FAQ


You’ve come to the right place. We’ll answer some common paramotor questions and help you avoid traps that sometimes befall new entrants to our sport.What is a paraglider? 
A paraglider is a foot-launched, ram-air, aerofoil canopy, designed to be flown and landed with no other energy requirements than the wind and gravity.

What is powered paragliding?
Powered paragliding provides takeoff trust via a motor worn on the pilot’s back or attached to a trike. Pilots love the simple motorized takeoff without the need of mountains.

Steering control?
Control is very easy. Simply pull the right handle to turn right, the left handle to turn left. During landing, you’ll pull both at five feet above the ground for a gentle landing. Squeeze the throttle to climb, and release it to glide back down. It’s so easy!

Are paragliders the same as parasails?
Most people have a tendency to confuse paragliding with parasailing. Parasails are large, very stable, round parachutes generally pulled behind a boat at the beach or lake. They are very inefficient which is why it takes a powerful boat to pull them – but they are stable which is why tourists can go up in them. Paragliders are aircraft that require pilots who are skilled at controlling them.

How is a paraglider different from a skydiving parachute?
The biggest difference is that a paraglider is not constructed to handle a “terminal velocity deployment” like a sky diving parachute. Where the paraglider has a descent rate of about 3 feet/sec, a parachute descends at 9 to 18 feet/sec and is made much heavier materials to survive the loads of opening.

A paraglider also has a more elongated rectangular or elliptical shape than a parachute and, with more cells, much better gliding performance. Paragliders fly more like a wing and parachutes are intended to fix a fall.

What is the difference between a hang glider and a paraglider?
A hang glider has a rigid frame maintaining the shape of the wing, with the pilot usually flying in a prone position. The paraglider canopy shape is maintained only by air pressure and the pilot is suspended in a sitting or supine position.

The hang glider has a “cleaner” aerodynamic profile and generally is capable of flying at much higher speeds than a paraglider.

Why would anyone want to fly a paraglider when they could fly a hang glider? 
A paraglider folds down into a package the size of a largish knapsack and can be carried easily. Conversely, a hang glider needs a vehicle with a roof-rack for transportation to and from the flying site, as well as appreciable time to set-up and strip-down. It’s also somewhat easier to learn to fly, as a paraglider flys at much slower speeds.

Is paragliding safe?
Paragliding, like any other adventure sport, has its associated risks. To operate safely in any kind of aviation environment one must strive at all times to minimize those risks. The most important pre-requisites to learning to fly safely are: pilot attitude, competent instruction, and safe equipment. If these conditions are met the slow speeds and inherent stability of paragliders can provide a safe and easy way to experience the realization of one of humankind’s oldest and greatest dreams: personal flight.

How long?
This varies greatly depending on the type of motor, pilot weight, and size of the gas tank. Most paramotors have a 10 liter (2.6 gallons) gas tank. This will allow flights 2-3 hours.

How high?
It is fun flying a paramotor between 500 feet and 1000 feet above ground level, though they are capable of flying as high as 10,000 feet. The world record is around 18,000 feet above sea level.

How low?
Flying low is one of the best parts of this sport! You can safely fly inches above the ground, like a magic carpet.

How fast?
Between 17 and 28 mph, depending on the glider. However, speed is not as important as you may think.

How far?
Cross country flights are typically 50 miles or less. Depending on equipment and winds, you could go up to 100 miles.

Where?
You can fly anywhere except over populated areas, and within 5 miles of an airport with an operating control tower. We generally fly in what is known as Class G airspace.

Taking passengers?
Taking a passenger or “tandem” fliying is possible with the correct equipment and training. A special license is required.

When not to fly?
Yes, the fact that you are flying a very light airplane means that you are limited to lighter wind conditions, and morning and late afternoon flying. The mid-day skys are generally too rough to enjoy this type of flying. The exception to this is beach flying where you can fly all day long. On the beach, the air is not disturbed by the ocean as much as it is by land.

What happens if the motor quits?
It’s a glider, and glide it will! The loss of power only limits your ability to maintain altitude. The glider flies about 6 feet forward for every foot lost (a 6 to 1 glide ratio). So you’ll be dropping about 3 mph as you glide forward at about 20 mph. With even moderate skill it can be landed in quite a small space too. A motor failure is rarely more than an inconvenience.

Is paragliding hard to learn?
Paragliding (without a motor) is relatively easy to learn. Because it does not require great strength, paragliding is enjoyed by both women and men of all ages. Obtaining a P2 (Novice) rating is similar to learning to ski or scuba dive. Powered paragliding does require a significant amount of time to master, and because of the weight of the motor, a fair amount of strength is required. In either case, instruction from a certified instructor is mandatory.

What’s the hardest part of paragliding?
Launching is by far the hardest skill to learn, particularly in no-wind conditions. Once in the air, flying the paraglider is quite easy. Landing requires practice, but can be mastered without too much difficulty. The biggest obstacle for new students is learning to relax.

How far do you have to run to get airborne?
Just a few steps will be necessary in a 5-10 breeze. However, in a calm wind condition, 10 to 50 steps may be necessary. If your motor unit has more power, less steps are needed to accelerate to take-off speed.

