Monday, February 22, 2010

Powered Paragliding

When the idea to travel around the world first appeared in my thoughts, my main question was how I would get around. Originally, I thought of riding a motorcycle but realized that I wanted to see the globe a lot slower than 55mph. Then I considered just walking or hitchhiking my way across the planet. However, because I wouldn’t be able to carry as much on the road, this idea dissolved as well. Finally after some research, I decided on bicycle touring as the perfect solution. (click here to learn more)

Still, I know that someday the intense craving to see the Earth in new ways will resurface again. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see scenery from the ground, but what about the sky? Thus far I’ve written about quite a few ways that I’d like to experience flight someday, but today I want to reveal my ultimate fantasy. To travel across the sky at only 15-20 mph strapped into a powered paraglider.

Also known as paramotoring, powered paragliding is a type of ultralight aircraft where a pilot wears a motor on his/her back (called a paramotor) which creates enough thrust for the parafoil wing to ascend. Takeoff requires no assistance as the pilot simply runs until the desired speed is reached for takeoff.

In the United States, the sport requires no license to fly probably because it is incredibly safe at low altitude and slow speeds. What makes this so appealing to me as well as thousands of other people is that fact that you don’t need a lot of equipment to get started. Also factor in that maintenance costs are low and with no cockpit it gives the rider an incredible free flight feeling where one can view more of their surroundings.

Before I go any further, I think it’s important to distinguish between two commonly mistaken forms of powered parafoil flight. Powered parachuting (PPC) assemblies have easier to control, yet less efficient wings then paramotors, as well as larger engines, slower flight speeds (25-35 mph) and that pilots steer with their feet.

powered parachute

Paramotors can fly between 15-45 mph (25-70 Km/h) at altitudes of up to 18,000 feet (5,400 meters) although the majority of pilots stay under 500 feet (150 meters). The motor weighs between 45-80 pounds (20-36 Kg) and requires only about 10 feet (3 meters) of runway, excluding the parafoil, to take off. Unfortunately, due to the parafoil’s low flight speed and susceptibility to crosswinds, the sport is normally reserved for the summer months.

Did you know?- A complete, new paragliding package can cost between $6,000 to $9,500, while used equipment could run you anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000.

As I said earlier, while you don’t need a license to operate these machines in most countries, it’s still recommended you complete some sort of training course. Most courses take only about a month to complete.

Some paramotor pilots choose to attach lightweight trikes to their motor assembly if they can’t foot launch properly. In some countries, such as England, this modification changes the aircraft’s status and requires a license to fly.

In the U.S., powered paragliding is represented by the US Powered Paragliding Association (USSPA) as well as the US Ultralight Association.

Did you know?- In 2007, world famous adventurer and TV star, Bear Grylls, flew over the Himalayas using a paramotor. Although not officially confirmed, Bear claims to have reached an altitude of 8,990 meters (24,294 feet) where he saw the tip of Mount Everest!

No comments:

Post a Comment