Jump to content

Autistic Air Adventures... a 40-odd year old autistic fella learns to fly

Steve Loy

Recommended Posts


I'm Steve, I'm autistic, and I am learning to fly! 

I have always wanted to fly since i was a boy, I have a keen interest in aviation and even won a scholarship with the RAF when i was younger. They were going to pay for me to go to university, and in return i would sign up for minimum 10 years to fly tornados... sounded like a good deal to me.

Unfortunately, genetics got in the way and I failed the eye tests, and so my dream of flying was never realised... until now!

Figured I would document my training so far. It might help me solidify ideas, and, it might help someone else learn from my mistakes... so here we go.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Day 1

My instructor (Paul Haxby... AXB... great guy... highly recommend Paul and his training!) informed me that the first session would be a tough one. A full day mix of theory and practical experience of ground handling a wing.

He told me to bring enough food and drink for a full day, some sturdy boots and be prepared to knackered by the end of the day.

He was not wrong about that!

We started with the basics... A talk through the wing and all it's components. Leading edge, Cells, Lines, Risers... etc etc. A full tour of a glider and all its bits and bobs, and how it all works in order to keep you in the air. We briefly touched on the theory of flight, but when I started answering questions about flight and flight theory before he had even asked them, he knew I was fairly well informed about flight so we didn't dwell on the simple stuff. And instead focussed on the nuances of controlling a paramotor glider specifically.

Then followed a short demonstration of the reverse launch technique, with a detailed explanation of the how's and more importantly the WHY's of the various control inputs

(This is something I explained to Paul at the outset. My Autism wont allow me to simply follow instructions blindly... it isn't enough for me to understand WHAT I should do in a given situation, I also have to understand WHY I am doing it...this is both a blessing and a curse depending on the situation. Thankfully, Paul is a great teacher, and explaining WHY I am doing something seems to be a none-issue for him)

After a while, it was time to strap into the harness myself, clip the training wing in and, after being taught the 6-point check (Leg, Leg, Chest, Carabiner, Carabiner, Helmet) try to kite for the first time.

It went about as well as expected. Wing came up, I pulled the wrong brake... wing flipped and went down. This continued for a while, but eventually I started to get the hang of it, and before long, I was successfully reverse kiting. The wind started to die down a bit, so, we switched to forward launch technique. And, after a while, I was dong moderately well. But, I am not a fit guy, i am an unfit 40somthing year old, and Paul could tell .So, we went for a cuppa and a sit down to go through some more theory. The pattern continued throughout the day. Cuppa and sit-down for theory, followed by practicing with the wing, both forward and reverse launching / kiting depending o the wind. All in all a successful first full day training. I came away with a good foundation of theory, and a beginner level of kiting.



  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Day 2

Day 2 was a half day session. And Paul told me it would be more of the same. He had offered me a book during my first session ("The complete paramotors pilots book of knowledge" by Darell Smith) but, I gleefully told him I had already purchased it and read it cover to cover. Twice. (This please Paul greatly, as he realised I was dead serious about learning this stuff) 

Day two was, indeed, more of the same. alternating Theory over a brew, with practicing Ground Handling. I was told, this would be the regime until he was satisfied that i had a firm grasp of the wing on the ground. 

By the end of the session, I was Forward and reverse launching, turning, and kiting the wing successfully, with minimal input from Paul. 

I left feeling confident and pleased with myself, after Paul complimented me on how quickly I was picking it up.

what I didn't tell him, is that i was living and breathing Paramotoring. when I wasn't working, or training with him, i was devouring paramotoring content on forums and YouTube. Ground handling tutorials, theory talks, equipment tutorials, the lot. 

when I do something, I go all in!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Day 3

Another shorter session. 

Paul got the wing and harness out and told me to set up myself, perform the proper check, then begin kiting the wing while he got something set up. A while into the session, the wind started to pick up a bit... and got quite strong. So Paul taught me the theory behind the Cobra Launch, and demoed it a few times. 

