Paramotor netting is a vitally important safety feature, and it’s important that you keep it in good shape and check it before each flight. But why is it so important? What has happened to pilots who fly with no netting? And how do you fix your netting if it get damaged? Let’s find out!
Shortly after I learnt to fly paramotors, I got news of a really unfortunate accident that happened to a very experienced pilot named Chris Atkinson. Chris quickly gained recognition in the sport after smashing a paramotor distance record flying 353 kilometres in four hours on limited fuel, he also became one of the first paramotor pilots to ride the rare and turbulent morning glory cloud over Queensland, Australia’s Gulf.
Less than a year later Chris lost his life during a routine flight when he launched his paramotor after removing a portion of his paramotor’s netting. Although he was an extremely experienced pilot there was nothing he could do to stop the accident, and we’ll find out what happened to cause it shortly.
Why paramotor netting is so important
Paramotor netting is fitted to all modern paramotors, but although many older paramotors had a loop cage, there was no netting included as standard. Manufacturers soon realised that loose objects on the ground, clothing, hair and hands could pass through the large gaps in the loop cage, and make contact with the propeller.
The glider’s lines are also at risk of contacting the spinning propeller during launch and in flight, this could happen while manoeuvring or when flying through turbulence. A strong loop cage with closed gaps will prevent this, but one thing that’s often overlooked is the vulnerability of the brake and tip steering toggles. Unfortunately this is the thing that Chris Atkinson didn’t consider when he removed his cage netting.
Paramotor wing manufacturers put magnets on risers to keep the brakes and toggles stowed while the pilot is flying hands off. Something you’ll learn during training is to always park the brakes onto the magnets when you let them go; provided that the magnets are strong, this prevents them being sucked through the cage into the propeller.
Paramotor cage netting will also help to stop a brake toggle entering through the cage, but there can be flaws in the design. Paramotors are designed for ease of assembly and transportation, this unfortunately means that there may still be small gaps that things can pass through, so always use the magnets when letting go of your brakes or tip steering toggles.
Why a lack of cage netting caused Chris’s accident
When Chris removed his paramotor netting before his final flight, he left dangerously large open gaps on his paramotor’s cage. It’s not known whether he used the magnets on the glider’s risers, but a brake toggle was able to pass through the cage into the spinning propeller.
The propeller grabbed the brake line and wrapped it up, pulling the wing into a steep and unstoppable spiral dive. As the line was completely wrapped around the propeller shaft, there was absolutely no way of stopping the spiral, and it continued until impact with the ground.
We’ve previously talked about how dangerous a spiral dive can be, mainly because of the large amounts of G-force they induce. A pilot can quickly enter G-loc and completely lose consciousness. This means that even if Chris had a hook knife to cut the wrapped up brake line to stop the spiral, it’s unlikely he would have been able to reach for it before blacking out.
Nonetheless, I encourage every pilot to carry a hook knife while flying paramotors, as they may still be useful in this situation, or in many other unlikely scenarios that may arise.
Never fly with damaged netting!!
Although Chris’s accident is a horrible tragedy, we need to learn from it and never ever attempt to fly with damaged or missing paramotor netting. If you happen to buy an older paramotor that has no netting, don’t fly it until you’ve added sufficient netting to cover any gaps in the cage.
How to fix paramotor netting
What to fix cage netting with
Paramotor netting can easily be damaged during a simple trip while launching or landing, so it’s important to check it regularly and keep it in good shape.
When you repair it you should use a strong line like Dyneema rope, glider A lines, or braided fishing line, these materials are incredibly strong and durable. Don’t use anything that will stretch or easily degrade, and make sure your chosen line will not easily snap under load.
The way paramotor netting is connected to the cage will differ between models and brands, so you’ll need to follow the original manufacturers design on your specific machine. This may mean weaving the new netting through pre drilled holes or brackets, or drilling out pop rivets like I had to do on my Volution 3.
Quick fix at the field
If you need to make a quick netting repair at the field, or if you only have a very small hole in the netting, you can bridge the gap with cable ties. This is a scruffy repair job, but it’s OK for a temporary fix to get you in the air. Be sure to trim off any sharp ends, and don’t use cable ties around the outer loop where they could snag the wing’s lines during launch.
How to add netting to an old paramotor
When I bought a Parajet V2 shortly after learning to fly, I was surprised to see that Parajet had neglected to include any cage netting as standard. The gaps were huge and there was no chance I was going to fly it before adding my own netting to it.
There are still lots of these about, and still many other older paramotors that don’t have any netting, so if you happen to have one then get yourself some netting and do the job immediately.
