St. Stephen paramotor enthusiast hopes to encourage others to try the sport and take to the skies

St. Stephen – Have you looked up into the sky around St. Stephen and seen a person flying around in an odd-looking machine attached to a parachute? Have you wondered what it is, and thought it looked fun to try? What you’ve been watching is an exciting sport starting to take-off (pun intended) in New Brunswick, and all over Canada. Paramotoring is a sport that allows anyone to be able to fly. There are two forms of this sport – one that uses a backpack, and the other that uses a cart, which is what residents have seen flying around the area.

Bernard Laporte of St. Stephen has been paramotoring since he did his training in Thailand in 2007. He was in the military at the time, and he would go back and forth between Thailand and Afghanistan on his days off to learn how to use the backpack version of this flying machine. He has since switched to the cart version, because the landing is much like that of landing with a parachute, but with lots of extra weight, and it is too hard on his knees.

“I took my training in 2007,” said Laporte. “I haven’t got nearly the hours I should. I was in the military then, so I was going back and forth. It’s a 10-day course (backpack version). I actually took my training in Thailand. I took it over there and then went back to Afghanistan. That’s how I did my instruction courses. I’d fly back and forth on my days off and teach there. I’ve got more time over there than I do here.”

When Laporte first returned to Canada, he bought himself a cart and kite, but didn’t fly because like most people, he thought it was illegal to fly one of these machines without a license in Canada. His gear sat in his garage for three years before he found out there are no laws, and no special training required to get into paramotoring in Canada. That being said, Laporte does not recommend that people just go out and buy the gear and try to fly immediately.

“When I first got home, like everybody else, I thought it was illegal to fly these without a course,” said Laporte. “So, this has been sitting in my garage for the last three years. I finally met up with a few other guys in town here. When you get scratching really hard, there’s absolutely no laws and no training. But, there’s no way I would recommend anyone fly one of these without some kind of training.”

While Laporte is not an actual instructor, he said he can teach people how to paramotor. He said he is not trying to set-up a training school, but he wants to show the sport to others and give examples of how it works. Many people think they can show up for training and be up in the air on the first day. Laporte said this is not the case. Even though there is no training required, he said it wouldn’t be good to go up into the air without any sort of training. The training isn’t so much about the flying as it is learning how to use the kite.

“Seeing as how there are no teachers around, if you want to learn, I can show you the same things that teachers are going to instruct you on. I just can’t call myself an instructor, but I would be more than happy to show people how to fly. I just can’t say I’m an instructor. I’ll never say you’re ready. It’s up to you to decide.”

You’d be forgiven thinking paramotoring would be an extremely expensive sport to get into. Obviously, if you are planning on buying brand new gear, it can cost upwards of $15,000 to get into the cart version, and $9,000 to get into foot launch. But, Laporte said there are many people who thought they would enjoy it but can’t get past their fears, so they are selling next-to-new gear at rock bottom prices. He said some people have purchased their gear for less than $5,000, because it doesn’t matter whether the gear is new or used, as long as the wing is in excellent condition.

“I’d recommend if anybody’s going to get into it, if you get a chance, look into second-hand first. These are all two-stroke motors. It doesn’t matter whether you buy brand new in a two-stroke motor. There are no warranties on them because they’re two-stroke. You’re no further ahead by buying brand new rather than used.”

Laporte’s cart is made from aircraft aluminum, but he said anyone can build their own carts, which will help them to save money when first getting into the sport. You can use other materials, such as wheels from a golf cart, to create the cart. Laporte said once the term “aircraft” is put on anything, it greatly increases the prices.

If you are interested in learning more about paramotoring and would like to speak with Laporte about the sport, he said he can be contacted through his Facebook page. He would love to see people take an interest in paramotoring, so he has others to fly with.

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca