Paragliding With Music
June 5, 2007 Icing on an already tasty treat
Adding a soundtrack can put scenes like this beyond
words. Photo Robert Kittilä
Few will dispute that music can evoke powerful emotions, amplify
feelings and lift us to new heights. Movie makers
spend millions perfecting the soundtrack—sucking the
viewer farther into the experience. These reasons are also why music is
such a powerful distracter.
My entire flying life, 25 years or so, was tuneless until paramotoring
came along. Then I decided to finally try adding music to the mix.
We have one of the most amazing visuals ever offered to a human eyeball.
To match those with your favorite music makes for an indescribable
experience. Hollywood's best doesn't even come close.
I skipped music in my other airborne endeavors due the
distraction and for good reason. An
engine failure in an airplane is a big deal. High landing speeds mean
that airports are the only safe landing sites and so strange noises must
garner full attention. Listening to music while flying professionally
would be a big no-no. Your passengers are paying for those ears plus you
have to be listening for radio calls.
But with a paramotor, or even a lightweight trike, it's so easy to fly
in a manner where engine failures are mere inconveniences. I've had
probably 15 (including several due to intentional fuel exhaustion) including 3 in the Samba
hang glider trike. It's why I frequently fly over not
just landable areas, but launchable areas. In almost every case I was
able to fix the problem, re-launch and get back my start point.
How Safe Is It?
There's no mistaking that risk increases some amount. How much depends
on how deep you delve into the music and whether it lures you into places
you would otherwise avoid. But if you stay over good terrain then the
risk increase is small.
The unavoidable risks come from distraction, masking, empowering and
Distraction is obvious. Bopping to the beat leaves less thought energy
for piloting. You'll be less likely to catch the subtleties of changing
weather, ground track or may miss obstructions. How much depends on how
deep you delve into the music but, as mentioned, it can be powerful.
Masking is what music does to sounds that could portend trouble.
Primarily engine sounds but there are others. Flapping noises that
indicate something is loose or the whack of a recovering tip collapse
come to mind.
Dealing with the music also adds some distraction along with adding
wires and complexity that could cause problems on their own. Like
everything else not bolted down, headphones and MP3 players naturally
long for a trip through the prop. It's your job to keep them wanting but
Accept that flying with music increases risk and make your own choice in whether that risk
is worth it. Certainly you can minimize it. Delay turning up the tunes
until after you've launched and climbed to at least a couple
hundred feet, stay high and always stay over landable areas. You're a
bit more likely to need it since you might miss an unhappy engine's
Like most aviation choices, it's risk vs. reward.