If you’ve been paramotoring for a while you’ve probably thought about learning to fly tandem. Tandem paramotor flights are an awesome way to give your friends and family a taste of what you experience as a pilot, or you might even wish to become an instructor offering tandem flights to students before training. Lets look at how you can get started, and we’ll also look at what passengers going for their first tandem paramotor flight can expect.
How to become a tandem paramotor pilot
Becoming a tandem paramotor pilot is a little more tricky than becoming a single seat pilot, and the rules will vary from country to country. As our visitors are mainly from the US and UK, we’ll concentrate on the rules from these countries in this post.
BECOMING A TANDEM PARAMOTOR PILOT IN THE UNITED STATES
To legally become a tandem paramotor pilot in the US you’ll need a tandem exemption. This can be obtained through an instructor under the USPPA or Aero sports connection. You won’t normally be considered for tandem training unless you have at least 100 hours of single seat paramotoring experience.
When you take your tandem training, you’ll likely also be offered training for your instructor certification, this is well worth doing at the same time. You can then offer tandem flights to students as part of a training package.
BECOMING A TANDEM PARAMOTOR PILOT IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
You will not need a special license or exemption in the UK, but you will need proper tandem instruction. Most instructors look for pilots with at least 150 hours single seat paramotoring experience, and your piloting skills will be assessed before being able to start tandem paramotor training.
If you’re becoming a tandem pilot to train students and offer instruction, great, but by law you aren’t allowed to charge for pleasure flights, so forget about doing this to make money. If money is what you’re after, you can do things like paramotoring taster days and offer a tandem flight as part of the package, but you can’t just put an ad up and sell tandem flights to the public.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING TANDEM PARAMOTOR TRAINING
Instructors will start by assessing your launches, landings and ground control of the paramotor and wing on a single seat foot launch paramotor or trike. You’ll have to successfully complete perfect forward and reverse launches, landing smoothly on your feet, spot landings, and prove you have a good knowledge of general safety and weather limitations.
Since November 2018, the US emption has also included wheeled paramotors. So you may also be expected to learn to fly a trike and show that you have the necessary ground skills, form launching and landing, to manoeuvring on the ground and in the air.
You’ll be shown a tandem rig, and you’ll be expected to set it up on the paramotor correctly, and strap your instructor in as your first passenger. Your first flight will include instructions from your passenger (instructor), who’ll ask you to perform certain manoeuvres like figure of 8’s, circuits, and touch and go’s. They’ll also teach you how to talk a passenger through the launch and landing, with instructions to run, run, run on take-off, get out of the seat and hold the bars for landing etc.
The main thing you’ll notice is that it’s super tricky to run during launch, and much harder to see ahead due to the passenger being right in your line of sight. This is why you’ll need to ask your passenger to keep a look out, and to tell you immediately if they see any air traffic ahead that you may have missed.
Here’s a video I took of my girlfriend Karen going for a tandem flight with Clive Mason from CM paramotors. Notice the difficulty Clive has running, and how Karen kept running to prevent them both tripping up and failing the launch. This is something we made sure she knew before launching, if she’d stopped running like many passengers they may have fallen and damaged the paramotor and themselves, with good communication everything should go smoothly.
THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TANDEM AND FOOT LAUNCH PARAMOTORS
Aside from the seating capacity, there are a few other big differences between single seat and tandem paramotors.
Push bar and tandem spreaders
The push bar, also known as the passenger bar, is an essential component to a tandem rig. It will usually consist of two horizontal bars that are connected to the frame or swingarms of the paramotor, and is positioned to the sides, and in front of the passenger. It has multiple uses, from attaching the passenger harness and spreader bars, to simply being a support to be held by the passenger in flight.
The bars are often adjustable to accommodate different sized passengers, and are usually covered with a comfortable foam grip to reduce hand fatigue during longer flights. They also serve as an important safety feature in the result of turbulence or unexpected movement, as the bars can help keep the passenger stable and secure.
The spreader bar is used for attaching the wing, and to bring the hang points further forward than normal. As the centre of gravity has been moved due to the extra weight, the main hang points also need to be moved forward, and will usually be attached to the push bar at the front, and often the original single seat hang points at the rear.
Size and weight
You should expect a much higher weight than your normal single seat paramotor due to the extra harness, push bar and spreader bars.
In the air you’ll also have the extra weight of the passenger, this will make the steering much less responsive to pilot input, and you’ll find you need a much longer pull on the brakes to get the glider to turn.
To meet the US exemption, the paramotor will need to be set up correctly during a hang test, in a way that puts the passengers centre of gravity lower than the pilots, to ensure that the passenger leaves the ground before the pilot during take-off. This should be done before every flight, as each passenger will have a different weight.
The engine may also be heavier than you’re used to, you won’t see a little Top 80 engine used on a tandem paramotor!
