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My Conversion


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The Background:

In early January I decided to get back into the air after a 5 year break from free flying.

5 years is a hell of a long time to have not flown so I knew I had to re-familiarise myself with the sport very carefully and methodically before even thinking about getting off the ground.

The other thing that was going to make a massive difference this time was the fact that I have lost 20-25kg since I last flew.

First step for me was research, this is where this website is an invaluable resource, lots of trolling and reading, especially others training blogs, so even though I am not much of an active poster here, I check for new posts a few times a day.

I guess I should start on why my flying career was put on hold in the first place, anxiety and FEAR.

When I was under instruction I never had any anxiety or fear, sure I was excited and cautiously nervous, but no anxiety or fear, my first ever true glide and high flight was from a 2700ft ridge down to an airstrip 2000 feet below also on the hillside and I was amped. This was on my 30th birthday on a black Friday in June, what a freaking awesome day.

I gained my full rating in about 4 or 5 months and flying was pretty much all I thought about and everyday life revolved around any flying possibility. We have a local coastal ridge soaring site here that flies fairly well quite often, sea breeezes etc, so getting airtime hours was usually not much of an issue.

The first time I was truly nervous on launch was when taking off from a location I had not flown before, it was a very light wind day and I already had a preference for the stronger days, stronger days meant better ridge soaring, higher easier and longer flights, and the take off was usually at a much slower pace. The actual take off was from a bowl shaped area on about 40-45deg slope, so I knew that once my wing was up and I had turned one step would start what could not be stopped, one way or another.

A couple of test pull ups, still very light, need to commit, pull wing up, looks good, turn and go .......shiiiiiit my wing had overflown and I took off in a steep dive to the left, large overhanging rock outcrop (I am going to die!!!) and the left side of my wing and risers caught the rock and I swung in underneath, am I ok? I think so, am I safe...yes, unhook the risers and scramble back up topside to check for damage to myself and my gear. Man was I lucky, a deep gash to the inside of my knee and the tiniest scratch on my forehead. A small tear in a wingtip and left hand side risers needed replacing.

This is when my issues started ,and did it take a toll, launching from the same hill I was getting so wound up preflight I was making stupid mistakes on launch that could have ended badly.

I ended up grounding myself (for about 2 months) to concentrate on my kiting skills but although I had the skill I had lost my confidence at launch seemed to always be an issue. During this time I witnessed a few things I wished I hadnt, and some I was glad I hadnt including my usual flying partner seriously hurting himself.

The straw that broke the camels back was when were flying a coastal site in light conditions and a new student ended up pushing me out of the lift and I had to bomb out which pissed me off no end, the anger and fustratrion was not aimed at the student but the situation.

I always loved flying once I was off the ground, but the anxiety leading up to a known flight would have me wound up days beforehand.

My wife suggested that I sell my gear but I always resisted, my journey was not over, just on hold. When I first got into the sport I knew paramotoring would be the next logical step to add flexibility, oppurtunity and freedom. But it was out of my financial grasp.

January 2011:

So this year I made a decision to fly again, I spoke to an old flying friend who has been free flying for 25 years and paramotoring for 20 and it was a deal done. I found myself a good used Sky 100 machine and also ended up buying an Ozone Roadster from the same paraglider pilot who never got around to converting, so his loss was my gain.

The Training:

Back to the fields to re-learn the art of ground handling.

A good 14 hours later I have better wing control than ever and confidence is building. Alot of parawaiting for the weather to be right for my first lessons with my instructor (typical).

Day 1 of Instruction: Instructor checks my gear and then test flies, this is the first time I have seen a paramotor and pilot fly up close in real life, holy crap this is going to be awesome.

On landing he gets me to kite my wing to assess my ability (which I pass with flying colours), then proceeds to rig a psuedo high hang point on my standard harness, lift wing, wow thats different, all good, drop and do it again. He is happy with my technique so now its time to simulate a PPG launch, so now instead of going to a torpedo launch like I would for freeflying I have to stay vertical, so I shuffle my feet and get into stride all good, repeat. NB: I have a Gin Genie XO harness with reserve, these things are heavy, almost 13kg, so I am used to carrying a bit of weight.

Time to do it with the motor (not running), my groundhandling is really paying off now, knowing exactly how to control the wing with the least effort is really making things much easier, I dont have to think so much about the wing and can concentrate more on the new feel of things, time for a few dummy launch runs. All good, but in 35deg temps in full sun with 25kg on my back is hardwork, so job done for the moment.

