Here’s a list of fun activities: going out to seeing a movie, adventuring out to eat, attending a dope concert. Maybe even visiting the park, if you’re feeling adventurous. These are all exciting things to do. But what’s missing from the list?
One thing, maybe the biggest thing missing from this list, is paramotoring. Whoa there, hold on, paramotoring? Paramotoring is the generic name for the harness and propulsive portion of a powered paraglider. There are two basic types of paramotors; foot launch and wheel launch. Does that deserve to be on that list? Is it really that fun?
Well, if your response when people ask you “what superpower you would like to have is:” “flight,” then you bet! Is paramotoring like a dream come true? If you’ve ever had dreams of flying without a plane, then yes! Is it the greatest thing ever? Well, I’ll let you decide.
Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Maybe I should start by being more grounded (oh no, a really bad paramotor pun already). There are so many questions:
-What the heck is it?
-How does it work?
-Is it safe?
-Where can you fly it?
-Can you really fly a paramotor without a pilot’s license?
-Is it legal?
-If I wanted to fly to school or work or somewhere else, could I?
Simply put, yes, yes and yes. Paramotoring is flying. You don’t need a license. It’s cheaper than buying a car and you can fly basically anywhere you want. If you’re familiar with parasailing, it’s like that but motorized. You have a great big wing/sail over your head and a backpack with a small motor and a big fan. The motor spins the fan, you get some lift from the sail and before you know it you’re off the ground!
I’ll let you decide if it’s the coolest thing ever on your own, but here’s the thing: since you can legally fly pretty much anywhere, you can fly to, well, pretty much any of the things from your list-of-fun-things-to-do. So you can take any of those experiences – going to a concert, going out to eat etc. – and elevate them (see what I did there?) by paramotoring. Literally flying to your friend’s house. What? Come on. Is this real life? Yes, yes it is. Check out this video of going to McDonald’s in a paramotor:
There’s a park by my house I’ve been going to my whole life. It’s got a scenic overlook. Amazing views! You have to climb a hill to get there – a great big hill, covered in a tunnel of trees. You keep going up this tunnel and at the top, everything opens up. You can see forever. Miles and miles of rolling green hills. You’re on a rocky cliff. There’s no railing in front of you. If you’re not careful you could fall over the edge, hundreds of feet down! I always wanted to jump off that cliff and fly. All over the hills, flying and flying would be all I could want.
How cool would it be to do that? To just get a running start, feel your heart pulsing faster and your palms sweating – jumping off the edge, feet leaving the ground, eyes closed, and then… waiting to fall but… never falling. Only opening your eyes to find yourself really, truly flying – feet skimming the tops of the trees, zooming this way and that way, wherever you want. Completely unrestrained. Complete freedom. Anyway, when I found out about paramotoring, I thought, “hey, this is it, like legit, for real?” So I started looking into it more. And it really did seem better than I could have imagined. Here’s what I know now:
COST. A used paramotor could run you 2-5k. A sail is a couple thousand in addition to that. Depending on exactly what you buy and how much training costs you could be up and running (or should I say flying?) for less than 7k-10k. I purchased my most recent car for about 7k. The fact that I could make a lifelong dream (literal flight) a reality for the same price just blows my mind.
LEGALITY. Since paramotors are in a class of aircraft known as “ultralights,” they are not regulated as strictly as normal aircraft. You are not legally required to get a pilot’s license. You do not even need to get training, though the choice to not do so would create unnecessary risk for both you and others. You can fly up past 10 thousand feet high. That’s so high you the air gets cold even if it’s the middle of summer. You could fly to the grocery store. You could even fly to the movie theater or your favorite restaurant. You just can’t fly at night, within range of an air tower/airport, or over congested city areas. There are a couple more rules but that’s about it. Generally, the sky is the limit (not again). There aren’t many, but for a full list of restrictions, see this link. You can also watch the video to see what happens when someone calls the FAA on you!
EASE. It’s easier than buying a car. You can order online. If you buy a used car, on the other hand, you may need to go to a variety of dealerships, call a bunch of people on craigslist, show up, shop around, get things checked out, deal with a bunch of boring stuff. But you can order a paramotor online and have it show up at your door. If you buy used, you have to do a little research online first but it’s still pretty simple. You can transport it easily – it doesn’t take long to pack and unpack it. Depending on where you live, you could walk out your door, put it on your back, get a running start and take off from your backyard and go anywhere you want. Doesn’t get much easier. I mean, imagine that. Imagine you are at home snuggled up in your bed, dream about flying, then literally wake up, strap on your paramotor and take off. What? Crazy.
RISK. Is it risky? Not like you may think. What if you’re 10,000 feet up and your motor goes out? No big deal. You still have the sail. You glide fifteen feet forward for every foot lost in elevation, gliding gently downward slowly and controlled. In other words, if you thought paramotoring sounded cool but might actually be a big let-down, it’s not (yikes, another bad pun). You get let down very very gently if the motor quits. A good sail will keep you safe. You can easily choose where to land and just float down and land with your feet like Marry Poppins. You can even buy a backup parachute.
I don’t own a paramotor yet. I’m still saving up. But in a year or two if you hear a buzzing sound, look up and see a dude flying around above you, hey, it might be me! Check it out, do some reading. There’s a lot more information available online. Tucker Gott has a great youtube channel if you want to see and learn more. Dope! I’ll end with a quote from him: “Freakin unreal, this whole paramotor thing is insane. The potential that lies within a setup like this is just crazy. to elevate my body up to 12,000 feet is insane… I think I’m gonna go a little higher. I feel comfortable, and if I run out of fuel, who cares. I have all day to glide back down”