When riding a paramotor, it’s a concern if your engine quits while in flight. I don’t know about you, but I would fear for my life at that point. So, I’ve looked into what should be done if that ever happens.
In the case of an engine failure, try to start the engine again. If it won’t start, do not panic! Look for a safe place to land, free of obstacles and turbulence, and calmly glide there. A paramotor wing acts as a parachute when the engine is off.
Paramotoring can be safe, but as with all sports, there are dangers. There are precautions you can take to be prepared for these dangers.
What to do if Your Paramotor Engine Quits
There are three steps which you need to take if your paramotor fails while you are flying.
Step 1: Don’t Panic!
The worst thing you can do is panic. Part of the usual landing process when using a paramotor anyway is turning the engine off. When it turns off too early, it’s a problem, but it shouldn’t be something you aren’t used to.
Step 2: Try to start your engine again.
This step may seem self-explanatory, but if you are very high up, you have time to try starting the engine again. It may have just been a fluke moment and your engine will start up again. You might even have time to find the problem so take advantage of altitude if you’ve got it.
Step 3: Glide!
If you’ve tried to start the engine again, and you have not had any success, glide towards a safe landing area. One of the advantages of paramotors is that they can land in small areas, which is great for you if the engine quits midflight.
Note: After your engine has quit, it may take a while to land; in which case, relax and enjoy the view! It’s actually better if you are at a higher altitude because you have more time to pick a safe spot to land.
In the above video, there is a great example of landing from a high altitude when your engine quits. If this happens, you have ample time to land and it’s safer than a low landing.
You able to even sometimes figure out what is wrong with your engine while you fly and/or plan where you can land. You have more time to think and prepare yourself for landing.
Because you are very close to the ground, a low landing is going to be a bit rougher. You don’t have as much time to prepare for the landing as with the high landing. The air around is also less stable, it’s more turbulent than the air above.
It is better to take off from a higher altitude because trying to take off from the ground gives you a false sense of security. It’s better to rip the band-aid off than to slowly peel it away.
Common Paramotor Engine Problems
Like all engines, paramotor engines aren’t perfect and will eventually wear out in more ways than one. There are a few common problems that a paramotorist might face.
*If your motor is new than you’re better off taking it to where you bought it or calling the manufacturer. It’s more than likely a manufacturing problem.
The most common problems in paramotors are fuel related. Why? It’s pretty simple, paramotor engines use what you call a diaphragm carburetor.
What is a carburetor? A carburetor is a space where fuel and air are mixed together before the fuel is passed to the engine.
What is a diaphragm? The diaphragm is what regulates the amount of fuel that enters the engine into the carburetor (this also applies to the amount of fuel that is allowed to enter the engine.)
How does knowing this help me? The diaphragm is made of rubber which eventually wears out over time and can become stiff or even dry rot. When it becomes stiff or dry rots, it is no longer able to consistently regulate how much fuel which is being pumped into the engine.
Ignition failure is usually due to your spark plug gap being too large, or you have the need to replace your spark plug. Your spark plug gap dictates how large the spark magnititude will be and will effect fuel economy and engine performance.
Your engine output will be at it’s best only when the spark plug gap meets the necessary specifications for prime engine output. To get the write specifications, look at the manual for your paramotor and/or visit your nearest motor repair shop.
Regular Paramotor Engine Maintenence Aids in Safety
If you are properly caring for your paramotor engine you can avoid common paramotor engine problems.
During the first 10 hours of operation here are a few things that need to be observed and checked on:
- Tighten the head nut when the motor is cold
- Check the color of the spark-plug (this is after the first 5h-10h)
- Verify belt tension
- Tighten the screws, bolts, and nuts
- Check if there is any oil, grease, or gas leakage
- Check integrity of rubber-mounting
All the maintenence that you will be doing may seem a little overwhelming and tedious, but it’s worth the effort if you want to stay safe.
Here’s a 10-minute video which gives you a step by step guide of how to do all this maintenance:
This maintenance should be done after the first ten hours of use from the first time you use your paramotor.
Because paramotors have great longevity, they can go quite a while before they need maintenance. The average amount of time between each service should be about every 20-25 hours.
If you are afraid of your motor quitting, this maintenance is important for you to be able to relax.
Make sure to service the engine regularly- this means you service it after the same quantity of hours every time. To help with servicing, an hour meter can be attached to the engine to help keep those services regular.
An hour meter tracks paramotor flight time. They only cost about $20 to $25 and they make for an easier time tracking flight time between maintenance. As long as you service your engine and take good care of it, you are unlikely to have issues with an engine failure or anything like that.
However, to help put you even more at ease about engine failure during flight, you should know and understand why paramotors have an engine in the first place.
A Paraglider With an Engine
The paramotor is similar to a paraglider with a motor. One of the biggest differences between the two is that the engine on a paramotor gives you more control over altitude, direction, and airtime. Having an engine enables for a safer and more stable flight.
