Q. What is a Powered Paraglider (PPG)?
A. PPG is the is the most amazing form of powered flight, open to the air in all directions, no fuselage, no windows, just you in complete control. It encapsulates a sense of PURE freedom, can be launched from a small field, is simple to fly and to transport, requires no licensing or medical. Unlike a traditional aircraft, a paramotor is inherently stable while offering an an even greater degree of precision and control. The pilot sits in a seat, suspended by kevlar lines attached to the glider. The paramotor attaches to the harness or the trike, and provides thrust for climbing or flying level most anywhere you wish. Powered paragliding is a mature sport in existence for 25-years, wildly popular in Europe and South America and growing in popularity in the United States.
Q. Is it safe?
A. Participation in aviation generally carries a higher degree of risk than sitting in front of television, however powered paragliding is aviation in one of it’s safest forms and the reward is amazing! According to researchers, the risks are somewhere between driving a motorcycle and driving a car, and is significantly reduced by completing a thorough training program, employing good decision making skills, and being aware of your surroundings and conditions. The vast majority of paramotor pilots grow old into the sport without injury.
Q. Is this an “extreme” sport?
A. As compared to typical extreme sports, absolutely not… Unless as the paramotor pilot progresses, he or she CHOOSES to increase the risk level to extreme by performing low level aerobatics and similar dangerous maneuvers. Mitigating risk is extremely easy, and good instruction will help you do so.
Q. How fast do they fly?
A. Generally, a beginner glider flies at a constant 25-30 mph, but takeoffs and landings are at a much slower speed and easily done on foot. Expert rated gliders can fly significantly faster, even over 50 mph. Larger motors do not have an effect on speed, as more power simply translates into a faster climb rate.
Q. How high do they fly?
A. In the U.S., airspace regulations limit our flights to below 18,000 ft. Your motor and wing combination also determines your rate of climb, and how high you can fly. Generally, paramotor pilots prefer to fly between 300-500 ft where the amazing sense of freedom and exploration can be fully absorbed. Altitude records have been set s in the 30,000’ range!
Q. What are the fitness and age requirements?
A. The paramotor does most of the work. If you plan to foot launch, you will need to be able to walk and run with the weight of the motor on your back before launching (45-80 lbs depending on motor selection). Trike launch is preferred by those unable to carry this much weight, as you are seated from the beginning. There are pilots who fly well into their 70's and those who begin as young as 12 years old. In flight, you are seated & relaxed with the glider carrying all the weight. No medical certification is required. At Aviator PPG, we have even successfully trained a student who is blind in one eye as well as a leg amputee to foot launch and fly well!
Q. What weather can I fly in?
A. PPG is a fair weather sport, generally requiring beginners to fly only in the mornings and evenings to avoid the mid-day “bumps” and also in winds typically less than 12 mph. With experience, these boundaries may be safely crossed. It is imperative your training program include an in-depth course on weather-based decision making.
Q. Do I need a license to fly a paramotor?
A. Paramotoring in the U.S. is classified under the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) Part 103, just a few pages long. No license, medical certificate or registration is required. U.S. regulations require you fly only during daylight hours, stay away from congested areas, and prohibit you from carrying passengers without a waiver. Training is crucial, and your syllabus should include an in depth class on general regulations and airspace rules.
Q. Can I carry passengers?
A. In the U.S., passengers are prohibited from being carried on ultralight vehicles. However, U.S. Powered Paragliding Association tandem qualified instructors have an exemption to carry a single passenger for training purposes.
Q. What if I have a fear of heights?
A. Most pilots actually DO have a fear of heights, such as climbing ladders or standing near the edge of a precipice. However, this typically does not translate into paramotoring where you have total control, and if it does, will generally not persist after your first couple of flights.
Q. What if the motor quits?
A. You are underneath a very efficient glider (typically 9 to 1 glide ratio, meaning nearly a mile of glide for each 500 ft of altitude), and all of your landings during training have been conducted with the motor shut-off from several hundred feet high. Therefore, so long as you have been flying within glide range of at least a larger yard or field that affords a clear touch-down zone, unplanned power loses are nothing more than a mere inconvenience.
Q. What kind of flying can I do from a paramotor?
A. Anything from gentle sightseeing and exploration to ridge soaring, slalom competition, extreme aerobatics, and even mid-day thermalling for hours on end with the motor turned off. It takes less than 10 minutes to set-up and get off the ground, and you can fly from very small spaces in the right conditions. The type of flying you do will depend on your desires, training, experience, aptitude, and level of risk exposure you are comfortable with. The portability of paramotors and gliders allows you to take them in your car anywhere you travel, or even ship to your destination ahead of time.
Q. How do I choose a school?
A. This is a personal choice, but can make an enormous difference in your overall experience, safety, and aptitude upon completion of training. Remember, there is no license requirement, and that goes for instructors as well, meaning anyone can legally open a PPG School. Do your research, contact former students directly and ask their opinion of the school to get a well rounded picture of what to expect. Don’t necessarily believe everything a school posts about itself and other programs on the web and social networking forums. There are companies that may even be at the top of internet searches that you should be very diligent in your research of. Be aware of any thing that may seem to be “too good to be true” … Or that speaks in ridiculous absolutes about their competitors.
