Power Paragliding

Low, Slow, Out In The Open!

Power paragliding (PPG) has been around for many years, in fact almost as long as free-flight paragliding. Read on for an overview of this intriguing sport!


There's a few other phrases people use these days for the sport. Paramotoring, Powered Paragliding, PPG, all the same thing.

By the way, the aircraft engine these pilots use is generally called a paramotor.





Attractions

There's one big attraction of flying with a paramotor. You can get out and fly just about anytime in calm or light wind conditions. Compared to free flight paragliding there is not nearly as much waiting around for conditions to improve. In comparison to other forms of powered flying, power paragliding has relatively low equipment and maintenance costs. Personal aircraft ownership in the form of a motorized paraglider is within the grasp of so many more people now!

Safety levels are very good too, when sensible decisions are made about when and where to fly. As an added bonus, the whole setup is more portable than any other form of powered flying. Rigging the aircraft so it's ready for flight just takes a few minutes.

But what about the flying itself? Well, I guess the capability of continuously flying low and slow over the countryside gives you more to look at than other means of flying. It's like cruising through the air in an armchair.

Quite a dream-like concept really. Ever had flying dreams?



Paragliding vs Power Paragliding

The whole concept of flying is vastly different between these 2 forms.

Powered Paraglider

Check out Ultralight Aircraft vs Power Paragliding if you're a bit of a GA person.

Paraglider pilots are glider pilots, essentially. Find some lift and grin all the way up to cloudbase. Feel every move of the air, climb as high as possible.

Powered paraglider pilots are light aircraft pilots. Let's see, where will we fly today? Pore over some maps, check the weather en-route. Cruise at just 200 meters (600 feet), should arrive around 12:30 with some fuel in reserve.

See the difference? It's not surprising that paramotoring is usually regulated under different official bodies than paragliding.

Having said that about the differences, I should mention that some powered paragliding pilots do treat it as self-launching paragliding. In other words, quickly get to 2000 meters (6000 feet) under power, then hunt around for thermals and do some local soaring. If paramotors get much lighter, perhaps this third form of flying might become more popular. Sure beats waiting for the breeze to come up a bit at the local ridge soaring site.

I've collected a few pics of powered paragliders and some close-ups of the gear that is used. Check out this powered paragliding photo gallery.

You might also be interested in checking out some world powered paragliding records, although I cannot guarantee that they are always right up to date.



Getting Off The Ground

Thought you might be interested in a bit more detail about the process of getting airborne in motorized paragliders.

Before takeoff, the pilot bears the weight of the motor which is somewhere in the range of 20 - 35 kg (45 - 80 lbs). After inflating the canopy, just like in paragliding, the pilot walks or runs into the wind holding the brake toggles to steer the canopy AND the throttle in one hand.

Pretty soon, the canopy takes the weight of the motor. A moment after that, with a bit more throttle fed in, the wing lifts off with the pilot suspended in the paramotor harness.

Most pilots just buzz the countryside staying under 150 meters (500 feet) or so. In the United States, outside controlled airspace, you are free to climb right up to 5500 meters (18000 feet).

Taking off in a powered paraglider.

Photo courtesy of Tommy Wong.



Future Trends

Canopies for power paragliding wings are following the same trends as their unpowered counterparts.

For example, safety characteristics continue to improve, and top speeds are getting slightly higher each year. Currently, these wings can be flown up to 70 kph (45 mph, 40 knts). Of course, the engines themselves are also getting lighter, more powerful and more reliable.

On that last point, it also means you have to be careful about selecting a used powered paraglider. It could be overweight and under-powered compared to what everyone else is using!

An interesting, no, very interesting development has been the electric paramotor. By borrowing from radio-controlled electric-powered modelling technology, and doing much further research and development, a couple of inventors have successfully flown an electric-powered paraglider. In time, this might become very attractive for power paragliding pilots!




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