Every country is free to make its own laws and regulations regarding what happens within the bounds of their territory. As citizens of each country, all paramotor pilots must abide by whatever laws have been implemented.
Paramotors are legal in the UK without a special license, however, pilots must abide by the Air Navigation Order; or, in other words, the airspace rules. Though pilots do not need a special license, many are a part of the BHPA (British Paragliding and Hang Gliding Association).
The BHPA lays down the law and guidelines which need to be followed for a pilot’s safe flying experience. However, the specific requirements of this so-called club go beyond being a member.
The BHPA (British Paragliding and Hang Gliding Association)
The BHPA regulates all training and is in charge of making and changing paramotoring flight requirements and laws. Everyone who takes part in the association (or club) has to follow all its rules.
To join the association, all you have to do is go to this website and it has all the steps and benefits you can obtain by signing up with the “club” to be allowed to fly in the UK.
“BHPA flying membership costs £126 annually and includes a subscription to Skywings, the BHPA’s monthly magazine, and £5 million 3rd-party insurance cover.”BHPA
For instance, the first thing which needs to happen is training. While some pilots want to learn on their own, training from a certified/professional trainer is not only highly recommended but required in England.
The BHPA has registered schools where training takes place. To be perfectly honest, it’s not likely they will permit you to join the association if you’ve trained yourself. You’d still have to go through the normal and proper channels.
The BHPA website has a list of registered schools you can look into for your training. Training is not much different than any other country. Also, when you participate in the training, your membership in the association/club also comes with the aforementioned benefits.
All students and members of the association have £5 million 3rd-party insurance. This comes with membership, but it is not required, you can also have your own personal insurance from an independent insurance broker if you need personal or travel insurance.
There is no age limit or requirement to fly, however, the UK’s national law states that you must be at least 14 years of age to take on a solo flight. So, though there are no specific laws regarding paramotors, most citizens see this law as the age requirement for paramotor pilots.
Even though 14 is the national age for solo flight, some UK flight schools set their age requirement to learn around 16 years old, which is higher than the solo flight law. It all depends on where you go to train.
There are no detailed or specific medical requirements or restrictions, however, you should be fit to fly and should consult your doctor. Even those who believe they are too disabled to fly may actually be just fine in the air. In fact, there are many pilots who are disabled which have no trouble going through training or learning how to fly.
Paramotors such as the trike or the quad are excellent options for pilots who are not as mobile as the rest of the world. These pilots are in no way tied down or restricted from flying just because they lack certain modes of mobility. That’s silly!
Paramotoring is an excellent extreme sport for the disabled, and it’s not uncommon for disabled participants to out-fly regular and experienced pilots. You never know what you are capable of until you try.
Airspace Rules (Air Navigation Order)
I keep talking about the rules and regulations but have yet to specify what rules pilots are actually supposed to be following. You may even wonder what kind of regulations a country can even place on the air you breathe. (It’s funny that people can regulate and place laws on airspace. They can, and they do, but it’s for a good purpose.)
Paramotors aren’t the only aircraft in the air. There are also airplanes, hot-air balloons, agricultural aircraft, and other paragliders. Because there are so many different types of aircraft, with their diverse purposes, certain aircraft have the right of way when flying. There are rules pilots have to follow, just as one would follow the rules of the road. And, it’s all in the name of safety!
Air Traffic Control (ATC) regulates permissions regarding aircraft in each airspace. Most of the airspace requires a license to fly because of the amount of aircraft in the air. However, there is unregulated airspace in which smaller aircraft are free to fly without a license.
Airspace is broken up in the following manner:
- Class A: Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) apply. IFR’s are that the pilot uses instruments to navigate in good and bad weather. This airspace is for major airlines and business jets. It is the highest and most regulated airspace.
- Class C: IFR and Visual Flight Rules (VFR) apply, and are permitted. Following VFR, a pilot doesn’t use instruments (at least, not as many instruments).
“The pilot must be able to operate the aircraft with visual reference to the ground, and by visually avoiding obstructions and other aircraft.”Paramotorplanet.com
- Class D: ATC clearance is required and IFR and VFR apply in this airspace. This is usually occupied by aerodromes (airports, airbases, etc.).
- Class E: IFR and VFR apply and this area is ATC regulated. Most aircraft permitted to enter other IFR and VFR areas can also enter the Class E airspace.
- Class G: This is uncontrolled airspace. It is the lowest of all airspace and pilots are not required to notify ATC. However, notifying ATC is recommended as a precaution in case of emergency (or for peace of mind). ATC has an alert service in case a pilot needs assistance.
Paramotors aren’t high altitude aircrafts. It’s not that paramotor pilots haven’t tried higher altitudes, or even that they shouldn’t. Merely, flying at higher altitudes increases the likelihood of running into other aircraft.