During this period 2 other paramotor pilots turn up and get their gear ready, they and my instructor are off for a nice flight down the coast and back (bastards), my instructor then says to me "mate if we had a little more of a sea breeze, you would be coming along" and I agree that I would like it to be a little stronger for my first take off.

Day 2 : First PPG Flight

The weather played ball and 5 days later (and another 4 hours of groundhandling (2 x 2 hours sessions) I get a txt, asking if I wanted to go for a fly? Hell yeah, lets go.

So we get to our launch site (coastal site) and there is a bloody wedding rehearsal in progress, so we wait, and wait and about an hour later they finally finish up only to hang around to watch me take off, great now I have an audience :? .

We discuss a flight plan and anything else that is relevant is sorted and he tells me if I dont want to land at the take off just land on the beach (the landing approach is tricky and undulating) do the preflight and warm up, wind speed about 4 knots, damn this motor kinda shakes my eyeballs, is this normal? wait til you get it up in flight you will have double vision he jokes, haha.

Ok, this is it, remember this stuff is expensive if you screw up, so dont screw up, ok breeze is light but steady, reverse launch, bring wing up looks good, turn fingers to throttle (now thats kinda tricky) I shuffle forward (need to let motor work here) give it a little gas, told to give it more, moving, moving, more gas next thing my feet are scooped out from underneath me and I am away, felt like a second or so and I was up over the beach seated nicely and in a nice lazy turn to the left and gaining height nicely.

I let out a bit of a wooohooo and straighten out the lazy turn to go straight up the beach/dunes climbing to about 150ft and level off, a bit of an oscillation side to side, sort that out, we're good, holy crap I am flying again, we are close to an airport here and they give us clearance to stay under 500ft at all times, get to the end of this run up the beach time for a turn, lets make it nice and flat, throttle off nicley and turn, I said turn, ok this wing takes a much heavier brake input than my Kantega (trimmers are still on), make the turn, lost more height than anticipated, but well within my comfort zone throttle back on etc etc for the next 90 minutes having a damn fine time up and down the beach, lots of nice easy airtime in silky smooth air to learn throttle control and how it affects altitude and so on.

Arms now getting tired, need to increase brake line length, time for some landing approaches, I knew the first time I simulated (20-30 feet higher) a landing approach at the t/o that I was probably going to land on the beach, so a few more simualtion passes and then time to pick a spot to land on the beach, sea breeze had gone for the day so I was going to have a nil wind landing, not ideal but its not exactly my first time around the block either, but I have to land with a lot more weight, a couple of approachs to work out my glide (cant do that freeflying usually, unless your top landing) and lets commit, here we go, motor off, ground coming up fast, a little groundrush, ignore, a little brake into a nice deep flare step step wing down in the tussock on the edge of the beach, job done!!

During the debrief we discussed my take off and he said I sat down prematurely, we discussed this and I said that I was scooped off my feet so I may have been leaning back a little far which caused the scoop. But other than that it was pretty much text book. A good start.

Day 3: 2nd Flight

The next morning I get a txt asking if I was up for fly to Maketu and back (44km total) after work, hell yeah. I finished work at 2pm and started watching the wind directions, (we have a fairly major shipping port here so we have access to accurate live wind data) and I watch the seabreeze kick in and then change direction for the worse and get even worse, gutted then just when all seems lost for the day it turns and holds as forecasted, so I load up and get to the t/o.

Another pilot joins us on launch and we discuss a flight plan and get clearance from the tower. Seabreeze is about perfect for a nice takeoff and we all start warming up, my instructor broke his pull start and a decision is made to not fly so far down the coast and back but stay within reach of a main road (part of the journey to Maketu includes a 7km stretch of uninhabited sand dunes).

Time for launch 2: Wing up but its not steady, control it, looks good, I shuffle forward again (gotta remember to let the motor do the work) and throttle on and gone in about 4 -5 steps, awesome, im not seated in my harness this time so I climb to about 150ft and wriggle in, job done, gain a bit more height look for the others and they are already heading down the coast so turn and follow, man its a seriously beautiful day, awesome surf, plenty of lovely woman in bikinis, not a cloud in the sky, the view is stunning and the day is nice and warm, flying in shorts and a t-shirt, but there is one problem, my motor is quite noisey, at this point I realise I had forgotten to put in my ear plugs and there was no hope of rumaging through my harness pocket without dropping some of its contents, hearing protection gets added to my mental preflight checklist with an exclamation mark!!

