WPPGA Paramotor Safety Certification Requirements
These are 8 of the most basic safety features that would prevent the vast majority of serious injuries & deaths in the sport. Zero people to date as of 02/25/2011 have ever died on equipment that’s 100% WPPGA certified. For your safety and for the image of the sport, please make sure you get WPPGA certified instruction and fly only certified paragliders with WPPGA certified paramotors along with a reserve parachute.
1) Crumple Zone: Crumple zone is the most important safety factor in the sport. Because a certified paraglider only descends about 20 fps in a full stall, if you have 14-18 inches of crumple zone under you then the odds of getting seriously injured or killed in the sport are drastically reduced. Twenty fps is approximately equivalent to jumping off a garage roof. If you jump off your garage roof and land flat on your bottom, the odds are not in your favor. You will probably find yourself seriously injured or killed. If however, you have 14-18 inches of properly designed impact protection under your spine, the odds of serious injury or death are extremely low. Less than 14 inches of crumple zone imparts a greater risk of injury, but more than 18 inches and it becomes difficult, if not impossible to launch. All new automobiles sold in the US are required by law to have crumple zones and so should your paramotor. If you come across a paramotor where your bottom is the very lowest part of the unit, we suggest you to not fly it.
2) Pilot Restraint System: Properly restraining the pilot inside a roll cage is what makes crumple zone work. Even if there is 14-18 inches of aluminum crumple zone under the pilots butt, it doesn’t do any good if the pilot is slung from flimsy arms protruding out from a frame that will flex or break in an accident. This will allow the pilot to impact the ground without crumple zone doing its job. Just like a properly designed car seat with a seat belt, the pilot needs to be properly restrained inside the roll cage to force the roll cage to absorb an impact before it hits the pilot. The pilot needs to be cradled from between their armpit to hip in order to distribute the surface area along as much of the body as possible. The bar that holds the harness is important as well. If it’s a single bar, an off angle impact will throw the pilot onto that small surface area, causing a potentially life threatening injury. If these bars are next to the pilot’s head, their head will take the impact. Look for a well supported harness that cradles you securely from within the roll cage. It must be stronger than the crumple zone to force the crumple zone to function before the pilot hits the ground.
3) Sufficient Cage & Netting Strength: Proper strength of the cage and netting is extremely important to paramotor safety. Numerous injuries have occurred when pilots have lost control of their unit while warming it up, fallen down, or crashed. This has resulted in the pilot coming in contact with a spinning prop. Sometimes a forward launch will put enough pressure on a weak cage that the pilot’s arms come dangerously near (and sometimes in) the prop. To protect yourself from these types of injuries, it takes a paramotor with a strong enough cage and netting, along with a big enough gap between the prop and the cage to undoubtedly keep the pilot out of the prop arc in all the most common scenarios. Not only does the cage need to be able to withstand hundreds of pounds of pressure, but the netting needs to be able to prevent a pilots hand, arm, shoulder, or head from pushing the netting back into the prop.
4) Quick Release Harness: A quick release harness system could have saved countless lives in drowning and dragging incidents. Make sure your paramotor is designed with a way to quickly get out of the unit in the event of a water landing, fire or being dragged. A unit that floats or that comes with flotation as standard equipment is another must have.
5) Certified Fixed Height And Width Hang Points: The exact height placement of the glider hook in point above the seat is extremely important. Certified gliders are designed to have specific brake lengths. If the point is above the height certified by glider manufacturers, the glider can go from extremely safe (stall and spin resistant) to very dangerous and prone to spin or stall. From years of experience, we know a significant percentage of pilots will inadvertently pull as much brake as they are physically able, especially in tense situations. If they can possibly stall the glider by burying the brakes, it will happen. Certified gliders help prevent this serious risk by making their brakes an exact length in accordance with certified height hang points so that even if a pilot were to bury the brakes, the glider will be nowhere near as likely to spin or stall. Likewise, if the hang points are too low, the unit can become unstable or the pilot might not be able to pull enough brakes to properly control the aircraft. The width of the hang points is also extremely important to be within the certified limits of a certified paraglider. Because of torque affect, p-factor and gyroscopic precession, it is important to ensure the hang points can’t easily come together which can allow the pilot to easily twist up in the risers and possibly vector thrust in the opposite direction the glider is going. To prevent these catastrophic issues, ensure that the hang points are solidly fixed in positions within the certified width of the glider. If the hang points can easily come together, it takes very little force to twist the aircraft up into the lines causing a potentially life threatening situation.