Consider whether the school is certified by the USPPA, an independent professional organization, how many instructors the school has, are the instructors full time employees or do they teach as a side job, how many students per year do they teach, does the school have an actual brick & mortar facility with simulator and classroom, do they have a dedicated training site that is large/flat/clear of obstacles, do they instruct both foot launch and trike launch, and do they have free to use, brand new, state-of-the art gear to teach both forms during your training?
Other important items to consider is whether or not they can they provide you a copy of their training syllabus, if they teach an in-depth ground school program covering weather/emergencies/airspace/regulations/glider design/motor maintenance, is the weather at the site generally conducive to flying paramotors, and perhaps most important, does the school care more about your success and safety as a paramotor pilot than it does in selling you gear?
Q. How do I choose a motor and wing?
A. Almost all experts advise you first choose the instructor team you want to learn from, instead or being concerned with investing in equipment in which you may not know yet what you don’t know, especially when gear is a much larger investment than training fees. If your school-of-choice offers free top quality rentals as part of your training as we do at Aviator PPG, there is no reason to make the all-to-common mistake of purchasing expensive and perhaps inappropriate gear before you even get started. Remember, there is even a VERY small chance you won’t enjoy the sport! Once you have 8-10 flights are are comfortable in the air, your school’s staff should be able to offer you unbiased advice on new or used gear appropriate to your physical ability, aptitude, weight, and desired type of flying. While there is no obligation to purchase your gear through our school, we hope to help connect you with exactly the gear you need, whether it is new, or used.
Q. How much does gear cost?
A. For a new high quality motor and paraglider the entry level cost is around $9500. The most expensive full set-up (which includes a carbon fiber trike, top end glider and the veritable Ferrari of paramotors) would be near $22,000. Obviously, used gear can be found for less, but requires careful shopping as paramotor and glider safety is paramount and there have been amazing technological advances in the last decade. The training fee is a small fraction of the gear investment, so we encourage anyone thinking about the sport but hesitating due to the cost of gear to at least come out and get training, an awesome experience in itself. Financing options and “certified” used gear are also available.
Q. What are the recurrent operating costs?
A. Operating cost is the combination of fuel/oil burn and general maintenance. We burn less than 1 gallon per hour, so we like to average our costs at about $5 an hour with oil. General maintenance costs include new belts, rebuilding carbs, new spark-plugs, and 100 hour services… All of which we can either handle for you here at our school, or we will be happy to teach you to do yourself as part of your training. These low costs make paramotoring the obvious choice for those who have always wanted to fly, but want to do it as cost effectively as possible.
Q. Is PPG the same as Parasailing or a Power Parachutes (PPC)
A. No, parasailing is what you do on a beach vacation where you get dragged around by a boat underneath a round parachute and you have zero control. A Powered Parachute (PPC) is the big brother to PPG. PPC’s weigh hundreds of pounds, are wheel launched only, most of them require a pilot license as well as a large trailer to transport, are significantly more expensive for initial purchase, training and operating costs, and fly under a less efficient & less maneuverable glider. An advantage is that properly licensed PPC pilots flying a properly registered aircraft may carry a passenger.
Q. How do I get in the air safely when my first flight is a solo event?
A. Before your first flight, you will do many hours of launch practice, glider kiting practice, ground school, simulator practice, videos demonstrations, instructor demonstrations, motor on taxiing, etc. You will not get into the air until our instructional staff all agrees that you demonstrate the skill and confidence to succeed. The hardest part of the sport truly is the launch, because once off the ground, gravity and pendular effect make the PPG inherently stable and very easy to fly. You will be guided through your first dozen or so flights via the encouraging, calm, and confident voice of your instructor who will be on radio with you throughout the entire event guiding you back to a safe landing each time. If interested in learning more about the process, please ask us for a copy of our syllabus.
Q. What else will I need to start training?
A. Generally, light clothing, a pair of sunglasses, a hat, and high-top shoes that provide a some ankle support and of course a great attitude. Training can be challenging at times, but the end result is SO rewarding, and we will always cater to your individual needs including necessary breaks. We will also provide sunscreen, water, and all your flying and safety gear.
Q. Who can I fly with?
A. The paramotor community consists of a diverse group of men and women who share a passion for flying. Getting involved in the sport presents an opportunity to meet an amazing bunch of people, build new friendships, and be part of a tight-knit small community. Groups of paramotorists congregate locally each day around the world to share the joys of flying together. In the US, dozens of local clubs exist, and there are over 20 fly-in events through the U.S. each year that cater specifically to paramotor pilots and their family’s who join them.
Q. How much time will this hobby take from my family?
A. There is no question that the training syllabus requires an intense effort and time commitment, typically 7-10 full days. However, once you are flying on your own, you will be flying mainly at sunrise, and packed up and home before 10AM. Compared to golf, fishing, and other hobbies paramotoring is very low impact on your career and family time.
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Thank You For Reading!
-The Aviator PPG Team