This Summer, between 28 June and 2 July, the RAF Manston History Museum will host the British National Paramotor Championships on Manston Airport’s Northern Grass, offering Thanet residents a weekend of entertainment, education and opportunities to find out more about this exciting sport.

Paramotoring is a form of ultralight aviation where the pilot wears a back-pack motor, which provides enough thrust to take off using a paraglider. Steering well away from live flight paths, paramotor pilots can ascend several thousand feet into the air, but typically fly at around 1,000 feet, their small motors making only a distant, fleeting buzz as they pass overhead – as if someone was mowing the lawn in the distance.

The main part of the competition is a little like aerial orienteering. Pilots take off one at a in their own time, at pre-appointed time slots, and their use navigation skills and adapted Ordinance Survey maps to locate a series of targets on the ground. As they fly directly over each target, within an imaginary cylinder projecting upwards from the ground, their progress is registered and reported back to the ground via a live GPS feed that the audience can also watch as the event unfolds. No satnavs are allowed, just precision flying and map-reading skills!

Barney Townsend, Championship director and Paramotor Competitions Committee chair, said: “As well as the navigation tasks, there will be other challenges taking place on the Northern Grass area of the airfield, including using precision skill to switch the engine off at 500 feet and then land on a bull’s-eye target the size of a dinner plate . 

“In addition to the nationals, the event will also incorporate the British Open Paramotor Championships too, which is open to all pilots and so will attract entrants from Europe too – adding to the excitement of the weekend.”

“In the run up to the event, we will be working with communities around Manston to arrange events and visits, across the weekend, with a particular focus on local schools, the air cadets and the scouts. We will also be working to identify and agree no-fly zones, to make sure the courses do not take pilots over any local residential communities. Tracked in real time by their GPS systems, there are heavy penalties in place for any pilot that strays off course during the competition.”

Jeanene Groombridge, one of the directors of  the RAF Manston History Museum, said: “This is a fantastic event for the local community – particularly for anyone interested in flight. There will be demonstrations planned for anyone interested in the sport, as well as education sessions, giving youth and community groups access to the pilot briefings and up-close inspections of the paramotors themselves. A programme of social events will also be open to the community, to encourage as many people as possible to get involved.”

Gary Blake of RSP, which owns the Manston site, added: “We are delighted to be able to host this fantastic event; we hope it provides an interesting and stretching challenge for the pilots and a weekend of great entertainment for the local community.”