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Richard D.

Student – Richard Dotterer

Richard

Determined Wings

My dream of flying started at a very early age.  Often I would find myself dreaming of flight and waking up disappointed that it was only a dream.  The jet pack, flying cars and even helicopters intrigued me growing up.  I grew up during a period in time when balsa wood planes with the rubber-band propeller, foam gliders, kites, solid booster rockets and control-line Cox engine planes ruled kids’ imaginations.  Along with all those goodies we as kids had, I was lucky my Uncle owned a Piper airplane. One day he flew into town and took are whole family up.  It was a day I’ll never forget!  My father also brought us to the EAA a few times and that was always a treat!

During my high school years, ultra-lights started catching my eye.  Kits were popping up all the time and the prices on these were almost cheap enough for a 16 year old kid to buy one if he saved his pennies correctly.  Well, I made a call to have a demo flight in a Challenger II ultra-light.  The flight was awesome to say the least!  It only had two seats, a pusher prop and covered in a material called Stits. The plane was so light, it had a stall speed I believe of only 15kts and took off in a matter of 50 yards! I never did purchase one for myself, but it was certainly another fond memory I held onto.  I can’t thank pilots enough who help others experience the joy of flight.  Now that I think back on that day, the pilot knew I probably wouldn’t buy, but as excited as I was, I think my enthusiasm and joy of the ride made his day.

High school neared its end, I was determined to explore flight at a new level, the Military.  I soon found myself up against a little known obstacle, color vision!  I could not pass the red and green charts complete with enough passing margin to become a pilot.  They offered other careers in aviation, but I wanted to fly a jet, a plane or even a helicopter.  I tried every branch of military, including the Coast Guard, the charts and requirements kept telling me “NO”, not going to happen!

Well, life went on and I began to think about flying again in my late 20’s.  It was in my blood or something, I just had to find a way to fly!  I decided to take a couple demo rides in a Cessna 152.  The instruction school told me I have to pass those color charts enough to obtain my privates pilot license.  So with much hesitation, I took the physical and eye tests to get my medical certificate.  I failed the color vision tests again!  It was not a big surprise but certainly pushed that thorn in my side again!  Still determined, I did some research on color vision issues.  Lone behold it was a very common problem and especially with men.  After reading many stories and talking with people, I had a couple more chances to maybe fly one day by myself!  Either I could take a light gun signal test at the control tower or see a specialist and do extensive color vision testing.  I opted to see the specialist because if you fail the light gun test, you’re done, no more chances.  The specialist determined I only had slight issues with my reds and greens, but not enough to fail my medical certificate!  HURRAY!  In 15 hours I was soloed in Madison, WI and passed my FAA check ride with about 43 hours of flight time and instruction.  One of my happiest moments in life for sure!

Recently the last few years I’ve been thinking of maybe doing some sky diving.  It was an ultimate thought to fly like a bird, just like in some of my dreams.  Also though, the last few years I’ve noticed these flying contraptions with a wing overhead and a motor strapped to the pilots back.  How cool is that I thought to myself.  Almost the same concept as sky diving and you can’t get much closer to flying with the birds or Superman much better than that! I was a little confused as to what these were called because powered parachutes (PPC’s) are a little different than what I was interested in myself.  I came to understand that what they were classified as was powered paragliders (PPG’s).  The two are very similar but one has a cage or cart you sit in while the other is foot launched only.  The wings are also different which I only assume is because one is designed to hold more weight than the other.   In essence, it’s paragliding without needing a cliff or mountain to jump off of.  Needless to say, I had to get one and now that I’m flying one, it’s about as addictive as my java! I was so concerned about the safety of them along with my own abilities and guts to actually fly one.  Can I really fly one of these, I asked myself.  The old adage goes, if you put your mind to anything, it can be done! The gliders and the sport of flying these are as safe as you make it.  Would the average person say, “Let’s go driving on thin ice all day”; well you get my point.  There is a time and a place for everything.  Doing it safely depends on getting proper training, learning the does and don’ts and plan old common sense.
I have to say, it’s one of the most rewarding challenges in life I’ve taken.  Let’s go fly!

The Training!

A wing and a motor is nothing without someone to teach you how to use it safely and confidently.  Bill Stoll with Wisconsin Powered Paragliding LLC has given me every tool in his power to get me flying.  I must say, if he ever had a problem student, scared student, no time student and maybe next time student, it was me!  If he sees you want to fly, he is one instructor who has more tools and ideas than your average person.  Wisconsin Powered Paragliding LLC also uses a training syllabus from USPPA and helps as a guide to cover your training from A to Z.  Picking the right instructor for you is very important.  I can’t speak enough for Bill and all the other talented and experienced trainers in this sport.  The friendships and comradery in the PPG community is just very refreshing!  Thanks for your help, patience and commitment to my safety and the ultimate reward of my passion to fly a PPG!

Richard Dotterer – Menasha, WI

Check out some of Richards videos on his You Tube Channel!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3Ukie8ex8GiVvuE9cyadeQ/videos

Rich Dotterer – PPG Flight Winter Lake Winnebago, WI