RIGBY – Six miles north of Rigby in the small community of Annis, residents are captivated when they look up in the evening sky and see Terrell Poole flying several hundred feet in the air on his paramotor.
It’s a hobby Poole enjoys doing as often as he can when the weather is nice. He starts the motor, takes off on a jog for about 40 yards before sitting down as the parachute rises above him and launches into the air.
“It’s the funnest hobby I’ve ever had,” Poole tells EastIdahoNews.com. “It’s relaxing being able to see different things, travel different places with it.”
Two brake toggles on either side of his arms help steer the machine as he maneuvers seemingly effortlessly through the air like a bird.
“I loving doing maneuvers, more than anything,” Poole says. “It breaks down really easily, so you could put it in the back of a car if you wanted to and go fly anywhere.”
Poole’s introduction to paramotoring happened about a year ago. He says he was bored with dirt bikes and razors and wanted to try something else. Somehow, he came across several Youtube videos about it.
Paramotoring’s rise to popularity
Nampa-based Paramotor Instructor Jon Alan says the sport first originated in Europe. Since the 1990s, it’s become increasingly popular around the world.
“Probably the first reference anybody would have had to it is when (James ‘Fan man’ Miller) crash-landed into the Evander Holyfield fight” on Nov. 6, 1993 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, Alan says.
By the late 1990s and early 2000s, there were only about 300 pilots nationwide. Youtube influencers like Tucker Gott and Matt Woodworth helped popularize the sport in recent years, and there are now about 7,000 pilots nationwide.
“A lot of (the increased interest) is due to advances in technology. The wings are so much safer now. In the 90s it was kind of a daredevil sport,” says Alan. “As long as you stay in the boundaries for what kind of weather you should be flying in, it’s now pretty much the safest form of aviation.”
But it’s not cheap. Poole says he bought his paramotor and all the gear to go with it for about $12,000.
There are different types of paramotors, including the foot launcher Poole owns. There are also paramotors with three or four wheels, which Alan refers to as a trike or quad respectively.
Some people also prefer a nonmotorized paraglider.
Since the paramotor is classified as an ultralight vehicle, Federal Aviation Administration regulations do not require pilots to have a license. But training and skills are highly recommended.
“It’s very similar to flying a big kite, so (it’s helpful) to learn the concept of flying a kite from the ground,” Alan says.
Good judgement is another important skill, he says, along with basic motor skills and general weather knowledge.
Training typically costs between $1,500 and $2,500, and the course lasts 7-10 days.
“In comparison to everything in aviation, it’s much more affordable,” says Alan.
Poole is one of about 75 students Alan has trained in the last several years. Some people ultimately decide paramotoring is not for them, but Poole says it’s a hobby he’ll continue to pursue for as long as he can.
“This is much closer (of an experience) to when the Wright brothers were learning to fly, very seat of your pants, close as you can get to being a bird,” Alan says.
To sign up for a course or learn more, visit Alan’s website.