You feel balanced. Picture yourself flying high in the sky, leaving all of your worries behind. You adjust into torpedo position as you prepare for launch. But not so fast! This is how to start paramotoring 101…
When you make the decision to begin paramotoring, it might be tempting to go ahead and purchase everything that you need for your first launch. This is a common mistake among beginners, but one that could be easily avoided.
Before even inquiring about equipment or anything else that is related to paramotoring, you must ensure that paramotoring is something that you enjoy. Paramotoring doesn’t have to be your passion, but you should be confident that you will enjoy your journey to the skies before punching a dent into your savings with the purchase of necessary equipment. This is a reasonable precaution because of the simple fact that paramotoring can be a daunting practice for anyone who has never had the pleasure of experiencing the defiance of gravity so freely.
#1 Get a tandem flight before you start
Not quite sure if paramotoring is for you? One of the best ways to figure this out is with a tandem flight. In a tandem flight, you would go aboard a paramotor with a pilot. Though this experience is not identical to flying a paramotor on your own, it can help you decide if this sport is something that you truly enjoy.
There is, however, a drawback to getting a tandem flight. Most of the companies that offer tandem flights charge up to $200 on a tandem flight! For this price, you are almost guaranteed to fly on a tandem flight with an experienced pilot.
These tandem flights can last for about 20 minutes, or as long as you would like them to last. And if you get lucky, the pilot of your tandem flight may allow you to operate some of the controls! At the most, you would simply have to participate in a short run in order to launch the paramotor. Through this experience, you will not only see if you enjoy paramotoring, but you may also be able to familiarize yourself with the technicalities of paramotoring.
#2 Learn the basics of aerodynamics first
Hopefully, after your tandem flight, you discovered that paramotoring is the perfect sport for you. It can be a fun and rewarding experience for anyone who takes pride in this sport.
Yet before you go any further, you should become familiar with the basics of aerodynamics, which is the study of forces and the resulting movement of objects throughout the air.
It is essential to understand that numerous forces will affect the paramotor as it’s flying. The paramotor will constantly be pulled down because of gravity while being simultaneously pulled up by the force of lift. Furthermore, the propeller is pushing you along while the force of drag is pulling you back in the opposite direction. These forces are best summed up here:
How it works…
- Lift is the result of differences in pressure. As a wing of the paramotor moves forward, air enters above and below the wing. The air that is traveling above the wing must travel further, and thus, travels much faster. The wing also deflects air downwards. The air above the wing is then guided along its surface and down by the Coandă effect. Evidently, the air is slowed by the wing, pushing it up and back. This creates both lift and drag and is in accordance with Newton’s Third Law of Motion.
- When the propeller pushes the paramotor along, a force called thrust is created. This force can be controlled by the hand-held throttle.
- The design of a paramotor increases the drag of the machine. Therefore, most wings will have a cruising speed of about 30 mph.
There is also the presence of pitch and roll movements that you should be aware of before taking charge of your own paramotor. The wing can be moved either forward or backward, depending on whether you wish to ascend or descend. This movement of the wing is called pitch. Roll is the term for when the wing moves side to side, pushing the paramotor to the left or to the right. In simpler terms, pitch refers to vertical movement of the paramotor and roll refers to horizontal movement.
You might experience pitch and roll when you hit a batch of lumpy air, as paramotors are sensitive to turbulence. You may also strangely feel like a pendulum, swinging from side to side. This is normal and can usually be fixed with a tap on the brake.
#3 Look for a school or an instructor
Naturally, the next step for you would be to locate a school or an instructor to receive your training. Training is crucial for a beginner because it will reduce your risk of injury or equipment damage when you eventually hop into a paramotor unaccompanied.
When finding a school or an instructor, you want to be confident that you will be adequately trained. You should navigate to the United States Powered Paragliding Association (USPPA) website to find certified schools or instructors. Before visiting their website, decide whether you want to go to a school for training or if you would like an instructor. The difference here is that you can either go to a school with a certified instructor or simply find an independently-certified instructor in your area.
Once you have made that decision, you should head to the USPPA website and navigate to the “Flight School Directory” or the “Instructor Directory.” Schools on the directory have at least 1 USPPA instructor.
