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Paramotoring Questions Answered
Take a quick flight, watch "The Portable PPG"

TimLaunchingAtPoloField1280.jpg (46969 bytes)
Click to enlarge: Tim Kaiser (USPPA Membership Admin) launches his paramotor in light wind.

You've come to the right place. We'll answer the common paramotor questions and help you avoid traps that sometimes befall new entrants in our sport.

For those who come looking to add power to humans flying parachutes, you may be interested in Powered Skydiving.

Caution! New pilots should not buy gear from manufactures that have no dealer network or products that you can go see flying in the field! They frequently use questionable business tactics and sell completely inappropriate gear. The most common method is using E-Bay or web sites to snag the uninformed. If they cannot have you go to a school and see their gear being taught on, beware. Also, not all instructors will train on all equipment, find an instructor first!!!

What is a powered paraglider?

Paragliding is the simplest form of flight: no plane, no windows, just you floating on air. A paraglider is a foot-launched inflatable wing. It is easy to transport, easy to launch, and easy to land. The paraglider itself has no rigid structure and the pilot is suspended by lines. The pilot is clipped into a harness, which is quite comfortable. The motor is a backpack unit with propeller to give thrust allowing you to climb and fly level at your own will.

How long does it take to have your first flight?

You can solo in as little as a day with ability, exceptional conditions and intense training. But you a far from ready to venture out on your own. You will need to learn to ground handle the wing and some basics, then when the weather is good you will get your first tow/flight.

What happens it the motor quits?

It's a glider, and glide it will! The loss of power only limits your ability to maintain altitude. The glider flies about 6 feet forward for every foot lost (a 6 to 1 glide ratio). So you'll be dropping just over 3 mph as you glide forward at about 20 mph. With even moderate skill it can be landed in quite a small space too. A motor failure is rarely more than an inconvenience.

How long does it take to learn? (Instructor List)

Industry experts recommend 5-8 full days of training from a certified trainer. However, bad weather, training on just weekends and other facts of life could mean about about 2-3 months by calendar. Going to a full-time school where you can train intensely and continuously will let you solo and earn the PPG1 in 3 days, depending on conditions and your skill. Some schools do a 1-day solo course but that requires assistance; you're nowhere near ready to fly on your own after such an introduction.

How long can I fly on a tank of gas?

Motor-on flight time can easily exceed 2.0 hours based upon mild throttle usage. Periods of extended full-throttle will burn fuel at a faster rate or with an up down throttle. If your motor is equipped with a starter or you are strong enough to pull the starter cord you can shut your motor on and off as you please, gliding for hours on thermals.

Can I do this everyday?

Most likely not. Strong wind and turbulence restrict our sport. On average, you can expect 2-3 days per week of  flyable conditions depending on where you live. Some locations are flyable 6+ days per week.

What is this PPG rating thing?

It it is a voluntary rating system administered by the USPPA. Pilots may choose to train to receive ratings throughout their flying career that reflect the pilot skill level. The ratings are as such:

PPG1: Beginner Pilot  - Student has flown at least one solo flight. He is required to stay under direct instructor supervision and instructor radio contact.

PPG2: Novice Pilot - Student is now considered a full-fledged pilot and can fly solo at nearly 90% of our flying sites nationally. It requires basic flying skills but, just as important, knowledge that allows venturing off to fly on his own.

PPG3: Advanced Pilot - Pilot has demonstrated significant skills and logged required hours. At this point you are considered a competent pilot and can fly almost every site safely.

How high can I fly?

Nearly as high as you want. Most of the time powered paragliders are flown between 100 to 2000 feet. The legal limit imposed by the FAA is 18,000 feet. 

Is Powered Paragliding safe?

It is probably the safest form of private aviation ever devised, It is safer than flying in small planes or riding motorcycles but not as safe as driving. One reason for the good safety record is that most problems will prevent the pilot from successfully taking off.

Like other adventure sports, it's as safe or dangerous as you make it. Powered Paragliding has a very good safety record amongst pilots that have been properly trained by a professional. It is of course crucial that you receive instruction from a certified professional and use safe equipment. 

Paragliding is an outdoor sport and the weather is unpredictable. A thorough understanding of the air, and the dynamics of flight makes a trained pilot much safer than an untrained pilot. The primary safety factors are personal judgment and attitude. You must be willing to learn gradually and to think with your head not with your ego. If you do not, then you can get injured or killed; if you do, then you can paraglide well into your life.  

The professionally produced USPPA DVD Risk & Reward, goes a long way to explaining where the risk is and how to avoid it. Any pilot who starts training should see it before soloing.

What do I need to Powered Paraglide?

You will need a backpack motor unit (PPG), a paraglider (wing), and a helmet.  Most pilots also fly with radios for communicating with other pilots on the ground or in the air.

How far do you have to run to get airborne?

Just a few steps will be necessary in a 5-10 breeze. However, in a calm wind condition, 10 to 50 steps may be necessary. If you motor unit has more power = less steps.

Do I need to get certified or get a license?

Paragliding is a self-regulated sport, so technically you are not required by law to be a certified pilot. Getting good training is, however, paramount to personal safety as well as avoiding blundering into restricted airspace. However, not getting proper training is a sure way to trouble.

