MESA resident Nik Rasheta and his twin brother Noah share an after-hours hobby: paramotoring.
They have been passionate about flying since they were young, they started skydiving at 16 and both obtained general aviation pilot licenses. Nik is a full-time Valley Police Officer and while Noah lives in Texas, the brothers run Epic Paramotor together in Mesa, providing the thrills of powered paragliding and the training to do it safely.
“The feeling of flying is like magic,” Nik said. “It’s as if you were living a childhood dream or a dream of flying. Once he lifts you up, you sit in a chair, it looks like a magic chair, which you can just tell where to go. You can go up, you can go down, you can go right, you can go left. It’s just an amazing feeling.
The twins, both qualified paramotor instructors, started their activity four years ago.
“It started as a passion for flying,” Rasheta said. “We always knew we wanted to fly. My brother has a rotorcraft pilot’s license. He was trying to find a way to be a helicopter pilot for a profession but it didn’t work out so he moved on to other entrepreneurial ventures.
“I did the same thing. I got my fixed wing pilot’s license and decided not to go that route for work, but I always tried to keep aviation going as something in my life.
Rasheta also got into motorcycling and his brother was about to do the same when Rasheta discovered the paramotor and shared it with Noah. “Within two weeks, my brother had bought equipment, set up training for himself and was full steam ahead in paramotoring,” Rasheta said.
Noah got into the business side and became an instructor.
“The reason he did it was because he knew how it transformed our lives,” Rasheta said. “We had no idea it would be this amazing and accessible, so we decided to help other people find out what we discovered. That’s how it started.
Noah started training people and Rasheta helped him on his days off. When Rasheta became an instructor, the brothers diversified the school.
“We try to structure the course so that when you go you have the minimum skill set to be able to fly on your own,” Rasheta explained. “But you are still a novice when you leave. It takes 50-100 flight hours to get to the point where you can go anywhere and fly in almost any condition. Much of the learning and skill comes after the course.
“We’re just helping you learn how to get to the point where you’re going to do it safely and not break equipment or hurt yourself to get that experience.”
Paramotoring is a skill and must be learned with an instructor even though it is not legally required. Equipment can be purchased and adventurers can learn to fly on their own.
“But experience has shown that it can be very dangerous because you don’t know what you don’t know,” Rasheta added. “Aviation is an unforgiving sport if you are unaware of the weather or unfamiliar with the equipment you will not have the benefit of learning from someone’s experience. other.”
For those who want to learn on their own, he said there are organizations that have a safe curriculum to learn from.
The largest is the United States Powered Paragliding Association which, according to Rasheta, has “a recommended program and a lot of experience and information…that has allowed people to learn and get into it safely.”
It is also good to go through an organization like this to find an instructor with a qualification.
There are different forms of flight experience that reflect people’s character and personality.
“Some of us are very soft and only fly 5 feet above the ground or thousands of feet above the ground, just enjoying the feeling of flying,” Rasheta explained, adding:
“Some people like the adrenaline rollercoaster that’s part of flying. They’ll get high and start doing more and more aggressive turns. And then all of a sudden they’re doing what’s called a wingover where they are above their wing and it dips and dips and then they swing over and you dip it down where they can barrel roll.
“It becomes a kind of aerobatics where you feel the g-forces. It’s kind of like riding a roller coaster.
To get to this level of riding, you need to have a lot of control and experience. There are advanced courses where you can learn high speed maneuvers.
The two ways to fly a paramotor are foot launch and a wheel launch which is like a kart with the same type of engine but on a chassis with wheels.
“The sport itself is accessible to all body types,” Rasheta explained. “If you’re heavy and can’t imagine running with 50 to 60 pounds on your back, then you set the wheels up so you don’t run. And because of that, you can have bigger, heavier motors because you don’t wear them, they are the wheels.
Although there are few FAA rules on paramotoring, enthusiasts are not allowed to fly over congested areas and cannot fly at night.
The hobby doesn’t come cheap with brand-new gear, including the backpack motor setup and paraglider, costing between $10,000 and $12,000. Used equipment costs between $6,000 and $8,000.
Rasheta said it’s usable and doable as long as you have some help finding the right gear.
“It all depends on your weight and where you will be flying, the altitude at which you will take off,” Rasheta explained. “We’re at about 1,200 feet here. You’d want different gear if you’re flying 5,000 or 6,000 feet in Utah or at the beach. All of these things make a difference.
Once the equipment is purchased, the main cost is gasoline. “These things can fly about an hour per gallon,” Rasheta said. “And most of our fuel tanks hold about three gallons of fuel. Most people can fly about three hours long term, but most of us average one to two hours because we don’t want to carry that much fuel on our takeoffs.
The maintenance of the equipment is discreet. It’s a very basic and accessible two-stroke engine according to Rasheta. Approximately every 50 to 100 hours, items such as the rings, gasket or fuel lines should be changed depending on the type of fuel used.
“These are just basic little things when you compare them to other forms of aviation. It’s like two different worlds. I would say it’s like maintaining a weedkiller or a dirt bike where it’s completely accessible. It is quite accessible to someone who knows nothing about engines to get into the thick of it and learn how to tune and operate a two-stroke engine. They are pretty basic when it comes to mechanics.
In the East Valley, Rasheta said, the San Tan Valley and Gold Canyon are popular flight sites. “My favorite for personal flying is definitely Gold Canyon. I love flying up to the Superstition Mountains over Flatiron and as the sun sets in the west I descend the mountain and cross the saguaro desert, back over US 60 and then I land in the desert, all this back faces the sunset, it’s just a beautiful flight.
Sport has its dangers.
“The most common danger-or-death factor in our sport is poor decision-making,” Rasheta explained. “Sometimes it’s the attitude problem. Sometimes it is the problem of lack of knowledge. If you get the right training, you will at least have the knowledge to do it safely. It then becomes an attitude problem. If you become complacent or invincible, you can make very dangerous decisions in this sport.
“The most common fatality is people who fly over water, descend very low, and for some reason end up in water. And that can happen quickly. Then they drown because that they are connected to the wing and all the lines are there.
Rasheta added that there are flotation devices that flyers can take with them. This gives a person time to part with the equipment.
“The second most common form of poor decision-making is doing these acrobatic-but-low type moves,” Rasheta said. “Usually it happens in a parry attitude where they’re really low and making high, steep turns and miscalculating.
The equipment can easily be transported by car. Taking the hoop apart and removing the propeller, it’s about the size of a kitchen chair. Rasheta said a person must be able to carry an engine, the lightest weighing between 45 and 50 pounds with fuel. He said children should generally be at least 12 years old and should play the sport with their family.