BeachBlast 2015: PPG event in Panama City Beach FL

by FlyingMonkey | May 21, 2015 | (6) Posted in News

One thing is pretty common among all RC pilots, is that most of us have an appreciation for all forms of aviation.  Many of us would love to put ourselves into the air, but for whatever reason, RC is the closest we think we can get.  I’ve found myself training to fly something called a Powered ParaGlider, or a PPG (more information about my personal journey can be found here).  You might see them referred to as paramotors, or PPC’s which stands for Powered Parachute.  This is the same thing as a ParaGlider, but utilizes a frame with wheels to roll instead of having to run to take off.


Excited as I am about this new hobby/sport, I recently attended the 2015 paramotor fly in event in Panama City Beach called Beach Blast.




Facebook page:


It was fun, exciting, and confusing.  People from all around the world attended the event to fly their aircraft along our sugar white sand beaches, to meet and greet with fellow PPG pilots and to set up shop as vendors.  I got to see lots of interesting equipment, see some people fly, meet some folks, and have a very memorable experience.  I also bought some gear, visited the vendor tents, and was left bewildered as to why some of them were there.


I'll start with my confusion (and semi rant).  There were several vendors set up.  I am guessing they paid extra to set up as vendors, as it common at events.  Considering this I was at a loss as to how badly they advertized their businesses.  The typical vendor booth consisted of an EzUp style canopy tent with their business logo on it somehow, a table, an assortment of motors/frames, and a sales rep or two.  That was it.  One had some other associated gear, but no prices, and no sign of extra stock, so you weren't sure if it was for sale, or display only.  It seemed the sales reps did not go out of their way to talk to you, unless you were trying to buy one of the motors.

The reason why this left me so perplexed is that from visiting most of the vendor's sites online, I know that they offer a wide variety of products and services.  Many offer training through their business; some of them even have their own training facilities at which you can stay while you learn to fly.  There were a few exceptions , but for the most part you wouldn't have any idea of this just by looking at their tents.  The vendors certainly didn't seem to bring any details about their facilities if you poked your head in.  It seemed strange to me to go to the trouble of setting up at an event like this, and not take full advantage of the audience that was right there in front of them.

If a new motor combo wasn't in your budget, you might have found some of the used ones for sale to better suit your budget.  There were several available.

The event was held at a resort on the coast, that had an amazing swimming deck with pools and hot tubs build into the ground.  This area had a great view of the beach, which had a huge area of sand perfect for launching and landing the paramotors.  There was a restaurant and a pizza place right on the event grounds.  There was also a vendor there that was doing custom airbrushed t-shirts for reasonable (for a resort) prices. 

While I had my list of complaints about the vendors, they did have a good selection of the motors and frames.  It was great to be able to see a wide variety of equipment that you could pick up and try on.  There’s quite a few differences between models, such as weight, how easily they break down for transport, motor sizes and aesthetic styles.

One of the better parts of the event was getting to watch the many pilots flying.  You had a wide variety of styles from the guys who liked to climb up and fly lazy patterns, to the ones who got into the air and disappeared to the east as they did some short cross country flights, to the guys who fly to the extreme, and get up as high as they can, so they can do aerobatics almost all the way back down to the water.

I got to meet some interesting people, including one guy who overheard me mentioning Flite Test, and came over to say hi.  He’s a fan, flies FPV, and while he really enjoys the show, he claimed to not know who FlyingMonkey is.  <Sigh>  


Another part of the event that I enjoyed was some of the t-shirts folks were wearing...



By far the best part of the event for me was a booth run by Rob Catto.  Rob has created the Virtual Footflyer PPG simulator.  It was interesting.  You crawl into a real flying harness, and then Rob puts the Oculus goggles over your face.  He then puts the ear muffs on, and guides your hands to the controls.  I can say that the experience was the most immersive virtual reality I have ever encountered.  The realism was so convincing that as I was gaining altitude inside the simulator, I felt an actual sense of fear of heights.   The interesting thing was that the fear went away when I realized I was in control of the flight, not because I rationalized that it wasn’t real.  This was a confidence booster because I do wonder how I’ll handle the fear, and flying.


The Virtual Footflyer Facebook page is here:

If a new motor combo wasn't in your budget, you might have found some of the used ones for sale to better suit your budget.  There were several available.


All in all, the event was amazing.  I really enjoyed watching the pilots get to fly.  Seeing so many styles of motors and frames in person was exciting.  There are no showrooms for these items in the area that I know of.  The simulator gave me a boot in the behind to get back to training so I can get to experience the flying for real, and not just through a computer program.  I fully intend to return to the event next year, not as a spectator, but hopefully as a pilot!


Bellows on May 22, 2015
Sounds like you had a great time at the beach blast. My wife and I flew a powered parachute for 15 years and many exciting fun adventures and met many wonderful friends through this sport. The vendor attitude rings true from what I've seen at other ultralight, and sport pilot events like Sun & Fun. It seems like business is not the top priority. You really have to seek out these guys if you want info.Pilots get top priority and that is only after actually flying and caring for the machines. Strange but true.
Log In to reply
FlyingMonkey on May 22, 2015
It was overall a great experience. I don't understand the mentality of spending the time and money to get a vendor spot, then not use it to it's fullest. Maybe they're making so much money already that they don't need new customers?
Log In to reply
Battershell on May 28, 2015
Log In to reply
FlyingMonkey on May 29, 2015
Full scale aviation. RC is the gateway drug...
Log In to reply
Battershell on May 29, 2015
Ahhhhh..... Gotcha. Great answer! Enjoy.
Log In to reply
LetsFlyRC on June 1, 2015
You look like an oversized Dragonfly with that thing on your back, Fred. Lol :)

Log In to reply
FlyingMonkey on June 1, 2015
And I felt like a giant turtle whose shell blew away. ;)

Log In to reply

You need to log-in to comment on articles.

BeachBlast 2015: PPG event in Panama City Beach FL