Can I teach myself to paraglide?
It is true that paragliders are the most simple of aircraft. Most people can learn to launch, turn, and land in about an hour and a half of instruction. This is partly possible because we control the situation, assess the conditions and make safety decisions for our students. What cannot be taught in this period of time, however, are all the things necessary to make flight decisions on your own. In order to do this safely, it is necessary to have a comprehensive knowledge of weather, equipment, and safety procedures. The pilot certification program encompasses these things. Self teaching has been shown to be a key factor in the accident data compiled by the United States Hang Gliding Association (USHGA). IT HAS PROVEN TO BE VERY DANGEROUS TO TEACH YOURSELF!

Does Blue Ridge Paragliding rent equipment?
No. The equipment is expensive to replace or repair, making liability issues a real concern. However, many schools (in the Western US) do offer free-flight tandem rides. This is good way to experience paragliding before deciding to invest in equipment.

Does Blue Ridge Paragliding offer tandem rides?
No. We are located in the farmland country of Northern Virginia. There are no free-flight launches in our area. Further, most students are too heavy for tandem powered paragliding, making the purchase of special tandem equipment impracticable.

Do you need a license to fly in the
United States?

Paragliders are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration under Part 103 and are classified as ultralights. An FAA private pilot’s license is not required. However, the vast majority of powered paragliding pilots and instructors in the USA are members of the United States Powered Paragliding Association (USPPA), and the United States Hang Gliding Association (USHGA). Association membership provides rating cards, a national magazine, and a liability insurance policy (USHGA) for its members. You’ll need a certification to purchase equipment from a reputable dealer and some regulated flying sites will require you to have a rating issued by a certified instructor.

What is this PPG rating thing?
It is a voluntary rating system administered by the USPPA. Pilots may choose to train to receive ratings throughout their flying career that reflect the pilot skill level. The ratings are:

PPG1: Beginner Pilot – Student can fly but is required to stay under constant instructor supervision and instructor radio contact.

PPG2: Intermediate Pilot – Student is now considered a full-fledged pilot and can fly solo at nearly 90% of our flying sites nationally.

PPG3: Advanced Pilot – Pilot has demonstrated significant skills and logged required hours. At this point you are considered a competent pilot and can fly almost every site safely.

What are the main component parts of a paraglider?
A canopy (the actual “wing”), risers (the cords by which the pilot is suspended below the canopy) and a harness. In addition, the brake cords provide speed and directional control and carabiners are used to connect the risers and the harness together.

Set up time?
Set up takes 3 to 10 minutes, depending upon your equipment. Some powered units fit into a suitcase for travel or storage.

Type of gas?
The same gas you use in your car mixed with 2 stroke oil, usually at a ratio of 50 to 1. Mixing bottles available at most motorcycle shops make this super easy.

Transporting the PPG?
Most PPG’s break down into very small packages and fit in your car trunk. This break down takes 5-10 minutes and can be reassembled in just a few minutes. Some pilots carry their units on racks that plug into a receiver hitch. Some units actually fit in a suitcase.

PPG’s on the airlines?
Checking your PPG as baggage isn’t as easy as it used to be since 9/11. However, some airlines still allow you to take them. It appears that international flights for some reason are usually more receptive to taking your PPG. You must clean it up and remove all gas and oil.

Can the line of my paraglider break?
Paragliders lines are incredibly strong although failures are possible. To our knowledge, no equipment failure has ever resulted in a fatality although they have been recorded. There are basic care and inspection requirements that will let the pilot know if his lines are intact. Most recommend that wings are inspected annually after they’ve accumulated 2 years or 100 hours.

How long does a paraglider last? 
General wear and tear (especially the latter) and deterioration from exposure to ultra-violet usually limit the useful lifetime of a canopy to somewhere in the region of 200 to 300 hours of airtime. This obviously depends strongly on use.

Paraglider cost? 
This varies between makers and models, but a middle of the range canopy will normally cost in the region of $1800 to $3600. We recommend that you do not purchase a used paraglider. New paraglider designs reflect the latest in materials, safety, and performance enhancements.

Harness cost?
This varies greatly between makers and models. Harnesses will normally cost in the region of $250 to $750. The harness is usually included in the price if you purchase a paramotor.

Paramotor cost?
This varies between makers and models, but a middle of the range paramotor and harness will normally cost in the region of $4700 to $5800.

Training cost?
Blue Ridge Paragliding offers a USPPA PPG1 certification program for $1050. For estimated total cost of training and equipment, click here.

What else do I need to buy?
You will need a good pair of boots ($150), speaker-equiped helmet ($175-$350), TalkAbout radio ($60-$90), and a gallon of gas.

What size glider and motor do you recommend?
The size of your glider and motor is determined primarily by your weight. Large size gliders and motors DO NOT tranlate to better performance. In fact, a glider or motor that is too big can be unsafe. It is important to work with a certified instructor to select equipment that is tailored to YOUR weight and ability.

Should I buy equipment on eBay?
Before buying any equipment (new or used) you should first find a certified instructor. There is a lot of “old technology” for sale that won’t get you in the air, or is even unsafe. Sadly, we have seen students show up for training only to discover they have wasted thousands of dollars. Do the smart thing… get professional advice!