Veteran company Six Chuter has led the powered parachute pack since 1991.
With more than 1000 powered parachutes in the air, Six Chuter, Inc. of Yakima, Washington, is one of the leading companies in an increasingly crowded field. However, things haven’t always gone so well for the company. In 1992, Six Chuter nearly went out of business. Down to less than $1000, the company closed a three-unit sale that saved it.
The order signaled the beginning of the powered parachute phenomenon, and Six Chuter has never looked back. Sales hit 112 units in 1994, and they have grown ever since. Six Chuter has seen the industry develop dramatically, and it’s been a major player every step of the way.
When Six Chuter employees attended what they feared might be their last airshow a decade ago, prospects looked bleak. Company owner Dan Bailey recalls: “We were less than well received at the show. Most in attendance looked at us as some kind of weird duck or even crackpots for entering their pure aviation environment.”
Today, the powered parachute industry is one of the most vibrant segments of American aviation. It accounts for a few thousand sales annually. About 20 companies sell these machines, and all appear to be logging sales.
Recently, “Light Stuff” has featured other powered parachute companies such as Destiny and Powrachute. Established only a few years ago, these two companies are successful newcomers building on those that came before. Six Chuter, at 11 years old, is one of the industry’s granddaddies.
Into the Skye Rider
Six Chuter was born when six employees of another manufacturer formed their own company after being laid off. The company initially built parts for dealers and owners. In 1991, the Six Chuter team created its first powered parachute, the Skye Ryder. At the time, few were familiar with the powered parachute concept (although ParaPlane had been selling rigs for a decade).
Bailey is the only remaining original member of Six Chuter, the last of the other five leaving in 1997. Business is good. “As for everyone, 2001 was a down year,” he said. “But we’re hanging in there just fine.” The company reported sales to the KITPLANES® “2002 Trikes and ’Chutes Directory” (February 2002) of about 1150 aircraft completed and flown.
Today, Six Chuter offers seven models. The Discovery 2000 and the PowerHawk are full-dress models propelled by Rotax 582 engines. They are the most powerful of the group, although added features increase their empty weights. Simpler two-place tandem machines offer alternatives for limited budgets. Costs range from $9700 for the Skye-Ryder II to nearly $18,000 for the Discovery 2000 and PowerHawk models.
The Six Chuter designs use a prop guard made of a continuous curved hoop supported with curved connector pieces. The company recently incorporated its version of the rollover bars popularized by Powrachute (see “Light Stuff,” February 2002).
Another Six Chuter feature that the Discovery 2000 uses is a contoured fiberglass body surrounding the chassis. This facilitates air movement through the engine-cooling system. The Rotax 582 radiator is cleanly integrated into this shell, hiding the essential but ugly component.
Powrachute may be the one with an attention-grabbing “spokestiger,” but Six Chuter is ahead of the pack when it comes to getting mainstream publicity. The company made a splash when pilot Tim LeBlanc tussled with James Bond (or his stunt double) in “The World Is Not Enough.” LeBlanc is a long-time Six Chuter pilot with a reputation for pushing the limits of his parachute canopy, the perfect man for an action movie. The aircraft in the film was not a Six Chuter but rather a highly modified series of machines built by special-effects people with LeBlanc’s oversight.
The company’s Hollywood exploits don’t end with James Bond. MTV’s “Road Rules” did an episode in which inexperienced cast members had to take off in the parachute, complete a bomb drop from the air, and then land. Six Chuter models were also used for filming a documentary on Easter Island. Challenging winds presented some problems, but the project turned out well.
My experience flying these machines has taught me that while they do have limited airspeed, they are superb viewing platforms. Their cruise speeds—which usually fall in the high 20s or low 30s depending on the canopy size and shape—and vehicle loading make them excellent for camera work.
I’ve also lost my attitude that these puffy wings are too restrictive. Flying at Sun ’n Fun 2001, I came to appreciate the maneuverability of powered parachutes. When flown by an experienced pilot, a powered parachute can duck and weave around ground obstacles with ease. The wing’s overhead placement and a strong tendency toward stable flight allow flying that can’t be replicated in any other machine.
While it’s true that powered parachutes like Six Chuter’s Spirit cannot handle much in the way of crosswinds, it’s also true that they need very little area to land. The job can usually be accomplished in a few hundred feet. Pick an open field, and wind direction won’t matter. All models in Six Chuter’s lineup are built with surprisingly resilient carriages, so pilots don’t have to worry about landing on a rough field.
However, powered parachutes are taken aloft by power; the wing angle is largely dictated by the rigging system devised by the manufacturer. Conversely, when you land, you reduce power. Rarely would you go to idle thrust all the way to the ground, so power-off landings may prove unsettling without prior experience.
Your Own Six Chuter
Anyone in the market for a powered parachute these days is presented with a number of choices. Six Chuter notes that it has an extensive list of dealers across America.
Only a few hours of instruction are needed to start soloing. After that, the enjoyment accelerates. While a few have been put to work (not just in movies), these are fun machines, and they deliver that objective easily.
With small storage requirements, easy transport, full assembly available, and reasonable prices, Six Chuter deserves a good look. KP
FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact Six Chuter at 10705 Gilbert Rd., Yakima, WA 98903; call 800/440-8211; fax 509/966-4284; e-mail email@example.com; web www.sixchuter.com.
|500 sq feet
|7.2 ft (carriage only)
|8.5 ft (carriage only)
|Takeoff distance at gross
|Landing distance at gross