On 1 Aug 22 Sqn Ldr Tim Taylor, Flt Lt Mike O’Hara and Flt Lt Andrew Whisker began their epic journey to navigate across the coastline of Britain via Paramotor in 30 days to raise money for charity, finishing 500 miles short of the end goal.
The RAF Paramotor Challenge is part of the celebration of 80 years since the formation of the RAF Regt and 100 years since the formation of the RAF Armoured Car Companies. The RAF Regiment goal is to raise £10,000 this year for the RAF Benevolent Fund and the Centurion Fund, and the Paramotor team contributed over £2,000 to the £8,700 raised so far, while inspiring people of all ages that great adventures are possible.
The Paramotor Team’s route followed the UK coastline, covering approximately 3,140 miles. The RAF Reservists finished the challenge 500 miles short of the end goal. Sqn Ldr Tim Taylor is the Officer Commanding 2623 Sqn at RAF Honington in Suffolk, and he is a Full Time Reservist. Flt Lt Mike O’Hara is the Deputy Sqn Commander of 2503 Sqn based at RAF Waddington. The two reservists were joined by Flt Lt Andy Whisker, Officer Commanding of the Service Police Crime Bureau in Hampshire.
Mike, who joined the RAF in 1978, started paragliding in 2006 before converting paramotoring in 2016. Mike is a Part Time Reservist and flies a Microlight in his spare time for the Flying For Freedom charity that assists disabled veterans. He said: “My hope for the future is that the challenge has sparked interest into the RAF recognising and endorsing Paramotoring as adventure sport.”
Record temperatures in the UK in August could have had lethal consequences if wings became deformed or folded over, so the team avoided flying during the hottest part of the day. The flights made excellent progress, completing an average of 70 miles per flight. Mike set the challenge record, completing a 105-mile flight on one tank of fuel on the Jurassic Coast.
The Bulldog Motor, based on a Vitorrazzi 185cc Mostar engine proved to be supremely reliable. There were only 2 mechanical issues, a pull start and an exhaust, both easily and quickly repaired on the road. All 3 pilots flew Dudek wings, with Andrew and Tim using a Solo and Mike using the faster and more technical Hadron.
Logistics to support this effort was key to the whole event; two panel vans and a Medic’s 4×4 followed the flying pilot across the country, often unable to keep up! The support team was a mix of Regular and Reservist RAF personnel and RAF Regiment Gunners who drove, established overnight camp sites and provided meals.
Phone apps were also central to the effort. SkyDemon was an essential tool, providing planning, navigation and logbook functions. Tracking pilots and the ground elements was achieved using Google Maps and if exact locations were required, What3Words was the ‘go to’. Zello provided a radio function. In case of emergency, everyone had the JESSIP app on their phone. Electronic conspicuity was provided by use of XCTracer and SkyEcho 2. All pilots carried airband radios ensuring their ability to communicate with local airspace owners.
Anyone wishing to congratulate the Reservists on their challenging adventure can still donate via their JustGiving page.
2623 Sqn are recruiting for both RAF Police and RAF Regiment Gunners. Anyone interested in joining the RAF Reservists in RAF Honington or RAF Waddington can find out if they’re eligible here: https://recruitment.raf.mod.uk/how-to-apply/eligibility-check
East Anglia RFCA provided some of the funding for this adventure activity, which has raised the profile of the RAF Reserves regionally and nationally. There are currently four RAF Reserves units in East Anglia. All of the RAF Reserve Units are eligible to apply for a RFCA Grant to support a range of activities and initiatives; more information about the RAF Reserves Unit Administration grant is available here.