If you go to the Flight School Directory, you can select a state or province where you want to pursue your training. Once you select the state/province, you will be presented with a list of schools in your area that are approved by the USPPA. From here, you can head to one of their websites to inquire about attending that school for your paramotor training.
Finding the right instructor
If you go to the Instructor Directory on the USSPA site, you will see a quite lengthy list of instructors that are certified with the USSPA. As you scroll through, you might want to take notice of the ratings of many of the instructors. You can click on each instructor to see which of them operate near you. Alternatively, you can input your state/province for a list of the available instructors as you would have done if you were looking for a school.
Finding the right instructor for you could be difficult. Before looking into training, make sure to understand that aviation training is expensive, so you should cancel out any thoughts you might have about getting training at a cheap cost. When searching for an instructor, always make sure that the instructor is adequately certified. If an instructor is not certified, you should not risk completing your training with them.
Now, if you’ve found someone that you are seriously considering to be your instructor,
here’s some advice on properly vetting that candidate:
- Take note of whether the instructor acts in a professional manner (answering phone calls and all of your questions).
- Attempt to see if you can build a rapport with that instructor. You want to be able to constantly be in conversation with your instructor during training so that you maximize learning.
During training with the instructor, you should confirm that they are safe to work with. If you ever feel that they could potentially put you in a dangerous situation, your best bet would be to find a new instructor who puts safety first.
#4 Avoid buying equipment before you start
It would be wise to hold off on buying equipment until after your training for a few reasons. First, understand that equipment for paramotoring can cost you thousands of dollars.
During training, you will get a good feel for your skill level and the type of equipment that best suits you. Before investing thousands in equipment, you should have some experience. The experience that you gain from training will also help you make good decisions when it comes to purchasing the right equipment because you will be familiar with some technical terminology and the nitty-gritty of the paramotor itself.
Without experience, you can potentially waste thousands of dollars if that piece of equipment does not work for you.
To sum it all up: don’t go out and buy the equipment until you have some experience with the paramotor and you have identified your use, needs, and skill level.
#5 Make educated purchases
Begin your search process of purchasing appropriate equipment by answering these questions:
- How often will you be paramotoring?
- Will you do it competitively or for fun?
- Would you consider yourself a beginner, intermediate, or expert user of the equipment that you may purchase?
These questions are essential because they help you define exactly what equipment you should be looking for. For example, if you are looking to fly competitively, you don’t want to purchase wings or a paramotor that are made for beginners. You would want to purchase a new piece of equipment that will give you that extra push in a future competition.
On the other hand, you may view paramotoring as a minor hobby that you look to utilize occasionally. With this vision in mind, you may want to consider purchasing used or more inexpensive equipment that you can still get quality use out of.
Buy the right equipment
After you complete your training, you might be eager to buy equipment. But this process can be tedious because you want to spend your money on products that are affordable, durable, and long-lasting.
When looking to purchase a paramotor, you should look for the newest ones. Before purchasing one, make sure that the paramotor has a strong frame and is light enough for you to carry with a full tank of fuel. You should also choose an engine that can provide the necessary thrust given your weight.
The best beginner wings are EN-A certified. This ensures that they are easy to launch and are stable in the air. You should also check that those wings can support your weight, in addition to the added weight of the paramotor and any other accessories.
You may also want to invest in a ground handling harness, a helmet, ear defenders, a windsock, and a pole. Though these are simply accessories to the paramotor, they are essential for a safe and stable ride on your machine.
Pros and cons of buying used equipment
In almost all sports, many people look to buy used equipment for obvious reasons. Generally, used equipment is cheaper than new equipment and can sometimes offer the same, high quality of new equipment.
However, if you are going to purchase used equipment for paramotoring, you should buy equipment that is no more than five years old with less than 80 hours on it.
You should also complete a thorough inspection of the piece of used equipment that you are considering to purchase. Check to see if the equipment has been cared for since it was originally purchased. The biggest concern here is that this equipment is ready for use and will last long after you purchase it.
Pros and cons of buying new equipment
Many people also opt to buy new paramotoring equipment because of the possible liabilities with used equipment. There are some obvious pros and cons of buying new equipment, especially if you’re only a beginner.
The biggest problem with new equipment is the price. You will pay a lot of money for the brand new equipment and you will constantly be worried about the nagging possibility of damaging it.
