What is Paramotor? Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Paramotoring

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Paramotor flying above trees with blue sky
Image credit: Trilerkiat

For many people, the thought of soaring through the sky is nothing short of thrilling. Sure, you can learn to fly a plane, but it doesn’t offer the same sense of adventure as being in the sky without the aid of an aircraft. Skydiving, hang gliding, and paragliding are popular activities that will get you in the sky, but none of them offer the same freedom as paramotoring.

What is paramotoring, you ask? Paramotoring or powered paragliding (PPG) is a type of recreational aviation sport that allows a single person to take flight from the ground. If you’re looking to experience the adventure of a lifetime, read below to learn more about paramotoring and how you can participate in the fun.

What Is a Paramotor?

A paramotor is about the size of a backpack and attaches to paraglider wings. The equipment consists of a lightweight aircraft engine and propeller.

Paramotoring is one of the easiest ways to take flight. The entire setup can be small enough to fit inside the trunk of a small car, and it takes minutes to prepare it for flight. The machine is also safe to operate, and it typically takes less than a week to learn the basic controls.

Once you’re in the air, you will have directional control and can fly at your leisure. If the engine stops, you can use the wings to glide to the nearest landing point safely.

Paramotoring vs. Paragliding

Two of the most common questions about this form of aviation are “what is paramotoring?” and “how is it different from paragliding?”

The two sports appear to be similar – if not the same – to unfamiliar beginners because they use the same style of wings that look like a parachute. The harness and takeoff methods are also similar, but that is where the similarities stop.

Power is what separates paramotoring from paragliding. Paramotor pilots attach their harnesses to metal frames with two powerful stroke engines and an aircraft propeller. The engines and propellors will keep them in the air for as long as they have enough fuel.

When paragliding, the operator will attach his harness to the wing with carabiners and launch themselves off a hill to catch the air. The pilot spreads the wing like a kite after getting a running start, and they will effortlessly lift into the air. Nothing separates the pilot from the ground; he will hang freely.

Paragliders need wind to take flight and gain altitude, and paramotorists only need their engines.

How Dangerous Is Paramotoring?

No sport is without risk, but paramotoring is relatively safe. Accidents sometimes occur, but statistically speaking, you are more likely to encounter a devastating incident in your vehicle on the way to the airfield than you are while operating a paramotor.

When you look at the equipment, you might wonder, “Are paramotors safe?” Actually, the leading cause of accidents is not the equipment; it is pilot error.

The more time you spend doing paramotor training, the less likely you are to have an accident. When you understand the ideal flight conditions and your equipment’s limitations, the safer you’ll be.

How High Can You Go?

You can fly relatively high with a paraglider, although many pilots will stay below 10,000 feet. The documented world record altitude is 25,590 feet by pilot Ramon Morillas Salmeron in 2009.

How Fast Does It Fly?

Flying with a paramotor allows you to reach about 18 to 25 MPH on average. That said, it is possible for an advanced pilot who knows how to fly with the wind to gain more speed when they combine a speed-bar system and a small paramotor.

You don’t have to go fast to have fun. Paramotoring is an excellent way to fly low and slow so that you can take in the scenery and admire the world from up above.

How Long Does it Last in the Air?       

Flying time depends on a few conditions, but you will have an average of 45 to 60 minutes of flight time per gallon of gas, which translates to about 2 to 4 hours with a standard 3.5-gallon tank. You can turn off the engine and use the wings to glide at your current altitude to conserve gas and stay airborne longer. When you’re ready to switch things up, just re-start the motor.

How Scary Is it to Pilot a Paramotor (TBH)?

Paramotoring can be a scary experience for new flyers, and that’s perfectly okay! Fear and apprehension are normal emotions for beginners, and nerves can hit you whether you’re on the ground, preparing to launch, or high in the sky.

Everyone gets scared at some point, but you can overcome these fears, especially after getting used to taking flight.

Why You Should Definitely Go for It

There isn’t a more incredible feeling than soaring above the Earth and taking in the world’s splendor from a bird’s eye view. Even if you don’t intend to participate in the sport regularly, it is an experience everyone should try at least once. You’ll undoubtedly be nervous before you take off, but your initial fears will give way to exhilaration.

