I originally taught myself to fly at age 19. I bought a used hang glider and beat myself up with it on a small grassy slope until I figured out all the things not to do. In the 70's I did stupid things like that. I've owned a Benson Gyrocopter with a Mac 90 drone engine (wow, get me out of this thing!), a Wizard J3 ultralight with a Zenoah 250, (surprisingly similar to hang gliding and my favorite rigid wing ultralight), a Weedhopper with KT-100 engine (what a dog) a Dove "B" hang glider (what a dinosaur) and a few other projects that never got off the ground. I took commercial flight training but dropped out after a few disappointing flights in a Cessna 152. I just wanted wind in my face, not all that metal around me. I received paraglider training in 1995 from Dixon White in Flagstaff (the finest PG instructor I've ever met). Of course, I haven't met them all. I've made over 275 paramotor (oops, so sue me) flights to date, approximately 190 hours in the air. My favorite flight was in April this year as pilot #74 in the Guinness world record attempt at the Parastars. My longest flight was a 30 mile XC excursion last year with several other pilots. I fly 2-3 times a week with another local pilot. I'm retiring my small Silex today to make room for my bright new Airwave Sport. I can't wait to get in my first flight with it. I just love that closed cell technology! Closed nose means that's not where the sand goes! PPG flying is definitely the best form of aviation I've tried. I'll continue to fly PPG for as long as I can toss laundry and run!!
I built a training helmet with a look up mirror that lets the student keep a constant eye on the wing during kiting practice and eliminates the need to keep looking up during a take off run.
The truth is that after flying with it a few times, I really like it for everyday use! It lets me instantly verify the position and condition of my wing, giving me more confidence during low/no wind take offs and when flying in active conditions. As a bonus, I can tilt my head way back and use it to see directly behind me. No more Cessnas sneaking up on me!
I'm convinced that once a pilot tries it, he/she won't want to fly without one. The modification doesn't add any noticeable weight. The large chunk of visor that is cut out and discarded pretty much cancels out the weight of the mirror and mount.
The mirror is easily removed for cleaning or when not needed (or when you're flying with a low sun at your back, but you can just swivel it up out of the way when that happens). The ball & socket swivel lets the mirror head pop off harmlessly if you somehow catch a suspension line on it .
I started with an old Bieffe ATV helmet with removable visor and face guard. I bought mine twelve years ago for $49. You can find new ones for under $75 at Denniskirk.com. ATV helmets are great for our sport. Their affordable, comfortable, light weight and water resistant. And with a little fabricating, you can build in a radio headset that works as good as any $300 radio helmet. Just get one with a large duck bill.
For the mirror, I bought a $2 cheap at the Dollar Store. It came with a stick on mounting base.
The mirror is attached by a ball & socket swivel to a
short plastic stalk that plugs into the a mounting base (see picture below)
Fabrication was fairly quick and easy. I'm sorry I don't know the brand of the mirror but any brand with a swivel head and stick on base should work. Just make sure the mirror element is plastic, not glass! Here's the steps:
1. I covered the ends of the flat plastic mirror stalk with heat
absorbing material, then heated up a thin line in the middle of the
stalk with a hot air blower. When it became pliable, I bent the stalk at the center so the top half was angled about 60 degrees in relation to the bottom half (see mirror details picture) then taped it down until it cooled. Note: you have to bend it a little further than you need because it springs back slightly after cooling, even if you give it a tape straight jacket. If you find a mirror with a flexible metal stalk you can skip this step, but you'll probably have to shorten the stalk
considerably to eliminate vibration and to get the mirror head tight
against the visor.
2. I rough sanded then glued the mirror mounting base socket to the front bottom edge of the helmet visor with two part epoxy. Make sure you position the mount at the very front edge of the visor because if it's too far back you'll be looking cross eyed at the mirror.
3. After attaching and adjusting the mirror to look up and as far back as possible, I took a pencil and traced the edges of the view through the mirror onto the bottom surface of the visor.
4. Following the outline I drew, I cut out the visor with a razor knife
(notice the trapezoid shape due to the mirror looking through the visor at a rearward angle. I cut out more at the front of the duck bill than needed so I could swivel the mirror up out of the way into the visor hole. (see "Top picture of visor" picture).
5. Wearing the helmet, I continued trimming the edges of the visor until it was totally out of sight in the mirror. I adjusted the mirror so the top of the helmet is just slightly visible in the bottom of the view.
The 2 1/4" x 3" viewable surface of the mirror I used
lets me see the entire front half of my wing in flight without moving my head. I just have to glance up slightly above my normal line of vision.
There's enough detail to make out the center dot on my wing, but just barely. With the top half of the view made up of clear sky and the bottom half of my bright red wing, it's like a virtual horizon gauge.
On my first flight, (about #4 comfort scale conditions) I could see the wing suddenly drop backwards in my peripheral vision every time I hit a big thermal, even before I felt it in the risers. I dampen forward surges better with it because I react quicker. The only negative is a very small blind spot in my forward vision where the mirror protrudes below the visor. It's not bad since I'm looking at the mirror at less than a 45 degree angle. I plan to bend the stalk a little tighter to raise the mirror enough to be mostly within the silhouette of the visor.
I think, I can raise it a half inch more without making looking up at it
uncomfortable. I suspected that a smaller convex mirror used with one eye might be a better solution. So out of curiosity, I turned my mirror 90 degrees, orienting it vertically and looked through it with one eye while keeping an eye on the sky with the other. It worked too well. Continuously seeing two different views made me nauseous. I wonder how the Apache gunner pilots do it every day. They must be sick of it. In the horizontal position the mirror is just wide enough to look through with both eyes, allowing for depth perception. You should wear protective glasses when using the mirror. Even though it's all plastic, if it took a hard impact in flight, the mirror element could shatter into sharp pieces. Anyway, that's all.
Run fast, fly high!
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