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Paramotor vs. Microlight


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I haven't had my paramotor training yet (almost booked it) but I want to make sure I'm doing the right thing. I am wondering what the pros and cons are of each and whether I should be going for paramotoring or microlights. What are the pros and cons of each? I know I may get a biased response here, but try and be as unbiased as you can. :D

Reasons I want to get into paramotoring:

  • Cheapest form of powered flying
  • Ease of transportation and storage of the aircraft
  • Flexibility of take-off and landing sites - much greater than microlights

Why did you choose it over microlights (or other forms of flying for that matter).

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Only limited experience as I got as far as 2 x solo on a flexwing but never got my licence.

I tried conventional paramotor but now settle for a paramotor trike...... best of both worlds for me.

Flexwing in my opinion is better if you want to fly distance, as they are generally faster, and if you are happy to fly from conventional airstrips. However, I found the wing very heavy to use and as I'm only 10 stone or so, I pretty much got thrown around by it. My feeling overall was that it was the machine that was in charge and I was simply trying to control it. Add to that the considerable costs of hangarage, the expense the extended training schedule and the annual running costs, and I would go for a floppy wing every time.

You are however much more limited on the weather/wind conditions in which you can fly. Having said that, there are a lot of flexwing pilots who would only fly in the weather that we do anyway because its simply not a lot of fun getting thrown around on rough days. Additionally, the flexwing trikes are really quite unstable on the ground (a lot of weight in the wing very high up) and can tip over quite easily.

My type of flying is one where I am happy to have an aerial platform and enjoy the physical sensation of flying. Some pilots want to fly from A to B, but I am quite happy leave home, drive to where I want to fly, have a fly around and then drive home. A conventional paramotor will easily pack into the car whilst my trike means using a trailer - not really a lot of hassle and it means that my unit is already set up when I get to the field...........just needs a pre-flight check.

All the above is no more than a personal opinion and I would be really interested in hearing others.  

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Hello and welcome to the forums.

I'm a "nearly" qualified 3-axis pilot (all theory exams passed and just 4 solo hours away from the 3-axis rating on a PPL-M licence) and I recently have chosen paramotors over it for the very same reasons you pointed out and more. This is, perhaps, the best decision concerning aviation I have ever made in my life. I will make use of all the passed exams, though, to only get a Powered Parachute rating on a licence even though this isn't required by law for paramotors and all forms of foot launched aircraft . Here's my personal reasons behind it:

- Paramotoring is a much cheaper sport compared to microlights in all its forms overall;
- Paramotors are safer than all forms of conventional microlights;
- Much easier to store and transport;
- Much cheaper to maintain;
- Much more flexible in any way, shape and form;
- Much less paperwork and hassle around it all;
- Much better perspective and feel in the air;
- Much more fun overall compared to microlights;
- Faster growing and well put together community by the day with no occasional drawbacks;

Don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to say microlights are a terrible option, not at all. They're great fun and were the first option I went for. It's just that paramotors are the better choice in my personal opinion and I can give detailed explanation about each and every one of the above points based on first-hand experience.

First off paramotoring is cheaper. In fact I think it's the cheapest way to get airborne legally. Microlights on the other hand involve not only the base price of the aircraft itself but also the more expensive training, licence, mandatory membership for insurance purposes, insurance itself, hangar/storage fees, yearly inspections, fuel, landing fees (not necessarily but very common), mandatory equipment and maintenance.

Safety - the most important point of all. I believe everyone would agree with me here. At first glance paramotors might look more dangerous to some compared to a microlight - I assure you this is just an illusion. I know statistics and numbers might be boring however unlike human they're unbiased. Undoubtedly there have been more accidents due to structural and mechanical failures/defects with microlights than there were with paramotors. 99,99% of the accidents concerning paramotors are due to pilot error and got nothing to do with the equipment itself. I personally feel much safer when paramotoring than I do when piloting a 3-axis or a weight-shift microlight and specifically love the fact I don't have to worry about an engine out ever again. This is, however, the biggest fear and the most inconvenient eventuality/scenario of any microlight pilot. All microlight pilots should and I dare to believe are very much capable of performing an emergency landing (mandatory element in the training process and exams) however imagine what the recovery procedure would be and what would it involve .. not sure about you but I don't even dare to imagine. Taking off into the sky and exploring it as a sport and for leisure purposes only at suitable weather conditions, I feel much safer when up there with 2 parachutes and a "butt fan" then in a microlight of any form.

