Floating with nary a care in the world.

Powered Parachutes offer a safe, affordable opportunity to explore the world from a new angle.

By David Humphrey Correspondent
Anderson, Ind. -- 

When Bruce Prittchett returns to his Edgewood home after a hard day's work, he doesn't watch television or read books to unwind, instead, he and his wife, Ruth, take their powered parachute to the sky for some fun and relaxation.

"It's the greatest thing in the world," said Bruce, praising the unusual aircraft as safe, easy to fly and affordable. "I try to fly whenever I can, usually before and after work."

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year ago when he read a magazine article about powered parachutes. He was intrigued by the flying machine, which is classified as an ultralight aircraft, and asked his wife if they could buy their own.

"I told Bruce that if I could fly it, too, then we could get one," she recalls. " It turned out to be a fun and good investment."

The Pritchetts' Buckeye Powered Parachute came from Nebraska, though it had it's pulleys upgraded at Buckeye Industries in Argos, Ind. It has a gas-powerd , two stroke, 65-horsepower engine, and is the same kind of machine once owned by the late John F Kennedy Jr. JFK Jr. bought his Buckeye Powered Parachute in Argos. Buckeye Industries is operated by a family there.

"I was there (in Argos) the day that his plane was reported missing," Bruce said. "The town was abuzz about the news. I believe had he stayed with flying ultralights, Kennedy may still be alive today. "Ultralights are far safer than operating airplanes or hot air balloons. If your engine ever fails while you are in flight, the parachute will allow your craft to float safely to the ground."

Buckeye Powered Parachutes cost in the vicinity of $9,000 to $15,000. A throttle controls the flying machine, with steering controls at the pilot's feet. Powered parachutes run up to three hours on a tank of gas at a maximum speed of 26 mph. Safety regulations require pilots and passengers helmets with headsets.

"I have a CB radio, "Bruce said, "and talk to truckers while I'm in the air." Truck drivers pepper him with questions about his craft. "which I'm more than happy to answer."

The Pritchetts fly out of the old Ace Airport on the Anderson's south-side, and also use a Frankton air field.

Bruce obtained his BFI (basic flight instructor) license after training last year under Butch Mood, who flies and teaches near Danville. This included 25 hours of flight time followed by three types of tests. With his BFI license, Pritchett can take passengers on his two seat powered parachute trainer and give flying lessons.

Recently, Bruce took Steve Cambridge of Indianapolis for his first ride. The two met at Healthx.com an Internet-related Anderson firm where Pritchett is employed and Cambridge serves as a media consultant. "I feel more secure in the ultralight than when I went up in a hot air balloon," Cambridge said. "Bruce took us up to 1,000 feet and I felt pretty safe. A little turbulence here and there, but otherwise it was really great." Pritchett's better half is his favorite student, of course.

"I can fly solo," Ruth Pritchett said, "until I get my BFI. Then I will be able to take passengers with me. There are so many things I love about flying ultralights, including sunsets. Sometimes in the evening when the sun is going down, it looks like you can actually fly into it. "But my greatest experience came last Christmas. I was flying late in the evening and saw all of these beautiful Christmas lights below me. I love to fly in warm weather, but am looking forward to this Christmas season. From the air, the scenery is breathtaking." The view from below isn't so bad, either. Whenever motorists see the Pritchetts' colorful flying machine hovering above the old airstrip, they stop to take a look.

"People in general are intrigued by aircraft, hot air balloons, and anything that flies," Bruce said. "I personally love the ultralight and fly it year round, weather permitting. Sometimes we fly with friends and occasionally meet them in the sky. "I honestly cannot wait for tomorrow to get here so I can go up again."