6) Handless Seating: Being able to get into your seat after launch without having to let go of your controls to pull yourself into the seat is another serious safety consideration. Many incidents have happened when pilots let go of their controls immediately after launch to pull themselves into their seats. Letting go of your brake toggles and leaning forward can put the cage and prop right next to the risers where a brake toggle could possibly get into the prop. Also, without hands on the controls, you cannot actively pilot your aircraft leaving yourself vulnerable to a plethora of potentially lethal incidents. Some try to reduce this risk by adding a “kick strap”; a bar hanging on straps from the harness which would allow you to push on the bar in order to lift yourself up into the seat. These create their own lists of problems as they can trip the pilot, tangle up with important controls, deploy reserve, get caught in the prop… For the best possible safety, look for a unit where you are able to lift your feet and easily slide into your seat without ever having to take your hands off of the controls.
7) Face Plant Protection: Simply falling down can be extremely dangerous without a properly designed paramotor. With a paramotor producing 100-200 lbs of thrust that weighs anywhere from 50-100 lbs, a fall will result in an upwards of 300 lbs plus your own body weight smashing you face first into the ground. If you want to be able to launch without this immense danger, look for a unit with bars that extend well out in front of the pilot that will catch both the impact of the unit and preferably a bit of the pilots weight as well. These bars should be rounded enough that they won’t stick into the ground and flick the pilot even more violently face first. The cage should also extend above the pilots head far enough that if the unit were to rock forward to the top of the cage, the pilots head will be safely protected under the unit. Rounded skids are another big key to protecting yourself. If the bottom front of the unit is squared off with a sharp corner and the pilot falls down, it can stick into the ground, quickly stop the bottom of the unit, and catapult the pilot onto their head. A low center of gravity is another significant factor to your safety. If the weight of the paramotor rides high on your back, a fall is more likely to be towards your face than units with a low center of gravity. In case of a slip or trip while running during launch/landing, a paramotor with a low center of gravity is far more likely to land the pilot in a seated position. Without proper protection for your head and neck, all of these factors work in your favor. A slip, trip or fall could easily put you face first into the ground hard enough to cause serious injury or death.
8) Trigger Throttle: In conjunction with the face plant protection, extensive experience has shown that large throttle handles or bicycle brake style throttle controls have a very high chance of throttling up the engine in a fall. It is a natural reaction to put your hands out to catch yourself when you fall and very often the big throttle controls are the first thing to hit. The only thing worse than crashing to the ground is falling and ending up with an engine running at full throttle on top of you. In addition, there have been numerous instances where the bicycle brake style throttles have snagged on lines and become tangled while launching, in flight and during landing. Make sure the throttle has a small and simple trigger which is not going to be easily actuated or snagged accidentally, but will allow precise control in use. Also, ensure that the start and kill switches are at your finger tips and can be engaged instantly without fumbling with and without gloves. Another throttle system to be aware of are those that securely attaches the throttle to your hand. An elastic or any other sort of break free strap will keep the throttle in your hand but will help prevent your hand from being yanked into the prop if the throttle cable were to ever become lodged in the prop or reduction belt.
Each and every one of these design features work in your favor and are designed to keep you safe. If you come across a paramotor that doesn’t utilize any or all of these design features, we at WPPGA strongly encourage you to search for one that does.
To watch some amazing Paramotor Videos on the Flat Top Paramotor, Click on the following link
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