However, there are some benefits to purchasing new equipment. For one thing, it’s brand new! You will be assured of the quality of it because you are the first owner. If you decide to purchase equipment from your local instructor or dealer, you will also be supporting their work in the community.
There’s also a long-term benefit to buying new equipment. If you look to the future, it would be reasonable to say that you won’t be using that same piece of equipment in a few years. Therefore, you could sell the equipment at a good price to someone who is looking for used equipment. You can potentially earn back half of the money that you spent on it years ago!
How to start paramotoring (FAQ)
How long can a flight last on one tank of gas? That would last you for up to three hours.
What type of gas should I use? The same gas that you use in your car mixed with two strokes of oil.
How far can I fly? You can usually fly up to 40 miles, but the distance may vary.
How long does it take to launch? Anywhere between five and 15 minutes.
Do I need a license?
Though you must follow all aviation laws, you do not need a license to operate a paramotor. It is truly an unlicensed thrill. However, proper training is required to fly and navigate airspace that has become increasingly crowded. With paramotoring, the real danger is to anyone who is not operating the machine.
Paramotors are a type of powered paragliders, which are included in the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR), Part 103. Powered paragliders are also mentioned in the Notices to Airmen, part 91. For your reference, powered paragliders fall into the category of “Ultralights” in the aforementioned regulations.
You should briefly review those documents to ensure that when you operate your paramotor, you are doing legally and safely Here is a list of the documents that you should review before riding your machine:
- Preamble to FAR Part 103, which explains the FAA’s reasoning behind their regulations.
- FAR Part 103, which is the rules for ultralights in the United States.
- FAA Advisory Circular 103-7, which provides guidance to operators of ultralights.
- FAR Part 91, where you will find some other regulations that are applicable to ultralights.
Is paramotoring safe?
Like many other aviation sports, paramotoring has its risks. People have been seriously injured while paramotoring because they crashed into wires or other poles. This usually happens when someone is in the danger zone, which is anywhere below 200 feet above ground. So when operating a paramotor, it’s best to look in all directions when turning and to turn with the desired brake pressure.
However, paramotoring is arguably the safest form of personal flight ever created. In paramotoring, the pilot hangs from an open parachute, drastically increasing the safety of it compared to other aviation machines.
Studies show that the greatest risk of injury actually occurs before flying takes place. It seems that encounters with the propeller of the paramotor create great risks for injury. With each failed attempt to start the machine, you become more complacent and more at risk. So make sure that you are holding the frame in a ready position to accept full power in order to avoid serious injury.
What do I do if the engine stops running, while I’m in the air?
This is, perhaps, a pilot’s worst nightmare. This scenario may disturb you, too, because of the logic that if the engine stops running, you will propel downward to land. But rest assured, because the paramotor is fully equipped to deal with this situation.
The engine on the machine is only used to go up. If the engine happens to shut off or if you turn it off, you will eventually land safely because you are flying with an open parachute.
You can even try to restart the engine of the paramotor while you’re in the air. A small tug on the pull starter rope would restart the engine.
How fast can I fly?
Many people just assume that powered paragliders do not have the power to fly at high speeds. But this is a common misconception.
Paramotors can safely fly up to 60 mph! Although most flying is done under 500 feet, powered paragliders can reach 24,00 feet. They are most commonly flown at a speed of between 20-30 mph. The paramotor does, however, have a slow forward speed and a naturally soft wing. Given this, they aren’t safe to be flown in turbulence, gusty winds, or intense thermal activity.
What is the best time in the day to start flying?
This is an important question because certain times of the day could prevent you from flying a paramotor safely. They should be operated in light wind conditions (up to 10 mph). This light airplane does not react well to high winds and can put you in a potentially dangerous situation.
It is best to start flying in the morning and in the late afternoon. The mid-day skies are usually too rough to fly in. However, beach flying could represent an exception to this fact as long as the air is not disturbed by the ocean as it is by the land.
Is it possible to bring a passenger?
According to FAR 103 for ultralights in the United States, pilots are not permitted to carry passengers without an FAA airman certificate. In order to obtain one of these certificates, you must be at least 17 years of age and you must pass numerous tests to prove your flying abilities.
Without one of these certificates, you cannot bring a passenger along with you on the paramotor, no matter how tempting! But USSPA qualified instructors are allowed to bring a passenger along for training purposes.
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