paramotor faq most frequently asked questions

Paramotor FAQ: 28 most frequently asked questions

If you’re thinking about learning to fly paramotors you’ll have lots of questions about the sport. On this page you’ll find the answers to the most frequently asked questions by aspiring pilots.

You can also check out the Posts Page by clicking here for lots more information about paramotoring.

A paramotor, sometimes known as a powered paraglider, consists of a parachute type wing, that's clipped to a lightweight frame with a small engine and propeller. The frame is attached to a harness that is strapped to the back of a pilot. The pilot then controls the wing with just two controls, and the engine with a hand throttle. A paramotor can be launched by foot, or they may have wheels. Both types are extremely easy to fly, and they can be flown legally with minimal rules in most countries.
In most countries, if you're flying a foot launched paramotor you do not need a license. This includes flying in the UK and US, but you will need an ultralight license if you fly in Canada (Click here for Canadian rules). Wheeled paramotors including single seat trikes and quads can also be flown without a license in the UK and US. UK pilots will need to keep the weight below 70 KG, heavier machines and two seaters will require a microlight license. According to FAR 103 for ultralights, US pilots will not be able to carry passengers without an FAA airman certificate. But USPPA qualified tandem instructors are allowed to carry a single passenger for training purposes.
Powered paragliding isn't cheap, but it is within reach of most people. For a new paramotor and wing you can expect to spend around £7500 or $9500. The cost of training will be around £1000 or $1300, and there will be a few other things to buy like a helmet, flight suit etc. Although it isn't required by law in the UK or US, you should also get some insurance. It isn't expensive, I pay around £120 per year for full cover. I've got a detailed post looking at the cost of paramotoring, including my annual running costs HERE.
You can fly a paramotor almost anywhere! In the UK and US we have a massive amount of freedom, and we can fly in most places without the need for ATC clearance. This applies for most countries, but you will need to check the airspace rules for your specific country. Check out my post which answers this question in full, with some helpful videos HERE. You can find a full breakdown of the rules you'll have to follow HERE.
We found out HERE, that with the right paramotor, wing, and weather conditions, you can fly a paramotor over 200 miles on a single tank of fuel! This will vary with your engine type and size, your choice of wing, and the wind speed.
Powered paragliding is very safe, and statistics show that it's safer than riding motorcycles, or flying light airplanes. We've discovered that poor training, and complacency are two of the biggest causes of injury. You may be surprised to discover that most paramotor accidents actually happen on the ground. You can read all about the biggest cause of injury in the sport HERE. You can find out how to avoid the most common accidents that happen in the air, and from complacency HERE. And you can see the accident rate and Paramotor death statistics HERE.
In the UK and US paramotoring is unregulated, which means you do not legally need training to fly a paramotor. There are pilots out there that have skipped the training, and although some do OK, many have been seriously injured, or worse! Find an experienced instructor, and aim to get at least 10 solo flights before completing your training. Training will be very short, and most of your time will be spent ground handling and flying. This means even the best schools will not cover a great deal of important theory, and this will be left to the students to find out in their own time. Get my essential eBook HERE to learn the things instructors are failing to teach their students.
The speed that a paramotor can fly depends on the wing, the wind, and the pilot + paramotor weight. The top speed will vary, but you can expect to fly at around 35 mph if there is no wind, and up to 60 mph with a strong tail wind. Learn all about paramotor top speeds, and what limits the speed of a paramotor HERE.
The current UK paramotor altitude record is set at just below 25,600 feet. Although it's possible to fly this high with special ATC clearance, and an oxygen supply, it's not common for pilots to fly over 10,000 feet. Flying to this height will burn a lot of fuel, and the climb takes a long time, so most pilots cruise around between 100 and 2000 feet. Check out my full post on how high you can fly, and how to do it safely HERE.
