LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… paragliders?
Powered paragliding, also known as paramotoring or PPG, is gaining popularity across the nation. The sport takes traditional paragliding and adds an ultralight backpack motor and seat for fliers. This allows them to stay in the air for up to five hours.
It’s a not-so-new sport that’s yet to take off, popularity-wise. Ray Walker, who began PPG five years ago, is one of only a handful of instructors in Las Vegas.
“It’s what they call a butt fan,” said Walker, standing on the Eldorado Dry Lake Bed Friday morning. “Flying is easy. It’s just two breaks in your hands, left and right. It’s real easy to do, and you got a throttle… The glide with this, and the ability to go 20 miles an hour, that’s your landing speed, you can land on like anything or anywhere.”
Walker taught only eight people how to operate PPGs last year, he said, though many more are eligible to do so.
The sport does not require a license or even training to operate, though Walker suggests people take an eight to 10-day course on how to properly fly the ultralight aircrafts. He and other powered paragliders call it the cheapest and safest form of aviation.
Fliers like Oakland’s Caleb Johnson said that’s part of what’s so attractive about the sport.
“It feels like you’re flying like a bird, or maybe like a rollercoaster, but you can go anywhere you want,” Johnson said.
Johnson joined 17 other powered paragliders this week for a 1,500-mile trip in the sky. The trek began at South Lake Tahoe with daily stops across Nevada en route to Utah.
On Friday, they landed in Southern Nevada. Powered Paraglider Miroslav Svec traveled from his home country of Slovakia for the trip.
“I’m living the life of my dreams,” said Svec. “Just having the ability to see everything as close up as you would be hiking there, but you are hiking at a 40-miles-per-hour speed.”
Both fliers described the adventure as “friendly competition” across the states. Trevor Steele, who said he began PPG at just 13 years old, believes more of America would partake in the sport if they understood what it is and what it can reward.
“All of a sudden it’s like, whoa, the ground is like ways away from me now,” said Steele, describing the feeling of being hundreds of feet in the air. “You can launch it in a park. You can launch it in your backyard. You can actually fly and enjoy this aircraft and go and enjoy aviation, which is typically very expensive and difficult to get into. This is not.”
These fliers own their equipment, which can cost up to $15,000. Those not looking to purchase their own can do so through a tour guide, starting at roughly $200 per tour.
To learn more about Las Vegas Powered Paragliding, visit this link.