Home   News   Article

Sky's the limit for local paraglider


By Jean Gunn

Get a digital copy of the Courier and Groat delivered straight to your inbox every week



The powered paraglider floating through a clear blue sky. Picture: James Gunn
The powered paraglider floating through a clear blue sky. Picture: James Gunn

The sky's the limit for local man John Elder who can be seen flying around Caithness in his powered paraglider.

John (37) took up paramotoring after watching it on YouTube. "One thing led to another," he said.

The Thurso fencer then booked a training course with an approved school in Spain in September 2018.

He explained that it was his first flying experience, apart from being a passenger on a plane.

To start with John said he could not quite believe he was actually flying on his own.

During the training radio contact was maintained with an instructor on the ground. "As long as you did exactly as you were told you were pretty safe – it was pretty spectacular," he said.

The sport itself is unregulated, but John is a member of the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association and is keen to know if there are any other people in the area who have taken up the activity.

John Elder with his flying machine. Picture: James Gunn
John Elder with his flying machine. Picture: James Gunn

Since doing his training he has managed to acquire his own equipment and has done most of his paramotoring locally, heading as far as Armadale in north Sutherland. He plans in the future to explore Scotland and even farther afield.

John said: "It is pretty exhilarating – you get some lovely views of places like Morven, and seeing all the mist coming off the rivers is quite nice."

He has a camera attached to his helmet and is able to take spectacular aerial pictures – including some of the coastline at Holborn Head as well as the beach at Dunnet.

Being foot-launched, paramotors can take off in an open, flat space, and John fortunately is able to use a field at his brother Gary's property near Halkirk, as well as farmland at Scrabster.

"It is surprising the little amount of room you need," John said.

John Elder enjoys the Caithness views from his paramotor. Picture: James Gunn
John Elder enjoys the Caithness views from his paramotor. Picture: James Gunn

He explained that flights were weather dependent, adding: "You have to be quite careful what days you want to do it. You have to respect the weather.

"This year has been hit or miss. The best bit of weather was while we were all on lockdown."

John usually flies between 1000 to 3000 feet and has enough fuel to fly for around three hours. He says it is quite relaxing as he has a seat to sit in. "It is just like sitting in a chair in your house," he said.

A bird's-eye view of Holborn Head taken by John Elder.
A bird's-eye view of Holborn Head taken by John Elder.

He added: "I have not met anyone doing paramotoring here. It would be good to try and get other people interested in it."

The local pilot has generated quite a few comments from people seeing him flying for the first time and there have been many quizzical looks as folk drive past his house while he is loading up the equipment.

Described as the simplest of all powered aircraft, it consists of a small motor driving a propeller, worn like a backpack under a paraglider wing.

The 185cc motor can be stopped and restarted in the air, enabling the pilot to adapt to the prevailing conditions. The weight of the engine unit is 30kg.

A close-up of the engine unit and propellor that weighs 30kg. Picture: James Gunn
A close-up of the engine unit and propellor that weighs 30kg. Picture: James Gunn


Having trouble getting out to pick up your weekly newspaper?

Get a digital copy of the Courier and Groat delivered straight to your inbox every week and read the full newspaper on your desktop, phone or laptop.

SUBSCRIBE NOW


This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More