There is a weight limit for paramotors, this is the weight of the machine without its pilot and fuel. In the UK the weight limit is 70 KG, so if you plan on flying a wheeled machine you'll need to check the weight. In the US your machine can weigh up to 115 KG, this means most wheeled machines will be legal. In the US, twin seat machines are available, but you will need an FAA airman certificate (recreational or private pilot), and the cart must be registered with the FAA, and have a federal airworthiness certificate In the UK, if the weight is over 70 KG, but still under 115 KG, the machine will be classed as an SSDR, or single seat de-regulated aircraft. You will then need a valid NPPL M microlight licence. The NPPL M will also allow you to fly twin seat carts.
There is currently no lower or upper age limit for paramotor pilots in the UK or US. But most schools and instructors will usually set their own lower age restriction at 14-16 years or age. If you're under 14, you can still get yourself a training wing and practice ground handling until you're old enough to fly. Check out THIS POST to find out how you can get into the air as a young pilot
All you really need to start paramotoring is a wing, a paramotor, a helmet, and some ear protection. Although these things will get you off the ground, it's recommended that you get yourself a few more things to keep you and your paramotor safe in the air, and on the ground. Take a look at my equipment post to find out the gear that's recommended for all pilots HERE.
Mike Byrne from the UK designed and built the worlds first paramotor, coined the name, and took it for it's maiden flight in Essex, during the summer of 1980. Just 8 years later, the German built Pagojet paramotor became the first ever production machine, with a throttle that was controlled by biting down on a pressure sensitive mouthpiece.
Paramotors require about the same level of concentration as driving a car, so if you can drive you can learn to fly. If you have any kind of disability you shouldn't rule yourself out, as there are many disabled pilots. If you have back problems, or if you're an amputee, a wheeled machine will work perfectly. If you can lift 35 KG and run with it, a foot launch paramotor may suit you best.
You can launch and land a paramotor anywhere that you have permission to do so. A simple knock on the landowners door is all it takes to get permission, if they refuse, move on and try somewhere else. There are some places that you will be able to launch and land without permission, like some beaches for example. If you plan on doing this, always check that it's legal before attempting to do so, and always keep a 500 foot distance from people and animals. Another thing to check is the airspace. When you find a place to launch or land, take a look at the airspace chart to make sure you will not be flying into restricted airspace. Check out THIS POST for more information on where you can launch, land and fly.
If the engine suddenly stops, the paramotor will continue to fly just like a paraglider would. If you have enough height you will be able to attempt a restart. If the engine won't start, you will simply glide down to a safe landing spot and land as normal. This is why it's essential to always keep an available landing option within gliding distance. This is the most frequently asked question on this list, but don't worry; I experienced an engine failure during training and it was easy to deal with, even with just a few short flights under my belt
Paramotoring can be scary in the beginning. Most people have a fear of heights, and it's totally natural to feel this way. When you take your first paramotor flight you may feel nervous about the height, but the height really isn't an issue as you know you cannot fall, and that you have total control. This fear will usually go away after a few flights. Many pilots, myself included take a long time to get over a certain fear that paramotoring can bring. I call this 'paramotor fear', and I've got an whole article dedicated to it HERE. This fear will go away eventually, so don't let it put you off learning to fly. If you're unsure about paramotoring, and you think it may be too scary for you, get yourself a tandem flight before booking training to see if it's really for you.
Most paramotors use a 2-stroke engine, these are the same type of engine as you find on mopeds, chain saws, and petrol trimmers. The sound level of the engine is comparable to a moped, but you'll find that much of the sound you hear is generated by the propeller, and the local air velocity over the blades. The sound level will vary between models, and paramotors that use 3 blades instead of the most common 2 blade props will usually be quieter. By increasing the number of blades you are effectively lowering the load each blade has to carry, and as a result you can have the prop spin slower, which reduces the noise immensely.
No, you do not need any wind to fly a paramotor. Unlike paragliding, paramotors can launch from flat ground, and they use the thrust generated by the engine to get airborne. Launching will be much easier with a little wind, but it isn't essential.
