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Preparation for the 2004 British Paramotor Nationals
by Michel Carnet, British Team Leader and four-times National Champion
The following advice is aimed at paramotor pilots who would like to compete in the Nationals or international events.
You need to be able to see how much fuel is left while airborne. Ideally you have a 2-litre clear auxiliary tank positioned higher than the carburettor and which you can see directly. It can be vented through your main tank to use that fuel first. Another popular set-up is to use a secondary pump to always bring fuel from the main tank into the auxiliary tank.
Mark your fuel tank with a thick black line at about the 2 litres level. You are now going to pretend that when the fuel goes down to that line, you are running out of fuel. The actual 2 litres left will be your reserve for when you get it wrong. This way you can push it and experiment with your fuel management without the aggravation of landing out.
Good fuel economy is paramount. If you cannot achieve under 3 litres/hour then you will simply not be competitive - at international level, the top guys are burning only 2 litres per hour.
With regards to the wing, speed is important, especially if there is any wind. You need a wing which allows you to fly accelerated safely. A smaller wing will be a better compromise than a larger one. Ideally, you want to be flying level when on full power and fully accelerated. If you climb, then either your wing is too big or you have surplus power, hence too much weight (overpowered). Power is not often rewarded in competition.
Torque effect must be controlled. You cannot fly along pulling on one brake to go in a straight line. There are several tricks to deal with it.
Fly with an OS Landranger 1:50.000 map. Cover it with a plastic film to allow you to write on it with chinagraph or a Staedler permanent marker with special rubber. You need a large map holder allowing you to turn the map. Pens must be usable in the air to write times and fuel amounts as you go along.
A compass is very useful. A dedicated stopwatch is essential.
Tasks to practice
Task 1. Spot landing
Fly over the target going into wind, engine off, with enough height to stay airborne for at least one minute.
There are several approach techniques (circuit, S turns, crosswind, etc), experiment with them all.
First contact with the ground counts. Only feet and one knee may touch the ground.
Task 2. Upwind Fuel Economy
Fill your tank with a round amount of fuel above your "empty line". Fly up wind as far as possible but return to the field. You must learn to calculate where to turn by having assessed the wind strength. No GPS allowed. The ratio of downwind ground speed over upwind groundspeed is the same as the ratio of time spent going upwind over time spent downwind. So not only you need to know the airspeed your machine normally flies at, but you also need to find ways to work out the real wind speed whilst you fly up wind. A stopwatch and a map is all you need to calculate groundspeed and to deduct wind-speed.
Task 3. Economy Laps
Empty your tank and fuel system of all fuel. Use a 2-litre mineral water bottle full of fuel and learn to transfer all of it into your overhead tank without spilling it. Ideally you should graduate your overhead tank every 100ml. Learn to start your engine on your back when ready to launch, thus avoiding any wastage. Set yourself a circuit around your field (not exceeding 1km) by using clearly defined turn-points and agree on a restricted landing deck in the vicinity. Although this task is normally flown below tree top level, do practice it much higher for safety and in order to concentrate only on your fuel management. Keep a count of how many laps you are flying and start to calculate how many millilitres you are using per lap. You need to get enough confidence to fly the last lap with the last bit of fuel and still make it back safely to the landing deck. Learn to fly by opening that throttle as little as possible. Should you accelerate on the upwind leg, using more fuel? Check it for yourselves.
Task 4. Navigation
Ask someone (or yourselves) to draw a polygon at random. Try to fly as closely to the straight lines as possible. If you have a GPS with download facility on your PC, use it as a logger only, to check afterwards how far you have deviated from the straight lines. On a paraglider, any amount of crosswind results in your track being very different from your heading, and in the absence of cockpit or foreground it can be quite hard to track in a straight line.
Task 5. Navigation with declared speed
This is a very difficult task because you have to declare a ground speed before you launch, so wind speed must be guessed at. Navigate along a random task as in Task 4 but work out and write on your map at what elapsed time you should over-fly each main feature, if you were flying at the declared groundspeed. Take off then fly through a start gate, stopwatch in hand. Normally, the faster your declared groundspeed, the more points you get. If you declare a conservative speed, it can be tedious having to circle on the downwind legs not to go too fast. Ideally you pick a realistic speed, having to use speed bar on the most into wind legs.
Those above tasks are very specific and need to be practiced. However every time you fly you can practice broad skills such as:
- inflating first time.
- always landing engine off from height to practice engine-off landing approach.
- avoiding navigating with a GPS.
- keeping track of time and distance and always trying to estimate time of arrival.
- having some 2-metre bamboo sticks on your field to kick from all directions as well as rounding as tight as possible with the pilot's body.
- getting used to flying at least 2 hours at a time, carrying food and drink.
- landing out and re-launching promptly unaided, especially on nil-wind days
There is an official CIMA task catalogue available here:
By practicing those tasks, you will not only improve your flying ability but also by setting yourselves goals, every flight will have a purpose rather than just buzzing around. You will find that the Nationals are not too serious and over competitive, but a very enjoyable event to fly with friends from both the UK and overseas.
See you there.
|Page last reviewed|
11 Feb 2004
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