Learning to paramotor appears to be the riskiest time of flying paramotor. Thankfully, there are some distinctive ways to improve your odds, starting with an experienced, certified instructor who commits to the practices below.
One thing I’ve noticed is that being a disciplined instructor is really hard. Let alone having the right talents. FLYING well has surprisingly little to do with teaching well. The following items have proven to reduce risk for students learning to paramotor. These are taken from the book “Paraglider and Paramotor Instructor”.
Before soloing, the instructor:
- Actually uses, and initials each line on the USPPA syllabus. Not all do. They can be certified but may not actually use the syllabus. How do you know all the material is getting covered?
- Insists you wear a helmet even during kiting. One instructor in California had a student die during wing-handling training after hitting his head on the rocks. The instructor did not insist on helmets.
- Insists on instilling good ground handling skills before moving on to the motor. Even on carts, there are clever ways to get you competently handling the wing before going on your first solo powered flights. FIRST SOLO IS RISKY!!!! In fact, all the early flights carry a lot of risk.
- Insists on either low hill, towed, or tandem flights before first solo. Further, they should have a way to verify that you can control to stop pitch (fore-aft) and roll (left-right) pendulums. That may be as simple as grabbing your helmet and holding the throttle. This can be verified in a simulator but IT MUST BE REHEARSED. The instructor says “hands on helmet and hold” is an example.
- Had good, reliable communications. Two methods are best. Earbuds AND helmet radio, for example. Or BlueTooth AND earbuds from a 2-way radio.
- Spend enough time on a simulator to REHEARSE reactions to situations. The more realistic the simulator, the better. A fully articulating model that lets you see and feel the risers is best. Even better if it’s stout enough to run the motor. The simulator must be strong enough for that, though!
- Have solid beginner equipment for you to use. Ideally, they provide both wing and motor. Go here for the perfect beginner wing. Go here for the perfect beginner paramotor.
- Has a good site to train you. Trees, airplanes, buildings, small spaces, and water all conspire to do you harm. Nearly every training site I’ve seen has tradeoffs since the huge, open areas are all sod farms (it seems). Even they usually have irrigation equipment to avoid.
- Has expert tow operators if towing is used. As good a tool as towing is, it carries its own lethal risks. Do they use quads for towing? That’s extremely risky unless they know what they’re doing.
Here’s another similar list written at a different time. These will be merged when time allows.
- Students must MASTER basic wing handling before expecting to fly solo. Foot launchers can do this by kiting, wheel launchers must do it while getting towed behind a cart of some kind or using a wheel-powered practice cart. They should be able to move the wing at will.
- Students should learn pendular control in tandem flights. That means how to induce it so they know how to stop it in pitch (power & brakes) and roll (steering and weight shift).
- Students should have shown the ability to react immediately to instructor commands on the radio.
- Instructors and students should understand Landing Priorities. It’s NOT just “land into the wind”. While that’s obviously important, flaring before touchdown is even MORE important.
- Have a big, open field. Reality intervenes here and instructors must ultimately deal with what they can get. But bigger, more open, more smooth, is better.
- Towing is extremely useful, but it’s also a big source of training accidents. If a turn-around pulley is used there should be a method to ensure the student cannot fly past the pulley. Ideally, there will be a tow operator paying full attention to safely towing, and an instructor who is concerned only with teaching.
- Reliable communication with backups. The instructor should be sure he can talk to the student.
- Instructor attention. Students on first flights should command the instructor’s FULL attention for the entire flight and nearly full attention for the first 5 flights.
- Weather must be good. Have hard numbers on winds, and/or wind direction that both the student and instructor are aware of along with a way to know.