I ascend up to about 450ft (we have to stay under 500ft) time to play with the trimmers and I release them about 1.5 inches, looks even and oh my god, it turns much nicer now, not much of a speed increase noticed at this altitude.

The other 2 eventually turn back to me and the 3 of us head down the coast about 11km and turn and comeback, they land and I have a bit more of a play and work on some landing approaches and then land into a light sea breeze on the beach, awesome, just awesome.

to be continued.......

PS: the anxiety and nervousness on launch has returned to what I would call a healthy level!!

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Thanks Alan, fortunately we dont have those horrible looking high tension power lines in sight around here, but did it really matter? Your first flight must be memorable wherever you are!!

Feel the power

Although my first takeoffs went well I felt I needed to get to know my motor a little better when on the ground and without a wing or takeoff involved, so today I went to a "park" and had a little play.

What I wanted to get a feel for again was how much power I could apply and resist without actually moving. Another was practicing the initial loading of the prop and resisting it and then releasing it, as well as controlled forward momentum into running upright allowing the motor to push me forward with my feet pretty much just guiding me.

All went well, although I never did get to full throttle, I could resist it controlably and practiced leaning back into the thrust.

Something I picked up on when watching a youtube video of a pilot showing off and doing no handed take offs, was that before he started applying power for take off, is he gave the motor a quick blip a moment before applying a steady acceleration on the throttle to initiate his launch run, which I had guessed was to get the clutch to disengage and get the prop spinning, rather than a slow rev into in spin which I had been doing, made sense to me and tried this technique as well, seemed to give a much better feel for power application sooner.

I must have looked like a complete knob running around with a giant fan strapped to my back, but in the end I learnt a lot and with that I feel more comfortable with how things work and how they can be used to my advantage, have a mountain to climb and its not flyabe, just use your paramotor to push you up the hill........ :wink:

A local parks mowing contractor drove his machine over my way and stated that his machine wanted to mate with mine........too much sun today perhaps, haha.

The last thing I learnt about myself more than anything, is I am much fitter than I thought, it was no marathon session in terms of normal endurance, but I must have simulated at least 10 take offs without a break and I wasnt dying to stop or get the motor off my back, still knew I had just had a workout though. Good news considering I was wondering how adding the reserve and its additional weight would affect my endurance on launch should a couple of attempts have to made.


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My own take off and water spouts!!

About a 1km drive down the road from where I live is a beach access and car park that opens onto a nice wide open beach with plenty of room for takeoff and landing that gets laminar sea air from the NNW through East to about ESE comfortably, not used by many people except during weekends, and even then unless it’s at the height of summer it’s not all that busy.

The dunes are low rarely going over 15-20 feet high and they roll off to the beach fairly smoothly, I’ve been studying this place for awhile now and even ground handled there and spoken with another pilot who knows the area, that it would work well for PPG.

We have had some unsettled weather here and when it has been on, work always gets in the way and ends up becoming not ideal.

Finally today, after waiting weeks for near perfect conditions, the day finally gave me around 8 knots from the north, no gusts, ideal, fore cast did mention the odd shower so I would need to keep an eye on that but it looks good.

30 minutes later I arrive with my kit, check wind speed and direction again and notice a few darker looking clouds out to sea, need to watch those.

About 5 minutes later my wing is out, motor on my back, all pre-flights done, good time to bring the wing up a few times to check all is good and for practice, all systems check, right then it starts to spit, and not wanting my gear and especially my wing to get wet, everything got packed back into the car.

While I was doing this I was checking out the clouds and wind trying to work out if it would pass and noticed a ragged tendril descending from a cloud about 10km away. My very first thought was that it looked like the start of a small tornado; I dismissed the idea as they are rare as hen’s teeth around here and the cloud and day seemed nothing special.

Oh how wrong was I.




The rain was going to pass fairly quickly by the looks and wasn’t all that heavy, the wind didn’t seem to change for the worse and just as the rain died out so too did the wind for a few minutes, completely calm, then a slight breeze started to come from the direction of the small rain front that had just passed over.

