Originally published Feb 2004 in Powered Sport Flying Magazine

Do you need to be rich to fly? Unfortunately, by most measures, yes.

By world standards, just having a warm place to sleep, clean water, food and electricity qualifies for being rich, and car ownership is a luxury. By that standard, having a paramotor makes you filthy rich!

But most of us who engage in the world’s cheapest form of flight hardly consider ourselves “rich.” I’ve heard the paramotor appropriately called a poor-mans airplane—but “poor” is obviously relative. I’ve even heard paramotor pilots scoff at the spendy set who tool around in million dollar airplanes, calling them wasteful. What a shame. We should consider the diversity offered by those at the highest income levels as part of what makes life more interesting.

Some societies bristle at its wealthiest members who enjoy so much resource and endeavor to “level the playing field” through government action, spreading the wealth, and trying to be “fair.” Communism is but the extreme implementation of that idea. To be fair, that is appropriate in limited fashion, but is disastrous when doled out in excess.

You could say that paramotors are an indulgence whose expense would be better off shared with our less fortunate brethren. After all, paramotors suck up lots of resources for simple pleasure—is that fair? 

I proffer that the wealthy add enormously to society’s variety and individual opportunity. Although there are exceptions, don’t give the poor a handout, give them opportunities. A good example, indulged only by the wealthiest among us, is the mega yacht.

The Yacht

Only the über rich may own these behemoths, but how many middle-incomers ply their trade in producing them? How many are employed in their service? Storage? Operation? And not just employed, but pursuing passions in a job they want.

Not all the jobs, of course, are craftsmen and chefs and captains, but many are. Such workers frequently are intrigued by boats, the water, working on motors, and so on. That one purchase allows many “non-extremely-rich” to have careers, not just jobs. From craftsmanship to mechanics to seafarers. Like any other economic activity, it also gives employment to unskilled laborers who may otherwise be difficult to place.

Another example at a much lower level is the paramotor. Only the relatively rich can own and fly one. While our sport doesn’t employ a large number of people, it certainly employs some. And it is but one of many, many small endeavors of individuality that offer expression of humankind’s variety; an important element of what makes life so worth living. It is the essence of freedom.

When governments so severely restrict an activity that they threaten its continuance, it is a travesty of destruction. Destruction of personal freedom as well as a small part of the economy. Like the rich, it’s easy to think that such small numbers are insignificant, but the insidious loss of variety will eventually be felt by many more than just those restricted individuals.

It has come to light that the government in Japan has started down that road to restriction and what a shame it is. We can only hope to influence those in our own back yard and confirm the value of individual freedom and of variety. To confirm that our freedom and individuality is so worth preserving.

Lets be thankful for our freedom and work hard not to take it for granted. Lets work equally hard to preserve it.