Powered paragliding

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Two powered paragliders in flight

Powered paragliding, also known as paramotoring, is a form of ultralight aviation where the pilot wears a motor on his back (a paramotor) which provides enough thrust to take off using an adapted paraglider or paramotor wing. It can be launched in still air, and on level ground, by the pilot alone — no assistance is required.

In many countries, including the United States, powered paragliding is minimally regulated and requires no licence. The ability to fly both low and slow safely, the 'open' feel, the minimal equipment and maintenance costs, and the portability are claimed to be this type of flying's greatest merits.[1]

Powered paragliders usually fly between 15 and 45 mph (25 and 70 km/h) at altitudes from 'foot-dragging in the grass' up to 18,000 ft (5400 m) although most flying is done under 500 ft (150 m) AGL (above ground level).[2] Due to the paramotor's slow forward speed, it must not be flown in conditions of high wind, turbulence, or intense thermal activity.

The paramotor, weighing from 45 to 80 pounds (20 to 36 kg) is supported by the pilot during takeoff. After a brief run (typically 10 feet or 3 metres) the wing lifts the motor and its harnessed pilot off the ground. After takeoff, the pilot gets into the seat and sits suspended beneath the inflated paraglider wing. Control is available using brake toggles for roll and a hand-held throttle for pitch.

Prices for a complete new package (wing, harness, and motor) vary from approximately $6000 USD to $9500 USD.

Equipment[edit]

Paramotor[edit]

A paramotor in flight

Paramotor is a generic name for the propulsive portion of a powered paraglider ("PPG"). It consists of a frame that combines the motor, propeller, harness (with integrated seat) and cage. It provides two attachment points for the risers of a paraglider wing that allows for powered flight.

The term was first used by Englishman Mike Byrne in 1980[3] and popularized in France around 1986 when La Mouette began adapting power to the then-new paraglider wings.

Pilots who fly these engage in paramotoring, also known as powered paragliding.

Engines used are almost exclusively small two-stroke types, between 80cc and 350cc, that burn mixed gasoline and oil. These engines are favored for their high output power and light weight and use approximately 3.7 litres (1 US Gal.) of fuel per hour depending on paraglider efficiency, weight of motor plus pilot and conditions. At least one manufacturer is producing a 4-stroke model. Electrically powered units are on the horizon. Csaba Lemak created the first electric PPG, flying it first on June 13, 2006.[4][5] Flight duration for electrics is considerably shorter. Wankel rotary engined paramotors are also available, but rare.

The pilot controls thrust via a hand-held throttle and steers using the paraglider's brake toggles similar to sport parachutists.

One of the best examples of the sport in action is the Parabatix Sky Racers; an air racing event using paramotors to race round pylons right in front of spectators. [6]

Uses[edit]

Military[edit]

In some armies, powered paragliding is used to insert special forces soldiers into specific areas. The Lebanese Airborne regiment adopted this technique in 2008.

Civilian[edit]

Powered paragliders are useful as replacements to terrestrial vehicles in difficult terrain. In the spring, when the sea or lakes are still frozen, but the ice has begun melting, they cannot be walked, skied, or driven on, and cannot be navigated by boat. Hydrocopters, hovercraft, and aircraft are the only ways to travel in such conditions. Furthermore, if the landscape is fractured by small and shallow lakes and bays, as in swamplands, it may be difficult to navigate even in good conditions. Observation and counting of protected species, e.g. Saimaa ringed seal, in such conditions has been conducted using a powered paraglider.

Another use that has been demonstrated is the herding of reindeer. Although the tundra is open terrain, there are no roads and the terrain is still uneven. A powered parachute can be used instead of a snowmobile or a motorcycle.

Safety and regulations[edit]

Research done by FootFlyer.com estimates that the activity is slightly safer (per event) than riding motorcycles and more dangerous than riding in cars.[7] The most likely cause of serious injury is body contact with a spinning propeller. The next most likely cause of injury is flying into something other than the landing zone. Some pilots carry a reserve parachute designed to open in as little as 50 ft (15 m). The most likely cause of fatality is drowning.

The lack of established design criteria for these aircraft led the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch to conclude in 2007 that "Only when precise reserve factors have been established for individual harness/wing combinations carrying realistic suspended masses, at load factors appropriate to the manoeuvres to be carried out, can these aircraft be considered to be structurally safe"[8]

Licence and training[edit]

Neither a licence nor specific training is required in the U.S., U.K. or many other countries. Where there is no specific regulation (e.g. Mexico), paramotor flying is tolerated provided the pilots cooperate with local officials when appropriate.[citation needed] In countries where specific regulation exists, such as Canada, France, Italy, and South Africa, pilots must be trained, both in flying theory and practice, by licensed instructors. Some countries that require formal certification frequently do so through non-government ultralight aviation organizations.

Regardless of regulations, powered paragliding can be dangerous when practised without proper training.

For a pilot to get through most organisations' full pilot syllabus requires around four weeks. A number of techniques are employed for teaching, although most include getting the student familiar with handling the wing either on the ground, small hills, or on tandem flights.

With special gear it is possible to take a passenger (tandem), but most countries, including the U.S., require some form of certification to do so.

Regulations[edit]

In most countries, paramotor pilots operate under simple rules that spare them certification requirements for pilot and gear. Those laws, however, limit where they can fly—specifying that pilots avoid congested areas and larger airports to minimize risk to other people or aircraft. U.S. pilots operate under Federal Aviation Administration regulation Part 103.

