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Paramotoring - moving in the right direction?


norman
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Dear all,

I have posted a topic on the Paramotor Magazine's forum and would welcome your thoughts and comments either here or there.

This missive was prompted by a recent conversation with a paramotoring luminary who recounted a tale to me of a ditching in the sea by a friend. Had the guy not been a diver and had a cool head, he would not have survived. He emerged a changed man by all accounts.

A question for all.

Firstly let me assure you that I am not taking a pop at Paramotoring Magazine here, I read it cover to cover many times and delight in its content. My question is pitched at the general image projected by some sections of the growing PM industry and advertising machine. I pose my question as exactly that - not as a rant. In this corner of aviation, I am a newbie, in others earlier in life, certainly no innocent.

Simply put, is this sport selling the right 'product' and projecting the right image?

For me there seems to be a gap opening between what is actually happening, the legality of what is being suggested and best practice in an aviation enterprise.

Just about every magazine I pick up has pictures of guys either trailing their feet in the water or skimming across fields, rivers and plains at low level. The very act of low flying is being presented as one of the exhilarations available to paramoteurs, seemingly at will. The consequences of an rapid and involuntary ditching of a paramotor almost unthinkable given the dilemma faced by the uninitiated. All those straps, that spaghetti of kevlar/dynema line, reserve and flight deck.

Ask any Navy helicopter pilot if he/she emerged from the Dunker the same person who went in. Ask them what they think the chances their survival would be, even given their training, for a dunking in a paramotor in the murky depths of a fast moving river or seashore.

How many of us wear a lifejacket or receive training of this sort... legitimate questions?

Should we really be 'selling' this sport on the back of an adrenaline rush like surfing, base jumping and other extreme sports when rest assured - the regulators are watching us carefully across their bifocals? They don't like answering awkward Ministerial questions and enjoy their work. As I am sure everyone here is aware, after an accident/incident they pick over everything with a scrutiny available only to civil servants.

At risk of stating the obvious:

Like it or not, we are in an environmental spotlight, we burn gas, are highly visible and therefore 'press worthy.'

We are subject to the ANO (Air NAvigation Order) and the low flying rules contained within it. We have no exemptions granted because we move slowly and gracefully.

As the sport expands as it will be sold increasingly to all levels of societies 'barrel'. The moderating job of training and supervising organisations is going to be progressively more difficult if the adrenalin connection continues to be proffered as a trigger to start out in paramotoring. Can you see any other responsible and established air related sport that does the same?

Like the sea, the air can be cruel and doesn't differentiate between professionals and amateurs, it will take both and treat them just the same. The aftermath of a flying accident are life changing for those who get hurt or turn up at the scene to deal with the mess. When people start causing horses to bolt, leave their gliders or entrails wrapped around wires of varying types, or even start defending prosecutions for low flying, we may have cause to look back at our sport's structure and magazine racks and do some deep thinking.

Flying would be almost completely safe if it were not for the ground - nearly all the real hazard and potential for wrecking lives and reputations is similarly located - near the ground. Why don't we do the thinking now and keep this sport the safe, free and hugely enjoyable pastime it is at the moment?

Retreating to bunker with tin hat on. :shock:

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Norman,

I am fairly well known for arguing that the act of low flying (for whatever reason) is s stupid one. As you know I teach from day 1 to take off and get away from the ground. Nor do I teach Powered landings as in my flying time have NEVER had to use one and just dont like the idea of a spinning prop when landing (or near the ground, I remember a story in Skywimgs a few years ago where a Paramotor was doing this stupid foot dragging on a beach with people on and he drifted off to a side and his prop cut borth brests off the girl who was laying there and most of her face).

I agree that at the moment Paramotoring is heading in a (get your quick fix here) direction and dont like it one bit.

I think that the clover leaf is the worst move and does not show pilot skill as it is defended as doing, (quite the opposite in my opinion) what scares me is that the BHPA and the BMAA promote the competitions where this stupid low level acrobatic stuff takes place and they account for a large chunk of pilots in the UK and as you say are feeding the magazines with the pictures.

I can think of no other reason to carry out low level acro than for 'showing off to others around you' Which in the BHPA handbook is the reason (they say) that is likely to cause an accident the most on a paramotor/ Paraglider.

Paramotoring is not a spectator sport, both of the parties above are trying to make it such for the increased income to be had from it. (Dont forget the BHPA is a Ltd company!!) This is why people are doing it.

