Getting Permission To Fly Your Paramotor
Section II Spreading
Your Wings, Chapter 9: Airspace
paragliding can be done almost anywhere so careful choices must be made.
to fly inside the dashed magenta lines? It's easy where there's a
control tower because there's someone to ask. But what about airports,
such as Truth Or Consequences (TCS) depicted at right, where there are
just these dashed lines?
TCS Airport is reasonably busy but not enough for a control tower so
they lowered Class E airspace to the surface as shown by the dashed
magenta lines (not the shading). FAR 103 specifically prohibits us from
flying there without permission. Airplane pilots (including sport
pilots) do not need permission nor do they need to talk with anyone to
fly there. The reason the Class E was lowered was merely to increase
their required visibility for takeoff and landing—our prohibition is a
Interestingly there is no top. We can't fly over this piece of
airspace at any altitude. Control tower airports with D airspace around
them have tops that we can fly over (not that you'd want to).
Elephant Butte reservoir, just east of TCS airport, is a popular
Powered Paragliding spot. Its western shore provides a gradual sandy
slope with plentiful launch opportunities. But some of it is within the
Class E surface area outlined by those dashed magenta lines, requiring
Who To Call, How To Ask
The controlling authority will either be a nearby approach control
or, for more remote locales, an Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC)
or just "center."
These folks are not used to ultralight pilots and may not understand
the need for permission. After all, the vast majority of traffic they
deal with doesn't need such permission. So when you call, be ready for a
surprise. Here's an example of how you can ask.
Pilot: "Hi, my name is Jeff Goin, I'm an ultralight pilot who plans
on flying 3 miles east of Truth or Consequences. I believe that is your
ARTCC: "Yes, it is."
Pilot: "OK, I plan on flying VFR from probably sunrise to sunset and
will remail well clear of the runway approach and departure corridors.
Is that OK?"
ARTCC: "That's fine, just remain VFR at all times."
Your response will vary obviously. Sometimes they just say "have fun"
and other times they need to talk to a supervisor because they've never
faced the question. The good news is that, once you've asked a few times
and they're familiar with the drill, it'll be easier the next time.
Another problem is finding the telephone numbers for center. Thankfully,
I've done the mousework. They're
If you're out in the field or don't know who to call about an
airport, you can call Flight Service (FSS) at 800-WX-BRIEF and they
should be able to track it down.