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Published: Saturday, 8/11/2001

Paragliders power up for meeting in Perrysburg

Don Jordan of Indiana takes to the skies over Perrysburg Township with his paraglider. Don Jordan of Indiana takes to the skies over Perrysburg Township with his paraglider.

The gentle morning breeze smells faintly of fresh-cut grass mixed with something like the fumes of a lawnmower.

A motor sputters to life. Footsteps pound for several strides, then the hum of the motor trails off, fading upward.

It's a quiet Wednesday morning on Roachton Road in Perrysburg Township, but the wind is whistling in Bruce Brown's ears.

He's flying.

He hasn't grown wings. He's not in an airplane. With a two-stroke motor similar to that of a lawnmower strapped to his back and a paraglider fanned out above him, Mr. Brown is definitely flying - power paragliding, to be exact.

“It's like that dream we've all had when you're flying through the air,” Mr. Brown said. “This is it.”

More than 30 people from across the United States are in town this weekend for a “fly-in” - a get-together for powered paragliding enthusiasts, which Mr. Brown organized. Gliders will take off from a field on Roachton near Hull Prairie Road in Perrysburg Township. Early morning and early evening are prime powered paragliding hours.

Some attendees participated in a safety seminar Thursday, while others came for the camaraderie of other powered paragliding enthusiasts.

“I'm a regular guy, really,” Mr. Brown said, the small propeller-motor on his back, a helmet fitting snugly to his head, and a brightly colored parachute trailing behind him. He looks like a cross between an exterminator and a superhero.

While extremely popular in Europe and Japan, powered paragliding has caught on in the United States only in the last 10 years. About 700 people nationwide power paraglide, according to Greg Anderson, president of United States Powered Paragliding Association, based in Los Angeles.

The Federal Aviation Administration regulates powered paragliders as ultralight vehicles and designates that they may be operated only during daylight hours and within certain altitudes.

Powered paragliders, which generally cost about $7,500, do not need to be registered, nor do operators of powered paragliders need any training or certification to fly legally. Without any training, however, it would be difficult to get off the ground, according to Mr. Brown, owner of Ohio Powered Paragliding in Perrysburg.

Several organizations in the United States certify flight instructors, including Aero Sports Connection in Marshall, Mich. People come from around the country to spend a week learning how to power paraglide from Mr. Brown, who is a certified instructor.

Before landing, the motor cuts out and Mr. Brown seems to be moving all too quickly toward the ground. The paraglider - similar to a parachute - shudders a moment before Mr. Brown is softly deposited standing on the ground, his paraglider billowing down behind him.

“It's as close to flying like a bird as you can get,” he said.

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