To the people who do do it...... please stay safe!

Come on a nice long XC flight with us and see what flying a Paramotor is all about.

SW :D

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Yes Simon you are correct. It is very dangerous to go around zooming over the ground 3 feet during comp tasks. Dont get me wrong it is very nice doing this but the slightest miss jugement and you will get wrapped up in your frame with plenty of splinters flying around. I hope nobody takes flying low level for granted and as a norm PPG. It is very dangerous and really requires plenty of concentration. If you fly up at altitudes like we do we never do this low flying in anything other than good smooth conditions. Our motors, wing & props loose about 20% effiecency due to altitude and heat. At sea level pilots tend to get away with alot more than we can up here.

In comps there are pilots that push the limit and others that fly very well and keep there saftey margins with in there limits, They are the ones that will fly consistently and normaly win events. The normal acro low level stuff should be left to pilots with many years flying and dont ever be forced into flying like the top pilots with many years expereince. You never really need to fly low except for take off and landing. Flying low is not really cool, I do it and it ups my concentration but it is very noisy and becomes an irritation for people on the ground to have pilots buzzing around nearby all acting cool. I know as i say i have been dragged into this show off thing many times. I have been very lucky sofar but have had to do a few emergincy high speed touch downs in the worst possible times and areas. as i said i have been lucky.

I got a call from an Instructor in South Africa who was watching the SA team practicing for the worlds doing the Clover leaf. He called me to ask if we had a death wish and that the organisers should have there heads read asking pilots to fly like holigans and put themselves in danger. This is the nature of humans,We push the limits to get others recognition and this is unfortunatly our races downfall.

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both of the parties above are trying to make it such for the increased income to be had from it.

Simon,

While I agree the gist of your argument (i.e. low flying is dangerous), I have not seen a single injury during a competition cloverleaf (or any other competition slalom task). In national competitions there is a very strong emhasis on safety and pilots make the decision not to fly in tasks. No-one is ever ridiculed - quite the opposite in fact and decisions like that are applauded.

In international competitions the teams have to be nominated by a recognised national body who say those pilots have the ability to fly tasks and, more importantly, make decisions about how hard to push.

On the matter of money, as both a competitor and a member of the UK PPG Competitions Committee, I can offer absolute assurance that neither the BMAA nor the BHPA make money out of competition. They each make donations to the committee but they do not receive a penny back. In the rare event that competitions end up in the black, the money is retained by the competition committee. A small amount is used to support the national team and the remainder is used for the following year's competition.

You may have issues with BHPA and BMAA but it is not correct to accuse them of making money out of paramotor competitions. In fact, if there was no competition then both organisations would be better off.

Cheers

Dave

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Dave,

Be under no illusiions, the BHPA are a Ltd Compnay who are in business to make money. Yes they are making donations to the comps (and not making money as you correctly state) Businesses run on long business plans mate.

The very first Red Bull Air race in the UK was free to go to..... now it costs £80 to (watch)

SW :D

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I'm still bitter about that free Red Bull Air Race - I applied for tickets and didn't get any!

What are the BHPA going to do with the money they make? The only thing I've ever seen is things like giving money to clubs to help them buy flying sites like The Blorenge. And I'm not going to resent them that.

Even if I just look at it in a selfish way, I get fantastic value for money for my subscription. I also feel happy with the subscription I pay to the BMAA. I know that associations don't suit everyone (and lets be grateful that we have the opportunity to make choice) but I genuinely find it difficult to understand anti BHPA views. No judgement there - I just don't understand.

Either way, having attended AGMs and seen the accounts, if all they're trying to do is make money then they need a lot more practice!

Anyway, getting back on topic, is paramotoring going the right way? Who decides what right is? I have personal concerns that dangerous low level stunts are too common. I think we need to ensure that people are more informed about the dangers. Very tricky to know how to do that though. Everyone has heard the message but I think that many just don't get the concept that one tiny mistake can mean you are dead. Would love to know the answer.

Cheers

Dave

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Thanks for the response gents.

May I assure you that I asked the question with no desire whatever to dig at anyone. I love low flying and have indulged in it with relish in times past - got paid to do it even. It is just that being new to this magical sport, I see people coming in with their eye on the 'bottle' not realizing the there demons contained within, and being acutely conscious that we all have a responsibility to educate and give direction to those new to aviation. I just don't see that climate being generated and nurtured by the sport's periodicals and advertising material.

My last words on the subject - take care up there.

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