The battle is on Paramotor Vs Ultralight aircraft!
So you've decided to become a pilot, but you're torn between these two super fun forms of aviation. They both have their pros, and their cons, so we're about to put them head to head to make your decision easier.
Paramotoring was born in the early 1980's, when paragliding pilots decided to add engines to give them the ability of longer flight times. The engine of choice was, and still is small 2 stroke units, similar to engines found on dirt bikes. These are favoured because of their low weight and high revving capability.
Four stroke versions are available, but they aren't as popular because of the extra weight. Electric paramotors are also being flown, but they have very short flight times because of battery limitations.
There are two types of paramotor available, foot launched, and wheel launched trikes and quads. But foot launched units are the most popular because of their size and ease of transport
These consist of a strong frame with a permanently attached engine, a cage surrounding the propeller, and a harness. The wing attaches to swing arms either side of the pilot using strong carabiners.
The idea of ultralight aircraft was first thought up in the late 1960's. Hang gliding pilots began experimenting with engines to give extended flight times, they called these engines glide extenders. In 1975 John K. Moody attached a 12.5 horsepower engine to his Icarus II hang glider, giving birth to the modern ultralight movement. Engines vary, but 2 strokes are a common choice because of their low weight and high power.
Ultralights are available as single, and twin seat versions, and use a strong lightweight frame with a fabric wing.
Regulations vary worldwide, but UK and US laws state that the aircraft must be no heavier than 115 kG. A National Private Pilots Licence is required in the UK, but no license is required in the US. If you wish to fly a two seat ultralight in the US, you must obtain a Sport Pilot Certificate.
Paramotor Vs Ultralight - The weigh-in
And so the Paramotor Vs Ultralight battle begins, but before round one we will need a weigh-in.
Paramotors usually weigh around the 30 KG mark, this lets you easily carry them from your vehicle to the launch site. A wing will weigh about 6 KG, meaning you can also carry it to the launch site while wearing the motor on your back.
The maximum weight for ultralights is 115 KG meaning they can be easily wheeled around by a single person. If you need to wheel them up a slop you may need some extra help.
Paramotor Vs Ultralight - Storage
When you're not bust flying, which will probably only be at night, you'll need to find somewhere to store your flying machine safely. The size and weight of a paramotor means you can easily carry them into your house or garage. Even a small shed will be big enough for your motor, wing, and any other equipment. If you live in a safe part of town, you could even keep it in the back of your vehicle.
Due to the size of ultralight aircraft, most people decide to store them in a hangar at their local airfield. Unfortunately, this could end up costing you a lot of money. If you have the patience to disassemble the aircraft after every flight it may fit into a van or trailer. This will take up a lot of time, but you could then take it with you and store it in a garage at home.
Paramotor vs ultralight - takeoff and landing
A paramotor is able to launch in very tight spaces, on rough ground, and I've even launched mine on very long grass. The takeoff distance is around 15 metres in very light wind, and as low as 1 meter in strong wind.
Landing a paramotor will require about 30 metres distance to perform a swoop in light winds. Strong wind will allow you to land with just a couple of steps.
The smallest of ultralights will require around 35 metres to launch. This will require short grass and smooth ground, preferably a dedicated airstrip. Oversized tyres can be fitted to cope with rougher terrain.
An ultralight will require around 120 metres to perform a safe approach and landing.
Paramotor vs ultralight - speed and distance
With zero wind a paramotor has a top speed of around 30 MPH, this will vary slightly with wing choice, and a few other variables that you can learn about HERE.
A 2-stroke paramotor will require around 4 litres of fuel per hour. Most tanks will hold around 14 litres, so 3.5 hours flight time can be expected.
The top speed of ultralights will vary between models, but you can expect to have a top speed of around 65 mph.
The range an ultralight can fly will also depend on the aircraft and its engine. The best quoted consumption I can find is the Simonini Mini 2 Evo engine, which is being used in a Flylight FoxCub. This gives about 3.5 hours flight time with 19 litres of fuel.
A Rotax 2-stroke aviation engine, which is commonly used in ultralight aircraft, uses around 25 litres of fuel per hour. This would give you less than an hour in the air, but much more power than the Simonini.
Paramotor vs ultralight - Training and price to buy new
Prices obviously vary, but you'll be paying somewhere around £5000 ($7000) for a brand new paramotor. The wing will be bought separately, and will cost around £2500 ($3500). Find out the exact cost of paramotoring and my yearly running costs > HERE.
Training will take around 7 days, and will cost you around £1000 ($1400). Here's a look at what your training will be like > CLICK HERE.
The price of a brand new single seat ultralight will start at around £6500 (about $9000), up to about £25000 ($35000).
Training in the UK will take a minimum of 25 hours flying time, of which at least 10 hours must be solo. This will cost around £4000.
In the US no license is required, but training is necessary; and will take around 10 to 20 hours of ultralight instruction. This will cost around $2000. If you want to take the Sport Pilot License to carry a passenger, it will cost $5,000 - $7,000.
Paramotor vs ultralight - Safety
Paramotors and ultralights are both considered very safe, but safety ultimately depends on the pilot. As we discovered in THIS POST and again in THIS POST, there have been some nasty accidents. But these accidents all come down to pilot error, equipment failure isn't an issue. This should also be the case for ultralights.
If you fly within the safe limits of the aircraft and follow all training advice, you will be flying a very safe aircraft.
What if the engine quits?
Both paramotors and ultralights have fantastic glide ratios, and they fly at very low speeds. This means that if an engine failure happens, you can just glide down to a safe landing spot.
The aim is to always have a landing option, just in case anything like this happens. So this means no low flying over water, trees, towns, or any other populated areas. Stay around large fields, and always maintain plenty of altitude. The higher you are, the safer you are!
Read more about avoiding problems related to engine failures > HERE.
Paramotor vs ultralight - The final round
Which one would I buy if I had to choose again?
The fact that paramotors are so cheap to run, and easy to store, transport, and maintain, is still very appealing to me. If I owned a farm with an airstrip I might consider an ultralight, but until then paramotors win for me.
So there you have it, we've looked at the main selling points of paramotors and ultralights, and the final decision is now up to you. Whichever one you choose is guaranteed to bring you many hours of flying fun.
Before you start learning paramotoring or ultralight flying you'll need to learn about a few rules. You can discover all of the rules that paramotor and ultralight pilots need to follow in > THIS POST.
I hope you enjoyed paramotor vs ultralight, I'm sure you'll like to read about the basics of paramotoring HERE. Good luck with your decision, let me know which one you choose!
If you've decided to go with paramotoring check out these -
All of the equipment that you'll need to get before you can fly a paramotor > HERE.
And ways to transport your equipment to the field > HERE.