Paramotor is the generic name for the harness and propulsive portion of a powered paraglider ("PPG"). There are two basic types of paramotors; foot launch and wheel launch. Foot launch models consist of a frame that combines powerplants (engine), caged propeller, and harness (with integrated seat) attached with quick release buckles to the operator's back. Wheel launch units include some cart, usually having 3 or 4 wheels, with seats for one or two occupants.
Two attachment points connect the left and right risers of a paraglider. Paramotoring is not to be confused with the similar, but different, Powered Parachute which is generally much heavier, more powerful, and has different steering.
The term was first used by Englishman Mike Byrne in 1980 and popularized in France around 1986 when La Mouette began adapting power to the then-new paraglider wings.
The power plants are almost exclusively small two-stroke internal combustion engines, between 80 cc and 350 cc, that burn a mixture of gasoline and oil. These engines are favored for their quick high r.p.m. thrust and low weight, using approximately 3.7 litres (1 US Gal.) of fuel per hour depending on paraglider efficiency, the weight of unit plus pilot, and flying weather conditions. At least one manufacturer is producing a 4-stroke model favored for its strong lower r.p.m. thrust and better fuel efficiency. Electrically powered units also exist, though flight duration is considerably limited on the battery's electrical capacity. Csaba Lemak created the first electric PPG, flying it first on 13 June 2006. Wankel rotary engined paramotors are also available, but rare.
The pilot controls thrust via a hand-held throttle and steers using weight shifting and/or the wing's brake toggles, similar to sports parachutists and paragliding. Paramotor wings have evolved specifically for use with power propulsion, as compared with free flight 'paraglider' wings. Such wings are typically designed for a higher speed and may incorporate a "reflex" profile to aid stability in pitch, an idea was taken from hang gliders of the 1980s.
The most difficult aspect of paramotoring is controlling the wing (paraglider) on the ground. This control is both during launch and upon landing. Initial training in becoming a paramotor pilot involves managing the wing in the air from the ground without the motor. This process is called kiting and is the most complicated and important step in the process. Once kiting the wing on the ground is mastered then the motor is added to the process to practice with the weight of the paramotor included. A typical paramotor will weigh on average around 50 lbs. (23 kg) with some models as light at 40 lbs. (18 kg) and some models as high as 75 lbs. (34 kg.) The size of the paramotor wing and engine are dependent on the weight of the pilot.
The larger the pilot, the larger the size of the wing and thrust required to launch. Most individuals in reasonably good health can foot-launch a paramotor. Individuals that may have issues with the physical aspect of foot launching may opt to add a trike or quad to their paramotor. A trike or quad is a platform to which the paramotor can be attached so it can be launched from wheels like a regular aircraft or powered parachute.
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