Top 15 Paragliding Spots in North America
Amongst all the extreme sports, Paragliding holds its own special place – it is simply free flying with the aid of simple-shaped craft parachutes. As a sport, it is categorized as a flight sport, or an aero sport. It was founded in the early eighties by climbers and mountaineers in the Alps looking for easier ways to come down the peaks they had climbed, and they figured to using old sports parachutes.
Paragliding is one of the newest air sports, and one of the easiest. It has been intensely developing and expanding in the last fifteen years both as a sport and an outdoor activity for pleasure. There are no complicated procedures, laws, periods of long and hard training, or anything of the sort that kills the joy and freedom of flying. All you need is good will and free time, and you can experience amazing adventures, travel around the world, and challenge yourself – all while gazing over the amazing scenery you’re flying over.
Best Paragliding Spots in North America
Here is our list of the top 15 places you can go to practice paragliding in North America:
1. Paragliding in Sedona Red Rocks, USA
Sedona Red Rocks, USA
When you visit Sedona, pray that is isn’t the raining, so you can breathe the fresh air in the desert – the smells of juniper flowers, red clay, limestone, and wildflowers. This is a top destination in Arizona during that time. It has also become an extremely popular destination for flying enthusiasts and adventure-seekers: the amazing above view of all the rocks and the sand and the feeling of flying over a wasteland leave quite a solemn feeling.
You can see an equal amount of paragliders and hangliders flying around during season, although the former will tell you that their glider dominates the air of Sedonia.
This spot is located in Arizona and it offersanamazing and breathtaking view from above – you can see the sand and rocks and surprisingly, you have the sense of peace and serenity while doing so. If you are looking for a unique place to do so, then Sedona will be your perfect go-to.
2. Paragliding in Jean Ridge Dry Bed, USA
Jean Ridge Dry Bed, USA
This wonderful place is a favorite for paragliders from Las Vegas and all over the world. The ridge runs about one mile long, and it is made mostly of soft sand and rocks. There are many different places you can go to start your flight where you’ll also have the appropriate amount of elevation for take-off.
A 4X4 truck is recommended to get to the top of the ridge.
If you live in Las Vegas, you know that this spot has become every paragliders’ favorite place. Finding a take-off point is quite easy and the ridge is pretty long (about a mile) with soft rocks and sand. If you are planning to explore the ridge, it is advisable to use the 4×4 trucks.
3. Paragliding in Glenwood Springs, USA
Glenwood Springs, USA
You must go to Glenwood Springs if you want to see and experience a fantastic and spectacular bird’s eye view while flying. It also has perfect spots for landing, where you will slide smoothly on the ground. Once you take a vacation there and experience what it’s like to fly in such a place, you will definitely want to return for more!
Paragliding down from such hights might seem scary at first, but once you gather up the courage, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view. You will definitely have a great time if you choose Glenwood Springs as a vacation spot for paragliding!
Not only you can enjoy the beauty and spectacular view from above,butyou can also enjoy the perfect landing spots. A lot of people often come back for their holidays once they enjoy a fantastic experience.
4. Paragliding in Good Springs
Top 15 Paragliding Spots in North America: Good Springs
This Paragliding spot is situated near the town of Goodsprings. This is a great place for desert thermal-flying. You can have very long flights there, with a set flight record of 62 miles. When the weather is good, you can fly for around 15 minutes before finally landing on the soft desert floor.
There are two different start spots make for a really easy take-off, but you should be careful. The best time for paragliding is usually from spring to fall, but if you want to have the most fun, you should consider going flying in the morning during the summer.
This spot is more ideal for desert thermal flying, where you can enjoy long flights, especially when the weather is good. The area has two starting points – both are easy but you need to be careful too. The perfect paragliding time is between spring and fall, with morning summers to be the best.
5. Paragliding in Point of the Mountain, USA
When you’re done exploring Salt Lake City, drive on over to the point of the Mountain, where the real paragliding pleasure begins. Pick a starting spot depending on your level of skill and the weather, and enjoy your flight.
This place doesn’t really have dizzying heights, but it’s a great place for beginners to learn the ropes while enjoying nice flights during the sunset.
Locatedin Salt Lake City, you can drive to this area to enjoy the paragliding activity. It isn’t exactly a super high spot but the area is great especially for beginners while still marveling the view. If you are looking for the most popular paragliding places in North America without fuss or hassle, you should drop by at this place.
