Why would you fly a lawn chair with a kite over your head? This is a question a get all the time and here is my answer.

Published by: Paul Hamilton on 1st Dec 2017 | View all blogs by Paul Hamilton


Just yesterday I was in my hanger and the hanger next door had THE world famous P51 crew there to get this vintage P51 up and running. Their hanger door was locked and they were waiting to get in and they stuck their head into my hanger and popped the classic question: Why would you fly a lawn chair with a kite over your head? I have learned not to take offence to this but invite this as an opportunity.


I invited them into my heated hanger and started my routine (dog and pony show) with the following points:


1.      This is like a motorcycle that flies. It is NOT a real airplane and is not meant to be. I also am a CFI and DPE for airplanes and this is completely different. You are out in the open air like many vintage aircraft, such as many top pilots who learned to fly in an open cockpit.


2.      It is a completely different way of flying. You have the wing in your hand without any mechanical controls. It provides a direct connection to the wing. It simply is more fun than a typical airplane (For this audience I did add that since I have not yet flown in a P51 I suspect that would also be spectacular fun and maybe we could trade a ride).


3.      These are typically not used to go anywhere and or travel. However these have been flown around the world. Personally, I use a single engine airplane to fly to Southern California and if I want to go further I FLY IN JETS.


4.      Yes I know a flying wing is hard to understand. So far the industry has not been able to perfect the flying wing. Right now we have one of the top military stealth  B2 bomber and the trike/hang glider wing that are the current flying wings. I feel that in the future the flying wing will eventually become popular as a commercial aircraft but we shall see how long that takes.


5.      Back in the day when I was involved in Aeronautical Engineering as a consultant, I had an AH HA moment that changed my life. I was in a meeting on a project I was working on with Gordon Cooper, the famous astronaut. After this long stressful MEETING, Gordon was to take me out flying in a piper cub to convince me to join the project team. On our way out to the aircraft Gordon said “I am so glad to get out of that meeting and go flying”. I replied, “Gordon, you have flown the fastest, best, most complex aircraft in the world and a rocket into space, do you still enjoy flying a simple single engine airplane?” Gordon replied “This is what I love the most, flying for fun and enjoyment. The test flying and space flight is incredibly stressful work. I am honored to have had that opportunity.  However, I love to get back to my roots just flying for fun”. This moment changed my opinion about flying and moving up the chain to faster and more complex aircraft so I stayed with what I love. The twin engine is faster than the single engine. The jet is faster than the twin engine. The rocket is faster than the jet. There is always something  faster for almost every pilot.


6.      I was able to fly with General Nolan, the commander of Edwards Air Force Base in a trike with one of my projects flying at Edwards with the USAF Test Pilots school. It is known that General Nolan  has flown the greatest variety of ASAF aircraft testing in the world. He loved the trike and gave me the VIP tour of Edwards Air Force Base. I asked if we could land where the space shuttle landed and he got clearance to do so and we did. After that flight with the General “woody” Nolan, as he wanted me to call him, the ultralight as they wanted to call it, one of the sought after aircraft for the top USAF test pilots. Some came after to fly with me here in Tahoe for the fun of it.




The P51 group had wide eyes and silence as I paused and asked “Any questions?”




We went over some details on how the flying wing works and the rotax engine and there contact showed up to let them into the hanger. I said “Thanks for asking and looks like it is time for you to get to work”.




This is how I handle this question. Any other points of why fly a trike and thoughts about how to handle this question would be appreciated.




I would like to expend these points for the benefit of all…..




  • Larry  Mednick
    by Larry Mednick 7 months ago
    That’s really great! So true! Now let’s see if they trade you a $1200 ride for one of your $250 intro flights.
  • Jozinko Sajan
    by Jozinko Sajan 7 months ago
    Wow Paul, that's awesome! One of a "big" pilots here named our trikes as scaffold with a handkerchief over head. Some of them were screaming when we flew - because too slow flight. And some of them are trike pilots now. The big planes pilots are usually relaxing with single seat slow trikes. Or UL planes. Will they fly with you?
  • Scott Williams
    by Scott Williams 7 months ago
    Expertly crafted and well thought out. I flew for 20+ years for the Navy and it all but crushed my love of flight. Trike flying brought it back for me in abundance. Low and slow is a slogan for a reason. I have tons of eagles, hawks, buzzards and various other birds all over this bay where I live. I fly WITH them. Try that in an airplane.
  • Bill Chance
    by Bill Chance 7 months ago
    Excellent points. I have to say again it's the Peter Pan/Superman syndrome. Thinking back when you were a kid you tied a towel around your neck, stuck out your arms, ran around the yard or jumped off the roof and pretended you were flying. With a trike you can fly around the neighborhood for real and you don't have to stick out your arms. And the pixie dust is the gas in the tank.
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 7 months ago
    Great answer Paul. Incidentally, the year you flew at Edwards Airforce base in Ca, their rep had called me while I was at an airshow and asked me about trikes and where they could learn more about it. You were our closest dealer, I told the major. Supposedly, they had found a trike in Iraq that they highly suspected came from Iran to spy on US activities there and got in without being detected on the radar. I believe that is the reason why USAF wanted to learn about trikes. They military was also referred to and worked with another customer and rocket scientist Thom Lopez in Alabama just this March with 5 bladed Powerfin prop that I had to write a LOA for to test some things for them. BTW, Just FYI, the 2-blade Sensenich prop he had is definitely significantly more efficient, climbs better and gives much faster cruise than the 5 bladed prop as one would expect.
  • Daniel McNaughton
    by Daniel McNaughton 4 months ago
    Well said Paul, great comments as well underline what you say.
  • White Eagle
    by White Eagle 4 months ago
    Yes well said paul. Makes me think of when chuck yeager use to come in and chat with me at my desk at american aerolights. Heres a guy that broke the sound barrier and a ww2 ace and has flown every kind of jet you can think of including of fighting in a p51 mustang. But hes here talkin to me about his ultralight he just bought. Truth is lots of military jets are really demanding pulling gs and more gruling than fun to fly. Sometimes its more fun to relax in a gentle trout stream with a good fly rod than trying to lug in a marlin. Thats my 2 cents
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