Paramotors are one of the easiest aircraft you can learn to fly, and you can go from being a complete beginner to unassisted solo flight in around 5 days! Think about it, all you have to do is master ground handling and 3 main controls, and you’ll know how to fly a Paramotor! But is it really that simple?
Although the basics of learning how to fly a paramotor are fairly straightforward, and easy for most students to master, it can all go wrong very quickly if you mess up, and accidents do happen.
Although training is short, and you can be in the air in as little as three days, this really isn’t long enough to learn everything you need to know. So this post will explain how to fly a paramotor safely, and we'll go over all of the things that could potentially go wrong, and how to prevent them.
Knowing this information before taking your first solo flight is essential, but unfortunately many instructors are failing to teach it. So let’s give you a head start to ensue your training goes as smoothly as possible.
ALL OF THE INFORMATION AND VIDEOS CONTAINED IN THIS POST ARE MEANT AS A GUIDE TO BE USED ALONGSIDE PROFESSIONAL INSTRUCTION. DO NOT TAKE YOUR FIRST SOLO FLIGHT WITHOUT AN INSTRUCTOR PRESENT
I've held back on creating this post for a long time due to my concerns of pilots self-training. So before we get started I'd like to remind you how dangerous self-training can be.
There are lots of important steps to take throughout training, so find a good instructor and follow the syllabus without skipping anything. Training may be expensive, but your life depends on it!
How to fly a Paramotor
It’s important to know the basics of the theory of flight before flying any aircraft, and it’s covered in detail in my book that you can download by clicking here.
When you’re familiar with the theory of flight and how a paramotor wing achieves lift, you can move onto the first part of your practical training: ground handling.
Ground handling, or kiting is the most important part of learning how to fly a paramotor. And all you need is a training wing, and a ground handling harness. You can get both at the Amazon links below.
You can learn how to ground handle fairly easily, and you won’t need any personal instruction to get started, but there are a few things to know to stay safe and avoid injury.
1. Always wear a helmet!
People have died while ground handling, and a strong gust of wind can easily pick you up and drop you onto your head, so get a helmet before you go any further. I recommend a tough helmet like the supair pilot helmet (link to Amazon)
2. Use a training wing
A standard sized paramotor wing can be ground handled, but stronger wind or gusts will make this dangerous for beginners. You’ll also find it difficult to keep a standard paramotor wing in the air in lighter winds, this is why training wings were invented.
Ozone sell the groundhog training wing (link to Amazon) that is perfect for all students. This will help you progress much faster, and to gain the skills required for when it comes time to move onto full sized wings.
3. Choose a large location
It's important to choose a large location, preferably a grass field that is free of hazardous objects like trees, buildings, and electricity lines.
If you happen to get dragged along by the wing, or if you get lifted off your feet, this will ensure you aren't carried into any dangers that could cause a serious injury.
4. Avoid strong wind and gusts
As I just mentioned, strong wind can make ground handling super dangerous. You can be dragged, lifted into the air, or even carried long distances and dropped onto the ground. All of these have happened, and even proved fatal for many students in the past.
Below are two ground handling videos from a well respected instructor (he actually taught me how to fly a paramotor many years back), and the first video will teach you everything you need to know about reverse launching a paramotor.
The next thing to learn is forward launching, these launches are used in lower wind speeds and you'll find yourself using them for the majority of your launches as a beginner, so you need to perfect them.
Before we continue, remember that this guide is to be used alongside instruction, and there are many steps to complete before you can take flight. Many of these steps need to be taken in the field, so you cannot learn them online.
1. You'll need to do a hang test as explained in THIS POST.
2. You'll need to do hand towing, which involves forward launching the wing while being pulled into the air by hand. This is done by tying a rope around your harness, while your instructor pulls you into the air.
This will get you used to the sensation of leaving the ground, and you will also be able to practice some small flares. More on flaring later.
3. It's recommended that you do one full day of top to bottom (no paramotor) flights off a hill, to get the feel of the controls.
4. You'll need to learn about reserve parachute deployment, and while in the hang test you can practice reaching for the reserve handle, and the technique you'll use if you need to use it.
5. Further theory should be learned, although many instructors skip this, but basic meteorology and air law are essential.
6. You'll need to learn each part of the paramotor, and how to run a pre-flight check, this and number 5 is all explained in my book.
7. Tangled lines happen regularly, so you should learn how to untangle a wing's lines, or when it happens to you, you could be stuck in the field for hours trying to figure it out.
8. You will need to learn how to start up the paramotor safely. Improper starting and lack of knowledge about starting has been the main cause of injury in the sport, so this is imperative.
See my prop strike post HERE to read about the dangers, and to learn how to start a paramotor safely.
9. You will need to start the paramotor up while wearing it on your back, and practice running with it, and get used to the feeling of being pushed along by the thrust of the propeller.
If your chosen instructor/school doesn't include all of the above in their course then you should choose another school, as this is all essential when learning how to fly a paramotor.