Be sure to use a netting with small enough gaps to prevent brake or tip steering toggles passing through. I personally think most manufacturers leave the gaps far too big, and you should aim for about 35mm netting gaps.
There’s various ways to do this, and depending on your technical and mechanical abilities and the available resources, you may be able to utilise some of the following options:
Option 1: weave your own netting
Weaving your own netting is actually easier than it sounds, and you can follow the same principles as you would weaving a hammock. You’ll use a simple netting knot, and weave it directly onto the paramotors cage inner sections pulling it tight and securing it at the edges, but you will need special fixings to attach the netting around the outer loop, see machined fittings below.
Option 2: Use heron netting
Heron netting for fish ponds is a cheap and quicker option, it’s strong and it’s what I used for my V2. You can cut it to size to fit neatly between your cage sections, but you will need a fixing option that we’ll get to soon.
Option 3: Pop rivets and line
This is the method used as standard on my V3, and I also had to use it to make a repair as seen below after tripping over on uneven ground during a launch. It’s surprisingly easy and it also looks neat, and keeps any fixings out of the way of the lines preventing damage to the lines.
Unfortunately I only had red line to hand, but I wasn’t concerned with aesthetics, I just wanted my paramotor back safely in the air. See below for more on using rivets.
Suitable cage fixings
You’ll need a way to fix your netting to the cage that won’t damage your glider’s lines during launch. When you forward launch, the lines will pull against the cage, so the fixing will need to be on the inner side of the tube to prevent them snagging.
I’ve seen pilots and some manufacturers use cable ties to fix their netting to the cage, this works well enough to secure the netting, but it will snag the lines during forward launching, so they should only be used on the inner sections where the lines don’t touch.
You can drill small holes to thread the line through and use them in combination with netting knots to weave a neat net. If your cage uses thin tube be careful not to drill too many holes and weaken the loop. Make the holes the correct size for your chosen thread (1.5mm thread = 1.5mm hole), and be sure to deburr the holes to prevent them snagging and damaging your netting as you thread it.
Machined fittings (I can supply these)
This is the method I used for my V2. Fortunately I have a lathe and was able to turn them up myself, but if you don’t have this option you’ll need to get them made. Or contact me here and I’ll make you some to order.
I basically used free machining brass round bar, threaded the one side, and drilled a hole through the other side. I drilled holes in equal spacing around the cage, tapped them, and screwed in the brass fittings. I then added small keyring split rings on the end with the hole, and this is how the heron netting attached.
If you’re weaving your own net you can use these without the keyring and simply thread the line through the hole in the fitting, this would look much neater. As the line is threaded through these fittings, they cannot turn and come lose or fall out.
To use this method you’ll need to drill the correct sized holes equally spaced around your cage. You’ll insert the pop rivet, but before squeezing the rivet down you’ll wrap the line underneath the rivet. Once the rivet is fastened, the line will be securely held in place, you can then move onto the next hole and repeat across the whole cage section.
Other things to know about paramotor netting
Whether your paramotor has netting as standard or you added it yourself, you’ll need to do a simple strength test to make sure it’s able to protect you when you may need it to. Unfortunately many popular paramotors will fail this test, and manufacturers really need to address this safety issue. Do this while your engine is NOT running:
From the harness side, place your hand on the most flexible part of the netting and gently add pressure. If you’re able to move the netting to a point where your hand touches the propeller the netting isn’t good enough.
Although some people may tell you the netting isn’t there to protect you from the propeller, it sure can help by acting as an extra barrier if the paramotor does happen to fall against you while the propeller is spinning.
With that being said, never rely on the netting to protect you from the prop, and click here to see everything we spoke about to avoid a propeller injury.
As previously mentioned, most paramotor cage netting has gaps that I consider too large, and they will only prevent larger objects from passing through and contacting the prop. For this reason it’s essential that all items that you carry with you while flying have a safety line secured to your suit or harness just in case they come free.
If you think the gaps in your netting are too large, you can make them smaller by using some strong mono-filament fishing line to go diagonally across the large gaps, tying off at each corner to form a much smaller triangle pattern.
Final thoughts on netting
Paramotor netting should be strong and durable, but it’s only a minor safeguard to narrow the odds of things contacting the propeller. With good knowledge, training, pre-flight checks, safety checks and maintenance your paramotoring adventures should be safe and free of incident.
If you feel that you don’t have the ability to repair, replace or make your own paramotor netting, you may be able to send your cage sections off to a reputable manufacturer to let them do it for you. This will obviously be the more pricey option, but it’s better than facing the risks of not doing it at all.
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