6. Paragliding in Sun Valley, USA
Top 15 Paragliding Spots in North America: Sun Valley, USA
Sun Valley is a very popular ski resort in the United States. However, in addition to being a great skiing spot, Sun Valley is also a great place to paraglide. On the mountain slopes of Bald Mountain, you can enjoy fresh air while admiring the magnificent view of the scenery from the mountain tops.
While this is a place mainly for experienced paragliders, the less experienced fliers can also choose to go with tandem flights. For these and many more reasons, Sun Valley is one of the most popular tourist destination in the United States.
This area is actually more popular as the ski resorts. However, it turns out to be a great paragliding place too. You can go to Bald Mountain slopes to enjoy the breathtaking view. This spot is more suitable for advanced and professional pilots. The beginners should have a tandem fly.
7. Paragliding in Hawaii, USA
This is no questioning Hawaii’s most well-known dreamlike landscape ― the azure waters of the Pacific, the lush green mountaintops, and the amazing Hawaiian volcanos. And what better way to view it than by taking the aerial route? Hawaii’s mountains provide the perfect launching spots for paragliding, and if you are planning to fly tandem, there are several operators in Maui, Honolulu, and Oahu with a good fleet of gliders and many experienced personnel.
The Waipoli Flight Park on the slopes of Mt. Haleakala is a great launch spot that provides for some amazing views overlooking Maui.
Hawaii is no doubt ideal for all kinds of sports, including paragliding. Thanks to the landscape, you can enjoy the aerial route, enjoying the green lush mountains, impressive volcanoes, and the azure Pacific waters. Hawaii Mountains are ideal for the launching spots, such as Waipoli Flight Park located on Mount Haleakala slopes.
8. Paragliding in Tiger Mountain, USA
Paragliding in Tiger Mountain, USA
The Tiger Mountain in the United States is an excellent spot for beginner paragliders, and it’s where people go to hover over Issakua like a bird. On clear weather with a fair wind, you can continuously fly for for quite a long time. On the hill above the launching platform you can watch all the paragliders take off into a beautiful dance, and enjoy the great scenery of the Issakua Alps and Lake Sammamish, with Bellevue just over the horizon.
You will definitely feel like going for a flight once you catch a glimpse of this scenery.
If you are a beginner pilot, then this would be your ideal spot. Not only you can enjoy the view,butyou can also hover the Issakua Alps area as well as Lake Sammamish. If the weather is nice withafair wind, the fly can take a longer time. It is worth to try – and once you start, you will be addicted. No wonder if it becomes one of the most popular paragliding places in North America.
9. Paragliding in Golden, Canada
Paragliding in Golden, Canada
Canada is a great country for paragliding because of its amazing mountains and its wild and untouched nature. If you are a beginner, you should first try the tandem flight starting at Mount 7, a favorite site for all people without experience.
As a special offer, you can also go Heli-paragliding, which allows you to take-off from some otherwise unsuitable peaks and you can choose to fly in tandem or solo.
Canada consists of mountainous areas – which are great for paragliding. Not to mention that the untouched nature will add extra appeal. The spot also has a special offer of Heli-paragliding. You can go with the chopper to the unsuitable peaks and fly from there – either solo or tandem.
10. Paragliding in Puebla, Mexico
Paragliding in Puebla, Mexico
Puebla seems like it exists solely for the intense thrill of flying that it provides. Even if you don’t have experience flying, you don’t need to worry. There are professional gliders you can fly with, who fly in tandem with you and take care of everything. Imagine soaring through the air while you paraglide from the hill and rise up, higher and higher!
With complete security, you can feel the adrenaline of your first flight very safely, and that adrenaline quickly becomes ecstasy, a feeling of peace, of solemnity, and profound happiness that makes you feel alive and one with nature. It is definitely an unforgettable experience!
Not only the area is exciting and thrilling,butthe spot is always filled and cramped with professional gliders. If you are new to this, they can teach you – you can even fly tandem with them. It’s no wonder if beginner pilots who try the sports in this spot become addicted. Because of the secured and safe nature, most beginner pilots are always coming back for more!
11. Paragliding in Valle de Bravo, Mexico
Paragliding in Valle de Bravo, Mexico
Currently, this part of Mexico has become a Mecca of paragliding in the country. The ideal flight conditions have also earned it a high spot as one of the best places to glide in North America. In recent years, it has hosted several important world events and paragliding Championships
It is located in a kind of step between the high mountains and the lowlands of Michoacán and Guerrero. The unique mountainous landscape, which is covered with forests and the picturesque village with all of its narrow streets and whitewashed houses with red roofs, as well as the magic Miguel Aleman Dam, make this a quite exotic tourist attraction.
