Powered paragliding (PPG) equipment – typical setup
by Had Robinson
Southwest Airsports sells everything a pilot needs to fly a paramotor. Investing in the best equipment is wise not just because it works better and lasts longer but because it increases our margin of safety. We are dealers for Ozone powered paragliders and Miniplane paramotors and their extensive line of engines including the Moster 185, Top 80, Simonini, Minari, and Polini Thor. Our primary distributor, Miniplane USA, lists current prices for all of the basic equipment needed for paragliding.
The powered paraglider and paramotor setup costs $9,500-$15,000 for quality equipment. It varies so much due to paramotor type and size, foot-launched or trike/quad, and how many accessories are desired. Typically, a good PPG setup that is foot-launched will cost the minimum.
Gliders are rated for their ability to recover from collapses while flying. Gliders that have an EN "A" rating generally have a greater ability to recover spontaneously. Gliders with higher EN letter ratings require more pilot input in less time in order to recover. PPG pilots who never expect to fly without a paramotor can enjoy the increased passive safety and high performance of a reflex glider. Depending on the size, type, and passive safety, a typical PPG glider will cost $3,400 or more.
We are an Ozone dealer. We sell other brands of comparable quality and safety as Ozone but we know Ozone the best.
Why buy an Ozone? They are one of the few premier manufacturers of paragliders in the world who also happen to make reflex gliders and gliders with trimmers for the PPG market. The typical manufacturer of PPG paragliders often does not have the experience and resources to make a top quality and safe paraglider for PPG, despite marketing hype. How do we know this? We constantly fly and also observe the gliders from other manufacturers. While they may be fast and perform well, they may not have the passive safety of the Ozone. Ozone has a wide range of gliders per passive safety.
Proper training is still the most critical factor for all pilots, especially having the skills to "read" flying conditions.
Miniplane has the greatest selection of engines and harnesses, the most options, and a known track record per safety, longevity, and quality. Bigger pilots can purchase the Miniplane Moster 185, Polini, or Minari. Pilots who weigh less than 170 lbs. might prefer the Top 80 which is lighter and quieter than its bigger counterparts. The Polini Thor 130 is the quietest motor made, has the least vibration, but weighs a little more than a comparable paramotor. Why do I recommend the Miniplane? If you go "bonk" – and every pilot, including yours truly, has – what is the cost of repairs? If this is important, the Miniplane is, by far, the least expensive to repair. For example, if I go "bonk" with a Fresh Breeze, the bill could easily exceed $800 to replace (2) side cages and the netting. Miniplane, same accident, would be maybe $150 (a couple of rods and the netting).
What should a pilot be thinking when he about to purchase a paramotor? The most power? A comfortable harness? The quietest engine? The best fuel economy? What would can be sacrificed? Weight? Reliability? Noise? Where and what type of flying is the most appealing? These are the things we help students decide. In general, stay away from any paramotor manufacturer that has not been in the business for at least (5) years. Remember the scantily clad babe with the rotary engine paramotor on her back? I worked on those engines and they were a expensive disaster for pilots.
Pilots who would rather not do foot-launched PPG can enjoy a trike/quad paramotor. Below is a typical trike with the Fresh Breeze Simonini 122 paramotor called the TrikeBuggy. Trikes/quads are comfortable to fly, easy to launch, and very easy to land. The PPG setup below has a reserve parachute mounted which is not typical of most setups for wheeled paragliding. The trike is more stable at high speeds (+25 mph) when on the ground. The trike frame is also very tough compared to quads – a heavy pilot can land hard and not damage it. The tougher the frame, the less chance of injury. On the other hand, the quad is more stable at low speeds than the trike. However, this advantage becomes less important as the pilot becomes more experienced.
PPG helmets need to not only protect the pilot's head but also from a high noise environment. The helmet below (an ICARO Solar-X) costs around $305. Communications can be added, as needed.
