Powered parachutes are possibly the least expensive form of powered flight.
Flying with a powered parachute or paramotoring might just be for you if the thought of carrying a flying machine in the back of your car and taking off on the way home from work excites you.
The wing folds into a rucksack and the motor is small and light. In the simplest form it just straps to your back but you can also have a simple frame with a seat and possibly even wheels like a trike.
Wings have developed from traditional parachute technology. The familiar round parachute which is still used by the army and for aviation safety purposes had little in the way of steering and no lift.
The "square" sport parachute was developed which allows a high degree of maneuverability through a pulley system which changes the shape of the canopy. The aim was still to get from an aircraft to the ground so there was still nothing in the way of lift.
Skydivers were however able to stall the canopy at the point of landing to give a zero rate of descent and zero forward speed allowing them to just step onto the ground.
Paragliders have taken this a step further with increased surface area, a distinct aerofoil shape to provide lift like an aircraft wing and enhanced controls. They have a very pleasing arched ellipse appearance which you may well have spotted floating along the hillside from the motorway.
It is probably fair to say that most paramotor pilots started on Paragliders but sought the additional freedom and flexibility of powered flight.
There are however other factors to consider before you whip out the credit card.
As the wing is made entirely of fabric with no rigid parts to support the aerofoil you need to know your stuff and fly with care. The "wrong kind" of air can cause the wing to collapse, partially or fully.
This is not as bad as a wing snapping off an aircraft as it can often be re inflated but the effect is the same.
No doubt because of this, paraglider pilots I have met have a much deeper understanding of aerodynamics and meteorology than most other pilots.
It is not simply a case of buying a big kite and jumping off a hill.
All of the requisite knowledge is of course given to you during training but a quick glance at the syllabus is pretty daunting.
Personally I think it adds to the cool factor when you look like a surf dude at the barbecue but can intelligently discuss Buys Ballots law. (Knowing where the low pressure area is in relation to wind direction.)
Paraglider pilots can stay aloft for significant periods using ridge lift or thermals just like a conventional glider and cross country flights are possible.
The addition of the motor means that you do not need to go to a hill site or wait for the wind to be blowing in the right direction. You can assemble your kit and fly from a flat field or a beach.
The motor can be switched off when you get to height for soaring and re started in the air if required. Many now have electric starters rather than the pull cord of the originals.
A full set of equipment should cost you less than five thousand pounds new. If you buy from the training school you can probably negotiate a discount on that.
Pre owned wings suitable for a beginner can be had for around a thousand pounds.
The other kit you need such as a flying suit, boots helmet etc you will probably want to buy new anyway but you can get what you need as you go along.
The motors themselves are fairly few and far between but you may be lucky and find a used bargain, don't count on it though.
You can obtain a licence in less than a fortnight if you have a decent run of good weather and can put in the time.
Paragliding and paramotoring has a lot to offer and provides a lot of adventure on a budget. The club scene is also far less formal than many other types of flying clubs, especially traditional PPL(A) clubs which can be pretty stuffy.
There are a number of flying sites around Scotland where you will probably find some like minded people on a decent day. Powered pilots and Gliders can happily fly together as the training is very similar and usually delivered by the same people.
These aircraft are very succeptible to the weather and as last year was a bit of a wash out we can only hope for an improvement in the coming months.