For the next 5 minutes or so it remained a slow gentle breeze before dying off, becoming still again and then I knew I had just had to wait for the sea breeze to return, I could see the water colour change way off on the horizon and I could see it approaching and no larger darker clouds approaching.

10 minutes later, wind had picked back up to 8-10 knots and nice and smooth, another pre flight and a quick and simple launch into smooth air.

I had already phoned the local tower and I said I was happy to stay under 500 feet, he requested that I stay under 200ft and proceed not much further north, so I was limited in height and range so today was just about handshaking, getting to know my wing and the feel for motoring, all very nice and comfortable and it’s becoming a bit more accurately predictable i.e.: input vs. output etc. Waved to a lot of people, same people several times in some cases, lots of smiles and had my photograph taken a few times as well.

Flew with some gulls for a bit, quite something seeing the experts flying at your feet, did several pseudo landing approaches at random intervals, played check the wind direction with myself for the hell of it, to see if I could still read the water fairly well.

The air remained smooth, but did increase in strength a little, white caps were just starting to form so did a couple more dedicated landing approaches decided I could land with trimmers where they were set and flared to a touchdown with a nice and slow groundspeed. I forgot for a second that I still had a wing flying above me in some fairly strong conditions, so turned and dropped it without any real drama and job done.

Just another day where you feel truly feel alive.....

I have always preferred conditions on the stronger side for take offs and landings, so low to no wind has to be on the agenda.


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On Thursday the sea breeze was perfect for a fly, so I rang the tower, got clearance to stay low and confirmed where I could climb out, my goal was to fly about 12km along the beachfront to Mount Maunganui and have a bit of a ridge soar and then fly home again.


Mount Maunganui (750ft) as seen from about 1km south of my launch site.

Launch was good and the air nice and smooth, let the trimmers out and headed up the coast staying under 200ft, alternating between dune flying and over the beach when there were no beachgoers close by, and now and then over the surf.

There is a small island offshore (about 800m out) that I needed to consider when passing behind it but I had some height and only got the slightest bump as I passed it and continued my climb to the top the hill, we had a fairly northerly breeze and this splits the point, and the area for ridge soaring is small with this wind direction, just before I got to the top a freeflying paraglider took off so I decided ridge soaring can wait another day and I will let him have his fun unrestricted, but that also got me thinking, I was really doing what I was doing for the scenery anyway so why limit myself to soaring such a small lift band, so had a play around at height for a little while and turned to head back to my LZ, enjoying the scenerey as I descended to comply with the tower.

With the breeze now behind me I was hauling ass and soon I was back at my LZ, quick scan around the skies and the weather looked to remain stable so I decided to keep heading down the coast, and just kept on going, got to where "civilisation" ends and noticed there were a few quads bikes dotted down the coast as our locals enjoyed the evening fishing and they all appeared friendly as I flew over them so I wouldnt have too much trouble catching a ride back to the road if I ended up landing for some reason.

I had taken off in shorts and a t-shirt and I was starting to get a bit cold, so turned and flew back to my LZ, the northerly breeze noticably slowing my ground speed, so awhile later im over my LZ, a little cold and tired (need to lengthen these brake lines a little more) and did a test landing approach, trimmers back on, repeat landing approach and down nicely, unclipped the wing, walk with motor still on my back to the car and set it down, at this point I usually give it a post flight look over and noticed something a little unsettling, my tank was almost dry, maybe 200ml left, damn that was close, hadnt even thought about fuel, used about 6.5-7lts in 90 minutes, trimmers were fully off for the entire flight though so that may be to blame for fairly high fuel usage? (Sky 100 motor).

Yesterday I bought a 3" convex mirrror and a retractable key chain and used a bit of epoxy to bond to the mirror and my fuel gauge/general purpose mirror is now complete for $4, it comes with a small carbiner and clip so I have a few options for mounting.

I also had my phone track my flight and upload to Leonardo Live, if you want to have a look at my track


PS: I swear the only time I pretty much have a permanent grin plastered on my face is when Im flying.....awesome!!! Oh and I did a 44.5km flight!!!

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  • 2 years later...

It's been 2 & 1/2 years since your last post.

So how is your flying going now, and have you changed your gear...new wing, new motor?

I really enjoy your writing style. I was hoping for more. BTW I used to know Tauranga (Mt Maunganui) quite well many years ago. I used to sail in there on Aussie ships with heaps of cargo....we worked hard and played hard.



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