Original membership card.

I sometimes get this question about paramotor ratings and thought it would be good to answer it here.

Voluntary efforts at recognizing accomplishments have been around for many, many years, the best example being Red Cross’s, and other certification programs for life-saving programs. The basic gist is to make sure participants get the most up-to-date knowledge, techniques, and be recognized when they master covered skills to a certain degree.

One of the main reasons for starting USPPA was to keep our sport out of the government’s grasp while offering standards for pilots to train to. It also gives strangers or event organizers a way to know the person has attained some minimum competency. It’s not perfect, of course, skills degrade, some pilots only barely attain them, and not every instructor is as thorough as we’d like. But it’s better than nothing. Asking someone how many flights they’ve had verges on irrelevant.

So here are some thoughts on the value of ratings.

1. USPPA doesn’t issue “licenses,” it issues ratings. It’s mostly semantics because FAA licenses include ratings, but we followed the USHPA model of calling them ratings to help distinguish them from government licenses.

2. Lots of organizations do things that aren’t required of governments, nor even necessarily recognized. Think scuba diving: NAUI & PADI issue diver ratings for nearly the exact same purpose as USPPA (or USHPA or the Red Cross).

3. We can do this because in the USA you’re free to do many, many things without, or with minimal government consent or involvement.

4. Our rating *IS* recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration in that the tandem rating allows the instructor to take passengers as students. Plus, it’s free to the instructor. We don’t charge anything for ratings in an effort to encourage the more-thorough training they engender.

5. Our rating is recognized by some other governments, at least according to members who have done international travel.

6. Training is not required any more than it is for scuba diving, free flying and many other activities. The training program is intended for new entrants to have a thorough program with industry standards that recognizes student accomplishment to set levels.

7. Some event organizers and property owners require ratings to fly on their property.

8. Ratings help the pilot-in-training know that he’s getting industry-best practices and meeting skill requirements recommended before setting out on his own. Not all instructors use the program, though, so ask if they use and adhere to USPPA’s syllabus.

9. There’s subtle value in being recognized for an accomplishment.