Paramotor FAQ


How high do you fly ?
Most people fly at around 1000' which is a fair comprimise between seeing a lot of detail on the ground and safety. Height is safety. If you like to fly low then you need to accept that if you need to land then you'll have no options except to land on top of whatever you are flying over. Flying low over trees or water means you'll have a very exciting time if the engine suddenly quits ! Flying low also makes the engine appear very noisy to those on the ground.

You can fly as high as the air traffic allows in your area (check an air chart) but typically up to 2500' - 10000'. It's interesting to fly high once but you lose a lot of detail on the ground and you get no feeling of progress.

How fast do they fly ?
Slowly. My wing flies at around 25mph but faster wings can fly around 35mph. Remember this is air speed and not ground speed. If the wind is 10mph on the ground then it'll usually be around 10mph faster at 1000' (say 20mph). Now if I fly into the wind at this height I'll still have an air speed of 25mph but my ground speed will be 5mph (25 - 20). Of course if I fly with the wind then my ground speed will now be 45mph. This is also why it's important to land into the wind :)

How long can you fly for ?
You're allowed to carry 10 liters of fuel (about 2 gallons) and, with my wing and motor, that gives me around 2 hours 30 min flying time. So, with no wind, I could fly for around 75 miles before landing but remember it's wise to have a little spare fuel just in case the wind picks up while you're trying to get back to your landing field. Some engines are very economic and allow you to go for over 4 hours. It's best speaking to owners rather than trusting manufacturers figures.

How do you get the wing in the air to start off ?
The wing is first of all laid out on the ground. If there is a gentle wind then the pilot faces the wing (a reverse launch) and gently pulls on the front lines (risers) and the wing takes off like a large kite and hopefully settles above your head at which point the pilot will turn round and apply the throttle to take off. If there is no wind then the pilot has the wing laid out behind him, they then walk forward pulling the wing into the air behind him (a bit like trying to fly a kite when there's no wind).

This all sounds simple but bear in mind you're carrying approx 27kg of motor, the propellor is whirling around just behind your head and the wing is about 10 times the size of the largest kite you've ever seen before.

How do I take off ?
Let's assume the wing is in the air above you. You apply FULL throttle and keep your back straight - this ensures the blast from the prop goes in the right direction. You'll run for a short distance until the wing picks up speed and you'll notice that you feel lighter as the wing takes your weight - do not just jump into the seat at this point as all that happens is you usually just push the spining prop into the ground/grass and you'll see bits of propellor flying off in all directions. Just keep running untill you're well off the ground. Remember to keep all movements smooth - the more you jump around the more you upset the wings lift.

It is also essential to keep the wing going straight into the wind by stearing it with the brakes and keeping your body directly under the center of the wing.

What controls are there ?
The good news is that once you're in the air then flying it is simple. There's a throttle that controls the thrust from the propellor. More thrust means you gain height and less thrust means you lose height though your actual air speed will never change (mine is around 25mph).

There are brake lines on either side of the harness, pull the left brake to turn left and right to go right. You can pull both brakes together to slow the wing down but there is a risk of the stalling the wing. Some pilots like to fly holding onto the brakes all the time while others leave them alone until they need to turn.

There are also trimmers and speed bars on many wings, these allow you to alter the shape of the wing to make it fly faster or slower. It's best to wait until you have some time in the air before playing with these.

What happens if the engine stops ?
This is a bit like just letting off the throttle - you start to lose height. If the engine won't restart then you'll need to pick a landing spot and prepare to land. Paramotors are quite safe and can land in very tight spots - I've landed in a friends garden.

Is the engine heavy ?
Yes it's heavy and no matter what paramotor specs you read they are allways heavier in real life. There's also the weight of fuel approx 5kg and perhaps a reserve (3kg). The good thing is the wing takes the weight the moment it's flying above you're head.

Do accidents happen ?
Paramotors are slow and easy to land making them quite safe and they'll just glide to the ground if the motor stops. The most common accident is sitting down to earlly on take off and simply breaking the propellor. While it's relatively safe as far as flying goes it is still flying and you should allways be carefull and get trained properly.

Do I need a reserve parachute ?
That depends on you, many say the wing is already a fully deployed parachute so why bother with another while others feel much more comfortable with the extra safety of a reserve. The reserve has to be big enough to take your weight and that of the motor and slow you down enough to land safely.

Where can I fly ?
You can't fly over built up areas, you must be at least 500' from people at all times and you should also stay away from clouds simply incase other aircraft don't see you in time.

Where do I learn ?
Courses are available throughout the country and abroad. Unless you are very lucky in life then it's probably not worth the risk of teaching yourself. What you'll save on course fees you'll spend on broken equipement.

Who should I learn with ?
There are a number of organisations for paramotoring, don't ask me why :-

BHPA : They primarily deal with paragliding but will also teach people to paramotor. If you want to paraglide as well as paramotor then this is probably your best bet. They also have third party insurance and a magazine. The only hastle is the time spent waiting for the correct weather so you can learn to paraglide when you just want to paramotor.

BMAA : They only deal with powered flight and it is quicker to learn through them. Their qualification is the equivalent to the BHPA one. They have a magazine but don't have third party insurance. I learnt through the BMAA.