This spot is currently viewed as the paragliding Mecca. The good geography and the ideal conditions are responsible for its popularity. Several paragliding championships and other crucial world events have been held there. The location is between the mountains and (Guerrero and Michoacán) lowlands. Because of the unique landscape, it is no wonder if this place has become one of the most popular paragliding places in North America – even in the world.
12. Paragliding in Tapalpa, Mexico
Paragliding in Tapalpa, Mexico
This Paragliding destionation has been the scene of all sorts major competitions, and has twice been the host to the PWC (Paragliding World Cup). It offers service restaurants and all the necessary things to enjoy your time flying all day.
The flight zone is located just before reaching the village, indicated by the marking of the Zero Gravity Club. On this site both beginners and experienced pilots can fly, and there are various routes for cross-country flying around the mountains, all the way to Lake Chapala. The best time to fly here is during spring and summer.
Paragliding in Tapalpa, Mexico
This is place has been a popular spot for all kinds of competitions. It is also the host for Paragliding World Cup (PWC) even twice. It has restaurants and other types of entertainment. The flight area is marked by the Zero Gravity Club where experienced and beginner pilots can soar to the sky. The area is also good because it has different routes for mountain cross country flying toward Lake Chapala. You should come here in spring and summer to get the best flying experience.
13. Paragliding in El Salto, Mexico
Paragliding in El Salto, Mexico
This is one of the richest regions in Mexico for adventure activities and ecotourism, which, of course, involves flying and paragliding. Here, you can enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery while flying while admiring the spectacles of Tierra Blanca and Cerro del Pinal of the Zamorano, peaks that that reach a height of 3.360 meters.
The flying site is found in the Canyon del Salto, in the recreational center of the same name. It has an excellent take-off platform and good flying conditions for learning. The more experienced pilots can easily perform cross-country flight through San Jose Iturbide and San Miguel de Allende. The best season to fly is from late spring to autumn, when the winds are most favorable.
This area is super popular for its ecotourism and adventurous activity in Mexico. Besides paragliding, you can also find other flying activities. From the high altitude above, you can enjoy the beauty of Cerro del Pinal and Tierra Blanca, located in Zamorano, the peak. The site can be found in Canyon del Salto within the recreational center. The area is popular because the takeoff platform is just perfect and the flying condition is mostly good. The best time to paraglide is from the end of spring to the beginning of fall. It’s not really surprising to see this spot included in the list of the most popular paragliding places in North America
14. Paragliding in Orizaba, Mexico
Paragliding in Orizaba, Mexico
Around Orizaba, there are several takeoffs and flying sites. The most popular for paragliders is located in the mountains of the Sierra de Chicahuaxtla, in the hill of San Juan, where more than ten years ago the Flight Unlimited club organized the “Festival of the Air”, which brought together the best paraglider pilots in the country.
The takeoff platform is located on the “hill of the antennas”, at an altitude of 1,200 m. In this area you can fly all year round.
In this area, you should be able to find several sites for takeoffs and flying. Of course, there is always one popular spot among the others, and it is located inthe Sierra de Chicahuactla Mountains within San Juan Hill. In the same spot, the Flight Unlimited Club set up the ‘Air Festival’ 10 years ago where the best and professional paragliders from every corner of the country will gather around. If you choose to fly from this area, you need to go to Antennas Hill, the takeoff spot which is located 1,200 meters above the sea level. The good thing about this place is that you can fly every time – it is for all year round.
15. Paragliding in Jackson Hole, USA
Paragliding in Jackson Hole, USA
If you are planning to visit Jackson Hole, you are surely doing so for the paragliding, the sport that has been gaining more and more traction in the area. You can flight through the Valley from dizzying heights. The flight lasts around 15 to 20 minutes. The extraordinary view of the valley is something that you won’t forget for the rest of your life.
The area consists of valleys, which will make the flying easier and more fun. The dizzying heights are often considered challenging for most paragliding lovers. One thing they love from this place is the spectacular view – it is simply memorable! The flight generally last around 15 minutes – 20 minutes top. If you want to, go there and check why it is considered one of the most popular paragliding places in North America.
