Paramotors aren't fast, they take a lot of effort to launch, they
require an associate degree in two stroke mechanics and don't allow you
to carry much. So what's the big deal?
It's nothing short of the most amazing way to fly ever devised.
A surprising number of airline pilots, with access to about any type
of flying machine, pick the lowly PPG as their most fun type of flying.
Don't get me wrong, the other stuff is great, too. Even hot air
ballooning is a blast, although it's pretty limiting. There's just no
comparison to running aloft from a field that was, immediately before,
just a field. Now it's a launch site. How cool.
The year 2008 is my ninth for flying paramotors. And I still learn.
That's another thing--the seeming endless amount of nuance there is to
be learned, to be mastered. And you don't even have to have a motor for
a lot of it, just a wing and a harness.
The Joy of Anywhere
We can launch these things from a space whose smallness is mostly up
to the pilot. You need 40 feet wide or so to bring up the wing and about
400 foot of climbout space but that's a lot of places.
Humans are always building. While we may sometimes lament the
inexorable paving of paradise, it does have one positive affect: before
they build it, they clear it.
The fact that you can carry a paramotor, full assembled, in a minivan
offers incredible versatility. Even better is how they can be shipped
around with relative ease. Try FedEx'ing a weight-shift ultralight. Not
Maintenance & Reliability
Yes, there is a downsideŚmotor problems.
I'll readily admit to not liking this necessary evil but also admit
to finding some strange satisfaction in a well repaired part, or a nice-looking, safetied exhaust system. But that pales when compared to the trauma of
pulling the cord only to have it come out in your hand. You then watch as your buddies
fly off into the year's most beautiful air. Uggh.
There is truth in how preventative maintenance can prevent lots of
teeth gnashing, but I've been dumped by nearly brand new machines on
several occasions. That includes demos, no less, where the doting seller is wanting his
ware to make a good impression. You'd think that such a machine would be
in top condition.
And please don't tell me that "this motor is bulletproof."
That may be true if you're being shot at but certainly isn't true when
referring to reliability.
I get this question a lot. "Jeff, I'm tired of working on my
____ (fill in the the brand of your choice), what can I buy that's
My response is "a car."
Lets face it, we task these little engines with pushing really hard
at ridiculously light weights. Almost
all paramotor engines are based on some Italian scooter that rarely
demands more than about 7 horsepower. Then we come along, strip any
possible extra weight, mount them on really lightweight, vibrating
frames, then wind them up to 15
horsepower. Can we really be surprised when
something goes pop? Most experienced pilots acknowledge that if you get
30 trouble-free hours from a brand new machine, you're doing good. Not
that the troubles will be big, they probably won't be, but they'll stop
you from flying no less. That's why a good postflight is so
important--to catch these problems before the blow up into flight-ending
I've bought probably 5 new or nearly new paramotors and all have had
some problem within the first 30 hours. Nearly every pilot I know has
had a similar experience. Brand is irrelevant, too. Newly introduced
motors universally have teething problems. This is one endeavor where I
don't recommend being an early adopter. You may become the reluctant
parent of a recalcitrant newborn.
And you can't take
these things to your local dealership to be fixed. In fact even some small engine repair shops
are reluctant to work on them once they realize it's for flying. The
American bugaboo: liability. If you're lucky enough to live where
there's a full-time instructor, he may be able to help. Count your lucky
stars if so.
Thankfully, paramotors are usually easy to work on
due to their simplicity and openness.
So yes, in all likelihood, you'll become a
mechanic at some degree. But be proactive after each flight, don't fly
with anything cracked, broken or loose, and you'll at least have far
fewer problems. The FootFlyer Motor
Troubleshooting section can be a log of help, too.
Overall, the trade off is an easy one. I'll gladly work on my
paramotor when needed, gripe about it appropriately then take to the
The reward sure is worth the price.