the first stages
For me learning to fly was always something I had wanted to do, but I never had the money or brains (so I thought) to do it. During my twenties and thirties I dabbled in a number of sports from climbing in my younger years then progressing on to mountaineering as my skills progressed and later moving into the caving and windsurfing scenes. Then, as the grey hairs inevitably muscled there way through and the 'dad bod' started to form it was time to find a new hobby. For me the logical step was to look back into flying.
The start for everything now is the Internet, so, there I am, click, click, click, distraction after distraction, cats on skateboards, dogs being chased by mice, focus - stay on the search and after many hours of trawling through different pages, I found learning to fly for me was out of the question due to cost of lessons and that diabetics are not allowed to get a pilots license (Bloody health and safety). Just as I had given up hope one last distraction, a YouTube clip of a paramotor pilot having to ditch into the sea off of sandbanks Dorset, and a glimmer of hope! Does paramotoring have the same restrictions as flying a plane and can I afford it? Time to resume the search..
With new enthusiasm my next search was more focused. Paramotorclub.org seemed to turn up again and again, Facebook was pretty useless and other sites seemed to be paragliding based. With further research I found my nearest training centre to be at Membury airfield by the m4. It was time for a phone call.
Simon Westmore was the guy on the other end of the phone, I had a plethora of questions; I'm diabetic can I fly? How long does it take? How much is it? How much is kit? How experienced are the instructors? Do you supply the kit for me to learn? Do I need insurance? Thankfully Simon had all the answers and gave me confidence - not enough to pay for lessons there and then, I don't just hand over my hard earned to any old Nigerian prince with an investment opportunity on the other end of the phone! So next it was off to the airfield to meet Simon, make sure it was a credible set up and see if paramotoring is for me.
Training - morning 1
Membury airfield is 40 minutes from my home, driving up was a mixture of excitement and nerves. Sat nav is a wonderful thing and it took me straight to the airfield without a problem. The field itself is flat and well, a field. Simon was easy to spot, his van had 'paramotor training.com' written on it and there was a huddle of guys next to it - one of them had to be Simon.
After parking up Simon introduced himself and Colin, another instructor, and invited me to have a go before I committed to the full course - this massively eased my mind. The relaxed approach and easy going attitude of both Colin and Simon was just what I was looking for.
The first morning was spent 'ground handling' with a small training wing, this was a safe way of feeling the wind, recognising how the wing reacts and generally gaining confidence. Colin is an excellent instructor and with his positive instruction I quickly had the wing up and was able to react to gusts (pull the brake lines) and lulls (run like fudge!). Roses were next, they're not just for valentines, who knew paramotoring was so girly? Simon did apparently, he showed me how to rose (pack up) the wing without tangling lines and walk to a different location, then it was back to practice, practice, practice. After a few hours of this and a lot of encouragement from Simon and Colin it was time for lunch and progression to a larger wing and harness! Yey!!! I'm confident and hooked! Then came the wind, the dreaded wind! As soon as its above 15mph learning to paramotor is iffy so we are blown out for the day and I'm booked back in for 9am tomorrow.