Convenience. This would include storage, transportation and flexibility. Purely size wise every person in the World (aviation oriented or not) would figure out it's easier to store and transport a paramotor than it is for a microlight in any of its forms. An even bigger advantage here is the ability to actually travel with your paramotor equipment - the best companion for every explorer out there. Yes, most of the new paramotors out there can be folded to the size of a suitcase without the need for any tools and in minutes. I mean, come one, how cool is that?! This would be impossible for a microlight unless you fly it to your destination but that doesn't end there - where would it stay, how would it all happen, would it be safe, flight plans, EASA, paperwork, dependencies on weather both ways, hassle .. I think it's a "no go" for me unless I'm going specifically on such and adventure or a fly-in.

Maintenance. Oh, how exciting .. the most exciting bit of all, ha ha ha! Unfortunately you won't go without that for both hobbies however the maintenance costs and skills required for paramotors is uber-low compared to those for microlights in all their forms. Oh yes, and not to forget any maintenance carried out on a microlight has to be inspected and signed off by the relative competent person. Modifications wise microlights are much more complicated as well, unless you're SSDR which again is slightly limited.

Flexibility. I prefer calling it freedom because that's exactly what it is with paramotors. Flexibility applies more to microlights considering the short take off/landing distance they need, it's size etc. whereas with paramotoring you're completely free to fly from anywhere you have the permission to do so (by the land lord). Permission is not allowed if/when you fly from a land not owned by anyone. These rules don't really apply to most countries in Europe where you can take off from/land anywhere you see fit and mostly safe, but also there is other countries like Germany for example, where take off/landing sites are regulated more closely. All in all, compared to microlights, paramotors equal freedom (or at least to me).

Paperwork. First we'll start with licencing. Legally to fly paramotors you don't need a pilots licence. That bit sounds most appealing to most and that's for a very good reason - paramotors are really easy to fly, much easier than microlights. It would, however, only be foolish to try and take to the skies on your own without proper and adequate training which only costs a fraction of the training required to fly microlights, let alone private pilot licence additional costs which I will look at in a bit more details below. A lot of people always come up with the "Wright brothers" excuse to go and try on their own, being impatient to fly which I understand to the extent of knowing that feeling of excitement when it comes to flying. Practice however has showed it's easier, quicker, less expensive and less painful to get proper training, then go and fly every time you get the chance to (or more like when weather permits you to do so). Typically, proper paramotoring training with a well known instructor costs about 1000 GBP and lasts 6 days. That's it - no other hidden costs. There is of course another option which might work better for those willing to buy themselves the aircraft/equipment from that particular instructor as it is in most cases they are also distributors of certain makes and models. This would mean your training works out at 0 GBP - yes, that's correct. Every acknowledged/rated instructor would offer you free training should you buy your gear from them. Microlights however work way different - you need a PPL licence with M rating (M stands for Microlights) or NPPL licence with M rating (National PPL licence with M rating with certain limitations). This is rather costly compared to paramotors. An hour of microlight training costs between 100 GBP and 170 GBP per hour and you need at least 20 hours of instruction before you pass your GST (and that's in case you are a VERY talented pilot). Usually most people take anything in between 25 and 45, sometimes up to 50 hours. Simultaneously you have to pass all theory exams as well - Air Law,  Aircraft Technical (for the specified type of aircraft), Meteorology, Human Performance And Limitations and Navigation. At most airfield you would be required to be able to use radio. This means you also need a Flight Radiotelephone Operator Licence. In the meantime you are also required to be a member of the BMAA (British Microlight Aircraft Association) for insurance purposes. This membership has to be renewed every year and your licence is also due for renewal/evaluation every 2 years and you should meet certain criteria before its renewed. With microlights you also have to keep your log book up to date. At first I found it to be "cool" - I mean, come on, it's a pilots log book, not everyone has it, right?! Then with time it becomes more and more annoying. This all sounds like some paperwork, right? Wait, there is more! Big time - you have your first aircraft, this is great but then reality strikes you - there is another association you have to deal with - CAA. Engine logbook, air frame logbook, maintenance books. In the end, when you look at it, you spend just as much time to sort paperwork out and have it in order, as you fly. This consumes way too much time, time you could have well spent in the air should you have chosen to fly a  paramotor. Again, that's all just my opinion. With paramotors it all narrows down to this - you get your training, you get accreditation on either of two schemes (APPI or BHPA) and become a recognized pilot, you get your gear, you get your optional third party insurance (most land owners would require this in order for you to be able to to operate from their fields but you're not legally required to have it in case you find a place where land owners are not involved and you can operate freely), and ... away in the air you go, for as many flyable days in the year you can and for as long as your gear permits you to per flight!

