By the time Jeff Goin, EAA 630956, became involved with powered paragliding in 1999, he was already a veteran airline pilot. But despite a wealth of experience in aviation, a world that he became obsessed with as a 13-year-old, Jeff still had the excitement of a kid when he was introduced to this new form of flying.
“A friend of mine called me,” Jeff explained. “In March of 1999, I flew for a living. I had an airplane, a Bonanza, and a helicopter, a 1969 Enstrom. This guy called me and said, ‘Hey I just read about this really cool thing and thought you might be interested in going in with me on it. It’s a powered paraglider.’ So I thought, ‘Well, let me look at it.’ He had given me a couple of web links and at first I thought, ‘Well, do you control this thing?’ As I dug deeper, I found that yes, you do control it, but you control it extremely accurately. And it seemed like it was no more risky than other types of flight. I found out how closely you could control it, that you could take off on foot, and that you could essentially fly to the everywhere of your whim. I went nuts. I called him back and said, ‘That’s the coolest kind of flying I’ve ever seen in my life. Let’s go!’”
Now one of the sport’s foremost experts, Jeff will present on powered paragliding and some of the reasons to consider becoming involved as part of the EAA Aviation Museum Aviation Adventure Speaker Series on Thursday, September 20 at 7 p.m.
After going through a training course and learning some of the ins and outs of the sport in 1999, powered paragliding soon took over Jeff’s free time. When he wasn’t flying for Southwest Airlines, there was a good chance you’d find Jeff powered paragliding. By 2005, Jeff had become one of the more knowledgeable figures within the sport of powered paragliding and he decided to put that knowledge into written form, publishing The Powered Paragliding Bible.
“I might as well sound like a commercial,” Jeff quipped. “The Powered Paragliding Bible, taking you from first sight to first flight and well beyond. That was the idea. The intent was I want to take someone that’s never seen it — here’s what you should look for in training, here’s the equipment you want to get for training, here’s why you want to get this equipment for training. It’s a simple craft, but it’s very unforgiving of certain types of errors. … It’s a pretty comprehensive book.”
For Jeff, an experienced pilot who possesses multiple ratings and has been flying just about any type of aircraft he can get his hands on, there’s a few reasons he’s so drawn to powered paragliding.
“It offers incredible freedom,” he said. “That was what lured me to it, but the other thing is extraordinarily accurate control. Just extraordinary precision. Such simple controls, such accurate flight. Incredible precision, and that’s why I got into competition as well. It’s like, ‘How far can we push this thing?’ I’m an old dude. What the youngsters do with it, mostly they do it in Europe because, for various reasons, we don’t have a thriving competition circuit in the U.S. I would start with amazing freedom, which is a combination of you can fly anywhere and carry it anywhere.”
For those considering a jump into powered paragliding, Jeff has a few pieces of advice, which apply to both seasoned traditional aircraft pilots and those with no aviation experience.
“The first task is to find a good instructor,” Jeff said. “He or she could save your life. Find good training, find someone who is certified and uses the full syllabus. Spend the requisite time. Training will be the best money you spend. There’s certain dynamics about this sport, because they will be flying their first solo as their first flight. That’s significant. It’s significantly different than other aircraft, so do those three things.
“It’s important to treat this sport with the same seriousness you would treat any new aircraft,” he added. “Sometimes there are pilots who deemphasize the training, they don’t take it seriously. … All the physical learning you’ve done in an airplane is almost useless. There’s no transfer that I can think of, and there’s some negative transfer.”
As long as they take the training requirements seriously, Jeff encourages everyone to consider powered paragliding, especially if you’ve ever wanted to experience what it’s like to truly fly.
“You’ve dreamed of flying,” he said. “This will be the closest to those dreams you will ever get.”