If you find yourself yearning to fly, Jiri Sindler, owner and operator of Paragliding Unlimited, might have a few words of advice. He says that paragliding is the closest feeling to flying like a bird.
“Over the Mississippi River, south of downtown between the bluffs, is great for wildlife viewing and peeking into some of the caves,” he said, “and over the Grafton area around the Great Rivers Confluence. The best time to fly is from early spring to late fall.”
Paragliding Unlimited is the only powered paragliding, or paramotoring, school in St. Louis. With powered paragliding, the pilot wears a paramotor on his or her back, which provides enough thrust to take off using a paraglider wing. It can be launched in still air, and on level ground, by the pilot alone — no assistance required.
Sindler, a 13-year veteran of the sport, founded Paragliding Unlimited in 2003 and offers a wide range of instruction. It usually takes six to eight days to become a safe pilot, and Sindler has taught students from 10 to 84 years old. Licensing is not required. Most of the training is conducted at Gateway Airpark in Pierron Ill.
“It’s an extremely cost effective way to fly,” Sindler said. Powered paragliding can be done in legal airspace — uncongested areas, away from cities — at heights up to 18,000 feet and at speeds of up to 60 mph. “You can take off from any private field with permission,” Sindler said. “Then, follow the birds. They know where to find the best air.”
Sindler also offers demo flights at local festivals and organizes paramotoring meet ups throughout the bi-state region. For more information, visit paraglidingunlimited.com.
Brad Kovach is the editor/publisher of Terrain magazine