Ben takes to the skis in a compact aerochute…. And he even flies it himself!
The aerochute was invented in the UK in 1985 as a light transportable machine for military use. Easy to store and carry, it is able to take off from a small area.
Climbing and descending is controlled by using power through a foot throttle. Steering toggles are used to turn left and right. Landing is achieved by backing off power and flaring the parachute just above the ground.
Stephen Conte is an ex-plumber and saw a single-seater aerochute in the UK, and was so impressed he went on to design and build his own dual version. It was approved in 1992 and manufacturing commenced.
The aerochute dual is a two-seater powered parachute and is virtually stall and spin resistant. In the case of engine failure it lands safely like a parachute.
It is used for leisure flying, sport enthusiasts, adventurers and farmers for checking properties and mustering stock. To earn a licence from the Australian Ultralight Federation, the pilot needs to clock up 20 hours but usually between three and five hours is all that's needed before a novice can fly solo.
A trial instruction flight lasts 15-20 minutes. Stephen takes students up and lets them try the controls. He then takes them on a low pass over the field and they practice touchdowns and take-offs. It is fairly noisy in the aerochute so an intercom system is used to communicate.
The flights are done on private property and you can see the Youyangs, the Melbourne skyline and sometimes an early morning balloon silently floats by.
Weather permitting, they fly year round, though the best season is from April to July and 7am –11am is the best time of day.