Conclusion on Best Paragliding Spots in North America
Conclusion on Best Paragliding Spots in North America
And what are your favourite paragliding spots in North America? Share your thoughts in a comment below!
In the end, flying is a matter of choice and preference. Some people are scared to fly while some can’t live without flying. These spots are considered ideal and perfect for all types of paragliders in terms of unique landscape, safety, and signature style. If you are new to this, you don’t need to go to the extreme. Simply choose the easy and accessible spots only and see whether flying suits you or not. Once you are set that flying is your passion, you can explore each of these most popular paragliding places in North America.
8 Best Places for Paragliding in Washington
If you’re looking for an amazing outdoor adventure, paragliding in Washington is a perfect choice! Washington is a great state with plenty of beautiful scenery to explore. The best time to go paragliding is in the spring or summer when the weather is warm and stable. However, you can also paraglide in the fall and winter if you dress warmly. There are many places for paragliding there, and some of the most popular spots we will discuss in this article. So without further ado, here are the best places for paragliding in Washington!
Top 8 Spots for Paragliding in Washington
There’s nothing quite like paragliding in Washington in the whole paragliding story about the USA. The state has some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, and there are plenty of great spots for paragliding. Thermals are common in Washington, so it’s a great place for paragliding year-round. Washington has a lot of different places where you can go paragliding, from gentle hills to more challenging cross-country areas. There’s something for pilots of all skill levels.
The Cascade ranges form a natural barrier between the state’s two regions. The West Coast region is affected by the Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound, while the eastern side is influenced by the Columbia River. Consequently, the climate is moderate and humid, which causes soft thermals, few clouds, and large wooded areas. The Seattle-Tacoma-Everett area is Washington’s major population center. It is located between the east side of Puget Sound and the western slopes of the Cascades. In the Puget Sound region, there are a number of mountain locations. They’re primarily located in the Cascade foothills.
So, the first place on our list is Tiger Mountain, located just outside of Seattle. Tiger Mountain is a stunning place for paragliding because of the 360-degree views. For example, you can see Mt. Rainier, different mountain ranges, Puget Sound, lakes, and large cities from the launch site. Also, it’s easy to access and has great flying conditions which makes it one of the United States’ most popular sites for this activity.
Tiger Mountain is an excellent spot for paragliding because it has a variety of terrain to explore. There are also several paragliding schools nearby, so you can take lessons if you’re new to the sport.
If you’re an experienced paraglider looking for breathtaking views, Rampart Ridge is the place for you. With stunning sights of the Cascades and Alpine Lakes Wilderness, this spot is perfect to show off your skills. Just keep in mind that both taking off and landing will require excellent H-3+ abilities because of the rugged terrain and turbulence that could be present.
The launch site is also easy to access, which makes it a convenient spot for paragliding. If you’re looking for an enjoyable and scenic place to fly, Rampart Ridge is definitely worth checking out.
The North Cascades offers some of the most beautiful scenery in Washington and paragliding is the perfect way to experience it. Mt. Shuksan, located in the North Cascades, is a popular spot for paragliders because of its stunning views. The launch site is located at about 7000 feet, so you’ll be able to get an incredible view of the surrounding area.
Once you’re airborne, you can ride the thermals up to 4000 feet and enjoy a bird’s eye view of the cascades. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some wildlife. Paragliding is an amazing way to experience the beauty of the North Cascades and it’s something that everyone should try at least once.
Cashmere is another great spot for paragliding. The launch site is located at the top of a hill, so you’ll be able to get a great view of the valley below. The thermals in Cashmere are some of the best in the state, so you can stay up for hours and enjoy the incredible views. With its beautiful scenery and perfect weather, Cashmere is the ideal place for an unforgettable paragliding experience.
Blanchard is another great paragliding destination in Washington. The launch site is located on a bluff, so you’ll be able to get a great view of the valley and the mountains beyond. The thermals in Blanchard are some of the best in the state, so you can stay up for hours and enjoy the incredible views.
It’s worth visiting Blanchard because paragliding is excellent in this region due to its lack of trees and hilly topography. lt’s an ideal spot for flying due to its tranquil beauty. For paragliders looking to improve their takeoffs and landings, Blanchard is only 20 minutes away with shorter wait times in between flights.
Chelan is a well-known destination for free-flight paragliders. It has hosted many national events in the past, and there are still several opportunities for seasoned cross-country pilots. The flatlands are to the south and east, while the mountains extend to the north and west.
