Johnson Qu, Class Q Airspace
Johnson Qu is a witty intellectual, USPPA-rated paramotor instructor, avid one-wheeler, electrical engineer, and all-around smart person with a penchant for curiosity, adventure, secrecy, and petty acts of mischief — you probably wouldn't believe some of the stuff this cool nerd has done or gotten away with. Case in point: it's a little-known fact that Johnson was Jackie Chan's PPG stunt double in the movie Operation Condor 2: Armor of God.
There are a few hints toward where Johnson's aviation dreams originated. At age 5, someone gifted him a set of US military aircraft fact cards. Over the years, he constantly flipped between the various jets, from the F-14 Tomcat to the SR-71 Blackbird, looking over the numbers from middle hardpoints to extended fuel ranges. When friends and family visited, they probably would've been educated on the differences between the 'lame' radar-locked AIM-7 Sparrow missiles compared to the 'cool' heat-seeking AIM-9 Sidewinders.
While Johnson was an electrical engineering student at Harvey Mudd College, the perfect storm of events came together: The sunny climate of Southern California introduced to him the world of 'adventure sports'. Week-long adventures in the high alpine, downhill longboarding, various martial arts, and parkour became the preferred method of stress relief from the firehose of academia. With each, he found that there was a focus on optimizing the gear to progress in the sport, while complimenting it to how it would best fit personal muscle memory preferences and development. As Johnson explains, "Just because the longboard he bought was one of the top pieces of gear on the market, didn't mean the rider was any good the first day he got on it". Over the years, he went between different boards, and after becoming the lead student machinist, he crafted a board heavily inspired by aerospace, made only with 2024 alloys and carbon fiber he had heard about touring Scaled Composites and Edwards Air Force Base.
Much to Johnson's regret, although there used to be a joint Aeronautical Engineering and Pilots License-granting degree program, that curriculum was no longer offered. His focus turned to systems engineering, but alumni of the college's aviation program were generous enough to pass on the staff. Johnson became president of the Barnstormers Club, and racked up a few hours in anything he could get his hands on. Between cranking a turn that spilled drinks in the cabin of a Cessna Citation, and multiple thermalling trips in a DG-1000 sailplane, Johnson imagined an aircraft with flight controls which were paired with human instinct. Around the same time, Johnson's interest was piqued when he discovered a video of a man flying a fabric wing under a bridge being propelled by a backpack fan. After turning to Google, Johnson did what he had always done over the years — committed the stats of the various paramotor models he researched to memory. However, he also left himself a mental note to find a path towards learning how to fly one in the next place he would call home.
Fast forward a few years, Johnson moved to the Boston area where he found himself kiting relentlessly, racking up hours wrenching on two strokes, and discovering all the disciplines the sport of paramotoring had opened to him. A few years into his flying, his friends encouraged him to sign up for a USPPA instructor clinic. From there a new priority was born, and Johnson formed his own school, Class Q Airspace. Always on the lookout for a new flying adventure, Johnson completed the 2017 Icarus-X Florida race (where he spent the night at an alligator farm), and has participated in countless training sessions between his home in Massachusetts, California, Florida, South Carolina, and Costa Rica. As he was quoted in this article, Johnson explains, "This is one of the few sports where you have to learn through success." As such, Johnson's goal is to accelerate the continuous progression of not only his own skills, but also the skills of anyone who wishes to learn from him.