The radio is more than a convenience when flying. It is your connection with other pilots, weather information, pilots in distress, and other emergencies. It must be reliable and easy to operate. 2 meter FM handheld radios meet these requirements, especially ones like the YAESU FT-60R which is, hands down, the best there is (it tells you the battery voltage whenever you turn it on, an important benefit). Pilots, however, must have an Amateur Radio License from the FCC to legally use them on the amateur bands. For this reason, I recommend that all pilots get an amateur radio license. It's easier than ever. Most bigger cities have radio clubs and the people who can quickly train you and administer the test. USHPA has a permit to use 2 meter FM radios on the business bands. Most quality radios must be modified for use on these frequencies. We sell the modified radio.
However, if you use only the USHPA radio frequencies, you do not need a license because the station license is held by USHPA. For the details of these frequencies go to our radio setup page, 2nd paragraph down.
All radios must be used with a helmet designed for high noise environments. It is impossible to hear the radio without ear protection and a special noise canceling microphone.
The popular Baofeng radio is a fraction of the cost of the YAESU but it has some severe limitations. In particular, it does not have anywhere close the selectivity and sensitivity of the YAESU. Within a few hundred yards of others and away from cities, they work OK. We use them for ground traffic but not in the air. One of our students opted for the Baofeng and, once high in the air near our city, all he could hear was the paging frequency of a local car dealer....
These are often combined with a variometer (a vertical speed measuring device) such as the Ascent H2 or the Flymaster. How fast am I moving over the ground? What is the wind direction on the ground? How high am I? Where did I go today? What does my track look like on Google Earth? All of these questions can be answered easily with a GPS. While it is optional for PPG, we highly recommend its use. With a GPS we can tell whether we are starting to slow down and in what direction we are going. If we ever get in trouble with the Authorities per "you were flying over X" but you were not, the GPS log can prove your innocence. The most common, rugged, and easy to use GPS is the Garmin 64st series (photo below). Older models in this series are also excellent and can be had for a good price on the used market. Cost: $150 - $800.
The most common injury in paragliding is to the ankles. It is important to protect them which is why high top boots are recommended. Boots should not have lacing clips attached as they can snag the lines in and around the harness. You will probably never have a problem if you fly with boots that have open lacing clips. But why complicate a series of cascading events with lines snagged to your boots? A student who knew better got his feet tangled together while trying to land – he was fortunate he didn't get hurt.
The boots pictured below are made by CRISPI – among the finest on the market. Yours truly has owned a pair for 15 years and have proven extremely durable, even when used to hike. They are the most comfortable boots I have ever owned. They have sturdy vertical inserts which help prevent ankle injuries and are light and comfortable. The boots also do not have any exposed metal parts that might snag a glider line. Ordering the CRISPI boots can be challenging in the U.S.
There are other boots similar to the CRISPI's on the world-wide market, such as the German HanWag.
Unfortunately, American tort law has made many ultralight products, including wings, engines, and boots too risky to sell in sue-happy America. Southwest Airsports can supply the HanWag or Crispi boots because we have an office in the EU and they do not give a damn what American lawyers and courts do and can send us the boots, as needed. Ordinary hiking boots will also do but if you have weak ankles or want maximum protection for your feet, these types of boots are worth the investment. I have tough ankles so I rarely fly with my CRISPI boots unless I am going cross country where LZ's can be unpredictable including having high grass which can conceal hazards. They are also good for cold weather. Crispi or HanWag: about $330 + shipping. Go to our shop site to order them.
Things like a flight suit, gloves, catheters, or a hook knife can be useful, depending on conditions and where/when you are flying. Most PPG pilots do not carry a reserve. For more information on this go to the paragliding setup site. Carrying the paramotor from place to place is much easier if you have a rack like this one that is sold by Harbor Freight. The SPOT satellite communicator or the Garmin InReach are optional but strongly recommended, especially if you fly alone. The InReach has 2-way texting which is very valuable in an emergency. Monthly cost is slightly more that the SPOT. Think about it: You cannot use one of your hands due to an injury. How are you going to use a radio or a phone? Maybe....
Gear size and weight
Some foot-launched PPG equipment can fit in two suitcases. Many wheeled PPG setups can easily fit in a pickup truck bed or in the trunk of a small car. A Top 80 foot-launched paramotor weighs under 50 lb with fuel. Trikes and quads can weight up 125 lb.