Terry Williamson uses his powered parachute as a hobby and gives rides to friends.
A brightly colored parachute moved through the evening sky over Pratt Sunday night. But this was no skydiver returning to earth. This parachute had an engine and a couple of passengers. Terry Williamson flies a powered parachute and took a couple of friends for a ride between Pratt Regional Airport and the north side of Pratt.
Williamson’s parachute is red, white and blue and supports a metal frame that has the engine with a propeller and two seats, one for passenger and one for pilot.
Ulanda Jackman, a friend of Williamson, had said she would like to go for a ride some time. So when Williamson sent her a message saying he was going flying, Jackman jumped at the chance and headed to the airport.
“I told him if he was flying I wanted to go. When he called I said ‘I’m on my way,’” Jackman said. Williamson was already giving Josh Teets a ride and they had flown from the airport to Pratt, flown over the northeast part of town including Greenlawn Cemetery then headed back to the airport. After landing, Williamson reset the lines for the parachute as Jackman arrived.
After some brief instructions, Williamson helped Jackman get in and get the safety harness correctly in place. Then he gave her some earphones because the seats are directly in front of the engine and it’s very loud, Williamson said.
The frame is open all the way around so it’s completely open to the weather. The engine revved up and the machine moved ahead causing the parachute to jump off the ground to its overhead position. After just a few feet, there was a very smooth lift off and they took off for a flight south of the airport.After several minutes, the craft returned to the airport and made a smooth landing just off the taxi way.
After Williamson helped Jackman unbuckle and get her feet back on the ground, Jackman was excited about her first trip in a powered parachute.
“It was fun,” Jackman said. “It’s very peaceful up there. It was a blast.”
The powered parachute has a 65 mph motor. The parachute is 30 feet wide and has 88 lines that connect to the frame that weighs a total of 460 pounds including the engine.
Williamson said he can fly for about two hours and 20 minutes. He spent about half that flying Sunday evening and had used about a half tank of fuel. His maximum speed that trip was 42 mph and low speed was 20 mph. He usually flies at his cruising speed of 34 mph.
Because of the design of the aircraft, wind is a very important factor. He will fly in wind up to 15 mph but no more. That’s the highest wind speed he feels comfortable with.
“I like to fly comfortable,” Williamson said. “It’s supposed to be for comfort and enjoyment.”
Williamson has a sport pilots license. He took 50 hours of training both in the air and on the ground. He started flying in 2009 with flight instructors Johnny Borst and Jerry Clarkson.
While some people like to golf or go horse back riding or other activities to relax, it’s the powered parachute that is Williamson’s favorite.
“This is my thing,” Williamson said. “It’s relaxing. It’s fun.”
This is his second aircraft. He had 150 flight hours on his first machine and has 20 on his current machine.
At the end of the day as the sun was getting low in the sky, Williamson again reset the 88 lines for his journey home where he has a small landing strip.
He put on his safety harness, adjusted his head gear then started the engine and with another very short takeoff, lifted gently off the tarmac and banked left as he headed off into the evening sky after another evening flight under his brightly colored red, white and blue parachute.