Can You Fly a Paramotor Anywhere?
One of the most exhilarating things that you can possibly do without a whole lot of training is paramotoring. In the USA, paramotors are considered to be ultralight aircraft. Although, in legal circles, they aren’t technically classified as airplanes. This is good news for many, as it means that you don’t need a pilot’s license to operate one.
That said, there are some restrictions that you will have to adhere to when flying a paramotor. One question that people often have is can you fly a paramotor anywhere? The answer here is that paramotors can fly in most places in the USA, although there are some rules to keep in mind.
To keep it simple, paramotors can be operated more or less anywhere in the USA. Paramotors cannot fly in class A, B, C, or D airspace.
They are also not allowed to fly within 5 miles of airports or over heavily populated areas. However, as long as it is class G or class E airspace, paramotors are permitted.
Let’s take an in-depth look at exactly where you can and cannot fly a paramotor.
Paramotors & FAA Regulations
For those that don’t know, FAA stands for the Federal Aviation Administration. This is the organization that decides how aircraft are to be regulated and what rules are to be followed. When it comes down to it, there really aren’t many rules surrounding where paramotors can operate.
Paramotors can operate in the USA anywhere unless expressly prohibited. That said, there are a specific set of rules that paramotor operators must follow. This is true both in terms of airspace rules and paramotor specific rules too. After all, paramotorists do need to be kept safe. It can be dangerous to be in the sky moving at 40 or 50 miles per hour when there are much larger and faster airplanes around.
What is interesting to note is that in the 1980s, the FAA decided that paramotoring was to remain unregulated. What this means is that paramotor operators are themselves responsible for safe flying and for following general airspace regulations. Yes, the FAA has established many rules surrounding different types of airspace. This is generally what paramotor operators must adhere to.
There is a reason why the FAA decided to forgo regulating paramotors. It was determined that if paramotors follow the basic rules in terms of airspace, then they don’t require a serious risk to property or people.
For this reason, anybody who operates a paramotor also doesn’t need a pilot’s license. Let’s move on and take a closer look at the exact rules surrounding paramotor use in US skies.
Paramotors and Airports
One of the most complicated issues to tackle here has to do with the usage of paramotors around airports. Airports, especially large ones that get FAA grant money, have plenty of restrictions in terms of their usage.
All of these rules and restrictions are decided by the FAA. Generally speaking, what you need to know here is that you will not be allowed to fly a paramotor within 5 miles of most airports.
Something worth noting here is the distinction between airports that receive financial grants from the FAA and those that don’t. Knowing which airports receive FAA grants and which ones do not is crucial for a paramotor operator to know.
First, let’s discuss private airports that do not receive FAA grant money. The fact here is that the FAA does not police or regulate small private airports. Therefore, you might think that you can use any private airport you wish for paramotoring.
However, this is not quite the case. Whether or not a paramotorist can utilize such a private airport is solely at the discretion of the owner. If they say no, then you may not use the airport.
If we are talking about large airports that do accept FAA grant money, things look a little different. These airports are indeed regulated by the FAA and must comply with the Airport Improvement Plan Assurances.
Technically speaking, this states that an airport cannot discriminate against any kind of legal aeronautical activity. This should technically mean that paramotorists should be able to use these FAA regulated airports. Well, unfortunately, this is not the case.
Once again, a paramotor cannot be operated within 5 miles of any such airport. The reason for this is due to safety.
The fact is that paramotors fly at just 40 or 50 miles per hour. This is opposed to a massive commercial airliner that travels several hundred miles per hour.
Between the time you see one of these planes coming, and the time it would hit you, there are only three seconds of reaction time. You just couldn’t ever react or maneuver a paramotor fast enough to avoid a commercial airliner. This is exactly why paramotors can’t fly within 5 miles of airports.
Paramotors and Right of Way Rules
Another important rule or set of rules to consider here are right of way rules. Yes, aircraft in the sky, just like cars on the ground, must also adhere to certain right of way rules.
First and foremost, as a paramotor operator, you have absolutely no priority in the sky. In terms of the right of way, you as a paramotorist never have it.
Technically speaking, there is one type of aircraft that a paramotor does take priority over, an unmotorized paraglider.
The reality is that as a paramotorist, it is your responsibility to stay out of the way of all other aircraft. Therefore, you probably want to stay even further than just five miles away from airports.
Remember that these large commercial jets just cannot maneuver quickly enough to get out of the way. This is also the case for a paramotor. It is up to you, the paramotorist, to ensure that you stay well out of the way of any such larger aircraft.
Also remember that while paramotors are unregulated now, this can change. Paramotorists are expected to regulate themselves.
If they however fail to do so, the FAA may very well begin to regulate paramotorists. The bottom line, as a paramotists, it is your duty to get out of the way of anything else in the sky, at least besides unpowered paragliders.
Paramotors and Populated Areas
The next rule or set of rules to be familiar with as a paramotorist is in regard to flying over populated areas.
The official rule here is as follows, “No person may operate an ultralight vehicle over any congested area of a city, town, settlements, or over any open air assembly of persons”.
In other words, you are not allowed to fly a paramotor over any congested or heavily populated area.
So, while flying a paramotor out in farm country and in unpopulated areas is fine, doing so over cities is not. Yes, you can fly over the occasional building, but you do need to stick to very sparsely populated areas.
The reason for this is simply due to safety, especially in the event of an emergency. If you as a paramotorist experience an emergency, and need a place to land immediately, doing so in a heavily populated area will be difficult and unsafe. Simply put, paramotoring over downtown Manhattan is not permitted.
Now, the issue here is that the term used, congested, is slightly ambiguous. Therefore, you as the paramotorist need to be able to determine for yourself what qualifies as congested and what does not. However, there is one specific rule about flying over populated areas that is quite specific.
