Paramotor Thermalling

I get asked about paramotor thermalling very often. I love both motoring and thermalling, but I rarely combine the sports. I’ll admit I love thermalling free-flight more than motoring, and I feel the motor dampens the sensations I’m accustomed to in my free-flight harness. Nevertheless, it can be done, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Why bother?

  • It’s like a different sport you can do with mostly the same equipment
  • Practice bump tolerance and appropriate reactions for free-flying
  • Paragliders are designed to fly in thermals. Beginner wings are more stable and more likely to recover on their own. Advanced wings have a complicated outcome, and can get out of control really, really fast. For that reason, a pilot who motors a hot paramotor wing at 55mph might fly a slower, docile, EN-A or -B wing in thermals.

What extra equipment do you need?

  • Variometer (App or Instrument). Turn the volume up all the way so you can hear it beep over the wind noise of your paramotor frame.
  • Sunglasses and Sunscreen
  • Some extra safety equipment– beyond your standard kit, which around here, should include a hook knife and flotation.
    • Reserve. Definitely carry a reserve and rehearse using it.
    • In New England– tree rescue kit, or at least a SPOT or Garmin InReach (satellite communication, long battery life)

How do you prepare for this undertaking?

  • Accept the risk. Risk is increased due to turbulence when entering and exiting thermals, and potentially due to rotor near the ground as the wind picks up throughout the day. You are forfeiting the safety that was inherent in flying the non-thermic mornings and evenings.
  • Get lots of practice flying in bumpy air. I got mine through my paragliding career, where I flew in turbulent air most of the time. If all you have is a motor, rack up lots of hours flying your wing in air a little bit bumpier than you usually tolerate. Stay high. You need to be comfortable and calm when the air tosses you around– and it will, especially at first.
  • SIV (Simulation d’Incident en Vol). These are courses usually taught over water with a rescue boat. You are guided through a series of self-inflicted inflight maladies, and then guided through their solution. Attending one is highly recommended, especially if you can practice in your motor. For most people it builds confidence. For all, it builds familiarity with the wing. If you thermal long enough, you will eventually see something that resembles an SIV maneuver, and you’ll know how your wing respond to it, and how you should respond to your wing.

In this post I’m just describing the extra considerations required to fly midday. Don’t take any of this information as instruction– Midday flying is really ramping up the risk, and flying without significant weather experience is foolhardy at best.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Dave…Where can I go now to get remainder of my training for level two flight ??? or am I competent to fly on my own?

    • Hi Keith,

      I no longer have a wing in your size, but if you buy one, I’d be happy to give you refresher lessons on it. Starting next week, I will have a motor you can borrow. Give me a call and I can get you a deal!

      It’s not required to fly, but if you’re looking for USPPA membership, you can join here: http://www.usppamembers.org/user_new.cfm. You’ve demonstrated all the skills required for PPG2, and you’ve passed the PPG2 test, so 7 more flights and you have it.


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