Associations[edit]

In the USA, the sport is represented primarily by the US Powered Paragliding Association (USPPA)[note 1] which also holds an exemption allowing two-place training using foot-launched paramotors. The US Ultralight Association (USUA) and ASC also offer some support.

In Britain the sport is officially represented by the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association[9] and unofficially by the Paramotor Club.[10]

Trikes and powered parachutes[edit]

A powered paraglider trike landing

Lightweight carts or "trikes" (called "quads" if they have four wheels) can also be mounted on powered paragliders for those who prefer not to, or are unable to, foot launch. Some are permanent units.

In some countries, such as the UK, the legal position of trikes is unclear. In the United States, if the aircraft meets the ultralight definitions, no license is required. The same is true in the UK under SSDR rules (Single Seat De-Regulated). However, even in these countries, if the machine has two seats it is no longer an ultralight. In the US such a craft would be governed under the Sport Pilot rules and regulated as a light sport aircraft powered parachute which requires an aircraft N-number and pilots must be licensed.

A powered paraglider differs from a powered parachute (PPC) primarily in size, power, control method, and number of occupants. Powered paragliders are smaller, use more efficient (but more difficult to manage) paraglider wings, and steer with brake toggles like sport parachutists. Powered parachutes typically use easier-to-manage but less efficient wings, have larger engines, steer with their feet, and may be able to take along passengers. There are exceptions; a growing number of powered parachutes use elliptical wings, some use hand controls, and many are light single seat aircraft that meet FAA Part 103 requirements.

World records[edit]

Determined by the FAI, RPF1 category.[11]

  • The current world altitude record for powered paragliders (RPF1TM) is 7,589m (24 898 ft). It was set by Ramon Morillas Salmeron (Granada, Spain) on 19/09/2009 while flying an Advance Sigma paraglider and a PAP frame powered with an HE R220Duo engine.
  • A highly publicized altitude record attempt was made by Bear Grylls on 14 May 2007 at 0933 local time over the Himalayas using a parajet engine invented by Gilo Cardozo and a specifically designed Reflex paraglider wing invented by Mike Campbell-Jones of Paramania. Gilo, who also flew in the attempt, had engine problems that ended his climb 300m short of the record. Bear went on to claim an altitude of 8,990m (29,494 ft), though satisfactory evidence of this claim was not submitted to FAI, and therefore it was not ratified as a world record for this aircraft class.[12]
  • Distance in a straight line without landing : 1,105 km (687 mi) set on 23/04/2007 by Ramon Morillas Salmeron flying from Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz (Spain) to Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain) with an Advance Omega 7 paraglider.

Determined by Guinness World Records [13]

  • Longest Journey by Powered Paraglider : 8,008 km (4,976 mi) set on 24 August 2009 [14] by Canadian photographer and documentary filmmaker Benjamin Jordan during his Above + Beyond Canada campaign. In an unprecedented flight between Tofino, BC and Bay Saint Lawrence, NS, the cross-Canada campaign involved 108 flights with landings at schools and youth summer camps along the way. Jordan provided youth with motivational speeches and arranged them in shapes on the ground before launching and continuing on the next leg of his journey. Funds raised over the course of the trip were donated to various charities across Canada to help children from low-income homes attend summer camp. Years later, Jordan's photography, books and DVDs published as a result of this journey are still raising funds for this cause.

Images[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Unpowered paragliders are represented by the U.S. Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA) which distanced itself from any motorized flying in 2006
Citations
  1. ^ Goin, Jeff (2006). Dennis Pagen, ed. The Powered Paragliding Bible. Airhead Creations. ISBN 0-9770966-0-2. 
  2. ^ "Paramotoring Questions Answered". U.S. Powered Paragliding Association. 2006-07-27. Retrieved 2007-01-24. 
  3. ^ Goin, Jeff (2006). Dennis Pagen, ed. The Powered Paragliding Bible. p. 253. ISBN 0-9770966-0-2. 
  4. ^ "Marks Paragliding Pages". First Electric PPG. Mark Andrews. 2006-06-13. Retrieved 2007-01-25. 
  5. ^ "Electric PPG Questions". Electric Paramotor Website. Airhead Creations. 2006-06-25. Retrieved 2007-01-25. 
  6. ^ Parabatix Sky Racers
  7. ^ Jeff Goin [1] March, 2012
  8. ^ UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch "Bulletin S4/2007 Special", August 2007
  9. ^ "British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association". Bhpa.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-10-12. 
  10. ^ "Paramotor Club". paramotorclub.org. Retrieved 2011-10-12. 
  11. ^ "Microlights World Records". Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, FAI. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  12. ^ "Flying over the top of the world". BBC News. 2007-05-17. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  13. ^ "Microlights World Records". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  14. ^ "Guinness Word Records : Longest Journey by Powered Paraglider". Guinness Word Records, UK. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 

External links[edit]

  • USPPA - United States Powered Paragliding Association
  • PPG Videos - Powered Paragliding Videos
  • Foot Flyer - Powered Paragliding Information/Reviews
  • Parabatix Sky Racers A competition / show based event and generally a great promotion for paramotoring.
  • Eggmotor Project A website dedicated to Do-It-Yourself 4 stroke paramotor projects.
  • E-PAC - electric paramotor
  • Scott-E - drive system electric ascent aid