This rule states that you cannot fly a paramotor in congested areas, such as cities or towns, below 1500 feet above the highest fixed structure. In other words, if the tallest building in a settled area is 100 feet tall, a paramotor would not be allowed to operate lower than 1600 feet.
Paramotors and Low Flying Rules
In terms of the heights at which paramotors are allowed to operate, things look a little different if unpopulated areas are concerned. The rule here is that paramotors must not fly any lower than 500 feet above the surface of the ground.
This of course does not include landing and takeoff, as well as when hill soaring or when the engine is dead. Flying too low can pose a risk to both paramotorists and everybody else, so this rule does need to be adhered to at all times.
Paramotors and Time Restrictions
As a paramotorist, there are then also some time restrictions that must be adhered to. The simple reality is that flying a paramotor at night is not very safe. These ultralight vehicles usually never have any kind of lighting or illumination.
It’s not like with a regular car where you can just turn the headlights on. There is no such option with a paramotor. For this reason, paramotors are prohibited from operating between half an hour after dawn and half an hour before dusk.
This rule is designed to ensure that paramotorists have enough light to operate safely at all times. It all has to do with visibility. There is of course also the fact that without lights, a paramotorist will not be visible to other faster moving aircraft.
Paramotors, Event Restrictions, and Aerobatics
Paramotors can of course be a whole lot of funs. In case you didn’t know, it is possible to do some stunts in these ultralight aircrafts. Specifically, things like barrel rolls, spirals, wingovers, and more can all be performed. That said, there are rules surrounding this as well.
The main rule to take note of is that you may not perform any such aerobatic maneuver lower than 1500 feet above an open field. On that note, any such aerobatic maneuver must absolutely not be performed over any sort of congested or heavily populated area.
There are then also some restrictions regarding flying a paramotor over any kind of outdoor open air event. The rule here is that paramotor may not operate within 1000 meters or 1 kilometer of an open air even where are 1000 or more people.
Keep in mind that this rule doesn’t just apply to flight, but also to taking off and landing. There is an exception here, which is if there is either an aerodrome or specific landing site present.
Paramotors and International and Domestic Notices
Specific types of airspace used to have what were known as NOATMS or Notice to Air Men. These have since been replaced by so-called domestic notices and international notices. These notices are designed to inform aviators of any kind of potential hazard.
One of these hazards could be severe weather. Whenever any type of airspace has such a notice issued, paramotors are prohibited from operating until said notice has been lifted.
Paramotors and Visibility Rules
One of the most important restrictions to discuss in terms of operating a paramotor is in terms of visibility. With a paramotor, you only have your own eyes to count on. These visibility rules do depend on the exact type of airspace that you are flying in.
As you are going to find out below, of the six classes of airspace in the USA, paramotors are only allowed to fly in two of them. However, before we talk about those airspace classes, let’s talk about the visibility rules in the two that paramotors are allowed in.
If we are talking about class G airspace, paramotors must have a visibility of at least one mile and keep clear of clouds. If we are talking about class E airspace, a paramotor must have visibility of at least 5 miles and also keep clear of clouds.
Specifically, when flying at under 10,000 feet, a paramotor has to keep 500 feet below a cloud and 1000 feet above all clouds. If the paramotor is above 10,000 feet, the operator must keep over 1000 feet of distance both above and below clouds.
The simple reason for this is of course because you cannot see through clouds when flying a paramotor. You need to have a clear line of sight at all times, which is of course due to safety reasons.
Paramotors & Airspace Classes
The final thing that we now need to discuss is which types of airspace a paramotor can fly in. As we have already discussed, there are six airspace classes in the USA. These include classes A, B, C, D, E, and G. No, for whatever reason, there does not appear to be a class F. Let’s take a quick look.
The first three main classes are airspace classes B, C, and D. Specifically, these three classes of airspace occupy the area around airports. These are airspace classes that are controlled by air traffic control. Yes, each of these three classes does have different rules.
That said, as far as paramotors are concerned, it’s all the same. The simple rule here is that paramotors cannot fly in airspace classes B, C, and D. Also, keep in mind that these three airspace classes do extend all the way to the ground. This means that they replace class E and G airspace that would normally be present. You must stay out of class B, C, and D airspace.
The next notable airspace class that you must stay out of as a paramotorist is class A airspace. Class A airspace is anything above 18,000 feet. The rules here state that any aircraft operating at 18,000 feet or above must be managed by air traffic control and follow instrument flight rules. Paramotors have no such flight instruments, so class A is out of the question.
Now we have the two airspace classes where paramotorists are allowed to operate in, classes G and E. Let’s take a quick look at both of these. Classes G and E are those airspaces which are closest to the ground.
First, we have class G airspace. This extends from the ground up to 1,200 feet, technically 1,199 feet, not including 1,200 feet. This airspace does not have too many regulations. We then have class E airspace.
Class E airspace extends from 1,200 feet above the surface of the ground to 18,000 feet above the ground. Technically speaking, it extends to 17,999 feet, but not including 18,000 feet. Remember, once again, any aircraft over 18,000 feet must use flight instruments. The bottom line is that paramotorists are restricted to flying in either class G or class E airspace.
One thing to keep in mind with both class G and E airspace are those visibility rules discussed above. Remember that you must have a certain distance that you can clearly see. Also remember that you must avoid clouds by certain distances too.
Can You Fly a Paramotor Anywhere? – Final Thoughts
The bottom line is that paramotors can be flown in airspace classes G and E. That said, much of US airspace falls into one of these two classes, so it really shouldn’t be an issue. Also remember that you cannot fly over congested areas, open air gatherings with more than 1,000 people, when it is dark, or too close to the ground.