The USA regards Motorized Paragliders, powered paragliders, or Paramotors as Ultralight Aircraft, and are subject to the rules and regulations of ultralights in FAR Part 103.

How noisy are they?

The noise level varies between different paramotors, props, mufflers, and intakes. On average they are comparable to a large lawnmower. Think about a 2x4 spinning in the air at 6000rpm and the air hitting it, and then put an engine on your back and add its noise. (We use helmets with ear pads built in.)

Do I need to have special knowledge or experience?

Yes and No.  Your instructor will cover everything you need to fly and should answer all your questions. But there is so much information that we suggest you read up on using appropriate training materials and following some of the links on this site. Make sure your instructor uses the USPPA syllabus or one that covers at least that same material.

Is this sport only for youngsters? / Do I need to be fit?

No. Paragliding is an ageless sport. It can be learned by all ages. Most importantly is a good attitude ,willingness to listen, and some casual time to spend learning. You'll need shoes with ankle support and the ability to run aggressively for at least ten or twelve strides. Your body should be able to withstand jumping down two or three feet. You need is to be able, both physically and mentally. If you haven’t had any physical activity in a while, it would be a good idea to start some walking and stretching. Your training will be the most strenuous part of your paragliding career. It’s all about technique, not strength.

How is a paraglider different from a skydiving parachute?

The biggest difference is that a paraglider is not constructed to handle a "terminal velocity deployment" like a sky diving parachute. Where the paraglider has a descent rate of about 3 feet/sec, a parachute descends at 9 to 18  feet/sec and is made much heavier materials to survive the loads of opening. 

A paraglider also has a more elongated rectangular or elliptical shape than a parachute and, with more cells, much better gliding performance. Paragliders fly more like a wing and parachutes are intended to fix a fall.

Are paragliders the same as parasails?

Most people have a tendency to confuse paragliding with parasailing. Parasails are large, very stable, round parachutes generally pulled behind a boat at the beach or lake. They are very inefficient which is why it takes a powerful boat to pull them - but they are stable which is why tourists can go up in them. Paragliders are aircraft that require pilots who are skilled at controlling them.

How do I dress?

Blue jeans and a t-shirt for the summer or warm pants and a jacket for the winter (avoid shorts in case of fall). Also gloves if you have them, sunscreen, hat and sunglasses. If it's hot you will need plenty of of liquids, so be sure to bring something to drink. The only required item is a good pair of boots. We recommend strong ankle support, like good hiking boots that lace up over the ankle. The most common injury in paragliding is probably a sprained ankle.

Can the lines of my paraglider break?

Paragliders lines are incredibly strong although failures are possible. To our knowledge, equipment failure has never resulted in a fatality outside of aerobatics or test flight. There are basic care and inspection requirements that will let the pilot know if his lines are intact. Most recommend that wings are inspected annually after they've accumulated 2 years or 100 hours.

It is recommended that you buy only wings certified by one of several worldwide organizations such as DHV, CEN, AFNOR, DULV or their predecessors. These wings have gone through certain flight and strength testing to better insure predictable behavior.

Can I take people up?

The regulation we operate under is incredibly simple; intended to limit risk to participating pilots only and not others. Only solo operations are allowed although there is an allowance for two place training which means you must be an instructor and only take up others for the purpose of training. It requires a lot of skill to do this safely since you must manage the motor, wing and another person at the same time.

What is the best way to start?

Go to the schools page and pick a USPPA certified instructor. These pilots have generally made the largest commitment in skills and time to get where they are. They also have a standardized and very thorough training syllabus to insure complete training.

It is more important to get with a good instructor then it is to choose equipment. History has shown that success doesn't depend on the type of gear as much as the choice of instructor. Even when gear is considered "advanced", if that is what the school uses then they will be most familiar with it.

Quick Specs:

Max Altitude

  18,000 legally, most could reach 10,000 eventually.

Speed

  20-40 mph. 
Depends on wing model, size and clip-in weight.

Weight

  45-75 Lbs. Motor
  7-15 Lbs. Wing

Cost (New)

  $4000-12000 Motor
  $1800-4500 Wing
  $600-2500 Training. If you see people advertising free training, realize that you will most likely get what you pay for. Find a good instructor willing to take you through the whole PPG 2 program! Insist on using the syllabus.

Payload

  170 - 400 Lbs. Powerful tandem units provide the highest payload.

Fuel

  1.2 - 5 US Gallons
  Auto fuel & 2-stroke oil.

Range

  45-100 miles (no wind)

Endurance

  1 - 3 hrs.

Training

  1-8 Days Solo -- varies dramatically,
  5-8 Days to become certified PPG2 level.

Transport & Storage

  Small Car, Room corner

Motor

  12-25 hp Two-Stroke.
  16 hp Four Stroke
  70-165 Lbs Thrust

Propeller

  30"-51" Wood or composite. 2-4 blade. Larger props spun through reduction drives.

Launch/Land Area

  40' x 300' 
       for highly experienced pilots,
  300' x 900' 
       for new pilots

Glide Ratio

  6:1 With a motor. Wings are usually higher but the motor adds drag.

What are the Risks?

The sport's best selling DVD, Risk & Reward tells it best. Click here for details.

Watch  "The Portable PPG"
by Phil Russman.

 

 

 

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