Before we move on to clipping in and basic flight controls, find out exactly how a paramotor works HERE.
Clipping into the paramotor
Clipping into a paramotor is pretty self explanatory, but there's a few things you'll need to do to get this right. If you miss these steps your flight can go wrong very fast, so make these steps part of your pre-flight checklist.
Leg straps, leg straps, leg straps!!!
We're all taught to double check that all of our straps are correctly fastened, but this one deserves a special mention; because if you forget to fasten your leg straps then you could very easily fall out of the harness.
I made this mistake simply because my friends were already in the air, and I was in a rush to join them. Luckily I was able to grab hold of the swingarms before I fell all of the way out, but getting myself up into the harness was very difficult, and others have been less lucky.
This was an easy mistake for me to make, because I used to fasten these buckles after standing up and walking to my wing. I did this because the straps made it harder to walk to the wing.
Ever since this I've made the leg straps a priority, and they are the first buckles that I fasten, and I triple check them before takeoff.
You should also recheck your leg straps before landing. You'll need to slide yourself out of the harness to land on your feet, and if the leg straps have come undone you'll fall straight out.
Run a 6 point check
When all of your buckles are fastened, and you are clipped into the wing, perform a 6 point check. This means checking all of the most important buckles and attachment points.
Check number 1 and 2: check both of the hang points by ensuring the carabiners are locked closed, and that the risers are secured correctly.
Check number 3 and 4: Check both of your leg straps are clipped in, and pull on the buckles to make sure they are correctly fastened.
Check number 5: Check your lap strap, and pull on the buckle to make sure it's correctly fastened.
Check number 6: Check your helmet is fastened.
Reserve and pins
To avoid accidental reserve deployments you should check the reserve securing pins on its container. If these pins pull through the loops then the reserve can fall out of the container and deploy.
When you are happy with the pins, check that the reserve bridals are correctly routed around the outside of the risers and carabiners, and are not obstructed by the swingarms or any of the harness straps.
Basic flight controls
As mentioned at the start, there are only three main controls on a paramotor: the right brake toggle, the left brake toggle, and the hand throttle, so let's find out what they do and how they work.
The brakes have two main purposes:
1. To steer the paramotor
Steering the paramotor is simple, you pull left brake to turn left, and pull right brake to turn right. This works by pulling down on one side of the trailing edge of the wing to create drag.
The extra drag that is created on the left or right side of the trailing edge of the wing will cause that side to slow down, and the other side to fly faster than it, inducing a turn.
2. To flare
We mentioned flaring earlier, and practising flaring while hand towing, and during top to bottom flights is essential.
A flare is used to slow the paramotor down for landing, and flaring at just the right time is important to prevent injury to yourself, or damage to the paramotor.
A full flare is executed at around 4 feet, but modern wings allow a slow progressive flare starting at about 8-10 feet above the ground. This is something you'll need to practice extensively during training, and only move onto powered flight when flares have been perfected during top to bottom flights.
So how do you flare? You simply pull both brakes evenly as far as possible.
It's important to keep the flare equal, and pull exactly the same amount on both sides to prevent a sharp turn just before touchdown. This would most definitely cause a trip, and maybe even equipment damage.
Things to avoid
Flaring too high: it's important to time your flare correctly, as flaring too high will stall the wing and cause a super heavy landing. This is why I recommend practising in a paragliding harness without the motor. This way, if you get it wrong you avoid damage to your expensive equipment.
Pulling both brakes in flight: many new pilots get a little freaked out the first time they leave the ground, and it's common to see them grabbing hold of the brakes and pulling down on them for comfort.
This is very dangerous, and can lead to a full stall or a wing collapse. I remember seeing this happen first hand when I was learning how to fly a paramotor. The student had been warned not to do it, but he still did it during a top to bottom flight, and it was scary to watch.
So always avoid pulling both brakes at the same time, unless of course you are flaring.
Using the brakes for lift: the brakes can also be used to generate extra lift during takeoff. A light pull of both brakes on your takeoff run will create extra lift that will shorten the distance you'll have to run, and it will help considerably during very low wind takeoffs.
I recommend that you avoid using the brakes as a tool to generate lift during launch, until you have completed at least 20 takeoffs.
You'll need to use just the right amount of pressure, and be sure to release the brakes right after launch so that the wing can gain the airspeed that it needs to remain flying. New pilots can get this wrong, and there has been accidents due to pilots using too much brake, so gain a little experience first.
THE HAND THROTTLE
The other control you have is the hand throttle which controls the engines revs. To speed up the engine and propeller you simply pull the throttle lever, and to slow it down you release the lever.
Throttle control is important, and this can be tricky to get to grips with in the beginning, especially as you'll also be holding a brake toggle in the same hand.
Throttle control should be practised on the ground while walking / running while strapped in without the wing attached. Because of the dangers of thrust induces pitch movements, this is an important part of learning how to fly a paramotor.