Any paramotor pilot who wishes to go above the specified Class G airspace must have a National Private Pilot’s Licence (NPPL) issued by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
Paramotor and Wing Registration
Though a paramotor pilot license is not required by the UK, your paramotor needs to be registered and so does your wing. Even though it seems like a hassle, it’s still necessary.
Registration of your paramotor is similar to how you register your car. Here are some possible requirements for registering your paramotor:
- Proof of Purchase
- Proof of your Own Identity
- Must pass a safety inspection;
Paramotor registration is pretty simple. Basically, you need to make sure that it’s safe and you need to maintain and clean it every 25-100 hours. It’s easier to take care of an engine which works in the first place.
The way wings are certified and registered is actually quite international. A pilot merely needs to make sure that the wing is EN/A or DGAC certified. Most wings are certified and have gone through safety even before you purchase.
It’s important to make sure your wing has the proper certified documentation. If your paramotor doesn’t have this documentation, it’s likely that you’re being ripped off.
Also, if you’re trying to get your wing to pass inspection, you know, the one you made in your garage, it still needs to qualify according to the below requirements.
EN certification has levels. Whether your wing is an A, B, C, or D level, if they are ranked in this range, they’ve passed inspection and are safe enough to fly.
- EN A– this level is suitable for all pilots and has the safest/maximum level of air safety. This level of certification is the best choice for paramotor wings because you can’t go wrong as they have the most steady flight reputation than the lower levels.
- EN B- Good flight, but not as stable as the EN-A certified wings. To be honest, though, these aren’t too different from EN-A certified wings.
- EN C- The safety level of these wings are moderate and should be used by pilots with more experience. They are more prone to be whipped around by turbulence and require the pilot to be more aware and capable than the A or B certified wings.
- EN D- This is for the enthusiast who flies all the time. This certification should not be purchased by anyone who is not an experienced paramotor pilot. What does it mean to be an experienced pilot? It means that you fly 200+ hours a year and you know specific and special techniques for flying.
More presently known as LTF certification, DGAC follows a very similar pattern to EN-A certification. The only difference between the two is that numbers are used for LTF rather than letters. Each wing is ranked by the level of difficulty; which is based on the pilot’s flight experience.
1: Beginner- It works for all pilots and is the safest to fly and is what they call very forgiving.
1-2: Beginner to Intermediate- Those who will use these wings are still pretty fresh, but are beginning to gain a bit more experience.
2: Experienced- The higher up you move, the more dangerous these wings become, but you’re also more familiar with flight technique and flight safety.
2-3: Experienced to Expert- You should be a regular pilot to fly the experienced to expert wings because they are not very forgiving and have some tough consequences if a pilot makes a mistake.
3: Expert- At this level, you basically live in the air and fly all the time. It’s probably what you do for a living (in my opinion). Careful with these certified wings as they are not very forgiving either and you should only purchase them if you are willing to accept the consequences in the case of pilot error.
Is Insurance Required?
It is not required to have insurance for your paramotor. However, there are a lot of things which could happen while you fly, so it’s wise to cover your butt with insurance. The BHPA club offers insurance as part of their membership program, so it’s not too difficult for pilots to get insurance.
Even though is it not required, paramotors are still a form of transformation being controlled by human beings. It’s entirely possible for pilots to make mistakes and get into serious accidents.
To give you an idea of what could happen while flying, and why you should get insurance, here’s a list of common accidents:
- wing collapse
- crash into private property
Powerlines can be hard to see when you are flying. Be aware of your surroundings as you fly. Flying in open spaces is the best way to stay safe therefore, stay clear of objects and natural obstacles that could potentially knock you out of the sky or make it hard to land.
Many pilots think they can avoid powerlines because they are experienced, but that is not the case. Even the most experienced pilot can get clothes-lined by a powerline.
Many powerlines are visible, but there are instances where they’re hidden behind trees or camouflaged by the sky. The wings on a paramotor are extremely tall and wide, making it difficult to judge distances between you and powerlines.
It is especially hard to react quickly once the distance between you and the powerline gets too small for comfort. You’d be surprised how easily powerlines, large buildings, and other obstacles can sneak up on you when you’re not aware.
Imagine how much money you would have to spend if you ran into one? Now imagine that amount doubled because you chose not to get any insurance. THat’s really sad! You do not want to get yourself tangled up.
Besides, accidents with paramotors, unfortunately, are quite common. Luckily, the accidents aren’t always so traumatic or life-threatening, but they can be so.
There have been quite a few collisions between paragliders, paramotorists, hot air balloons, other aircraft, and the like because pilots aren’t observant of their surroundings. This happens when pilots aren’t aware of their surrounding pilots. Hopefully, this mistake won’t be made, but it does happen every now and again between pilots.
Collisions are potentially fatal and it is devastating when common sense and awareness isn’t being utilized. At least one pilot should be able to see the other pilot and should try to avoid a collision if at all possible.
