This was asking for it.

A paramotor tandem was launching in a crowded area with people all around, including at the end of his “runway.” He barely gets airborne then, just a few feet above the ground, and barely climbing, he turns. The turn may have felt necessary because, at that height, he was headed for someone or something. But once banked that much he was doomed.

Video posted by Kaywan Zamirpour on Facebook with the caption “short band-crowded area-losing power-two passenger cause this accident 11 people injured”

Before writing this off as just horrible judgement (which it sure appears to be) here are some thoughts.

  • Bank angle redirects lift. Google “cos 30 degrees” and you’ll get about 0.86. That means a 30 degree bank leaves only 86 percent of the wing’s lift for climbing–a 14% loss. In the screen grab above it looks like he was in a 30+ degree bank. The caption in the video suggested a power loss, which could be true, but a machine loaded like that would not have much climb to begin with.
  • There appeared to be no out. If true, this was the worst part of judgement. It’s bad enough when your own operation is at risk due to obstructions below the takeoff path, but when they’re people?
  • Having people on both sides so nearby left them vulnerable to prop shards in a crash or if something hit the prop.
  • The craft is loaded too far forward as seen in an earlier frame where the nosewheel is below the mains. A touchdown like that with any side drift would tend to cause an immediate loss of directional control of the cart. It is a incumbent on tandem pilots to insure that CG is checked prior to flight and the nosewheel(s) come off first. The USPPA program certainly covers how to do this and the importance of why.

More to the Story?

I’ve been party to at least one accident investigation where a seemingly obvious failure in judgement turned out to be more complicated. There COULD be more to the story here so we must take our lessons with that understanding.

Maybe he HAD a clear path but someone ran in front he turned to avoid them. We can’t see what was going on. Even if that was the case, simply launching in such a crowded place added immense risk. This is a good datapoint on why we should establish minimums from the crowd and a clear launch area with overrun in case of power failure, at least for some amount of distance.