Anyone can participate in this sport. Paramotoring has no age caps, and people of various weight and disabilities can enjoy this activity with some modifications to the machine.

By learning how to operate a paramotor, you will be part of a distinctive sport that comes with excitements:

  • An Appreciation of Aviation: What is paramotoring best known for? The freedom, of course! The ability to fly has always been one of humanity’s top aspirations, and paramotoring is an easy way to launch yourself into the sky like a bird. Once you’re in the air, you will have little to no resistance, and you’ll get to experience weightlessness as you hang freely from the metal frame and harness. You can’t find this freedom in many other sports!
  • Get a Glimpse of the World from a New Perspective: You can’t ignore nature’s beauty, which will surround you while you’re soaring through the sky. You will see the natural environment from a different view, one you could never personally see from the ground. Since the paramotor allows for hours of soaring and gliding with a full fuel tank, you take as long as you want to soak up the fantastic scenic views.
  • Easy Storage: If you wanted to experience flight the traditional way, you might consider learning how to pilot a small aircraft, but you’ll need a hangar to store it. With a paramotor, you can spend a few hours a day flying, easily break down its components, and carry the equipment to your house, garage, or shed. The total weight for most paramotors is somewhere between 45 to 75 pounds, so you might even find one small enough to keep inside your car trunk.

Where Can You Fly a Paramotor?

In the U.S., operators can legally fly in most areas with a paramotor, which is why this sport boosts almost complete freedom. The rules for this form of aviation are relatively lax, and for most situations, you won’t need air traffic control (ATC) clearance.

According to the Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR), paramotors fall under the same jurisdiction as ultralights, another form of recreation aviation consisting of a single or two-seat plane. In addition to paramotors, the class includes paragliders, sailplanes, hang gliders, and balloons.

The FAR states that paramotors can fly between sunrise and sunset over most areas excluding restricted airspace and areas around Class A, Class B, Class C, and Class D level airspace without express permission from the ATC. For safety reasons, you cannot fly over a city, town, or any gathering of people.

Once you become familiar with current FAR requirements, you won’t need much space to take off or land since hills aren’t necessary. Some pilots are skilled enough to launch from their yards, but we suggest starting in an open field. You can become airborne with a foot launch by running 10 to 15 feet under the right wind conditions.

Do you need a license to fly a paramotor?

Paramotoring is a self-regulating sport. There are no specific legal requirements to become a certified pilot for paramotors, including the wheeled varieties like single seat trikes and quads. However, that does not mean you are free to do what you want.

Before you can fly, you need to confirm that your machine qualifies as an ultralight, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, before taking your first solo flight.

Your paramotor must:

  • Be for recreational or sports use only
  • Be manned by a single pilot
  • Weigh less than 155 pounds without power or less than 254 pounds with power
  • Not exceed speeds of 55 knots with power

Breaking any of the few paramotoring laws can land you in serious trouble. If someone reports you to the FAA, you could face severe consequences, including prison time. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the FAA’s regulations and adhere to all guidelines. 

How Expensive Is it to Fly a Paramotor?

Paramotoring is an exciting sport, but it does come with expenses, including equipment, fuel, and training.

Training is the first service you must purchase before you can expect to take flight. There is no specific price range for flying lessons—course pricing will vary by school and instructor. To give a ballpark figure, though, I’d say the average is around $1,000 to $4,000.

Remember: This sport doesn’t require any licensing or certifications to fly or teach, so you must research prospective trainers thoroughly before committing to lessons.

Once you’ve had a few days of training, you will need to purchase a paramotor. Most of your paramotoring expenses will go to the paramotor itself. A new good paramotor will run you around $6,000 to $10,000.

It is possible to get your hands on a secondhand paramotor to save on costs, but this can be dangerous, and the savings aren’t worth the risk (expect to pay roughly 30% less). You wouldn’t want to invest in equipment that you can’t use safely. Stick to well-known brands.

The paramotor wing is your next big purchase. Because wings only have a lifespan of about 400 hours of flight time, you’ll want to invest in a new one, not one that is secondhand. On average, a good paramotor wing costs between $2,000 to $4,000.

