Packing a complete paramotor for shipment via air and/or ground
by Had Robinson
updated July 30, 2019
Read this entirely before beginning to pack your paramotor. The steps below are for the Top 80, others similar, especially motors with the Miniplane frame.
Make sure you do not exceed 70 lb. The Top 80, for example, has a shipping weight of about 55 lb. If you exceed 70 lbs., it is considered freight and is much more expensive to ship whether with UPS, FEDEX, or a commercial airline. Airline shipping costs can be free or are at least 50% less than UPS or FEDEX.
WARNING: Shipping a paramotor as luggage on an airline is illegal unless it is brand new and has never been run i.e. has never had fuel in it. Even with a new paramotor, you do not want to have this recent adventure of a pilot who had his engine confiscated. To sum up, it is always less hassle to ship things via FEDEX or UPS ground but fuel must still be completely removed from the tank, fuel lines, filters, and the carburetor purged/drained. If fuel vapors are present or detected by either the TSA, airline personnel, FEDEX, or UPS, you could get in big trouble. Shipping HAZMAT ground is expensive but if your paramotor wreaks of gasoline, this is your only choice.
If you want to take your complete new paramotor as luggage on a commercial airline, always get to the airport at least (2) hours ahead of time in case you have problems. Most airports have a FEDEX or UPS facility close by so you can ship your paramotor with either of them if you run into problems with the airlines and/or the TSA.
A. Multiple box shipment of a paramotor
If you do not have your original paramotor shipping box, it may be difficult to obtain the heavy duty box noted in "B" below. It is a little more work but the paramotor is shipped in multiple boxes after being disassembled into its parts: the motor, the propeller, the fuel tank, the harness, and the frame/cage.
The items that have never had fuel in them i.e. the frame, harness, and propeller may be transported as checked baggage on commercial flights.
The motor and fuel tank must be shipped via ground. Follow step #2 in "B" below to remove the fuel. Pack the engine and fuel tank in a heavy duty tote container in order to protect it. Follow the steps in #4 on the linked page. The frame, harness, and other parts may be shipped in any sized box with padding. The light weight of these parts means less chance of any damage when shipped as baggage. Generally, airline bagged handlers are a lot less hard on checked baggage than the UPS/FEDEX machines that handle ground shipments.
B. Single box shipment of a paramotor
a.) 19" x 19" x 40" heavy duty corrugated cardboard container. Bigger boxes may not be accepted by either the airlines
or commercial shippers as non-freight (UPS or FEDEX). The size specified here is the minimum that will work.
b.) About 2 sq. ft. of 1 1/2" thick hard foam packing material
c.) Soft foam to plug the spark plug hole and exhaust port
d.) HD plastic bags, bubble wrap, and packing tape
e.) Empty plastic water bottles with the caps on – they are a great packing material to fill up empty space in the box.
f.) Be sure to have BLUE threadlock on hand when reassembling the muffler attachment bolts.
1. Disassemble the paramotor – Remove: the harness and arms from the frame (leave the arms attached to the harness), the netting and all sticks/rods, the muffler, the airbox, the propeller (if it is a single piece, it will have to be shipped separately), the fuel tank cap and the cap with the fuel suction line, and the tank. Detach the fuel line from both the carburetor and the quick release fitting (if there is one).
2. Remove all traces of fuel from the system. To remove fuel from engine parts, compressed air is the best way to do it. A hair dryer also works for the fuel tank. Putting it in the hot sun for an afternoon will also do the job. "Baking" the carburetor in an oven at about 180F overnight will also get every trace of fuel out of it. You will get in SERIOUS trouble if FEDEX or UPS smells gasoline -- you may be fined by the Federal DOT and be banned from shipping with either company. If you want to declare the box as "Hazardous Cargo" then you can ship anything that burns, explodes, etc. but it will cost a LOT more.
3. Stuff small pieces of soft foam into the spark hole and the exhaust port to prevent foreign objects from accidently getting in like a nut or bolt. You do not want to be the unlucky guy who had a screw drop into the cylinder through the plug hole....
4. Use the stiff foam to pad the paramotor. The weight of the paramotor is the engine. All packing must be carefully attached to the area around the engine, to the bottom of the frame, and the top of the engine. Re-attach the fuel tank (if it was removed) but not the fuel lines – be certain the fuel caps are not on the tank. The wrapped muffler fits nicely along the side of the motor per the photo. The airbox fits well just above the fuel tank.
Place the motor in the box with the exhaust system and air box. Once it is in the box, you will not be able to put additional items under the motor.
Wrap the harness in a HD plastic bag and slide it down the front all the way to the bottom. Watch out for the throttle cable. Place the wrapped netting hardware in a corner of the box diagonally. You must add packing material of any kind between the top of the motor and the top of the box. THE PARAMOTOR CANNOT MOVE WHEN IN THE BOX. Things MUST be packed tightly!
A two piece propeller fits nicely in the box but not a single blade type which will have to be shipped separately.
Look at the following photos carefully for tips on how to place the stiff foam material. Be sure to LABEL the foam pieces for next time.
Here are some photos of the ESSENTIAL packing points on a Miniplane Thor 130. The most important areas requiring adequate padding, in order, are the end of the propeller shaft, the sides of the paramotor, and the bottom. Most damage during shipping occurs to these three places.
5. Be sure to put the labels on the side of the box that has the harness side of the box.
THE BOX MUST SHIP WITH THE PROPELLER SHAFT/REDRIVE SIDE "DOWN" AND THE HARNESS SIDE "UP".
If the box is shipped with either end "up", you can expect frame damage due to the weight of the motor. The motor must rest downwards on the padded redrive/propeller shaft. Do not put the labels on the top/bottom of the box. If you do it correctly, you will not have to drain the redrive oil, if your engine has a redrive. If, somehow, the box is stored prop side up or upside down – you may have a small mess. You might want to wrap the redrive with an old towel, just in case.
6. If shipping by FEDEX or UPS, be sure to insure it for full value. It is rare but these people can be really rough on shipments (we once had a Top 80 destroyed by FEDEX ground). The most common damage is that your frame will get bent beyond repair. FEDEX/UPS 2nd Day Air is the best way to ship anything because packages are not handled by machines. However, it is expensive. Getting insurance with the airlines is sometimes impossible so check with your home/auto insurance company to see if they can insure your engine if you ship it via commercial airline.
Note: I am sorry to say that shipping anything these days has risk, so be prepared i.e. make sure you insure to full value. Just be thankful you were not the hang glider pilots from Australia who traveled to Florida one year for a competition we were at. They had their brand new gliders bent in half by baggage handler idiots who used fork lifts and caught the gliders on bay door columns. No doubt, those idiots laughed their heads off as the gliders were destroyed. And it was not one of them, but all were ruined. I have seen airline baggage handlers throw cargo from the belly of a plane onto the tarmac – a distance of about 8'. No packing can prevent this sort of mishandling. Southwest Airlines tends to be better than most airlines per taking care of your luggage.