Paramotor pilots carry a reserve parachute as a backup if the main wing fails. The pilot can simply pull on the container handle and throw the reserve, which will then open up like an old fashioned jellyfish parachute and carry them down safely. Find out why paramotor reserve parachutes are so important HERE.
If you look after your engine and use good 2-stroke oil, the engine can last thousands of hours. You should regularly service the engine, replacing parts recommended by the manufacturer at the correct intervals. Change the spark plug and clean the air filter regularly every 20 hours, and expect to replace the piston and rings at 100-200 hours. Find a detailed list of paramotor maintenance tips by clicking here.
Paramotors are fairly reliable, but nothing lasts forever and things will eventually wear out and need replacing. 2-stroke engines can be unreliable, but looked after and serviced regularly they will give you hundreds of happy hours in the sky. The most common things that will go wrong are sudden engine failures, usually caused by failing spark plugs, carb blockages, and on some instances overheating (seizing) of the engine. Most of these are avoidable with proper care and maintenance, and an engine failure will be nothing to worry about if you follow important safety advice of always keeping a landing option within gliding distance.
With good technique in zero wind, a foot launched paramotor can get off the ground in about 20 feet. Trikes will need a longer run due to their higher weight, and you'll also need clear airspace around the field, so check for power lines, fences, trees etc. If you have any obstructions be sure to account for these, as the slow climb rate could put you on a collision course. Beginners will obviously need more space, and the landing area will need to be much bigger. For beginners I would recommend a take-off and landing area of at least 150 meters.
Flying at the beach or over the ocean is an amazing experience, but if you're flying over water you should always wear a flotation device, and always make sure you have enough height to glide to safety if the engine quits. Find out everything you need to know to fly safely over water in THIS POST.
Paramotor insurance isn't required by law, but it's definitely recommended if you're flying over owned land, property etc. All it takes is an engine failure, and you could be forced to land onto someone's land, and if you cause damage the owner will want compensating. You should also think about theft of your equipment, or damage if somebody crashes into your vehicle while transporting your paramotor to the field to fly. Paramotor insurance is cheaper than car insurance, and is easy to arrange through clubs like the BHPA etc. You can also talk to your car insurer to see if they'll cover damage to your equipment due to other drivers while transporting it.
Paramotors can be expensive, if you're buying brand new you'll be paying upwards of $10,000 for a paramotor and wing. You can find out why they're so expensive in THIS POST. Don't write this sport off if paramotors are out of your price range, as you can buy a very good second hand paramotor and wing and save yourself thousands!! Find out how to get the best deal on a used paramotor in THIS GUIDE.
Paramotor pilots are required to follow air law, and flying into any airspace other than class G is prohibited without prior permission and ATC clearance. Many private airfields will be in class G airspace, but you will need to check with the airfield owner that it's OK to fly from there before attempting to launch or land. See THIS POST for more information on class G airspace, and to find out where you can fly a paramotor.
You can fly a paramotor over a city as long as you follow the air law specific to your country. In the USA FAR103 states that "No person may operate an ultralight vehicle over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons." This is quite vague, but it seems you can fly over a city, as long as it isn't a very congested area, what exactly congested means is left to the pilots discretion. While in the UK, SERA 5005 states: Except when necessary for take-off or landing, or except by permission from the competent authority, a VFR flight shall not be flown: Over the congested areas of cities, towns or settlements or over an open-air assembly of persons at a height less than 300 m (1 000 ft) above the highest obstacle within a radius of 600 m from the aircraft. This is very similar to the US rules, but you can actually fly over congested areas if you're taking off or landing. You can also overfly a city as long as you're flying over 1000 feet above the highest obstacle, so remember your altimeter! These two rules are similar but they do differ, this is why it's important to check the rules of the air specific to your country.

