Man finds freedom in unique machine

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 29, 2003

CHESAPEAKE - At first glance, it looks like a souped-up dune buggy with a big pack attached to the back of it. It often rates a puzzled stare from those passing by the Lawrence County Airpark.

But to its owner Jean Gill, of Burlington, it is "like riding on a magic carpet."

"It" is a powered parachute - a gasoline powered ultra-light aircraft that takes off and lands much like standard airplanes, cruises at a speed of 26 miles an hour. It has no shell - only a tubular steel frame, leaving the occupant exposed to wind, weather. According to Gill and other enthusiasts, it offers an incredible view.

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"It can be a bit bumpy when it's windy, but at 30 mph it's as smooth as it can be," Gill said. "And you can see everything on the ground."

Gill has been flying his powered parachute since 1998. He now gives lessons to those who want to learn to fly one on their own. Gill said he purchased his powered parachute from Kentucky Powered Parachutes in Ashland, Ky. The average cost is $16,000.

While he has seen few powered parachutes in Lawrence County, he said

about a dozen enthusiasts in Boyd County, Ky.,

have an ultra light aircraft. They use a strip of land near the Paul Coffee Industrial Park to take off and land.

Friday, he gave friends Wanda and Mike Moore of Kissimmee, Fla., a ride on his powered parachute.

"It was great," Wanda Moore said after she landed. "I just wanted to see what it was like and I loved it. I would do it again."