Independant instructors : Many people have been flying for a long time and don't wish to join either organisation so have set up independant schools. It's best to talk with people regarding how good they are. Many people are very impressed by some independant instructors.

Third party insurance ?
Being insured sounds great but in actual fact third party means the only thing that's insured is the ground or whatever else you hit. Up to you really.

How do motors differ ?
Power : Measured in hp for horse power or Kg thrust. Heavy pilots need more and lighter pilots need less. Having too much power for your weight just means your carrying extra weight and burning too much fuel. Power also comes from the size of propellor - see below.

Weight : Everybody wants a light paramotor but you also need enough power to lift you off the ground and powerfull paramotors tend to weigh more. Also bear in mind that the specs for a paramotor are rarely accurate and weight in particular.

Economy : Measure in litres per hour. The worst economy engines only allow you to fly for an hour while the best can give up to 5 hours. Bear in mind it can be cold when flying and, I don't know about you, but my bladder is ready to give up after a few hours!

Noise : If the engine is very noisy then you'll just find people don't like you flying near them and you'll get many complaints from people living near to where you fly. Try and respect others and move away from farm houses and villages as soon as you can rather than continually circling over their heads on a Sunday morning. I wish my own engine was quieter than it is but such is life.

Fuel type and amount : Nearlly all engines are two strokes but Paul Bailly has a 4 stroke engine out as well. With two strokes you need to mix oil into the petrol before using it. It sounds complicated but is actually quite easy. At some point we might have direct injection 2 strokes but none have been built yet. Obviously the more fuel you have (up to a legal limit of 10 liters) then the longer you can fly for.

Propellors : Propellors come in different sizes, larger props mean more thrust but they can also produce more torque reaction which can make things difficult for the pilot. A large prop also means you require a large cage on your back which can make things difficult during a forward launch.

Cages : The cage protects you from the propellor. They can be built in aluminium, steal or titanium. They can come in many parts or not come apart at all. Many parts make it easier to transport but does also weaken the structure a little.

Electric start : Some motors are manual while others are electric start. Having an electric start adds weight to the unit but does make life easier. My engine also charges the battery as you fly allong just as it does in your car.

Hang points : This is where the lines from the wing attach to your harness. High hang points give a more stable flight but make it more difficult to stear while low hang points allow you to stear by simply leaning one way or the other. It's great being able to fly allong with low hang points feeling in total control of the wing but then with high hang points it's great being able to fly through rough air and not feel your about to be thrown out your seat. Your choice.

Price : Hopefully the price reflects the quality and features on the machine. It's up to you how much you want to spend.

Location : If you have a supplier just round the corner then they will be much more accessible than one based in another country.

What is torque reaction ?
As the propellor turns in one direction it also wants to make you turn in the other direction which in turn adds more weight to one side of the wing and you end up turning in that direction. It can be quite annoying flying allong permanently turning in one direction.

To avoid this some manufactures offset the weight of the engine, others fly with one brake permanently on (annoying to do in practise) others adjust one trimmer to be slightly more braked to provide the same affect without needing to raise your arm. Some harnesses have torque straps which cancel the affect by redistributing the weight but this does means another strap to adjust while flying.

What other gizzmos can I buy ?
Altimeter : These tell you your height in feet or meters. You'll probably be able to guess your height with experience but it's a good item to have. They work by air pressure and need to be set before taking off. I have a watch that shows my height but watches can be difficult to read clearly.

Vario : This tells you how your height is changing. Your height alters depending on the throttle setting or whether you are in lifting or sinking air caused by thermals etc. I don't have one but would like one.

GPS : GPS units are now tiny. They will show you your height, speed and direction. They can store routes and allow you to easily follow them while in the air. Best of all they will show you the way back to where you took off - I'm terrible and would be totally lost without one.

Compass and ar chart : An air chart allows you to see where you are allowed to fly and to what height. If you fly cross country then a compass can be very usefull.

Monocular : A bit like a very small telescope. I find them usefull as I can read road signs and work out where the hell I am.

Wind meter : Can be usefull while on the ground and preparing for take off just to check the wind speed and see if it is gusting etc. With time it get's easy to judge the wind speed by feel.

Wind sock : Put one up in the field you'll take off from and you'll know which direction the wind is comming from and roughly how strong it is. It comes into it's own when you are landing and want to check that the wind is still blowing in the same direction !

How much does this all cost ?
Depends on whether you buy new or second hand. New paramotors are available from 2500 to over 5000 while second hand might be available from 1000. New wings cost between 1000 and 2000 and second hand wings might be from 500 up. You should budget for training (1000), a flight suit (150) and probably a GPS (100).

On going costs are quite cheap, 3 hours flying for me is 10 litres of normal petrol and perhaps 5-10 to a farmer for the use of his field.

Will I get to fly often ?
You'd think that because it's cheap to run, easy to fly and you just put it in the back of the car and drive to the field then you'd be flying every weekend. But no, either the weather is too windy / rainy or the wife (husband) points out that they never see you. In the end you'll be probably fly for around 20 hours per year.

So is it worth it ?
Defnitely. It's a fantastic feeling floating through the air, looking down on the world while sitting in some "Heath Robinson" contraption. Even if you only ever fly once, you'll annoy everyone for decades with endless stories.