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Comments

  1. Can I launch a paramotor from National Forest Land? Or BLM Land?

  2. What is the feasibility of designing a paramotor frame? I am proficient in design and construction, and wanted to model a paramotor inspired by the plans given by ppg plans but more in semblance of the parajet maverick in terms of actual structure. I have a team of fellow engineers whom I trust to be able to catch any mistakes I could make, and a facility with all the bells and whistles. All other parts (engine, harness, etc) would be sourced either through my trainer or a dealer.

  3. If you say you can fly a powered paraglider almost anywhere, how come we never see them over even suburban residential areas? As a former resident of Chicagoland, I’ve never seen paramotorists/powered paragliders even flying over suburban areas many miles from O’Hare and Midway Airports. You never even see them flying over places like Downers Grove, Naperville, Glen Ellyn, Wheaton, not even Aurora, Batavia, Elgin, Plainfield, Yorkville, Tinley Park, let alone Berwyn, Cicero, Oak Park, Stickney, Riverside, Brookfield, LaGrange, or Countryside.

    1. Theres no where to land, not to mention just because they can fly almost anywhere doesn’t mean its that popular (which is sad for us paramotorists, it makes everything so much more expensive!)

  4. So if we want to take a friend on a tandem paramotor flight, we need the FAA airman certificate? I’ve only flied solo, but I’ve had many people offer to pay to take them up. Just want to make sure I’m properly trained and and have all the certifications first.

    1. Author

      Hi Branson, it depends what country you are in. If you are in the US you will need a license, or you can get an exemption that allows you to break the rules of FAR 103. The rules state that you cannot use a tandem for recreational purposes, so you will be classed as a Tandem Flight Instructor, and you should only use the exemption for training purposes. If you’re in the UK however, you can learn to fly a tandem paramotor with a good instructor, and then take passengers up for pleasure flights etc.

  5. I weigh 90 kg and am interested in starting this. Does the weight limit of 70 KG mean you have to be 70 or less? What if you weigh more?

    1. Author

      Hi David,

      The 70KG limit spoken about in this post is referring to the maximum weight of the machine so that it falls inside the ultralight limits, which means they don’t need to be registered, and so that pilots don’t need a license to fly them. Sorry about the confusion there.. As for the pilot weight limit, that doesn’t really matter, and your weight of 90 KG is perfectly fine for foot or wheel launching, but you will need to select the right engine. See THIS POST for more on pilot weight. Hope this helps!!

  6. Does flying a paramotor count as flight hours that you can put in a logbook, I want to become a airline pilot and It seems like paramotor flying would be cheaper than buying an airplane.

    1. Author

      If you’re carrying light passengers then you may get away with a large wing depending on your own weight. I wouldn’t recommend this though, as launch and landing speeds will be much higher than with a purpose made tandem wing. Tandem wings also have extra lines to cope with the extra load, and they’ll generate much more lift than a regular wing.

  7. Do you need any sort of license or certification to sell tandem paramotor rides?

    1. Author

      Hi Jordan, that will depend on the rules in your country. I don’t know where you are, but in the UK taking money for pleasure flights requires a CAA commercial pilot’s license as it’s classed as “arial work”. If you are taking up passengers for the purpose of training though, it’s OK, so you’ll need to make it clear you’re charging them for instruction not a pleasure flight.

  8. I live near Watford in the UK and a powered hang glider flies overhead and around the residential area I live in several times a week for up to an hour at a time. The noise is very intrusive so I don’t understand why this is legal to do over a densely populated area. Please explain.

    1. @Pat – just because a 2-stroke motor is noisy, does not mean it’s illegal.

      If you were to ban paramotors on that basis, I expect you may also need to ban all 2-stroke motorbikes, all 2-stroke lawnmowers etc… the list goes on and I think you get the idea.

  9. This is really helpful! I’ve been interested in paramotor recently. Any idea where I can get a map where a paramotor pilot can fly around Boston?

    1. Author

      Hi Alex, take a look at the sectional charts HERE, the New York chart covers the whole Boston area.

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