Getting ready to take off in the Saudi desert — these men are part of the Qassim Aviation Club.
It’s a club that offers its members the chance to see Saudi Arabia from a different perspective through paramotoring, also known as powered paragliding.
The sport evolved from hang gliding and paragliding. But due to the presence of an engine, no hills are required to take off, so gliders can launch from a flat surface in the Qassim desert.
The sports club started three years ago with only three members, and since it’s founding it has swelled in size over the years.
“We at the Qassim club, thanks be to God, we started with three (people) and now we have around 50. We have all kinds of air sports in particular paramotoring, gyrocopter, delta and trike,’’ said club director, Bader Aba Alkhail.
The group meets just before sunset where trainers then direct members when they’re up in the air, offering support from the ground.
But it isn’t just a case of getting the hang of it after a day or two, as one of the trainers Mohammed Qafari explains, it can take weeks to get to grips with the sport.
“There is plenty of interest in our training but most of the trainees think that flying is for a day or two and that’s it, they think it’s an easy process, in fact flying needs at least a month of training,’’ he said.
A training course costs 5000 riyals, the equivalent of more than $1,300 and includes an international aviation licence.
Abdullah Al-Qareit is a new member. He says the sport enables him to feel free and appreciate the natural surroundings.
‘’It’s a hobby, curiosity, a change. You see the land from a beautiful and natural way, everything is beautiful in aviation sport, it’s enjoyable,’’ he said.
Paramotoring involves the use of a motor driving propeller that is worn on the back. The motor can be stopped and started in the air, enabling the user to adjust to the different flying conditions.
Paramotorers wear a harness as well as a frame that includes the propeller, motor and cage. It can be steered using brake toggles that are similar to that of a parachutist.
The equipment can cost between 40,000 to 55,000 riyals (around $10,000 to $14,000), and with professional gear amounting to more than $26,000.