Fly staggered so that you can always see each other. This is a good practice not just for collisions but for other risks as well. It’s just smart flying to keep your surroundings fully in view. For instance, if your engine quits and you have less control, you aren’t as likely to run into someone if you are following paramotoring safety rules.
The DHV flight rules give some great tips on how to avoid collisions and some rules to follow while flying to stay safe. These rules may not be specifically from the UK, but most rules are about the same.
Here are the general rules:
- Motor-driven aircraft must always give way to paragliders and hang gliders.
- Paragliders and hang gliders must always give way to balloons.
- Before launching, the pilot has to check whether the airspace is free.
- Before performing a turn, the pilot has to check, whether the airspace is free.
- During landing-approach, the deeper flying pilot has the right of way.
- After landing, the pilot has to leave the landing area immediately.
- No alcohol, no drugs
It might surprise you to know that most paramotoring accidents happen due to pilot error. While the percentage for fatalities of these accidents are high, they are also highly preventable with the correct training and preparation from the paramotorist.
Wing Collapse/Crash Causing Damage to Private Property
Wing collapse is less likely to happen in a paramotor because of the propeller and the fact that it’s constantly moving forward, but it could still happen- and has happened.
Now, I’m just setting a possible scenario in front of you to give an idea of something that could happen- requiring you to pay lots of money out of your own pocket.
It’s pretty common to fall into a tree or an empty field when you crash. It’s also common to regain flight after a while of falling (so don’t let this scenario deter you from flying at all). However, if you are falling, you could just as easily fall into someone’s personal property like a car, a shed, a barn, or you could fall on people tanning and swimming on the beach.
This would not only hurt personal property but also your paramotor. That’s why insurance is important to have. It won’t avoid crashes, but it will avoid the stress and anxiety that can be caused by damaged equipment, angry people, and lawsuits.
Does BHPA Membership Validate Licenses to Fly in Other Countries?
Since the UK doesn’t require their own pilots to have a special license, it isn’t likely they will require pilots from other countries to have a license either. But, what about when someone from the UK wants to fly in places such as Germany or France? What to do then?
When flying abroad, members of the UK must have an IPPI Card (International Pilot Proficiency Information Card) This is basically a card which validates that the pilot has the required flight experience. The IPPI card, coupled with membership in the BHPA, is a good indication of how much experience a pilot has and is accepted by foreign flight agencies.
They’ll be more willing and confident to allow pilots to purchase a license to fly. Most countries that require a license will either offer a temporary license, or you can get a long-term license.
If you’re just visiting and don’t frequent, it’s a good idea to get a temporary license. You might be wondering how performance/experience is rated when the UK doesn’t even require a license, well. That’s where membership in the club comes in handy.
“The IPPI system works by converting your BHPA pilot rating into the equivalent Safe Pro and/or Para Pro rating [or the system foreign agencies use to rank].”BHPA.com
Below is a table for paragliding and the conversion which takes place in order for pilots to pass the Norwegian/European training stages:
|BHPA Paramotor Club||Norwegian Training Stage|
|Elementary||=||Para Pro Stage 2|
|Club (Novice) Pilot||=||Para Pro Stage 3|
|Pilot||=||Para Pro Stage 4|
|Pilot**||=||Para Pro Stage 5|
|Advanced Pilot||=||Para Pro Stage 5|
This table was pulled from the BHPA website.
**Para Pro Stage 5: To obtain a paragliding IPPI 5 rating with only a Pilot rating, applicants must submit a statement from a Club Chairman/Club Chief Coach/CFI confirming that they have checked the pilot’s logbooks and are satisfied that he or she has a total of at least 50 flying hours on paragliders and has completed at least 5 cross-country flights in various types of lift (flights conducted solely in ridge lift or along the same ridge do not count).BHPA.com
How do I get an IPPI Card? (£15)
All pilots who wish to obtain and IPPI card must go through the BHPA club. They must fill out the application form and turn it into the BHPA office. You can find the application form here.
Special rules for flyers in Italy
Italy, because they’ve had so many problems of late has made some new laws and rules regarding paramotor/gliding pilots. So, keep in mind you UKers, if you want to fly outside the UK, the rules slightly change wherever you go, so be aware.
- Rescue phone number – 118
- If a red or yellow rescue helicopter appears, free fliers must clear the area for a radius of 2km or land immediately
- If a rescue helicopter appears, pilots have a responsibility to advise others in the air by radio
- If the radio message is not heard or understood, pilots have a responsibility to advise others in the air by pulling big ears
- A pilot who has crashed and is in danger or needs medical attention must let off a red smoke bomb, available in the Canazei LZ
- Pilots who do not need assistance must fold their wing or let off a green smoke bomb
*List taken from BHPA.com