In the paragliding world, paramotoring is considered to be much safer no matter how you compare the two. (though most who are more experienced in the paragliding/paramotoring world claim that you shouldn’t compare the two.
Unlike with paragliding, the engine on a paramotor allows for a constant forward speed. This constant motion keeps the wings inflated and prevents them from folding in on themselves. When the wings fold in on themselves it can be fatal; an engine prevents this from happening.
The problem with the engine quitting is that the forward motion of your glide is slowed or halted. Even though the engine is necessary for progress in altitude and speed, being without it is not unlike paragliding.
How Often do Paramotor Engines Quit?
A new paramotor engine should not quit. When you buy an engine used, there is a higher probability for engine failure just because of age. However, the older the paramotor, the more worn out it’s going to be, that’s just common knowledge.
The downside is that it happens. Most paramotorists have experienced an engine failure at least once or twice. It’s pretty common. However, the good news is that these paramotorists have given tips and ideas about how to prevent and/or deal with it.
If you are nervous and worried that it will happen to you, it probably will, but don’t worry, because of how common it is you’ve got a lot of experienced flyers out there who can help you.
For example, the next section holds the secrets to protecting yourself if your engine quits above water, which can be fatal if not handled properly and cautiously.
What if the Engine Quits Above a Body of Water?
Obviously, you aren’t going to plan for your engine to quit above water. But, you should always be prepared if you are planning to fly over or near any bodies of water.
If the engine quits, again, the first thing you need to do is not panic. Calm yourself down and breath. If you panic you are likely to be killed because oftentimes the moments when we panic are the moments where we have the highest probability of getting out alive.
My first tip is to stay calm!
How Do I Keep Myself Safe?My advice, if you are an amateur in paramotoring, you should save flying over water for when you’ve mastered the most basic skills of paramotoring. Knowing the basics is the first step to preventing severe injury or death.
If you have any doubts about your readiness to fly, then you should forego flying over water. Wait till you are confident with the idea that you could might be faced with a dangerous and possibly fatal encounter.
Take a flotation device/life vest. Some paramotorists choose to attach a flotation device in case of emergency to their paramotor. You can fly more peacefully knowing that you have something to float on in the worst case scenario.
The flotation device is used once you have already landed. Do not inflate your life vest until you are cleared away from the wings and paramotor.
Pre-check your engine before you go out. If you know that you are going to be flying over water, do a maintenance check just to be safe. It can’t hurt to be cautious.
*If your engine has quit before, again, I would say don’t fly over any bodies of water. (however, you can do whatever you want, I’d just advise safety first.)
DO NOT JUMP! It may be tempting, but this kind of situation is not like the movies, there are no special effects and you’re more than likely to be injured. It is easy to mistake the distance between you and the water. the distance between you and the water and/or the ground is generally further than it appears.
If you fall it’s more likely that you will get caught underwater trying to get the straps off. To make it easier, some professionals suggest unclipping one leg strap, chest harness, and your lap strap. (this applies to water-foot-dragging)
Know how to properly land in water, if necessary. Flare the wings just enough that they will overshoot you as you land in the water. You don’t want the wings to land on top of you. Landing in water isn’t really something you can practice because it’s not something you will be doing often.
Once your feet hit the water is when you should jump. Do not jump any sooner and swim away from the paramotor as fast as possible so that you aren’t dragged down by the lines. Wait until you are free from the paramotor lines to open your life vest.
Here are some other useful tips to help you land safely near or in water:
- Land downwind, not upwind in case of a surprise gust of wind.
- Do not land in rushing water, try to pick water as calm as possible.
*Please note that all of these tips and suggestions are based on personal experience.
That being said, it is crucial to pay attention to your surroundings when landing. No situation is exactly the same so these tips may not be what you should do. Be wise and measure the situation to the best of your ability if you are ever faced with this issue.
Other Airbound Paramotoring Accidents
Engine failure is just one cause for worry and anxiety for a paramotorist. There are other accidents that can happen which are much more serious. Most accidents when paramotoring are caused by the pilots error and not the paramotor itself.
While the percentage for fatalities of these accidents are high, they are also highly preventable with the correct training and preparation of the paramotorist.
Here are two common accidents that can happen if you are not fully trained and prepared:
Powerlines– Be aware of powerlines when you are flying your paramotor. If you need to land after an engine failure, you need to look out for powerlines.
Many pilots think they will see the powerlines and/or they will be able to avoid them, but that is not the case. Many powerlines are visible, but there are instances where they’re hidden behind trees or the sky camouflages them. The wings on a paramotor are extremely tall and it’s difficult to judge exactly how tall.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can make it if you are trying to land near a powerline. If at all possible, land in as open a space as you can.
Collisions- There have been quite a few collisions between paragliders, paramotorists and the like because of pilots who aren’t observant of their surroundings. Be aware of who’s flying.
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. 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.
For more information, visit the USPPA website, United States Powered Paragliding Association website.