When you're in the air, the throttle will be used to control your altitude. Many beginners think that pulling the brakes will make the paramotor go up or down, but this is't true.
Speed controls lift, so the more power/speed, the more lift will be generated, meaning you'll ascend. Release power, and you'll also decrease lift, meaning you'll descend.
What else does the throttle do?
The throttle also has a start and stop button to control the engine, and these buttons are usually color coded: the start button is usually green, and the stop button is usually red.
Start button: not all hand throttles have a start button, only electric start paramotors need one, so if the paramotor is a pull start it will not have one.
The start button simply starts the engine, just like turning the ignition key on a car.
Stop button: this button is used to stop the engine, and you'll use it on the ground and in the air. When the button is pushed it will usually need to be held down until the engine has completely stopped, if it's released too soon the engine may continue to run.
The engine will need to be stopped in the air before each landing, so it's important to practice pushing the stop button on the ground before your first flights.
Launching a paramotor
Launching the paramotor for the fist time should always be done with an instructor present, and you should have a radio so that you can be talked through everything you need to do. Never attempt any of this without completing all of the ground training required, or without your instructor.
So you've completed every step of ground training, and all of the necessary theory classes, now it's time for your first solo flight.
The takeoff will be very similar to the ground handling and top to bottom launches you've already done, but this time there will be a lot of weight to carry.
Because of the added weight, it's worth practising a few launch runs without the engine running. This way, if you fall you'll avoid damaging the propeller.
The added weight is only really a concern during the initial wing inflation. As soon as the wing is overhead and you're moving forward, the lift will pull up on the swingarms and take the weight of the paramotor.
When you're happy with your launches without the engine running, it's time to start the engine. This time you'll be taking flight for the first time, so it's important to be fully committed to your launch.
Bare in mind that the force of the engine will be pushing you along, and this will be a completely new sensation. This is why it's important to practice this without the wing first.
As with all of your practice launches you'll start running, and when you're happy with how everything feels you can add power. Pull the throttle lever gently, and keep adding more power and running faster until your feet leave the ground.
When you're airborne it's important to stay on the power until you are at a safe height. Many pilots freak out during the first few launches because the feeling of ascending is very unnatural, and can be pretty scary; but you need to expect this, and stay on that power until you are cleared to throttle back by your instructor.
Landing the paramotor
This is the first time that you'll be checking the windsock from above. It's important to always land directly into the wind, so remember to fly directly over top of the windsock to find the exact wind direction.
When you're happy with the wind direction it's time to land, and you'll need to do a few things before committing to the landing.
Check the trimmers: unless you're flying a very old wing, your risers will likely have a set of trimmers that can be adjusted for faster flight. These are covered in my book, but you won't be using them on your initial flights.
Although you won't be using them, they can occasionally slip, so you need to check that they are in the neutral position before landing.
If they aren't, simply pull down on them until they are in neutral position. If you can't see the lines just pull them right in, this is the slow position and is OK for landing.
Check for other pilots: always check on the ground for other pilots that might be launching. According to the laws of the air, an aircraft that is landing has the right of way over an aircraft that is taking off, but you need to bare in mind that the pilot may not have seen you.
Stop the engine: as a beginner you should never land with the engine running. If the engine is still running, the propeller may still be turning. This will be a serious hazard if you fall, or if the wing falls down into it after touching down.
So stop the engine at around 50 feet above the ground, but never before the next step...
Clear all obstacles around the perimeter: your landing field may have hedges, power lines, buildings, or fences around it. It's important that you have passed over these before stopping the engine.
If you stop the engine before passing over these hazards, how do you know you will be able to clear them? If the engine has stopped and you don't have enough height to clear them, you will most definitely crash into them.
Get out of your seat: you need to land on your feet, so check your leg straps are still clipped in, and slide yourself out of your harness. You may also want to give your legs a shake to get some blood flowing back into them, the last thing you want is dead legs when you touch down.
As we've already mentioned, flaring is super important and you must always do it when landing. Many new pilots forget to flare, which always ends with a bum landing at best, you could even seriously injure yourself if you forget it.
You'll need a much bigger flare than you used during your top to bottom flights, as there will be more weight, and you'll be travelling much faster.
So put one leg in front of the other, so that you're in the running position, pull a big flare, and prepare to take the weight of the machine.
As soon as you're down keep the brakes pulled to drop the wing, and turn the engine away from the wing just in case the propeller is still spinning.
So this post has taught you the very basics of how to fly a paramotor, and I hope that it's been helpful to those who are new to the sport. There is a heck of a lot more to learn, so please do not skip the training or attempt to self train.
For heaps of theory, tips, helpful illustrations, checklists, and information that simply isn't taught during training courses, I really recommend you read my book.
This is a shameless plug, because I really would have been glad of the information when I started flying, and if you check it out on Amazon HERE you can read lots of positive reviews by happy customers.
Enjoy learning how to fly a paramotor, and good luck with your training!