Within an hour I was holding the wing steady at the side in the cobra position. 

After this, whilst we had a cuppa, he informed me that he was more than happy with my ground work, and tat it was time for the next phase.

Out came the Paramotor. Followed by the theory and the parts, and a demonstration.

Then it was time to strap in, and stand up with a paramotor on my back for the first time.

We spent some time getting used tot he feeling of the motor, of it running at idle, of applying power, generally just getting a feel for what it's like to have an engine with a prop strapped to you and what happens with you add power, reduce power etc etc. Was fun!

finally.. it was time to ground handle... but with full kit on. 

Not going to lie. There is a wold of difference ground handling with / without all the gear on... it was tough. But, after a while I was successfully doing the thing... just getting tired much faster. A few practice runs at a forward launch (without engine power... just going through he motions) and we left session 3 with the intention to MAYBE try the first training flight next session.

Paul was going away for a while after this session, so he loaned me a wing and a harness, for me to practice ground handling whilst he was away.

Which I dutifully did... about 12 hours worth over the course of a week I reckon. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Day 4

Paul was back, I was ready... lets do this!

Today was the day. Myself and another student were going to fly. Or at least that was the theory.

We got set up, got on comms, and Paul walked me through the theory once more from start to finish.

A deep breath, and a committed run into a forward launch... and then... a haze... I remember Paul providing instruction and I remember vaguely trying to follow it... but then he gave me the kill kill kill instruction, and I realised the wing wasn't coming up properly and he was aborting. 

He told me I had let go of the A's too soon. 

Well bugger... what a plonker. 

Sweating like a nun in a brothel... we set up again... 

This time, I brought the wing up properly, and to the shouts of Paul over comms "POWER POWER POWER, KEEP RUNNING")  this was the result...


I was flying!

(Not the most graceful of take-offs but heck, ill take it!)

I spent about 10 mins in the air. Doing circuits around the field at about 600ft, following Pauls instructions, getting used to what control inputs did, and what it felt like to do various gentle manoeuvres. And then it was time to line up for a landing.

Paul once again talked me through the theory as I flew the pattern at altitude, then he told me to do it for real and walked me through each step of setting up for the landing. Resulting in...


"Text-book" apparently. Not bad for my first go.

All in all i left that day with the greatest sense of accomplishment I think I have had in a very long time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Day 5

Today was going to be another training flight. 

The mission this time? I will quote Paul...

"Take off, do a circuit as you gain altitude. get to about 1000ft, then bugger of for 20 mins into the sunset, ill see you when you get back, ill be on comms if you need me"

Essentially, Paul wanted me to leave the training nest a little bit. He wanted me to get some altitude them just fly off for a while to get used to being up there. 

I another failed launch attempt before i managed it on the 2nd go. (I stopped running too soon... idiot) 

What followed was one of the most amazing and emotional experiences I've had in a while.

A 20 minute flight, watching the sunset, from 1000ft. 

My father died last year, of an aggressive bowel cancer. he went from being a healthy 60 year old walking 12 miles a day,  to dead in about 12 weeks. I'm still not come to terms with it really, but It is largely due to the inheritance that I am able to finally peruse my dream of flying. 

In that moment, 1000ft up, looking at the setting sun... I knew he would be proud.

I returned to the field with the sun setting behind me, and a tear in my eye. And that's when Paul told me i was going to perform a practice for an engine off landing.

He talked me over the field, at about 1000ft, and then talked me through the theory, before telling me to kill the engine.

He then talked me through al the stages of picking a spot, checking wind direction, and loosing altitude to line up for an "emergency" landing from altitude without power.

"Text-book" again..  go me!



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Day 6

Today was going to be good.

A 1 hour cross country flight, accompanied by Paul. we were going to take off, and fly a triangle route cross country for about an hour in total. 20 mins each leg.

