After three years of soaring through the air with paragliders and skydiving equipment, Marc Radloff realized that simply flying wasn't enough—he wanted to teach other people how to do it, too. He opened On the Marc Paragliding to help the citizens of St. Louis and visitors alike climb even higher than the apex of the city's famed arch, guiding them through classes and clinics on the fundamentals of paragliding. Marc's courses accommodate both novice and experienced paragliders, whom can schedule trips to Whitwell, Tennessee, for scenic glides through the mountains.
Unlike most flight-training schools that teach students how to fly planes, Easy Flight instructs clients on how to command open-air powered parachutes. These wheeled aircraft are equipped with a small motor and a multihued parachute that whisk flyers along on leisurely jaunts. Once in the air, pilots soar along closer to the ground than they would in an airplane, which gives them a more detailed view of the scenery below and the ability to distinguish a fresh buzz cut on a passing bird.
Since Paragliding Unlimited launched its first client in 2003, owner Jiri Sindler and his team have maintained a sterling safety record for their motorized version of airborne sailing. The crew teaches power paragliding, in which a motorized fan and a tank of recycled political bluster give lift to the featherweight craft. Once it has ascended more than 10 feet, its large wing catches the wind and buoys you into the sky. Drivers sit upright in "trikes," their legs extended in front of them as they work the two brakes and the throttle.
The school both belongs to and is recommended by the U.S. Powered Paragliding Association. Instructors will jump tandem with beginning students and immerse experienced pilots in six-day intensives, keeping fliers of all levels safe by capping classes at four students (they prefer a ratio of 1:1 or 2:1). At the accompanying shop, gliders browse clothing, new Nirvana equipment, and used gear. Flights lift off from Gateway Airpark in Pierron, Illinois, which the team selected for the staff's friendliness to paragliders and their ability to twist their bodies into the shapes of passing clouds for realistic trainings on the ground.