Better air experience and more fun. Yes, this is what I relate paramotors with. Just imagine this picture - flyable weather conditions, you in your seat, sitting comfortably in the air with your legs stretched (or just in a regular position), gaining altitude, then you turn off your engine deliberately to enjoy and sink in the view at an altitude of 2000 feet, hanging from your wing. Then at your please, you just turn your motor on and gain some more altitude for an even wider perspective. I mean just imagine that - you are there, in the skies .. no ridiculously small trike cockpits, no small 3-axis microlight cockpits, no view restrictions in any way shape or form. This to me is the ultimate air experience as a leisure pilot that no microlight can award me with and I have tried on quite a few, I assure you! Honestly, nothing beats this feeling but no matter how hard I try to describe and compare it - you wouldn't know until you try it yourself. For adrenaline seekers and acrobatic oriented pilots - I believe paramotors are the better option as well. Although I find it too dangerous myself and would only limit my experience to wingovers (it's only natural I think, doing something which your equipment isn't designed to do but can withstand it if you know its limits can be scary) I believe paramotors can offer you much more fun than any conventional microlight mainly due to the pilot's direct encounter and touch with the sky and the whole perspective itself. Sensation which no microlight can beat I think. Again, that's just my humble opinion and my point of view on things.

Community. Playing alone isn't all that much fun to most. I would agree although I personally would often just glide on my own. And then again there's nothing like a fly-in where you meet a lot of like minded people to share experiences with. In this respect microlights get as close to paramotors as possible and that's based solely on my personal experience. Microlights and paramotors communities are very close to each other with reference to friendliness, help, experience sharing, a bit of free good advice here and there and everything that our sports are. Based on current observations however I believe paramotors community grows faster and bigger by the day in comparison to the microlights family and that says something to me - I have made the right decision on swapping sides. Although I'm quite new I can already feel and tell the difference. I would still keep in touch with everyone I know in microlights communities however here it just feels more like home and where I belong.

I'm sorry if I bored anyone to death, I'll just buy you drinks at the next fly-in I suppose, ha ha ha. I just felt the need to share it all and this was the right place and time.

Diyan

Edited by Diyan
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1 hour ago, Guy said:

Couldn't have put better Diyan........you've covered all bases, and yes I too can see this area growing rapidly while perhaps the conventional flexwing may well stagnate.

I get quite a feeling of vibrancy from the paramotor community.

Thanks. If anyone thinks I missed anything or wants to ask any kind of questions - please by all means come forward. With reference to the paramotor community - feelings are quite mutual. I have that feeling things would only be going uphill as it's quite a thrill.

Regarding the microlights, I think weight shift/flex wing are closer to paramotors and they will therefore continue existing a little longer if not right all the way with our choice of flying (says me, just my opinion). I'm afraid I don't see any bright future for their 3 axis brothers though .. looked at it from all angles, requirements are so fairly close to those of a light aircraft and as the prices of some aircraft like Cessna's go down, this will I think push people to pursue LPPL(A)/PPL(A) .. performance is better, fuel consumption and capabilities also, seats are a bit more .. imagine a bunch of friends going out for a flight, kind of cool I think. Realistically, all or shall I maybe say most 3 axis microlights and a light aircraft of the type Cessna have the same crosswind take off limits and can fly in the very same conditions so for the same amount of money or maybe a grand or two more it'd be an easy decision for me - I'd take the Cessna and do the extra efforts any day. But that's just me anyway. Not to drift any further from the initial topic, I believe the closest to long future existence is the way of SSDR weight shift/flex wing microlights.

