Powered Parachute Flying Handbook

Chapter 1 - Introduction to the Powered Parachute


Alcohol directly affects the brain and can do so very quickly. Some myths still surround alcohol: drinking coffee can dissipate the effects, or taking a cold shower will “sober” you up quickly. The fact is that becoming intoxicated is determined by the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. Once consumed, alcohol can enter the bloodstream—and therefore the brain— in as quickly as 10 minutes. Once in the brain, motor skills immediately begin to deteriorate. The common aviation saying is “8 hours bottle to throttle.” However, depending on the metabolism of the individual, it may be twice as long before some humans can dissipate the negative effects of alcohol. Even in small amounts, alcohol can affect your motor skills, diminish your mental reasoning, decrease your sense of responsibility, and shorten your memory. In addition, the effect of alcohol is greatly multiplied when gaining altitude.

FAA regulations state that no one may act as a crewmember if they have consumed alcohol within 8 hours of flight, are under the influence of alcohol, are using any drug affecting their faculties contrary to safety, or if they have a blood alcohol level greater than 0.04 percent. Part 61 also states that refusal to take a drug or alcohol test, a conviction for a violation of any Federal or State statute relating to the operation of a motor vehicle (that’s right—a car) while under the influence of alcohol or a drug, or failure to provide a written report of each motor vehicle action to the FAA (not later than 60 days after the motor vehicle action) are grounds for:

1. Denial of an application for any certificate, rating, or authorization for a period of up to 1 year after the date of such refusal; or

2. Suspension or revocation of any certificate, rating, or authorization.


Anxiety can cause humans to act in unpredictable and negative ways. If your future is uncertain or an unpredictable event occurs that forces you into an unknown path, anxiety can appear. Self realization and learned confidence through knowledge and practice are the best ways to prepare for possible anxiety attacks.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is typically not a factor in a powered parachute, as the engine is behind the pilot in the typical PPC pusher configuration. However, since CO is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas, you need to be alert to exposure prior to flight.


Dehydration is the critical loss of water from the body. The first noticeable effect of dehydration is fatigue. A powered parachute pilot is particularly susceptible to dehydration, as they normally fly in an open cart, often exposed for hours to the direct rays of the sun. If dehydration occurs and water is not replaced, fatigue will progress to dizziness, weakness, nausea, tingling of hands and feet, abdominal cramps, and extreme thirst. It is highly recommended for PPC pilots, especially those that fly in desert regions, to carry an ample supply of water and to drink regularly, regardless of whether or not you feel thirsty. When you begin to feel thirsty, the beginning stages of dehydration have already started.


One of the biggest misconceptions is the myth that over-the-counter drugs may be taken before a flight. A non-prescription drug does not mean it is free of side effects that may affect your faculties. Consult a physician about mixing flying with any drugs. Many medications such as tranquilizers, sedatives, strong pain relievers, and cough-suppressants have primary effects that may impair judgment, memory, alertness, coordination, vision, and the ability to make calculations. Others, such as antihistamines, blood pressure drugs, muscle relaxants, and agents to control diarrhea and motion sickness, have side effects that may impair the same critical functions.

Pain killers or over-the-counter analgesics, such as Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), Tylenol (acetaminophen), and Advil (ibuprofen), have few side effects when taken in the correct dosage. Flying is usually not restricted when taking these drugs. However, flying is almost always precluded while using prescription analgesics such as Darvon, Percodan, Demerol, and codeine, since these drugs may cause side effects such as mental confusion, dizziness, headaches, nausea, and vision problems.

Regulations prohibit pilots from performing duties while using any medication that affects their abilities in any way contrary to safety. The safest rule is not to fly while taking any medication, unless approved to do so by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).

Middle Ear and Sinus Problems

As powered parachutes are not pressurized, atmospheric pressure changes will affect pilots flying to high altitudes. Atmospheric pressure decreases as you ascend, and increases as you descend. The pilot’s inner ear does not always have a means to adjust its contained air pressure to the outside or ambient air pressure. When the pressure in the inner ear is anything different than the outside air pressure, the result can be pain as the eardrum bulges outward or inward in reaction to the pressure differential.

To resolve this condition you need to equalize the pressure via the eustachian tube that leads from the middle ear to your mouth. One method of doing this is to pinch your nostrils shut, close your mouth and lips, and blow slowly and gently in the mouth and nose. This procedure forces air up the eustachian tube into the middle ear. If you have a cold, an ear infection, or sore throat, you may not be able to equalize the pressure in your ears. A flight in this condition can be extremely painful, as well as damaging to your eardrums. Hence, flying is not recommended if you have an illness with symptoms around the ears, nose or mouth.

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