I hear this question all the time: Should I fly a paraglider or the one with the motor (PPG or paramotoring)?
My answer is very easy: Both!
Why? Because those 2 activities are totally complementary and I think that doing one without the other is missing half of the big picture.
What about PPG?
Something I hear often when I fly with paraglider pilots is that PPG is noisy, which is true. And because of that, it's difficult to find flying spots in our area. The neighbors can get tired quickly of hearing the noise. It's like having a lawn mower over their house. Hearing that noise repeatedly or for too long can become annoying, and that is really understandable.
So the smart thing to do is to take off and never stay over the same spot more than 10 to 15 minutes. That amazing toy gives you the option to cruise around. Another option is to go fly over no man's land or small airports.
Yo can fin a lot of info on the national association the USPPA
Some of our favorite videos:
- If you respectfully fly away from people that are nearby, and know the basics about ultra light regulations and the airspaces, then the PPG is an amazing toy.
- First, if you have a big open field free of obstacles, you can take off in any wind direction, giving you a lot of flying options without having to drive for miles to find a take-off facing the wind.
- Second, since you don't depend on natural lifts like thermals, you can say goodbye to "sled rides" that last 5 minutes. Every time you go, you can quickly log airtime and practice your flying skills, making PPG a fantastic toy to get better at flying in general and log tons of hours of airtime.
- Being able to log in hours of airtime quickly means you can keep your skills sharpened year-round.
- In flat land, if you want to fly free flight you need a winch operation (requiring machinery and a tow operator). But with the motor, all you need is a big open field free of obstacles (of course away from restricted airspaces and with the landowner's approval).
- First, it's recommended to fly in smoother conditions. Flying bumpy thermals is not comfortable with the engine weight on your back, and landing with the engine when the landing zone has thermal active air can be very tricky. So PPG is best early in the morning and late afternoon or evening (at least on thermal days).
- The noise,
- The weight, and
- The storage and maintenance require a garage.
- Traveling: You need a rack on your car or a pick-up truck, so carpooling is limited and traveling by plane is doable but requires some mechanical work since you need to totally disassemble the unit.
- A common mistake we see is that some newcomers feel that, because of the motor, they just need to press the gas and off they go! The reality is that you still need to master your take-off and landing skills. Just pressing the throttle will not get you off the ground.
Usually, with PPG, if you master the ground skills and landing phase, everything is pretty easy, especially in 5 mph steady wind. Everything becomes a lot more technical early in the morning, for example, when the wing is a bit wet, there is no wind, the ground is slippery with a bit of dew on it, etc. In that situation, you need to have a reliable technique for a smooth take-off and landing.
Regular practice is key, but if you invest a little of your time, you will have a blast with it.
What about Paragliding?
You can find a lot of info about paragliding on the USHPA web site
The usual feedback I hear from paramotor pilots, is that in the paragliding world we do a lot of “parawaiting”. That can be true since we rely more on the wind/thermal conditions; sometimes you need to pick your time wisely like a fisherman or a surfer.
I love paragliding. I love the hike to launch, the preparation, the wait on launch and the reading of the local conditions. Since you can't rely on the motor, timing for the take-off is important—looking at the clouds, the birds, the shadows in the valley.
You are really connected with a constantly changing element. Kind of like a wind surfer, for example.
While flying, a paraglider pilot is more tuned to the actual local conditions, constantly looking for signs of lift like a bird of prey. So it's an approach that requires more patience and that's more connected to the elements.
- Slightly cheaper since you don't have the cost of the engine.
- Since they can not rely on the motor, paraglider pilots tend to have a better feeling of the air (i.e. how to optimize their climbing rate in thermal air or their glide to reach a landing zone).
- The equipment is very easy to carry around; it's a backpack, so you can easily travel around the world by plane, car, bus, subway, etc.
- For outdoor people, you can hike and fly.
- Easy to go up mountains using gondola and ski lifts at ski resorts.
- Carpooling is an option: You can have 3-4 people with their gear in a regular car/SUV.
- You might have to wait hours upon launch to have a good opportunity to fly.
- Sometimes, when the conditions are different than what the weather report was forecasting, you'll drive to your site, hike to launch and it won't be flyable. It's frustrating but it's part of the game.
- In some situations, you'll drive and hike out only for your flight to last 5 minutes. Bummer, but again, it's part of the game.
All in all, it's flying and doing it with or without a motor has its pros and cons.
As a paraglider pilot, it took me a long time to get over the noise part of PPG but I enjoy all my PPG flights and the hours it provides. And when the wind conditions are good, paragliding gives me this incredible feeling of connection with the elements.
Don't hesitate one bit—if you can, fly both ways!