Success here would mark the end of my "basic" training. 

Not going to lie, it went brilliantly! I took off and circled while Paul got airborne. Then we climbed up to about 1300ft and headed out. The comms system failed about 10 mins in. But, I was comfortable and a thumbs up between us saw us continue. 

It was brill... everything I imagined flying to be, cruising above the fields, taking in the view (From Pauls training location you can see the Humber bridge on the horizon, and Drax PowerStation in the other direction.

It was amazing.

Right up until the point at about 50 mins in, on the last leg back, 10 mins from the field... My engine died.

I panicked, for a full 15 seconds or so. I tried to re-start it... no joy... so i panicked some more.

Then.. I remembered I had Literally trained for this exact scenario on the flight previous. So I had a word with myself, got my shit together... and started looking for somewhere to put it down safely. I ended up landing in a farmers field... it wasn't the best of landings as I think I misjudged the wind direction a bit, so it was quite fast so I think I flared too late, and I didn't quite keep my feet under me. Ended with a stumble and a fall but no damage done to me or equipment so worked out ok. 

(Note to self... I need to work on that... looking for natural queues for wind direction when there is no windsock to rely on)

Paul overflew at a low altitude to shout down to see if I was ok. i gave him the thumbs up, and he headed back to get his van while I packed up the gear and hiked to the nearest road. 

All in all... it was fun to be honest. And a true learning experience!



Link to comment
Share on other sites

With my XC flight done (with a real emergency landing, no less) that marks the end of my basic training. 

The current situation, is that I have ordered some new gear and I am waiting for delivery. Once I have my own gear, ill be going back to Paul for some more training flights with my new equipment to get used to it.

Might be a few weeks but ill keep this thread updated as I go.

I will be flying on an Apco Lift EZ-R when it arrives.

As for the motor, I did some research and looking around. And eventually I settled on a Minari F1. engine only, which I will fit to a frame Paul is supplying, with his help)

(Largely because when I contacted Minari Italy directly, they happily offered to supplied me with a brand new engine at an amazing price compared to what the other manufacturers were offering. It would seem they are looking to raise their profile in the UK...  so were willing to significantly discount there prices if I bought from them... so if your in the market for a new engine... then seriously get in touch with Minari Italy... they're willing to sell brand new Minari F1 engines for very reasonable process to people in the UK at the moment)


Ill be back in this thread once I have further training to talk about.





Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome to the skies Steve, an old timer here.

Sounds like you have a had a really great introduction to the joys of paramotoring, keep up the blog as it's always interesting to read of others experiences.

Sorry to hear of your fathers rapid demise but take it in good heart that something good has followed.


  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Not so much training,

But I did collect my new paramotor this week from my instructor.

Minari F1, on a PXP frame with an Apco Universal harness. 

I imported the engine directly from Minari Italy, and Paul supplied both the frame and the harness,. and offered to customise the frame to fit the engine and put everything together for me.

Got a talk through all the components, some basic maintenance advice, and what-not. 

We hang tested it, and he is loaning me the wing I have been training on until my Lift EZ-R arrives from Apco.

So. I am officially ready to fly!

Waiting on some decent weather now :/ 

I've been using the crap weather to spend time on the converted bike carrier solution to transport the Paramotor. which worked out pretty good IMO. (A Thule easy base, and lots of plywood n bolts)

When I get some flyable weather, my intent is to spend a few hours at the training field, practicing take-offs and landings. (As that rough landing on my last flight is haunting me)

Will keep you posted.


(PS... I cannot recommend Paul Haxby highly enough. As both an instructor, and an all round decent fella. The guy is an absolute star.)





Edited by Steve Loy
Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, with my new paramotor, I set out to accomplish flight 4, with minimal guidance form my instructor.

It was honestly a mixed bag.

Failed Take off 4 - https://youtu.be/Pf1DlHEQWQA

Landing 4 - https://youtu.be/_stvAlyzWXc



As you can see... I fluffed the first attempt at a launch. Would be interesting to hear your thoughts on what went wrong, and what I could have done differently for sure.

