Asked Questions

Sunset Flight
It depends upon the powered parachute. If it meets the definition of an ultralight, then you do not need a license, nor does the powered parachute need to be certified by the FAA. However, that all changes if the aircraft exceeds the limitations of the ultralight rules spelled out in FAR Part 103. If the aircraft has two seats, has an empty weight of more than 254lbs, or can carry more than 5 gallons of fuel, then it is considered an aircraft and to pilot it you will need at least a sport pilot license.
Actually, powered parachutes are far safer than many other motor sports. Unlike motorcycles for example, there is very little chance of collision with another vehicle since it is really a pretty big, mostly empty sky. That said, a pilot needs to be informed and have good judgement. For example you always want to have a clear place to land and you want to fly during milder wind conditions.

Bargains are not always bargains. There are three main things you need to consider.

  1. Is the aircraft legal to fly? If the powered parachute is an ultralight, you won't have any problems. However, if the powered parachute has two seats, has an empty weight of more than 254lbs, or can carry more than 5 gallons of fuel, then the aircraft needs to be N-numbered and have a valid FAA Airworthiness Certificate. If it doesn't have those two things, the powered parachute may be more trouble than it is worth.
  2. Can you legally fly it? If the aircraft isn't an ultralight, then you will need to receive the proper training and pilot rating in order to fly it.
  3. Is the aircraft even servicable? The best test for that is to have the seller demonstrate it for you. Many times that isn't possible. Take into account that overhauling aircraft-style motors can be very expensive relative to similar engines used in other motorsports. And of course parachutes can wear out or be damaged. A careful inspection by someone trained is a good idea and may save you a lot of grief.

Normally, the answer to this question is no. There are some exceptions, and even those exceptions have exceptions!

Most powered parachutes are able to be maintained and modified by anyone whether or not they are ultralights or N-numbered aircraft. The exceptions for N-numbered aircraft are powered parachutes that are certified as Special Light Sport Aircraft (SLSA). Those aircraft normally need some kind of trained professional to work on them since they may be used for rental or training.

Another thing to consider with N-numbered aircraft is the annual inspection. Those have to be performed by someone trained to FAA standards. Luckily, for most powered parachutes, that inspection certification can ebe obtained after a weekend-long course.

The parachute on a powered parachute is actually an airfoil like the wing on an airplane. Once it is inflated and it is forced forward by the engine, the air moving over and under it creates lift like most other powered aircraft.

If you turn off the engine in flight, a powered parachute will begin descending like a skydiver under a parachute. Powered parachutes are unique in that the recovery system is built into the aircraft itself.