Smaller engines will sometimes struggle to lift even the lightest pilots, so tandem paramotors will need much more power. You’ll usually need at least 75KG of thrust, so you’ll be looking at engines of around 180 – 250cc at least, with 130cm propellers. Go here for some engine ideas and specifications.
The tandem paramotor will have two harnesses, and to meet the US exemption, the harness must separate the student completely from the instructor, and give the wing a place to hang from. Due to the higher weight, connections should never rely on any single point of the paramotor or harness, and backups must be in place in case of connection or hang point failure.
Normal paramotor wings don’t meet the higher weight requirements for tandem operation, so a larger, stronger wing will be used. They’ll tend to have a larger number of thicker than normal lines, and stronger connectors, and will often come with spreader bars that should have EN or LTF certification to show they have been properly tested for tandem paramotor flight.
The wing will also have much more lift because of its larger size, this is important to easily lift the extra weight of the equipment and passenger. The surface area of a tandem paramotor wing may be double that of a regular wing.
We’ve already discovered that the steering will be affected by the extra weight, but this extra weight will also cause a much slower climb rate, making low wind take-offs much trickier. You’ll also need to be aware of objects in your flight path, as climbing and steering to avoid them will take much longer than you’re used to.
The wing is larger, but the extra weight will still affect the glide ratio, and it will be much different than what you’ve been used to on a single seat paramotor.
Overall tandem paramotors are designed to carry two people safely and comfortably, but they do require specific components and handling techniques to ensure a safe and enjoyable flight experience, so tandem training is essential.
Extras you’ll need
You’ll need to be able to communicate with your passenger throughout the flight, so a communication device is essential. If you don’t already have one then a Bluetooth device like the Senna 10R works great. You’ll be able to talk back and forth with noise cancelling technology, and from personal experience I’ve found they’re very reliable.
Secondly, you’ll need a bigger reserve parachute. Your normal reserve probably won’t be rated for the weight of two people and a tandem setup, so look for a tandem specific reserve that suits your weight range, to give you and your passenger that vital lifeline if you need it.
And lastly, insurance. You’ll want to make sure your current insurance policy covers tandem flight, and that it covers you for instructing students. If it doesn’t then it’s essential that you upgrade before offering tandem flights. Never give tandem flights or instruction without the proper cover, as a simple trip could easily injure your passenger, leading to claim against you.
Are tandem paramotors safe?
If you’re a passenger looking into tandem flight, you’re probably wondering if they’re safe. Tandem paramotors are generally no more dangerous than a single seat paramotor, and the accident rate is very low. Pilots flying tandem paramotors are usually very experienced pilots with hundreds of hours of flight time, and they should have been trained and tested to meet the requirements of what is considered a safe trustworthy tandem pilot.
You can question your pilot before flight to make sure they’ve received proper tandem training from a qualified instructor, you can also ask if the paramotor has been properly maintained and inspected regularly to ensure all components are functioning as they should be.
Make sure your pilot provides you with a well fitting certified helmet that’s in good condition, and a communication device so that you can be in contact throughout the flight. If you have any questions or doubts then be sure to ask them before you take-off, because once you’re off the ground it’s too late.
What to expect as a passenger
As a passenger you’ll be given a brief of what to do, and what not to do when you launch. You’ll be told to run on take-off, and to keep running until the pilot tells you to stop, even if you’re 20 feet in the air, keep running!
You’ll experience the sensation of being weightless as you launch, and the feeling of the thrust pushing you into the air. Once in level flight the instructor may hand you the controls and let you steer the paramotor, and the throttle to climb and descend.
You’ll be in the air anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, and the pilot may ask you what you’d wish to do. Maybe you’ll fancy some tight turns and wingovers, or maybe some high altitude sightseeing?
When you approach the landing area you’ll be asked to get out of your seat, and get ready to land on your feet. This is the part that freaks some passengers out, as they feel like they’re going to fall out of the seat, but don’t worry, you won’t fall as the harness is clipped securely around your legs and waist.
When touching down you’ll suddenly have to take your weight and the weight of the bars again, as you did during take-off, and if there is a low wind speed you’ll also have to run a little. Listen to your pilot as you approach the ground, he’ll tell you how fast you’re moving and tell you what to do as you touch down.
Overall, the take-off and landing really aren’t that difficult for the passenger, just listen to instructions from your pilot and you should have a lovely relaxed and enjoyable flight.
If you’re doing a tandem paramotor flight just for fun, you’re sure to enjoy the thrill of flight without the need for extensive training or piloting experience. It’s a great way to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding landscape from a unique breathtaking perspective. And it can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels.
If you’re looking into paramotor training, and you’re doing this as part of your course, you’ll absolutely love this first step towards solo flight, and I wish you the best of luck with your training.
And be sure to get a copy of my bestselling paramotor training book to kickstart your training!