Zuba Fly paraglider simulator in use by Tim Kaiser

Any paramotor or paraglider school worth using should have a quality simulator that lets students learn the basics before going aloft on their first flight. Of course they must also become extremely competent with ground handling (kiting) the paraglider which is the best indicator of launch success, by far. But a good simulator lets the instructor practice how to handle certain situations and make the first flights less daunting.

What constitutes a good paramotor simulator?

  1. Fully articulating risers. That means you can practice rear-riser pull, using speedbar, using trimmers, and performing weight shift.
  2. Can safely handle a motor at full thrust. Ideally it moves within a range of a foot or so but is well secured to several times the anticated thrust and weight loads.

In pursuit of improving content for both the Instructor book and the PPG Bible, we bought the best simulator available and tried it out:  the “Zuba Fly Paraglider Simulator”. Our mission is to 1) show how good simulation can get for those instructors willing to spend the money/energy, and 2) have a tool to get better pictures of things that might be hard to get otherwise.

We bought it without risers and put a set of reflex risers on it. It’s made for a 3-riser system but is trivially easy to accommodate a 4-riser system which is what we did, along with adding tip steering using thin bungee material to simulate a glider with tip steering.

The Zuba Simulator

The secret sauce is a hang point that swivels and a bungee/line connection behind the pilot allowing it to turn when brake is pulled on one side. You have to let up on the left brake and pull right brake to affect a turn. Just like in a real life. Plus, it has a response rate that mimics the natural swing rate of a glider. If an instructor wanted, he could use that to teach how to do a turn without swinging back and forth. That’s huge. Students in training, and even after, crash a lot because of that swing thing.

It has other elements that make it good, especially given the new predominance of low hook-in weight shift machines. There’s a bungee for the outer A riser of split-A systems and we added another bungee for the D-riser common on motor wings (any wing with trimmers). That allows students to practice big ears and rear riser turns.

This is a nicely finished, professional looking solution for $475. If you’re teaching paramotor, treat your students to this kind of capability. If you’re looking to learn, ask if your instructor has this capability–most good schools have something similar. And it’s easy to build for anyone wanting to spend the time (see below).

Buy it by searching “Zuba Fly Simulator.” We don’t sell them but feel that wide adoption of sound simulator training will reduce accidents during early student flights.

Insuring that new students have proper reacts BEFORE they go flying is paramount. This knowledge is written in bone and blood: if your school selection doesn’t ensure automatic reactions to certain situations your are risking your life and your ability to ambulate.

Paraglider simulator dimensions

This is one idea on how to build it with dimensions that work based on the ZUBA. You must figure out how to make it strong enough but, thankfully, the biggest loads on the frame are in compression. Hanging with rope this way allows freedom to pivot. PVC degrades quickly in sunshine and a fall from this could be bad. If you’re not knowledgeable enough about materials, load paths, and so forth, buy one. The frame should hang about 12 inches below the hang point.

Rob Catto’s Virtual FootFlyer

This is a hugely immersive virtual reality simulator that puts pilots into a paramotor harness with working brakes, throttle, speedbar and trimmers.

I wrote version 1 of the flight code to better mimick the pendular handling of our craft but it had limits. Namely that it couldn’t handle banks over 70 degrees. In 2019 I wrote version 2 of that code using a completely different paradigm that eliminated the bank limit and improved behavior. It’s now even more realistic but with no limits on any axis.

Unfortunately it’s not in use by any paramotor school because of expense.