You’ll also need a helmet, flight suit, altimeter, gas, and other miscellaneous goodies, like a radio or chase cam. Altogether, these bits and pieces will likely set you back around $1,000.

By the time you finish training and buying all the necessities, you’ll probably have invested somewhere between $11,000 and $19,000. Your price tag may be more or less depending on the training, motor, wing, and accessories you opt to purchase.

Here’s How to Get Started

Once you learn about the pleasures of paramotoring, you’ll probably want to rush out and buy a paramotor and wings so that you can experience the sport for yourself. While this feeling is understandable, it is also reckless. If you’re serious about this sport, here is a guide to help you get started.

Training Is a Must-Have

Whenever you’re learning a new sport or activity, you should seek training from someone with ample experience and knowledge. Self-training is a possibility with almost anything, but if you want to stay safe before, during, and after your flight, you must have professional training. Having prior experience as a pilot or a skydiver is helpful, but it won’t offer much for a specialized sport like paramotoring.

Sometimes the cost of hiring a personal paramotoring instructor or attending lessons with a group can be intimidating, but it’s worth the price. If you decide to teach yourself, you could inadvertently overestimate your abilities and limit your understanding of the sport, the equipment, and the regulations surrounding the activity.

Instead of relying on your own knowledge, seek top-quality instruction from a skilled trainer or institution to show you the ropes while having some of the best fun of your life.

It will take a few days up to a week to acquire enough training to go on a solo trip. Training takes place primarily on the ground, where the instructor will thoroughly explain how to control the wing. Once you know how the controls work, taking a flight is a simple, straightforward task.

Schedule a Tandem Flight

Still unsure if paramotoring is the right activity for you? Alleviate your fears or concerns by scheduling a tandem flight during training. This step is the best way to understand what you can expect during your first solo flight.

During a tandem flight, you will partner with your trainer and fly one paramotor together. Although paramotors are for a single person to use, instructors can make exceptions for training purposes. The experienced pilot will be in complete control, and they are responsible for your well-being.

Flying tandem will give you first-hand knowledge of whether you can handle different aspects of the flight, such as getting used to the height, operating the controls, and knowing what to do if the engine stops. If you struggle during the practice flight, you may need more time and instruction before taking off by yourself.

Buy Your First Paramotor and Wing

Once you complete training, it’s time to buy all the equipment you’ll need to take flight, including a paramotor and wing. Your trainer has a wealth of information, so if you’re unsure which brand or style to purchase, they can lead you in the right direction.

Your beginner wing should inflate quickly and resist enough turbulence to keep you stable while in the air. You will need to fall within the weight requirements for the wing, which includes your weight, the paramotor weight, and additional equipment. Add these up before you commit to a purchase.

Your paramotor should be new and include the latest technology, a durable frame that doesn’t bend out of shape easily, and a strong enough engine to lift your weight.

Older paramotors may have problems that make the flight uncomfortable and difficult to manage. For instance, old equipment may cause the paramotor to pitch forward when powered, reducing thrust efficiency.

Other equipment you may need include:

  • Digital compass and altimeters for navigation
  • Kiting harness to learn how to control the wing while on the ground
  • Helmet with a built-in headset for communication
  • Anti-collision light for visibility
  • Reserve parachute for emergencies

Not all equipment is necessary for paramotoring, but these add-ons can enhance the experience and maximize safety. Aviation logbooks record essential flight information, such as how many hours you spend using your equipment, flight duration, and important notes about each flight, such as hazards you encountered or actions you executed correctly.

Phone apps are also beneficial, especially those designed specifically for paragliding and paramotoring.

In Conclusion

When it comes to reaching new heights, nothing compares to paramotoring. This recreational sport allows you to launch into the air and soar the sky for hours. It’s an exhilarating experience that will enable you to witness the Earth’s beauty from a view you can’t get from the ground.

Anyone can learn to operate a paramotor. It’s the easiest way to fly, and there are no licensing requirements to train or take flight. With a trainer and an understanding of the FAA regulations, you can learn how to fly without ever stepping foot on a plane.

Just be sure to invest in top-notch training and high-quality equipment. Paramotoring doesn’t come cheap, but the memories you make will be priceless.