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All I can say is Wow, thanks Diyan! Will buy you a pint if we ever meet up! What a great comprehensive answer and you confirmed for me that I'm making the right decision going with paramotors. Haven't had my first lesson yet, but I hope to do that in the next few weeks, just waiting for a good weekend weather window. :D

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31 minutes ago, subtlealpine said:

All I can say is Wow, thanks Diyan! Will buy you a pint if we ever meet up! What a great comprehensive answer and you confirmed for me that I'm making the right decision going with paramotors. Haven't had my first lesson yet, but I hope to do that in the next few weeks, just waiting for a good weekend weather window. :D

:D :coptor:

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5 hours ago, subtlealpine said:

All I can say is Wow, thanks Diyan! Will buy you a pint if we ever meet up! What a great comprehensive answer and you confirmed for me that I'm making the right decision going with paramotors. Haven't had my first lesson yet, but I hope to do that in the next few weeks, just waiting for a good weekend weather window. :D

You're welcome mate. If you commit to the sport - we will definitely meet up some day. We shall only arrange it. I don't drink alcohol though (my wife's dad says - well, everyone's got a downside ha ha ha) but you can buy me a juice any time. I believe you are making the right decision and good luck in your paramotor and future aviation education! This coming week doesn't really look good until the weekend, eventually (well, depends exactly where you are but it's how it looks my part of the country) but I'm desperately waiting and hoping for the same thing you are! Just let me know what area you'd be looking to fly and I might visit .. or you may also, once you are up there and confidently flying on your own. By all means we can arrange a meet up only if we wish. Again, best of luck, smooth training and many happy landings to you! Keep in touch!

:coptor:

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As a counterpoint: After 5 years with a paramotor, I have moved to a 3 axis microlight. It is absolutely true that paramotoring is cheap, safe and convenient. As a way into aviation, it was exactly the right thing for me when I started. Among the reasons for moving to a microlight is the capacity to take a passenger. Of course, it is possible to take a passenger on a tandem paramotor or trike, with the appropriate licensing, kit etc., but It is a lot easier to find friends who are willing to climb into a seat and shut the door than friends who are willing to strap themselves to me and run.

I must take issue with some of what has been said (or implied) about safety. Microlights do not fall out of the sky due to mechanical failure any more than paramotors. Pilots are taught to fly so that they can glide to a safe landing area at all times. Forced landing is part of the syllabus and test. Where incidents have been attributed to mechanical failure (read engine failure) it could be argued that the pilot should have every opportunity to land safely and failure to do so is due to pilot error, either before or after power loss. Part of the definition of a microlight is the maximum stall speed of 35 knots. This is also the speed at which the aircraft lands, so a forced landing in a poorly chosen ploughed field or marshy area may not be the most comfortable experience, but is slow enough that the protection of the cockpit frame prevents significant injuries in majority of cases. I am personally satisfied that a microlight is just as safe as a paramotor. The overwhelming majority of accidents with both types are ultimately down to the pilot, either through poor flying or poor maintenance.

Whichever you choose, do so because it's what you want and have fun.

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22 hours ago, ptwizz said:

As a counterpoint: After 5 years with a paramotor, I have moved to a 3 axis microlight. It is absolutely true that paramotoring is cheap, safe and convenient. As a way into aviation, it was exactly the right thing for me when I started. Among the reasons for moving to a microlight is the capacity to take a passenger. Of course, it is possible to take a passenger on a tandem paramotor or trike, with the appropriate licensing, kit etc., but It is a lot easier to find friends who are willing to climb into a seat and shut the door than friends who are willing to strap themselves to me and run.

I must take issue with some of what has been said (or implied) about safety. Microlights do not fall out of the sky due to mechanical failure any more than paramotors. Pilots are taught to fly so that they can glide to a safe landing area at all times. Forced landing is part of the syllabus and test. Where incidents have been attributed to mechanical failure (read engine failure) it could be argued that the pilot should have every opportunity to land safely and failure to do so is due to pilot error, either before or after power loss. Part of the definition of a microlight is the maximum stall speed of 35 knots. This is also the speed at which the aircraft lands, so a forced landing in a poorly chosen ploughed field or marshy area may not be the most comfortable experience, but is slow enough that the protection of the cockpit frame prevents significant injuries in majority of cases. I am personally satisfied that a microlight is just as safe as a paramotor. The overwhelming majority of accidents with both types are ultimately down to the pilot, either through poor flying or poor maintenance.

Whichever you choose, do so because it's what you want and have fun.

I agree with you also mate. Concerning safety, both paramotors and microlights were carefully designed and do what they are supposed to do. As it is with all ultralight aviation every aircraft is only as safe as the pilot is. As per my original post, everything states and reflects my personal opinion only .. or more like preference.

Again, you are right, in the end it's all down to personal preference as to which ones delivers more fun and suits needs/budget/specific particular situation.

Wishing you all the best and many happy landings buddy. :) 

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