“This is the safest kind of flying there is.” That’s how Sun Lakes resident Gary Vacin described flying powered parachutes (ppcs) to a crowd of about 80 attendees and guests during a presentation to the Sun Lakes Aero Club (SLAC) gathering Nov. 18 at the Sun Lakes Country Club.
“Flying a ppc is so safe, because if the engine quits, you just glide down under the inflated parachute and land almost anywhere, using usual landing procedures,” he said.
Vacin described a ppc as a cross between a swamp buggy, a go cart, and a dune buggy. The parachute, much like skydivers use only much larger, inflates when power is added and swings overhead, serving as the wing and providing lift.
Vacin, a life-long pilot, started flying ppcs in 1996 after a colleague told him, “Gary, you need to get a life.” His “new” life included building a ppc and purchasing another while living in Lincoln, NE.
“I decided to build the first ppc rather than buying one custom-built,” he said. He received the kit in May of 1995 and working up to an hour a day, hoped to be in the air by September. In fact, his first flight came in September, only one year later.
“Instructions said it was almost impossible to screw up — the key word being almost,” he said. “Building the airframe and installing the engine came fairly easy, but problems arose when winter set in and wiring for the instrument panel and engine became problematic.”
“My dealer, who lived 200 miles west of Lincoln, came to town and helped me on several occasions,” Vacin said.
He transported his ppcs in a pickup with a custom-made attachment that replaced the end-gate in the truck.
Vacin said he sold his first ppc and purchased another, this time driving his pickup to the factory in Argos, IN, to pick up the factory-assembled craft. His new one came with Star City Sports, the name of the tabloid newspaper he started in 1993, emblazoned on the underside of the parachute.
Vacin’s presentation was the first in a series featured at monthly Aero Club gatherings. Future speakers include: Jan. 20, Chris Andres, Chandler Municipal Airport Manager who will discuss the history, current, and future developments of the airport; and March 16, airshow and test pilot Bob Bishop who built and flew several BD-5Js, the world’s smallest jet aircraft. Future speakers will be announced in upcoming Splash issues.
The public is invited to attend all Aero Club gatherings. For more information, contact Cannon Hill at 509-539-7857 or Vacin at 480-298-7017, or visit the club’s website, sunlakesaeroclub.org.