Flying on a wing and
If you can run, you can do this. I am sprinting across a grass airstrip on the outskirts of Boston, Lincolnshire. Clipped directly behind me and pushing me along is my pilot, Alistair Arundell, who, with the wing inflated above us and a whirring propeller on his back, has us airborne in a few strides on a tandem paramotor.
I run out of grass as we climb skywards. In a wave of euphoria, I realise I am flying… just like that. I shuffle into a small seat and cross my dangling legs as we climb into the wind above a road and a canal before making a wide sweeping turn over the airfield. The world’s first paramotor was flown in 1980 in Essex by Mike Byrne, who became a commercial helicopter pilot. In a nutshell, you are flying a paragliding wing with extra thrust from an engine, which enables you to take off from places like the Fens rather than having to drive miles to launch from a hillside.
With views to Skegness and the Wash 15 miles to the east, we are over Boston at around 1,500ft. The Stump – the town’s famous parish church tower – is directly below when Alistair guides my hands to two line controls, which turn the wing to the left and to the right when you pull down on them. Regaining the controls, he makes a tight turn and we head back towards the start point of my fabulous 25-minute joyride. With the airfield in sight, he throttles back, and the two-stroke engine – which costs just £3 an hour in fuel – stutters to a halt so that we can hear each other.
The engine was designed for a wacker plate, which is used for compacting surfaces. “It’s noisy and breaks down regularly. It’s home-built and uncertified so, basically, we’re flying on a wing and a prayer. If it conked out or even fell off we’d do what we’re doing now… glide down,” he says.
The wing’s cellular panels are open at the front and closed at the back to form a halo of compressing air, making it highly stable. It and the engine also fit into a rucksack, so Alistair even takes it on holidays. “When we’ve been away in in Cyprus, France and Madeira, my wife will be still in bed while I will be flying up and down the beach,” he says.
Alistair is a frequent flyer. “I’ve been doing it for seven years and have taught others,” he says. He has the lease on the