Paramotoring (also called powered paragliding, or PPG) has been around since the early 1990s, but it’s still a relatively unknown sport here at home. So, being the shameless flying junkie that I am, when Flying Unlimited’s Riaan Struwig invited me for a flip, it was a no-brainer: I immediately booked my ticket on one of those boringly conventional sardine-can flights to Gauteng and prepared myself for some real flying.
After waiting for the typical Highveld thermals (that cause turbulence) to subside, Tony Gibson, Struwig’s business partner and fellow PPG instructor, straps me into the tandem seat XCitor trike. He cranks the throttle and in no time, we’re airborne. Now, I’ve done a fair bit flying in small aircraft, so I imagine I know what to expect. I’m wrong; the sensation is much gentler than anything I’ve ever experienced before.
The late afternoon air is still a bit bumpy, but that doesn’t detract from the experience at all. The flexible, air-filled wing, along with its accompanying mass of nylon lines, seems to absorb the harshness of the turbulence, making it feel, well, as if we’re floating.
Gibson throws us into fast and high bank-angle turns close to the ground, puts us into head-spinning spirals at altitude and performs a series of touch-and-goes. We also spend a fair amount of time formation-flying with another XCitor trike and a few “foot-launchers”, giving me an opportunity to shoot some aerial pics and savour the oncoming sunset and the hazy Highveld landscape far below. Throughout the entire hour-long flight, I find myself distracted by a struggle to come up with appropriate adjectives, finally settling for something on the lines of “it was an absolute blast!”
After landing, I mention my dilemma to Gibson, who laughs. “Even with all my years of experience, I still struggle to describe the feeling. The best explanation I’ve been able to come up is that it’s like running into the air… you know, when you’re dreaming. What I do know is that it’s like a drug. If you miss a few weeks of flying, you end up making every excuse under the sun to get out and fly.”
The beauty of paramotoring lies in its accessibility. In fact, it’s by far the cheapest form of motorised flight, making it an excellent option for wannabe fliers on a budget.
The gear is also surprisingly portable. The backpack, including engine, has a dry weight of about 32 kg and can easily fit into an average hatchback without needing to be disassembled. Another reassuring aspect of this sport is its good safety record. Gibson elaborates, “Remember, we’re always gliding. We just add a motor to get us into the air. If the engine fails, no problem – you can land easily, anywhere. Because landing distances are so short, typically only about four steps, you could land on a street corner if necessary.”
For more information visit Flying Unlimited’s Web site at www.ppg.co.za
To read the full article, check out the September issue of PM.