One brand new prop later, and the second attempt at launch for flight 4 was fine. Pootled around the training field for a while, but by that time after all the repairs it was passed lunch time and it was getting thermally and very bumpy so I came back down as i was getting uncomfortable.

Landing 4 was ok, not great, but not bad... see what you think of the flair timing on the vid... any tips?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice blog🙂

don’t beat yourself up about bad landings or takeoffs. Obviously you don’t want equipment damage though. Most of my first 12 months was landing on my arse. Never really found out why, I think a combination of bad timing on flare and simply lifting my legs. Even now over 2 years and 150 flights in I’m doing about 30% of my landings falling to my knees. My legs just go on strike sometimes when I land. No more arse landings though. 
looking at your last takeoff seems you’re leaning forward too much. Possibly got your arms a bit forward too but the video angle makes it hard to tell. Don’t know why you went left, but looks like that may be what brought the wing down to the right. Then you gave it throttle when the wing wasn’t stable which was the big issue as you should have aborted if you couldn’t correct. Depends on your frame to an extent but I can feel where the wing is and rarely look at it. Something you’ll pick up pretty quick. I think sometimes things just happen so quickly that you can’t respond especially in the early days but it will definitely get better. 

I have a blog on here somewhere and things like this are the best lessons  you’ll be very aware on your next takeoff of getting it straight. I learned loads of lessons lol

good to read a detailed blog keep it up 🙂


  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

Flight 5 was supposed to be on Saturday morning.

Drove to the field, got set up... blew three launches in a row, and by that time i was knackered, and the wing was fairly wet from the dew so gave it up rather than try to push further and make a mistake.

I didn't even manage to get the wing overhead on any of three attempts, not too sure what was going wrong but it was totally nil wind, so I obviously need to practise more.

Sucked to drive 45 mins to the field and 45 mins back and not fly, but hey ho.

Instructor thinks it might be that I'm a bit put of practice, and so my next task is to head to a the local park with just the wing and practice some ground handling whilst ever the weather isn't flyable.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dew will always guarantee a wet wing and a wet wing will always be harder to launch so don't be too downhearted.

You could try pegging out a large tarpaulin to lay your wing onto or blow some of the water off the grass with your paramotor (wearing it!). 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Flight 5 Happened today!

Blew one launch, My instructor was watching this time and immediately indicated that I was pulling the A risers rather than just running with them up... collapsing the front of the wing before it could get up. That explains all the blown launches recently.

2nd time was better... reverse launch into about 6mph wind. Straight up.

Struggled to get in the seat... so got some altitude then stowed the brakes and dragged the seat forward under me.

Pootled around for a bit, enjoying the view.  Did some experimenting with varying levels of power (my setup seems to turn right all the time. Even with no throttle, there is a slight right turn that gets progressively worse with power.)

Tried a few sharp turns, then eventually came back in for a landing.

Not good.

All was good until it came to the flair... left brake slipped out of my fingers... Ended in a rough bum slide after my legs acted like shock absorbers. 

Not pretty at all, but thankfully, no damage that i noticed. Ill give it a proper check over during to week to make sure.



  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You should take a look at your set up if you are turning without power. Are your offsets correctly set? Are you using torque correction on your wing? Is your harness causing you to be weight shifting slightly? Is anything bent? Was your wing trimmed properly? 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

21 hours ago, Steve said:

You should take a look at your set up if you are turning without power. Are your offsets correctly set? Are you using torque correction on your wing? Is your harness causing you to be weight shifting slightly? Is anything bent? Was your wing trimmed properly? 

For sure. Ill be checking all the above thoroughly before the next flight. Along with a full inspection of the Frame and engine to make sure my rough landing hasn't affected anything.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Upcoming Events

    No upcoming events found
  • Create New...