Cherokee

This was the first RC model that I had built since I was a teenager. The previous airplane was a fully balsa model that I built but never covered.

The airplane before her maiden checking all control surfaces and power.
I mostly modeled the airplane in 3D using Silo.

My own full-size airplane designs

I’ve designed many personal airplanes over the years.

High wing, single seater

I designed this airplane probably around 1994-1995 while in High School. It was modeled in a program called Infini-D 4.5 on a Macintosh.

I designed this airplane in the mid 90s while in high school.

How I learned to fly airplanes

My logbook says I took my discovery flight on March 19, 2019. It was a short flight with Eric, one of the CFIs at Skywalker flight school at the time. I believe I sat right seat (but I don’t remember) and did some basic maneuvers. It was a bit bumpy that day. When I landed and saw Jo (the owner) back at the office I immediately told her I’m in.

Basic requirements

  • 40 hours total minimum flight time
  • 20 hours flight time with an instructor
  • Ground instruction
  • Pass the FAA written exam
  • Pass the FAA practical exam (At least 1 hour on the ground, 1 hour in the air)

Skywalker is a small, family-owned flight school

Jo treats her students like family. She is always working to get you to the next level as quickly and economically as possible, without compromising safety. But you definitely don’t move on until you’re ready. Before your checkride you’ll have to go up with Jo and she’ll be tough on you so be ready. I’ve always felt great about my decision for choosing Skywalker. You never feel like you are being ripped off. If you somehow have your own plane and only have to pay the hourly rate for the instructor you’ll save a lot of money on your training. Plane rental is the biggest expense.

It is hard to get your pilots license

It the business it’s not really called a license, it’s your Airmen Certificate. The FAA just doesn’t give out licenses to anyone. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. If you’re not self motivated you’ll end up part of the 80% that never complete their training and pass the checkride.

How much does it cost?

I never worried too much about the cost. I knew ballmark what it would take but I knew I would be spreading training over a year so it wasn’t going to be a huge up hit to our checking acccount. You also just pay for when you fly at Skywalker which is so great. You can buy blocks of time and save a bit on the hourly rate also. Jo likes to start students in the Cessna 172 because it’s very easy to handle. It’s heavy so it handles bumps well and has large wings so it glides really well. Once you are proficient she’ll move you over to the Cessna 150 which is slightly more challenging to fly. The 150 does not glide as well so on final if you chop the power it will drop faster. It also has much less power, so if you get into a pickle and need to climb out fast, be prepared to need much more room to gain altitude (ask me how I know). The 150 is also a two seater and quite a bit smaller in the cabin so its less comfortable, but it is about $40 less per hour to rent! So as you build solo hours and practice checkride prep you can save quite a bit of money by flying the 150. I’ll probably end up with about 55 hours of training to get my license so times that by the plane rental cost ($100-$140) and instructor hourly rate of $45 and you have the cost. Many hours of that time are solo so you get a break by not being charged for instructor time. It’s not cheap to learn to fly but if you look up to the sky and dream about airplanes, it’s so worth it.

I have grown to love the little 150

I spent so much time (close to 20 hours) in the 172 that I didn’t really want to switch. I reluctantly gave the 150 a try. At first I hated it. It got tossed around by the smallest amount of wind, it dropped out of the sky if you reduced power, it was more sensitive on the pitch, it was cramped and it had more limitations than the 172 like no forward slips with full flaps. But after logging a few hours I grew to love it. Now I like flying it more than the 172. The 172 is a pickup truck, and the 150 feels like that Escort you can whip around corners and have a ton of fun in. I still miss not getting tossed around so much by the smallest amount of wind but that’s about it. It’s also good preparation for flying my homebuilt which will closer to the weight of the 150 than the 172.

How I learned to fly paramotors

I learned to fly at FlyMIPPG in central Michigan

I remember standing at my kitchen island checking Facebook and somehow I came across FlyMIPPG around July 2018. I remember seeing that they were and Aviator PPG alliance partner… and they were right here in Michigan. I quickly checked to see where the heck St. Johns, Michigan was. HOLY COW. It was only an hour and forty minutes away from my house. An Aviator alliance school within a couple hours of me!!! I pinged Mike right away. Mike Cotter is one of the founder/owners of FlyMIPPG and handles student onboarding, sales, and overall customer success. He also teaches at the school. I got on the phone with Mike and asked a few questions and assumed I’d be waiting weeks or even a year to book training.

The instructors

Everyone at FlyMIPPG instructs. Mike Cotter and Justin Fox are the two owner/founders and they have Bob Harris on staff as a third instructor. Bob is the nicest guy you’ll ever meat and he’s a highly experienced parachute jumper and jump site manager. Mike is like a big kid in the best way. He loves paramotoring. He loves running a paramotor school. He loves creating a great experience for students. Justin is the grown up in the room that makes sure students get from point A to point B. He also builds his own line of titanium paramotors called the Sky Fox so if you have mechanical or technical questions he’s your man. Jon Eisele is also a friend of the school and was a guest instructor during my class. He also helped Justin and Mike get the school off the ground by leading the early classes using his PPG training program which he perfected while working at Aviator PPG in Florida. He now teaches for the EAA in Wisconsin(Experimental Aircraft Association).

How much did it cost?

I won’t talk about the price of training because that changes over time, it can go up or down. What I can say is that after a week of intense training and having one of best times of my life, I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was worth every penny. You’ll make so many memories during your time that are priceless. Also be prepared to make a group of new friends. And apart from food and lodging, you don’t have to worry about a thing. The school includes use of all of their gliders and paramotors (fuel included). You can bring your own camper and stay on the grounds or rent a bedroom in the bunkhouse for less than a hotel or stay in a hotel or campground nearby. If I had to do it over I’d borrow and camper because I think that’d be a really fun way to stay up there. All three of the instructors bring campers.

Don’t cheap out on equipment and buy it from FlyMIPPG

A big issue with paramotor equipment is that it breaks a lot and the manufacturers have bad reputations for taking supporting their products. They blame the customer for every issue that happens so even if you have an obvious in warranty repair you’ll be paying for it out of pocket much of the time. I’ve read about this time and again and experienced it myself when my airbox failed on my 25 hour Moster 185 which caused a prop strike. Luckly I bought my Parajet through FlyMIPPG so they went above and beyond to take care of me.

The school’s location

The school rents the bunkhouse and a hanger from Dick Lyon who owns the privately owned, public use airport called Forrest Hill. Forrest Hill is like paramotor nirvana. It’s absolutely beautiful. Dick Lyon came back from the war and built the airpark. There are several houses on the airpark and many lots available. It’s a sleepy airport. There wasn’t a single departure or arrival of any GA traffic during my week there and there’s really only one resident that is actively flying out of the airpark. It would be amazing if there were more homes and pilots living there. There are two grass strips and the runways are surrounded by fields.

This is Bob’s Funk which calls Forrest Hill home.

What I wish I had known

What I would do differently

My next goals

  • I want a long distance, cross country capable machine so I’d like to build my own frame and install an Atom 80 for fuel efficiency.
  • I’d like a more efficient, cross country capable wing. Possibly an Ozone Sirocco 2. I flew the Spider 2 and didn’t find all that different than my Mojo and I still couldn’t keep up with my friends on faster wings.