Chelan is an ideal location for paragliding due to its variety of terrain and its stable weather conditions. The flatlands provide ample space for take-offs and landings, while the mountains offer thermal updrafts that can help pilots gain altitude. In addition, the prevailing winds in Chelan are usually mild, making it a relatively safe place to fly. However, in the winter and spring, blocked roads may make getting to the takeoff sites difficult. In this case, hikers might have to use alternative approaches in order to reach the launch points if access roads are closed.
St Helens is another great paragliding destination in Washington. This small town is located in the foothills of Mt. St Helens, which provides some stunning views for paragliders. In addition, the winds in this area are usually light and predictable, making it a safe place to fly. However, as with any mountain flying, there is always the potential for strong downdrafts and turbulence, so pilots should be aware of these conditions before taking off.
Whidbey Island is a large island in Puget Sound, and it offers some great paragliding opportunities. There are several launch sites around the island, with the most popular being near the town of Coupeville. The winds here are usually light and offshore, making for ideal flying conditions.
In addition, there are plenty of landing options on the island, so pilots can stay up in the air for as long as they want. The views from above are stunning, and there’s even a chance to see some whales or other marine life if you’re lucky. Whidbey Island is a wonderful location to paraglide if you’re searching for a great place to go.
Washington Paragliding Schools and Tandem Rides
There are several schools in Washington that can help you become a paraglider if you’re interested in the sport. These schools will provide you with all the gear and instruction you need to start paragliding safely. In addition, most of them offer tandem paragliding rides so you can experience the thrill of flight without having to worry about the details.
Where are Paramotors Allowed to Fly in the United States?
So you’ve heard about paramotors. Maybe you even have a friend who flies one. And you’ve heard that they can just unload their stuff and take off from anywhere. Perhaps you’ve also seen those people on YouTube flying their paramotors to McDonald’s and back. And this whole time, you are wondering to yourself, “Can that be legal??” Well, today I’ll answer that question for you.
So, where are paramotors allowed to fly in the United States? Paramotors are permitted to operate pretty much anywhere in the US, with a few exceptions. Paramotors cannot fly within 5 miles of an airport, over populated areas, or in any Class A, B, C, or D airspace. They are allowed in class G and E airspace.
Let’s go into the detail of what this means and take a look at the other rules paramotorists must follow while in the air.
So, They Can Really Just Fly Anywhere?
Back in the day, there were no flight rules. There were just a few crazy inventors trying to get planes in the air. In time, as aircraft started staying in the air, some rules were to keep people safe – both in the air and on the ground.
As the range of aircraft has broadened, and their speed and volume have increased, the rules governing air traffic have expanded.
So to put it simply, paramotors can fly anywhere except where it is specifically written they can’t. They also have to follow all of the general airspace rules, and they have to follow special rules for paramotors.
These limits include visibility requirements, cloud distance requirements, and staying away from airports.
Why the Rules?
Today, the big planes are moving with such speed you might have fewer than 3 seconds to see one coming and react. Small planes are also moving swiftly. With paramotors topping out at about 40 or 50 miles per hour, flyers have little time to react to significant obstacles.
In the 1980s, the FAA took a serious look at air traffic. They undertook a review of paramotors and other small aircraft traffic like gliders and paragliders. As a result of this review, the FAA made some significant decisions about how paramotoring should fit into the air traffic mix. What they decided was that paramotoring would remain unregulated.
The FAA’s decision to keep paramotors unregulated came because they determined that if paramotorists follow a basic set of rules, then they do not pose a serious enough risk to people and property to require them to have a pilot’s license.
The FAA gave paramotorists the gift of “self-regulation,” which means that a paramotorist is responsible for flying safely and making a lot of judgment calls. It also means that we have a ton of freedom, which we should use carefully.
The key to staying safe on a paramotor lies in following the airspace rules that the FAA has established. Here I will explain them in greater detail.
If there isn’t a rule for your specific situation, that doesn’t mean you are free to do whatever you want. It means you have to make a judgment.
1) Paramotors And Airport Rules
As with many things to do with paramotoring, the use of airports, and the airspace around them is not simple. So, I’ll do my best to explain it as clearly as possible.
Some private airports accept FAA grant money, while others do not. You will need to know if an airport is receiving FAA grants because they impact your rights of use. To find out which airports receive FAA grants you can visit the following page, which give you current and historical grant information:
Airports Without FAA Grants
There is nothing to say a private airport, which does not accept FAA grant money, has to let you use their facilities. If you ask to use the airport and the owner says no, then the answer is no.
