On a warm summer evening, a large field of 3-foot-tall oats sways gently in the breeze. In this pastoral setting a runway is cut down the middle. The farmer who owns this field has a light aircraft he flies from his country property, and he’s kind enough to allow Tim Norling, a local powered parachute pilot, to use it, too. Norling operates Let’s Fly, an Infinity powered parachute dealer 20 miles north of Minneapolis, Minnesota. By the time Norling gets his Infinity powered parachute set up, the winds have quieted down, as we hoped they might. It is a beautiful evening for flying in Minnesota, and I am ready for a flight. Some pilots say, “Oh, those powered parachutes are too vulnerable. You can only fly them in gentle winds.” Yeah, so? Is it really imperative to fly in strong winds? Is being restricted to mild conditions a bad thing? Powered parachutes tend only to be flown when it’s pleasant to do so.
|Seating||2, tandem, elevated|
|Empty weight||370 pounds|
|Gross weight||880 pounds|
|Canopy Area||500 square feet 1|
|Canopy Loading||1.8 pounds / square foot|
|Kit type||Fully assembled|
|Notes:||1 A 550-square-foot canopy is available, as are elliptical canopies. Single-seater uses a 400-square-foot canopy wing.|
|Standard engine||Rotax 582|
|Power||65 hp at 6,500 rpm|
|Power loading||13.8 pounds per hp|
|Cruise speed||28 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||300 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||200 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||200 feet|
|Standard Features||Rotax 582, dual throttle and ground steering controls, electronic EIS instrument system, APCO 500 canopy wing, line socks, canopy bag, Balance Masters prop balancer, side storage bags, 4-point pilot restraint harnesses, 22-inch tundra tires, spun aluminum wheels, strobe light, double prop hoop ring, steerable nosewheel, steering line trimmers.|
|Options||Hybrid or APCO 550 canopy wing, nosewheel disc brake, engines up to 100 horsepower, ceramic-coated exhaust, electric starter, electronic fuel sensor, rear-seat canopy controls, propeller choices, front windscreen, frontal fuselage bars, double prop hoop ring. Single-seat Infinity also available, with a very similar equipment list.|
|Construction||4130 chromoly steel, 6061-T6 and 6063 aluminum, AN hardware fasteners. Made in the USA.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - New design uses a fore-to-aft main frame construction of 3-inch angle aluminum that gives the machine great strength. Optional double prop hoop looks beefy enough to offer real protection. Design provides many items as standard (when usually optional). Infinity evolved from other brands and brings some improvements.
Cons - Added structure adds to empty weight; Infinity is significantly heavier than some designs. Few design qualities truly differentiate Infinity from other brands.
Subsystems available to pilot such as: Flaps; Fuel sources; Electric start; In-air restart; Brakes; Engine controls; Navigations; Radio; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Lots of standard equipment on the Infinity: electric start, strobe light, remote choke, and more. But one excellent quality is dual throttle and steering controls. Can view fuel in tank while flying, the most reliable solution. Very easy repair access to all components of chassis.
Cons - Trimming is something you do on the ground, with the canopy lines, and it needs to be done correctly. While dual throttle and ground steering, no in-flight steering or braking possible from rear seat (except via hand pull of steering lines). Engine kill switch only in front seat.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Strong, secure cockpit for possible hard landings. Independent, well-padded seats with high back support and 4-point pilot restraint harnesses. Front seat is adjustable for pilots of different height or leg length. Controls at both seats (not including in-flight steering) are useful for training and other 2-place use.
Cons - Rear seat entry requires a scramble that less flexible occupants must struggle to accomplish (due to placement of line support tube). No room (other than tubing mount) for radio installation or other instruments. Windscreen must reach to the main frame rails to be fully effective in cold weather. No baggage area.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Ground steering available at both seats, a great advantage if the Infinity is to be used for instruction. Optional nosewheel disc brake aids engine warm-up. Superb visibility for pretakeoff check, even from rear seat with front fuselage bars. Brake conveniently operated by lever on steering handle.
Cons - Brakes are only useful when taxiing; not useful for significant vehicle slowing. Big tundra tires give a lot of bounce on rough strips. "Taxiing" a powered parachute is a learned skill of keeping enough speed to fly the canopy; limited capability without bagging canopy first.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Great suspension system and heavy-duty front-to-rear structural rails make takeoffs and landings more certain in an Infinity. Excellent visibility in virtually all directions to check for traffic around the airport/airfield. With power, adjusting approach angle is very simple in an Infinity. Good ground clearance and protected fuel tank and fuel lines.
Cons - Landing without engine caused no damage to the Infinity (even near gross weight), but was much firmer than I expected on an aircraft that retained energy better. Energy retention on powered parachutes is a low value. Forget crosswind capability; plan good approaches to wide- open fields.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - Conventional footbar steering and conventional canopy still allow for surprisingly deft maneuverability. Precision turns to headings are easier than you'd expect. Setting up good approaches is easy (with good planning). When in doubt, get off the footbars and a powered parachute will "right itself" very quickly.
Cons - Powered parachutes have no diving capability if needed (though reducing power sets up a relatively steep approach). Turn initiation is relatively quick but turn rate is somewhat sluggish; an elliptical canopy will offer faster turning, but comes with other handling requirements (see takeoff and landing).
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - Infinity does an excellent job of engine mounting and vibration isolation; in the cockpit, the engine is not felt significantly (unlike numerous fixed-wing installations). At low-and-slow flying over friendly fields, virtually no aircraft does it better than a powered parachute like the Infinity.
Cons - Climb rate is rather weak for a powerful engine like the Rotax 582; 2-place climb rate is only about 300 fpm. Sink rate is rather high, as evidenced by the forces felt in an engine-off, 2-place landing (though the chassis absorbed this beautifully). Endurance is not a strong point.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Powered parachutes have a good reputation for in-flight stability, one of the best in aviation. An improperly controlled powered parachute will return to level flight by releasing steering controls. Except for rare conditions (see Cons), an Infinity is not plagued by stalls of any kind. No adverse yaw issues either.
Cons - Powered parachutes can suffer canopy collapse and can enter something referred to as a meta-stable stall (though both conditions require significant error to enter). Rigging for trim flight is done on the ground and requires understanding of line arrangements.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - A new-generation design improving on earlier models (company owner worked with a previous company before starting Infinity). Feature-laden design with many standard items that are optional on other brands - yet without making a high purchase price. Fully factory-assembled. Strong frame is protective of its occupants. Warranty on chassis is 3 years.
Cons - Fortunately, an Infinity is fully built, as the parts count is higher than some other powered parachute designs. No current information on how Infinity will approach Light-Sport Aircraft ASTM certification; contact factory for updates. Website and literature are sparse on technical specifications.