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The motor is gently ticking over behind you as you walk your hang glider to the start of the take-off strip in a kindly farmer's field. Then, throttle wide open, you begin to run. It's just like a normal hang glider take-off, but from level ground, and then you immediately begin to climb.
Ten minutes later you reach the first promising-looking cloud and switch off you engine to conserve fuel, and begin to thermall as you would on a conventional hang glider. Of course if lift is not so abundant you may decide to keep your engine running and simply set course for a distant objective, watching the fascinating landsacpe unroll beneath you.
Either way you are enjoying one of the simplest, most minimal forms of powered flying.
Thanks to a 2017 Exemption to the Air Navigation Order, powered hang gliders that take-off and land on wheels, weighing less than 70kg (or 75kg if fitted with an emergency parachute) and having a stall speed below 20kts can be flown without the need for a pilot's licence. A BHPA member holding a BHPA Power rating can legally fly such a machine and be insured under the BHPA master policy.
BHPA Power qualifications are for solo flight only. No BHPA dual power qualification is currently available. To reiterate: BHPA power qualified pilots are not authorised, trained or insured to fly with passengers.
Powered hang gliders weighing more than 70kg (or 75kg if fitted with an emergency parachute) are classed as microlights, and are therefore outside of the scope of the BHPA. Please see the British Microlight Aircraft Association website for further information about flying such microlights in the UK.
But an ordinary foot launched hang glider, when powered by a small engine fitted into the pilot's harness, offers the ability to take-off from any relativly small, flat field and climb away to find the thermals that all glider pilots rely on to make cross country flights.
Alternatively, you can just cruise around, sightseeing, or fly to a chosen destination using much less fuel than a microlight, whilst retaining the uncluttered view that hang glider pilots enjoy.
New power units cost around £3,000 - £4,000, to which you need to add the cost of a new or second hand hang glider. You'll also need a flying suit, flying boots and a helmet, and will need to consider purchasing other equipment as you progress.
Learning to fly a powered hang glider
Before making your initial flights under power, you'll first need to learn to fly a conventional hang glider. A full hang gliding course will cover rigging and launching the wing, airspeed control, turning, approaching and landing.
With these skills under your belt your instructor will then turn to the power unit, and you will learn how to start the motor, control the throttle, and undertake basic routine maintenance. Your instructor will also explain torque and thrust effects, and discuss safety issues.
The two elements will then be put together to teach you powered flight. The same degree of knowledge of flight theory, meteorology, airlaw and navigation is required as for hang gliding, and you will need to be conversant with special airspace restrictions that apply to powered hang gliders, although these are not difficult to comply with.
And of course, just like a paramotor, when you don't want to fly with power you can simply use a conventional harness instead. It's totally versatile, and totally fun!
For further information about learning to fly a powered hang glider (PHG), please visit our learn to fly page.