Airports With FAA Grants
When an airport accepts an FAA grant they must comply with the Airport Improvement Plan Assurances.
This document says that by accepting an FAA grant, the airport operator must not discriminate against any legal aeronautical activity. This includes paramotoring.
At the same time, this does not mean you can fly your paramotor to, from or around any airport you like.
Why? Two reasons.
- The rules also say that an airport operator can limit or prohibit any aeronautical activity if that prohibition is necessary to “serve the aviation needs of the public” or to “ensure the safe operation of the airport.” The airport operator does not decide what is safe and what is not. The FAA makes this decision.
- There are also a plethora of other rules that regulate where and when you can use an airport and airspace.
Let’s take a look at those next.
2) Right of Way Rules
As a paramotorist , you have almost the last priority in the skies. The only thing lower than a paramotorist in priority is an unpowered paraglider. Know that it is your job to stay out of the way of every other plane in the sky. As a result, you want to stay away from airports altogether.
Even if you are more than five miles out from a larger airport, know that planes can travel that distance in seconds. Jets are coming in hot and don’t have the maneuverability to just dance around a paramotor that is in their way.
So, it is better to give more substantial aircraft plenty of room and not be anywhere close to them. Remember, it’s not just your life you are playing with, it is the lives of everyone on the ground and everyone in another plane. Even seemingly small things can bring down big planes.
Also, keep in mind the FAA’s nonregulation decision. Paramotors are unregulated because they expect us to regulate ourselves. If we can’t, and cause some horrible, preventable tragedy, that self-regulation will probably be gone in a blink of an eye.
3) Where You Can Fly Rules
Before we get into the detail of Airspace Class rules, there are some general points to make.
The FAA’s rules on paramotors include provisions that:
No person may operate an ultralight vehicle over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons.
Title 14 – Aeronautics and Space Regulations: PART 103—ULTRALIGHT VEHICLES
Subpart B—Operating Rules
But what exactly does this mean?
Like many of the FAA rules we must follow, it comes down to a case of you’ll need to make a judgment call.
Does it mean that you can never fly over any building ever?
Well, probably not.
Does it mean that you can’t fly over a town?
This is probably closer to what they mean. When you are flying a paramotor, you want to be in sparsely populated areas and have plenty of room to land in case of an emergency.
International And Domestic Notices
Also, know that you can’t fly a paramotor in any airspace that has a current International Notice or Domestic Notice and it is your responsibility to check them before every flight.
These notices replace the previously used NOTAMs or Notice To Air Men. They are issued by the FAA to give a warning about the weather , events, and anything else that a pilot should know about flying in a particular area.
Some aircraft can still fly in an area with an FAA Notice, depending on what type of issue it is describing.
And for those of you who live in D.C., I’m sorry to tell you, Washington, D.C has extraordinarily complicated and restricted airspace regulations. Paramotoring is just not allowed here.
Also, it’s important to know that the airspace directly around the President of the United States is a perpetual no-fly zone, wherever that happens to be.
4) Airspace Rules
Airspace rules are complex, so consider this a simplified version.
In the US, airspace is relatively simple to understand. It is split into classes labeled A through G, excluding Class F, which is not in use in the US. There are also areas of “special airspace.” Within areas of special airspace, the procedures and regulations for flying are still controlled by the lettered airspace classes.
Some of the lettered classes cover areas around airports and others refer to layers of air. There are three main layers: A, E, and G.
Airspace Classes A, E, And G
Right at the ground, there is Class G airspace. This extends from ground level to, but not including 1,200 feet above the ground, although in a few remote regions, the upper limit can be higher. Class G airspace has the fewest regulations and is not covered by Air Traffic Control.
From 1,200 feet above the ground, all the way up to, but not including 18,000 feet above sea level is Class E Airspace. This airspace has a wide range of use and has more rules than Class G.
Finally, everything from 18,000 feet above sea level and above is Class A airspace. Unless specifically authorized, aircraft operating in Class must use Instrument Flight Rules and be under Air Traffic Control.
Airspace Classes B, C, And D
You will find classes B, C, and D airspace around airports managed by Air Traffic Control.
Although there are a few different requirements, for our purposes, classes B, C, and D are all pretty much the same. They are the very controlled airspace around airports that allow planes to fly and land safely in a tight, sometimes overcrowded space.
