What Is Powered Paragliding?
Powered paragliding is an amateur form of aviation and the machines we use are often referred to as the “mopeds of the sky” because of the rather limited restrictions in place governing their operations. Limited restrictions? Yes, believe it or not, to fly with a motor on your back you are not required to go through the same level of training that paragliders do for non-powered flight. This does not mean you can start without training, it is highly advised to learn the mechanics and the local air restrictions you will fall under.
The beautiful thing about this sport is that I can take off from nearly anywhere, provided I have a big enough area to lay out the wing and 15 – 20 yards with no wind. Paramotoring gives options to those who do not wish to spend a day hiking up a mountain only to leap off of it. If a steady breeze is present it is possible to launch within just a few steps, lifting off after a reverse inflation.
Trying to explain powered paragliding to friends and family was rather entertaining as relatively few of them had ever thought about flying much less seen the equipment. While a crude example, the best picture I could paint was that I am strapping a shrunk down version of a swamp boat motor (you know, the big fan ones?) to my back before hooking it up to a parachute and running like hell until airborne.
Sounds pretty basic doesn’t it? What should surprise you is how quickly one can pick up the sport and begin flying immediately. The joys associated with it are only limited by your imagination and a 3 hour fuel range per flight.
I have wanted to get into the sport since I was 19 but I had at the time just purchased my second Harley and decided to hold off on it until I could afford more than my minimum payment and top ramen for dinner. After I stumbled across a youtube video of a pilot in the desert flying close to the ground on old trails and rivers I realized the potential as this sport takes exploring to a whole new level.
Imagine this, a personal aircraft that can be transported by car to a runway of your choice, anywhere and anytime. How long can you fly depends on the size of your fuel tank, generally two hours is an average time up in the air. How high can you fly? Depends on your testicular fortitude but the FAA has set the limit on PPGs at 18,000 feet! That gives you quite a bit of room to play with.
Living in Colorado where people are frequently high I shot a message out on the forums for a local instructor and used equipment. Turns out I could get lifted without the use of energy drinks or something else the rocky mountain region is famous for. Within a few days I was high on a two-stroke slightly used powered jetpack and wing for under $4,000.
What does it feel like to fly? Imagine the butterflies you feel on a roller coaster, magnify that sensation times ten and they make it last for half an hour. What happens if the motor quits? Well you have a nice and graceful glide back to terra firma. The paraglider does it’s job regardless if the motor is running, idle, or shut off to enjoy the silence that can only be experienced away from everyone and everything.
Like all good things this butterfly feeling doesn’t last forever which is why pilots advance to stunts such as foot drags, wingovers, spirals, and so on to get the adrenaline rush that hooked us originally. Once a junkie always a junkie…Adrenaline, that is.
Powered Paragliding offers a three-dimensional play ground, it truly is a unique sport and the easiest form of personal aviation! Be sure to check out the other articles involving several forms of flight in the paragliding section of the blog.