Student Gets A Set Of Wings

Tuesday, April 15th 2008, 7:02 pm
By: News On 6

Paragliding instructor Ken Johnston wouldn't be able to fly his paraglider from the sod farms in Bixby without this handy invention, the paramotor.

"Now everybody that doesn't have a mountain to jump off can still get in the air with a paragliding wing just by strapping a motor to their back," said paragliding instructor Ken Johnston.

"It's a wing over your head and a motor on your back," said student Joe Klerekoper.
Klerekoper has never flown with a motor on his back.

"It's been great, I met Ken Johnston and he instructs and has been real friendly, helpful and patient with me, just teaching me how to fly the wing. And now, I'm ready to fly the motor and the wing," said Klerekoper.

Johnston is enthusiastic about Klerekoper as a pilot.

"My student is a great student," said Johnston. "He's gung-ho, which is what I like. He likes to come out and practice on his own. This will be hopefully his first flight, if everything goes well. We're very particular on first flights because of the unfamiliarity of take-offs and landings with a motor."

According to the United States Powered Paragliding Association, "Paramotoring is possibly the safest form of personal flight ever devised." But, it is still aviation and does have inherent risks, which Ken points out to all his students.

"Flying is fabulous. You get up in the air. You can turn the engine off and glide around for a while. Close to the ground is the most fun; touch-and-go's, low passes, things like that," said Ken Johnston.

But, right now Klerekoper's just thinking about the basics.

"Ground control; learning to fly the wing on the ground. You fly it side to side, and up and back, and just keeping the wing up there and keeping it where you want it," said Klerekoper.

As Klerekoper is about to fly with the motor, he's excited and feels ready to give it a try. But, like anything, practice makes perfect. Klerekoper crashed moments after take-off.

"Didn't feel much; I wasn't in the air long. I felt it going sideways. I thought ‘well, I'm up.' Then, I wasn't. So, it didn't hurt or anything. It just kind of happened all at once,"
said Klerekoper.

With only dirty jeans and a broken prop, Klerekoper is still intent on flying another day.

"Almost all students do that in their first ten to twenty flights," said Johnston.

By Chris Howell, Video Journalist. Find more of his stories in our Web Exclusives section.