These airspaces extend all the way to the ground. So the Class E and Class G airspace that would normally be there at the airport is not there. It is replaced by the B, C, or D airspace that is there serving the airport.
Paramotors are pretty much never allowed in Class B, C, or D airspace. This means that they do not need to ever be in contact with air traffic control. This also means that they can’t take off from a traditional airport.
Not that we need to, of course. We can take off in less than five steps from pretty much anywhere else we want.
So coming back to our discussion on paramotors, paramotors are allowed in Class E and Class G airspace only. This means the very upper limit of where a paramotor can fly is 17,999 feet above sea level. Not that you’re likely to want to go that high, it’s cold and boring up there…
No pilots license is required, in class E or G airspace but you do have to follow all of the Class G and Class E airspace rules as well as the aviation right of way rules.
5) Class G Rules
Air Traffic Control does not cover class G airspace, and it is everywhere that class A – F is not. This class extends from the ground up to, but not including 1,200 feet above the ground. A paramotor can climb this high in just a few minutes.
The rules for Class G airspace in a nutshell thus: You need visibility of at least one mile, and you must avoid all clouds. Simple, right?
If you are wondering why you need to keep clear of clouds, the reason is simple: everybody wants to avoid collisions. If two planes decided to cross the same cloud at the same time, they would collide. There is no safe way to fly through a cloud on a paramotor.
Now you are probably saying, “Well Zach, when I fly commercially, we go through the clouds….” And you are right. Planes can safely fly through the clouds under certain circumstances.
VFR and IFR
You see, there are two modes of flying: VFR and IFR. VFR stands for Visual Flight Rules, and IFR stands for Instrument Flight Rules. VFR means you need the visibility that I just described. When a pilot doesn’t have that kind of visibility, they can use IFR as their flying mode.
Aircraft that pass through clouds are operating on IFR. That is the only safe way to go through the clouds. IFR involves many instruments as well as communication with the Air Traffic Controllers.
It is more controlled and it is safe because all of the instruments can let the pilot know exactly where the plane is, and Air Traffic Control can let the pilot know that there are no other aircraft around. No plane is allowed to enter a cloud while on VFR, it must be done while on IFR.
You must be flying VFR, which means that you can do it without most instruments and without guidance from Air Traffic Control. Without IFR, there is no safe way to fly through the clouds and you must avoid them.
6) Class E Rules
Rules for flying in Class E airspace follow a similar pattern to those in Class G. However, they do vary a little, depending on how high you are.
1,200 To 10,000 Feet
Once you are entering Class E (at 1,200 feet above ground level), you need to have three miles of visibility. You also need to maintain 1,000 feet of distance above, 500 feet of distance below, and 2,000 feet of distance to the side of any clouds.
Above 10,000 Feet
At 10,000 feet above sea level, those distances increase further. Above 10,000 feet, you must maintain 5 miles of visibility, and 1,000 feet distance above, 1,000 feet below, and one mile of distance to the side of any clouds.
These distances increase because the airplane speed limit changes at 10,000 feet. Below this altitude, all planes are limited to 250 knots or about 287 miles per hour.
At higher speeds, there is less time to react. A paramotor could be hit by a plane without you even seeing the other aircraft. Or you could see a plane but not have enough time to react without colliding.
7) Miscellaneous Rules
There are a number of other rules you must observe when flying a paramotor and they can all be found in the Federal Regulations, Title 14 – Aeronautics & Space, Part 103 Ultralight Vehicles.
For ease of reference, and so you can review the actual FAA document occasionally, as well as check for updates, I’ve included the relevant regulation numbers
103.21 Visual Reference With The Surface
You must always maintain visual contact with the ground when flying a paramotor. While flying, you cannot ever allow a cloud to get between you and the ground.
103.11 Daylight Operations
Technically, legally, and practically, you can’t fly after dusk or before dawn.
“Dusk” is defined as thirty minutes after the legal sunset of your location and “dawn” is defined as thirty minutes before the legal sunrise at your location.
Why? This all goes back to the Visual Flight Rules mentioned earlier.
If you can’t see, then how are you going to fly VFR?
Not only is your risk for a mid-air collision greater, but as your depth perception is reduced you are at greater risk of hitting something else.
You will also have a harder time finding your landing site. It can get really disorienting, really fast once it is dark.
Oh and it’s illegal. So don’t fly at night.
103.9 Hazardous Operations
The regs also state that you must not operate a paramotor in a way that creates a hazard for other people or property.
