A Brief History of Powered Parachutes
Credit for this information
goes to Inland Paraflite Inc.
Another great website for powered parachute information.
The development of the first mass-produced
powered parachute took approximately two and one-half years.
As aeronautical Engineer, Steve Snyder, was implementing and perfecting the use
of square ram-air parachutes, which had properties of a lifting wing, he found
that increased glide ratios were developed. He therefore assumed that if the
person or payload suspended under the chute had some thrust added, the distance
traveled could be extended. With more power, it could fly level or even climb.
He then decided to pursue this idea with the objective of creating a safe and
simple aircraft that even amateurs could fly easily.
With the help of Adrian Vandenberg, who had expertise in metalworking and
machining, he completed the first basic frame design in March of 1981. Daniel
Thompson, a small engine expert, was brought on to the project three months
later to produce a power plant. He fitted the aircraft with two small Chrysler
engines and the P-1 (prototype 1) was born.
On the first day of test flying, attempts were made to get the aircraft off the
ground. Steve, at 150 lbs., finally tried easing the power away from full
throttle at take-off, and managed to fly the craft to a height of 40 to 50 feet.
He had a difficult time with control of the craft because of the torque produced
by both engines spinning their propellers in the same direction. The total
flight time was 30 - 35 seconds at a speed of 20 to 25 mph.
The P-1 flew more than 10 times, once by a woman weighing 110 lbs., which
allowed for better performance of the test flights. Many revisions were made
during those test flights, including the addition of a vertical stabilizer,
flaps, ailerons, and optimizing the parachute trim.
Ram air parachutes of the day had a flat profile and offered limited control.
More anhedral (downward curve) and ribs were added to the chute ultimately
giving the craft more stability and pressurization on the P-1's parachute thus
solving the control issue.
While the parachute control solutions were being worked out, Dan came up with an
improved airframe design, and with Steve's idea of folding landing gear for
portability, the P-2 was completed in January of 1983. The problem of torque was
also solved by having the propellers counter-rotating, thus canceling out each
others torque effect.
Three months later the P-3 made it's debut at the Sun & Fun Air Show in Florida.
Response was overwhelming, and the ParaPlane Corporation was formed to produce
the portable, safe, and easy to operate aircraft the P-3 had proven itself to