Human flight has never been more attainable than with the Australian-designed Aerochute - the powered parachute needs less than 15 metres to become airborne, can top 70kmh and the average person can be flying solo after just a few hours of tuition. Most importantly, it is very safe to fly, being close to stall and spin proof, and should the engine stop, it simply lands like a parachute. The Aerochute DUO doesn't have a traditional fixed wing, so flying can only take place when the weather conditions are suitable. If the wind gets above 15 knots, the Aerochute can't fly, which is entirely understandable once you've seen a powered-parachute take-off.
Preparation involves meticulously laying the parachute out on the ground behind the rig.Once the engine is fired, the propeller inflates the 15 cell Ram Air canopy and pushes the machine forward - almost instantaneously, the canopy mushrooms to its full 367 square feet and within a few metres the Aerochute is off the ground and climbing steeply, all the way to its legal maximum of 5000ft. The Aerochute can climb at the astounding rate of 1000 ft/min with one person aboard.
A foot throttle controls the power which in turn controls the rate of climb or descent and the steering is controlled by using steering toggles similar to those on parachute. Essentially, that's it - there's not a lot more to it than that - it is easy to learn how to fly the Aerochute because it was designed that way.
The engine is a equally simple - a twin-cylinder Rotax two-stroke producing 52hp. With a fuel capacity of 29 litres, the Aerochute can fly for up to two hours at a time.It all adds up to a compelling package for those people with a penchant or a good reason to fly and the unique abilities of the Aerochute are attracting people from all over the world.
As the machine can become airborne with a full 200kg in the cockpit (allowing for an array of specialist gear and/or a passenger) within 50 metres, it can be used economically in localities where normal aircraft are impractical. A lot of aerochutes are sold to farmers who use it to increase mobility around large farms, there is increasing interest from search and rescue squads and two aerochutes were recently sold to New Zealand deer hunters.
Designer, owner and chief instructor at Aerochute Technologies, Stephen Conte, has even recently had some interest from geologists who can see the advantages of the machine for flying at low speeds for reconnaissance purposes, fitting the machines with GPS and video cameras to record the exact position of certain geological features. The machines were recently employed for camel mustering in the Northern Territory.
More than 200 aerochutes have been sold in the last decade, and sales are expected to top 50 this year with dealerships in New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia. The recent design and implementation of a hand throttle will enable the Aerochute to be used by paraplegics, and this is also expected to increase sales in the international market.
Designed and marketed by Aerochute Industries in Coburg, Victoria, the two-seat DUO can be purchased for AUD$16,500, putting the full package, (including tuition through to an Australian Ultralight Federation (AUF) Pilot Licence) at less than AUD$20,000 all-up. A minimum of 20 hours flying time is required by the AUF to receive a full pilot licence, with 30 hours required to take passengers and 75 hours to be an instructor.
Aerochute Industries can be contacted by phone on +61 (0)3 9354 2612 or found on the web at www.aerochute.com.au