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Joint Popular Rotorcraft Association/Powrachute Extravaganza Fly-In Successful

By Dan Burrell, EAA 850483, for Light Plane World

PRA
PRA President Scott Lewis (left) and Jeff Williams (right), president of the Powrachute Corporation.

Two influential individuals from two completely different branches of sport aviation cooperated to organize and support a new kind of fly-in that reflects a trend toward more variety at fly-ins and air shows. Rotorcraft and powered parachutes are about as different in their operations and requirements as it can get, and yet they fly together, share the same facilities, and support each other at this joint fly-in. It is their differences that help make it possible.

The joint fly-in held August 2-6, 2011, at the Mentone (Indiana) Airport was very successful with lots of flying and a good turnout considering the threat of passing showers. A powered parachute pilot was heard to say that flying right after a rain shower was a great time to fly. It’s difficult to get a firm number on attendance because not all pilots register and some stay only a short time. A fair estimate is about 50 to 60 rotorcraft were there including projects and static displays, along with around 40 powered parachutes, a dozen or more fixed-wings, and a few trikes.

PRA President Scott Lewis said he initiated the joint fly-in idea because he wanted to expand the annual event and interest more people in flying rotorcraft. They tried having powered parachutes at the fly-in last year and it was so successful he wanted to make it formal. Scott’s partner in the effort was Jeff Williams of the Powrachute Corporation. His company has a history of supporting powered parachute fly-ins with a long-sponsored event, the Powrachute Extravaganza, which has been held in various locations around the country including Texas, Kansas, and Wisconsin. Scott said it started with a simple phone call and that Jeff agreed to the joint fly-in before the call was over.

Scott said the combination of gyroplanes and powered parachutes has worked out very well. The gyroplanes have maximum maneuverability (and minimal profile) while the powered parachutes are big and slow. The rotorcraft flew on one side of the paved runway and the powered parachutes flew on the other side. The powered parachutes had their own dedicated sod takeoff area so simultaneous operations of both types were possible. Jeff Williams said everyone flew for nearly three hours Friday evening and there were no problems whatsoever.

The Powrachute Extravaganza has traditionally featured a raffle for a new powered parachute and this year was no exception. For $20 dollars you could buy a good chance of winning a new single-seat FAR103 Powrachute Sky Rascal. Powrachute demonstrated its 100-hp Rotax 912 Airwolf LSA and the Rotax 582-powered Pegasus powered parachutes in the showcase flights. Its sister company Soaring Concept Aerospace, also based in Hastings, Michigan, displayed gyroplanes from the German manufacturer Autogyro, including the new side-by-side Cavalon.   

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the Popular Rotorcraft Association and the annual fly-in is promised to be quite a special event. More information about PRA and its activities is available online at www.PRA.org or by calling 574-353-7227.

View the featured Light Plane World photo gallery from this event.

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