Paramotoring and paragliding are crossed over by many, including newbie pilots. The confusing similarities between them are much. They include the use of wings and the flight of pilots without a cockpit kind of covering. Less I forget the way their wings are attached to their harness also factors in too.
We will be getting an understanding of the distinctiveness of both sports beyond their names of course. This would be covering the major differences and how to choose one of both sports. Let the paramotor vs paraglider battle begin!
The Major Differences
So yes! There are distinct differences between paramotoring and paragliding. You would be surprised that it does not just cover the equipment alone, but also several other factors.
These factors include the time of flight or weather condition before a flight, the point of takeoff and the maintenance. Other factors include the learning difficulties in the training process from ground handling to the first flight and more.
The Use of a Motor
The motor behind a pilot is the major difference between the paramotor pilot and a paraglider. A paraglider has just the wing, while the paramotor pilot has both the wing and a motor.
Just like the engine of a vehicle, the paramotor is the propeller. It enables the pilot to gain elevation and forward momentum on a flight. The use of a motor is the reason behind two factors. They include the ease of launch of a paramotor and the finding of a suitable takeoff site.
Compared to the paraglider, the weight of a motor can be really heavy. With about 50 pounds, it can make flights tedious for a paramotorist. Another factor is the low cost of maintenance required of them with just a wing. This is because the motor is really expensive.
Finding a Launching Point
The launching process of a paraglider differs from that of a paramotor. This is what determines the type of launching location and time of flight for both types of pilots:
During the launch, the paramotor pilot only has to run on a flat surface. After this, the pilot is propelled into the air by their motor. The paraglider has to run from a hillside into the air to get a good launch for a flight.
Thus, the launch process puts restrictions on the launching sites for a paraglider. These restrictions are to public locations or parks with mountains or hilltops into the air. While the paramotor pilot easily finds a launching space that is clear of trees, power lines, or any other obstacles.
Finding a good launching site for a paraglider can be quite challenging. This is because the determining factor is not just a hilltop but also one with ideal weather condition.
The ideal condition for a paraglider is a wind speed of 2 to 16mph and a midday sun with thermals. This would provide paragliders with the propelling function they lack from not having a motor like the paramotor pilots.
The Use of Wind
Since the propeller for a paramotor pilot is the motor, what is that of the paraglider? Paragliders depend on two types of forces for elevation and forward momentum. They are the wind and thermal current, which implies that the sport is weather dependent compared to paramotoring.
Paragliding is impossible on a space with no wind speed. In launching, a paraglider needs to find a site with about 2 to 16mph for a gracious launch. This is only possible when the launch is done from a hilltop. This is because it increases the tendency of a long flight with the wind to stay aloft.
For situations where a suitable launching space is not found, a winch is used to pull in wind. This helps to launch the paraglider into the air a bit easier. You shouldn’t imagine what could happen when the wind drops off. The only other way of staying aloft would be to find warm air on the rise called ‘Thermals’.
Thermals can be found in different routes using a variometer. It helps the pilot to stay steady within the thermal zone.
Paramotors are not reliant on wind or thermal current. They can also use the wind to stay aloft with a dead engine and easily maneuver themselves inflight. An ideal condition with no wind is perfect for flight. The flight time for paramotoring is early morning before the rise of thermal current. Another time would be in the evening when the weather is calm and the thermal current down. This is because at midday when the thermals are strong, flights are risky for pilots. This is because the extra weight makes it difficult to control.
Another advantage of paramotoring is that when faced with awkward situations, paramotoring is more maneuverable and flexible compared to paragliding.
The Wing Differences
The wings used in paragliding and paramotoring might look similar but there are differences. These differences are ones that might not be noticeable from a distance.
Paramotor wings have a set of extra lines called “Trimmers”. They are attached to the tip of the wings which enable the paramotor to go faster. Paragliding wings, on the other hand, do not have trimmers. Why? Because the wings are expected to be flown on an active current strong enough to propel the pilot. So having trimmers attached, would increase speed and need violent handling for the experienced paragliders only.
You might have wondered if the wings can be used interchangeably in both sports. Well, not really, because each wing is made specifically for the weight allowance of each sport. Most paragliding wings are made to lift a person off the ground. When these wings are used to get a person plus an engine off the ground, that could become a disaster. This is because the weight distribution and air position on the wings will be distorted.
Ease in Learning
From the read so far it’s pretty easy to know which of paragliding and paramotoring is easier to learn. Determining the ease of learning is based on the rigorousness, technicalities, and calculations in learning the sports.
