his BRS parachute after the wing failed on a Murphy Renegade, a Canadian biplane design. Bernd Vierling and a passenger flew their Renegade in Germany when a high-G maneuver caused an interwing strut to fail, rendering the aircraft unflyable. From 1,200 feet, the BRS lowered aircraft and occupants.


The Terminator Tries Trikes

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Top Dog Flight

Arnold Schwarzenegger trains on an ultralight for his role in The Terminator

Advanced Flight Instructor Ted Nesmith (left) gives actor Arnold Schwarzenegger (maybe best known for his screen character "The Terminator"), ground instruction before taking the actor for an introductory flight in a Top Dog trike.

Top Dog Ultralights founder and advanced flight instructor Ted Nesmith travels around the U.S. giving introductory flight lessons and selling Top Dog trikes. While in Sun Valley, Idaho, Nesmith had the opportunity to introduce trikes to many people, including actor and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger. "Schwarzenegger had never flown in an ultralight before and was very excited and amazed that such a small aircraft could fly so well," Nesmith recalls. "He said the trike was the 'ultimate sport utility vehicle'.

"We started making trikes in '98 and spent 1 1/2 years in research and development before we put our first ultralight out," says Nesmith. "In the last year and a half we've put out more than 40 trikes."

Top Dog trike frames are constructed of 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum, and the brackets, fork assembly, engine mounts and everything else is 4130 chromoly, according to Nesmith. "One of the big things is, we've got hydraulic disk brakes on the back wheels," says Nesmith. "No other trike manufacturer has that."

Built in Colorado, the 2-seat 315-pound trikes are powder-coated in-house, and are now available with the Butterfly trike wing from Butterfly Wings by GibboGear and a choice of three engines: a Rotax 40-hp 447, 50-hp 503 or 65-hp 582.

"What we've tried to do is take the best features of all the different trikes on the market and put them into one," explains Nesmith. "Then we added some new features like disk brakes. We've got a chromoly internal bushing in the front steering assembly, which obviously makes it much nicer, and we have the big tundra tires. We provide everything including the engines. It's a very strong, lightweight, heavy-duty design. They're kind of like Schwarzenegger said, they're the ultimate SUV."

In addition to giving introductory flights and lessons and selling trikes, Nesmith sets up dealerships all over the country as well. "We also put out a good information package, a 10-page brochure and a video," says Nesmith.

Info: Top Dog Ultralights, PO Box 1284, Dept. UF, Cortez, CO 81321.
Phone: (970) 749-4838 e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .
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