Again, there is no detail on what constitutes a hazard, you should just be sensible and use good judgment.
Where You Can Fly
So far we have talked a lot about where you can’t fly, but let’s talk about some of the amazing flying opportunities that are available to you as a paramotor pilot.
Flying on a paramotor, you can do things that pilots flying any other aircraft could only DREAM of doing.
One example is over beach areas. Any pilot can fly over a beach, but they can’t do it very close to the surface. They also can’t breathe the heavy air, smell the sea, or hear the waves crashing below.
The same thing goes for fields. Any pilot can fly over a field, but only a paramotorist can fly closer to the ground, smelling the dirt, the corn, or whatever there is to be experienced there.
I also need to put in a word from sunrises and sunsets here. They are amazing from the air. They are also the best times to fly, as the air is the calmest at these times.
These are all examples of places that few regular aircraft could ever fly. They are also the most exhilarating way to experience flying. Being so close to the ground, you don’t need to be going very fast to experience a really cool flight.
Where You Can Fly From & To
Another amazing thing about paramotoring isn’t just the places you can fly, it is the places you can start flying from. With a paramotor, you can take off in about five steps. Five steps!
This means you can take off from basically any spot where you have permission. Whether it’s a farm, dirt field out in the middle of nowhere, a beach, or on a mountain, you can just go. All it takes is a few minutes to set up your wing and you can be off.
Speaking of permission…
This is another really important aspect of flying a paramotor. As with anything else, if you don’t have permission to be on someone’s land, then you are trespassing.
The landowner might be just fine with that, but chances are they will not. Always ask first.
Farmers usually have some open space that they might be willing to let you use if you ask. If you offer to get them some aerial photos of their farm, their town, or something else important to them, they might be more willing to let you use their space.
However, lots of land falls into a gray area. In public places, like parks, there might not be any technical legal blockage to you taking off there. But if you start bugging people by taking off there, you will probably get some technical legal blockage enacted to stop you from taking off there.
So you need to be wise. Public land in rural areas, or any field that you have permission to use, are usually the best places.
The “Don’t Be Annoying” Rule
More than anything, as paramotorists, we need to remember, please, please, PLEASE, don’t be annoying That is the quickest way to get paramotoring banned from an area.
Several beaches in California have now banned paramotor flights because the locals got too annoyed by the people flying there.
In general, you should try to help the general public to see paramotoring as something cool to look at from a distance, not something that you dread coming close to your house every time you hear the motor coming in the distance.
My Personal “Don’t Be Annoying” Policy
My “don’t be annoying” policy usually includes the following components:
- Don’t litter. This is quite possibly the fastest way to drive locals up the wall.
- Know the law. This article is about federal laws and regulations covering paramotors. However, there may be local or state laws that also govern paramotor use. Also, if you are ever trying to fly a paramotor outside of the US, research the local law because different countries can vary widely on what their take is on paramotors. And, if you fly close to the border of the US with Canada or Mexico, be sure to know their laws, just in case you stray into their airspace, or need to make an unscheduled landing.
- Don’t disturb any animals. Animals can get freaked out by paramotor noise, and then the owners have to spend time to calm them back down. If it is an animal on a farm, then getting spooked by a paramotor can actually disturb their production, whether that be milk, eggs, etc. Likewise, wildlife can be negatively affected by paramotors. This could become a significant issue if that wildlife is protected or causes some kind of problem as a direct result of your flight.
- Don’t fly too close for comfort. While it is true that one of the coolest parts of paramotoring is operating close to the ground, don’t fly too close to people. Don’t fly as close as you possibly can to someone’s crops, either.
So as you can see, it really is legal to fly to McDonald’s on your paramotor, as long as it is not in a very populated area, you are not within five miles of an airport, you are not in Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace, it is during daylight hours, and you have met all of the visibility requirements for the airspace you are using. Pretty cool, eh?
If you are interested in learning how to apply the ins and outs of paramotor rules, you should go take a lesson or tandem flight.
A tandem flight is a great way to get started, as you can ask the pilot all of your questions to your heart’s content and get a taste of what paramotoring is all about before putting down a bunch of money on it.
Can paramotors be flown close to each other? P aramotors can be flown close to each other. You can fly with your friends as long as you keep a safe distance from each other and are all vigilant for other air traffic. Some groups even put on radio headsets to be able to communicate with each other.
How long have paramotors been around? The first true paramotor was flown in 1979. It had a flight range of about five minutes.