Some days, my Fed-Ex delivery driver has no idea what an immensely positive effect he is going to have on my favourite thing, flying my paramotor. Be it delivering a new helmet, a pair of gloves or just a bottle of Motul 800.
Recently a Fed-Ex box arrived from my recently appointed new best friend in Florida, Eric Farewell. I’d been in touch with Eric about some of the fabulous products that Aviator PPG sell, and which we don’t have in the UK. Eric had been helpful - as you’d expect from a company with the reputation of Aviator on social media, etc. Eric demonstrates a real enthusiasm for his products which matches the passion you see when you watch any Aviator PPG video. Eric is genuinely motivated about aviation and aviators - it reminds me a lot of Parajet in the UK - pure passion.
My order was placed on the Aviator website and the feedback was as good as Amazon provides - I could see every update of the order and shipping. Amazingly, it was picked, packed and crossed the Atlantic to arrive within three days.
Initially, I was most excited about the wing tip strobes, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on these. I’ve had a thing about my visibility for a long time; I regularly fly from a spot next to the River Usk in the Brecon Beacons in Wales - anyone who knows the RAF knows that the River Usk is what the RAF follow to aid navigation, whether it’s fast jets on their way to the Mach loop, Chinooks and Apache helicopters on their way to and from the Sennybridge range or Hercules transport planes practising low level navigation. Plus ordinary GA enjoying the scenery. Despite proper use of NOTAMS, I still occasionally find myself uncomfortably close to a piece of undesirable hardware in my airspace.
I've looked at several strobe options in the past; I discounted any of my existing battery-powered diving and boating strobes, they didn’t have enough power to be seen from a safe distance. I also looked at the very nice MicroAvionics and SkyFlar strobes but, as I've been trying to minimise clutter on my machine and didn’t want to be adding more batteries, wires and switches, I decided against these. I ordered some bits from Banggood and soldered my own one-piece strobe together; it worked but didn’t inspire me much as it didn’t provide 360 degree coverage ... and electronics definitely ain’t my bag.
When I opened the box from Aviator, I was nicely surprised. The first items were very well-presented small boxes, each containing a wingtip strobe. The gold logo on the square box is a very classy introduction to the product inside - I could ask for someone’s hand in marriage if I presented one of these whilst down on one knee (assuming the recipient was a paramotor pilot!).
The high intensity strobes themselves are very compact and lightweight. I looked at the intricacy of the internals as I turned one of them on - and immediately blinded myself for a moment. These things are seriously bright.
The way to fit the strobe is to find an attachment point within the tips of your wing and then loop the strobes into each tip. I used a piece of old wing D-line and made a loop tied onto the sturdy hoop on each strobe. Reaching into my wing through the leading edge, it took a few seconds find the last rib before the tip and loop the strobe into place around the rib, feel for the button through the fabric of the wing and gently press to turn it on. It’s as simple as that.
I went for a fly the next day and eagerly looked up to find only one tip was flashing. Seems like I should have checked them properly before launching - it’s now a quick addition to my preflight checks. I'm also going to reposition them so they are placed centrally on the tips.
I asked my flying buddy to see how visible they were while we were in the air and also from the ground. He was impressed with how clear they were and he also commented on how cool they looked. Cool is a bonus but being clearly visible is excellent and what I wanted.
There is an element of mystery about the strobes from a spectator’s point of view; it looks like wizardry is at play, making the wingtip flash so brightly. The strobes actually use Firehouse strobes which are ubiquitous in the world of drones and RC planes. However, Aviator doubled up the Firehouse strobes so there are two of them in each wingtip strobe, placed back-to-back. They then increased their light output and added a beefier battery. A small strong hoop has also been added through which the thread is passed to attach the strobe to the wing.
The run time of each wingtip strobe is in excess of four hours, so there’s plenty of time for the average paramotor flight. Charging is via a micro USB socket.
Of course, you don’t have to use them just in your wingtips, they can be attached anywhere you fancy.
Each wingtip strobe costs $40 and they are available here:
If I thought the wingtip strobes were as good as I’d hoped they’d be, I was in a for an even bigger surprise with the next item in my package from Aviator - the outstanding Northstar strobe.
This free-standing unit contains five high-intensity LEDs and is the perfect solution for my need to have a main strobe with no battery box and wires. It’s beautifully made and is so bright I can barely tolerate being in a darkened room with it when it’s turned on.
The Northstar is supplied in a sturdy plastic box which is neatly packed with several fittings, giving various options for mounting the strobe. The curved base, perfect for mounting on top of your helmet, is attached by default but removing four small screws enables this to be swapped out for a flat base or a plate with strap mounting slots. Also in the box are two mounting straps, three 3M self-adhesive velcro pads, four spare screws and a very cool Aviator PPG sticker.
The strobe window provides 360 degree horizontal visibility as well as being easily visible from above - and that visibility is impressive. As an experiment, during our recent bout of UK summer (rain, wind, grey low cloud), I turned the strobe on and left it in my flying field then went for a walk into the hills. At a vantage point, where I could see the field approximately 2 miles away in a straight line, there was the Northstar very clearly doing its thing.
And talking of its thing, there's a choice of five flash sequences.
Operation is simple; you turn the Northstar on by pressing the power button, select the flash sequence using the same button and turn it off by pressing the power button twice and holding it down for four seconds.
The Northstar is a nice compact size, being 95mm x 38mm x 60mm high (it can be shallower depending on which base you have attached) and is very lightweight. Like the wingtip strobes, it charges via a USB socket and its onboard 18650 battery provides a burn time of over four hours.
The Northstar strobe costs $149 and is available here:
So, I’m really happy with both of my strobe solutions from Aviator PPG. I ordered them from the states and it took three days to arrive in the UK. I’m hoping we will have a UK distributor for Aviator PPG available soon but, for now, waiting a few days for delivery is easy.
I highly recommend these easy to use and easy to mount strobes; after searching for a solution, it’s come from the states in that box from Aviator PPG. They are well-made, lightweight, compact and good value for money.