It is not that difficult to learn how to fly using an engine, with the help of a paramotor instructor. This is different for paragliding. Here you will learn how to use the winds or thermals with the right mental calculations for a longer flight.
Paramotoring gives you control of about 80% of the flight. The maximum challenge you will experience is in launching and landing. Practice will make you perfect. In paragliding, the control is about 50% in the paraglider’s hand. A lot is needed in learning to find and use the wind, and thermals. Also important is getting a proficient understanding of wing patterns and how to use them to your advantage.
The major challenge faced in paragliding is in flight and the easiest part is in launching. When in flight, mental calculations, an understanding of how your wing is affected by wind patterns is important. It is also important to know how to react in an emergency if needed. This is important to having a successful solo flight.
It is enough to say that a lot of rigorousness is involved in training at a paragliding school. It may be easier to get a grip of paramotoring than paragliding.
From the equipment and running cost, it is understandable so far that paramotoring is more expensive than paragliding. This has been a challenge to paramotor newbies with interest in the sport but low budgets.
Both pilots will have to budget an average of $3500 to get a good wing with the right weight allowance. This is because it is specific for each air sport. In addition to a wing, a paraglider will get a standard harness of about $600. Other stuff such as a variometer, helmet, and an extra parachute is about $5400 for the basic paragliding equipment.
For a paramotor pilot, the cost of all equipment already highlighted is added. The cost of a paramotor is about $5000. The total cost for paramotor equipment will then be at about $10,400. Purchasing second-hand equipment for a start will help save cost.
Another cost for paramotors is from buying gas which will stack up over time. This cost will depend on the type of engine used; a 2-stroke engine is known to be more fuel-efficient than a 4-stroke engine.
Maintenance is less costly for the paragliders than for the paramotor pilots. This is because compared to the paragliders, a maintenance check for both the wings and the engine is needed. This is done by the paramotor pilots.
It is advised that the equipment be checked after each flight, cleaned and the manufacturer’s instructions heeded to.
The wings are checked for tears, cleaned and packed after a flight. The wings must be dried before packing, and the integrity of the harness checked consistently. Other factors such as the launch area or landing point should be free of obstacles. This to avoid any possibility of a tear, on the wing.
For the paramotor engine, the manufacturer’s instructions should be adhered to strictly. Other routines like checking the spark plug, tightening of bolts and checking for gas leaks, must be carried out regularly.
How Does the Law Apply?
The law does not apply differently to paragliders and paramotors. They are guided by the same aviation authorities, with no license required for the sport because they are foot-launched. Laws about restricted airspaces, and flying conditions discussed in “Can you paramotor anywhere?”, still apply.
Choosing One Over the Other
Having understood the pros and cons that go into practicing paramotoring or paragliding, the choice is still pretty much open. If you’re about the risk, low weight, and noiselessness that comes with paragliding then have a go at it.
But keep in mind how risky and unpredictable the sport can be with its vulnerability to the weather conditions. This is because when flying, you would not want to know how it feels to suddenly have a collapsed wing.
Paramotoring, however, is much safer for several reasons we will be discussing shortly. The main instances where paramotoring can be dangerous are when nonchalance to safety procedures is displayed by the pilot.
Transitioning from either sport to the other is quite possible. And will probably be easier with the experience of the sport that was learned first, compared to if you were to get into one of the two, with no previous experience at all.
Safety should be a major determining factor in the decision making of which sport to choose. Though it depends on the pilot’s ability to make safe decisions.
Here are the reasons why paramotoring might be the better choice:
- The calm weather conditions required for a paramotor flight is soothing and relaxing. This is because early mornings and evenings are the ideal flight time for them. Paramotorists always avoid the turbulent wind and thermal conditions of the midday.
- The long waits and predictions of the wind conditions by paragliders are avoided by paramotorists. Paragliders in an instance of making a wrong decision before flight end up with bad flight experiences.
- The possibility of experiencing a wing collapse in an abrupt weather change is avoided by paramotorists (although it can happen). This is because the momentum is in the pilot’s control and not the weather.
- With the elevation of altitudes in the control of paramotorists, it is quite easy to climb to heights quickly. On an emergency landing, the pilot has time to pick a landing point or react appropriately to any danger ahead.
The paraglider lacks the extra time to react to dangers ahead.
Making your decision
This should be easier now. If you choose to learn paramotoring please do not become too complacent. It would be wrong to allow eagerness and the assumption that you are safe to push you into taking risks. It is never bad to be double sure!