By Steve Thomas
I first became a Parajet customer six years ago when, having learned on a Pap, I wanted something a bit more modern and fell in love with the look of the Volution. However, a serious prang in my early days of ownership wrecked the machine and it was then that I discovered just how Parajet treat you as a customer – actually, it felt more like as a friend. They got me back in the air very quickly and were kind and supportive beyond any level of reasonable expectation. Try experiencing that with a manufacturer who is hard to get hold of, or even in a different country. And Parajet have kept me in the air every since, often getting me parts or helping fix something with little or no notice that I will be turning up. I’m openly a big Parajet fan so here’s my take on the company and the experience of being a customer. And if I sound biased it’s because I am, and for good reason.
Parajet is well known for its outstanding customer support and their great looking and well-built machines, innovating at the sharp end and helping in a very large way to create the paramotor industry as it does so, so it’s interesting to delve into the background of how these machines are made, the processes involved and why this is good for us, the customer.
We hear a lot about getting behind British industry, and here is a very good example of British industry doing what historically it has always done well – innovation, design and engineering.
When new customers walk in the door at Parajet they usually have a lot of questions; Is this a substantial company that can be trusted to supply what I need? Do they have the facilities to help me if or when I need it? Why should I buy a paramotor designed and built by Parajet? Within moments, a lot of those questions are answered by what you see, how you are treated and the very obvious lines of beautiful machines waiting to be shipped out to customers.
As well as looking at the machines (well worth a trip for that alone) you can try them on, do a hang test if you fancy it, see how they are made – even down to visiting the machine shops where you can watch the CNC machines doing their thing, or see the jigs that are used for building the chassis and cages. This is with an accompanying explanation of why things have been done a certain way, or why certain materials have been used over others. Having someone to explain everything to you and answer all of your questions is an enlightening experience and is just one of the reasons I chose Parajet for my paramotor and remained with Parajet ever since.
This, combined with the positive experience of having your problems solved, if and when they happen, puts pilots into a place where you feel you have more control and optimism about keeping yourself flying. For pilots, faith in the manufacturer is paramount. I think of this as part of safety, comfort and security and the confidence which that provides – that if it goes tits-up, you’ve got someone watching your back, someone on your side to sort out your issues and keep you flying. It’s priceless in our sport.
“Confidence builds safety which builds enjoyment.”
It’s been several years since I last had a look around ‘backstage’ in the factory and it has evolved dramatically, having now moved into its own facility in the connected adjacent building.
When you take delivery of your new machine, you are probably more interested in getting it in the air than anything else. It’s good to realise just how much has gone into making your wonderful new flying machine; here’s a quick look at what goes into it all.
For example, the cage of the v3 is a beautiful thing but each cage takes three hours just to drill the holes. That’s after making the components and welding them together on the jig. Then they go off for powder coating. Then it takes another three hours to string it and rivet it. And every step is done by hand. It’s quite astounding and even more so if you visit the factory and watch it being done.
Parajet has full access to its own manufacturing machines for most of the components. Anything they can make, they do make, including Zenith back plates, hand throttle, cage spars, cages, frames – anything which can be made with their CNC machines.
The machine shop is worth a visit to see your bits being manufactured – there are a lot of really interesting points such as the way the aircraft grade aluminium billet is ‘sucked’ into place and held firmly whilst the machining takes places, how each block is machined to produce minimum waste (and environmental impact) and maximum parts each time.
To give some perspective of what’s involved, just for the spars on the Zenith, the billet is machined on one side, the machine then has to be reset and the billet flipped over to have the other side machined. Each Zenith comes with six spars plus two spares, taking several hours of machining just for the spars. Then there’s the skates (feet), the legs, back plates, pulley wheels, tank handles, and all the other individual parts of the Zenith. So for one Zenith machine there are days of machine work alone. That doesn’t include the fact that all the parts have to be deburred, checked with a spectrum micrometer to ensure everything is within tolerance, cleaned, prepped, checked by Quality Control, by which point they are given a number (to keep track of each item) and they are then taken next door into the factory where they are stored in containers, until they are accessed by the guys who actually build your paramotor (all Parajet paramotors are built to order and this allows the specs for each machine to be varied easily). Everything then goes off for anodising in the colour chosen by the customer. They then come back to the factory and at this point there is still loads of work to be done – they have to drill and fit all of the various bits, fit all of the nylon components, etc.
I always believed that, with the CNC and other machines, the components and final paramotors would be fairly quick to produce. They are not – the amount of time and work that goes into each machine is phenomenal. And that’s before you consider the design time, the programming of the CNC machines, etc. Along with the fact that Parajet are continually reviewing every part of every machine and that constant improvement takes considerable time and work. Parajet takes on board all feedback and comments which feeds back into the evolution of the machines, leading to constant improvement but always allowing backwards compatibility should anything be required for an older machine.
All of this does lead to Parajet having a measure of confidence that their components, and therefore machines, are going to be beautifully and perfectly made – you feel this confidence when you talk to anyone who works there. And this gives customers confidence in the products.
Another benefit with Parajet using modular designs is that customers can get in touch having damaged something, but thinking they need to replace an entire section, such as the stand on a Zenith – but then they find out that they only need to replace one or two components for a quarter or less of the expected cost.
It’s clear that Parajet is constantly evolving their machines, processes and the way they do business. With the customer as the focus for all aspects of what they do, it puts us in a very good position as pilots. The fact that a pilot in the USA, for example, can order replacement parts via the US distributor, have them manufactured in the UK and shipped to the States and fitted on the customers machine within two weeks shows how far the customer-centric procedures have evolved. The future for Parajet pilots looks even better than ever, and it hasn’t been anywhere near shabby in the six years I’ve been a customer of Parajet. Quite the opposite.
Parajet also make some excellent accessories, many of which I already own, such as cage bags for Volutions or paramotor travel cases. The range is well thought out and with Christmas coming it’s probably worth thinking about dropping hints about now. The latest Parajet flying suit is a good choice for PPG pilots which will be available any day now. Check back for a review of that suit which will be coming soon.
BUY CHEAP, BUY TWICE
It’s probably of no surprise that a company like Parajet could make cheap tat (for want of a better phrase) and make considerably more money. I believe that they make quality machines which cost more (but have lower margins) than other machines but by doing so, along with their customer service and all of the things previously mentioned, they add to the overall improvement of our sport and will be there long into the future. This bodes well for anyone who keeps a machine for a long period of time and need that rare commodity, legacy support. A good example of this is the fact that pilots who are still flying the old v1 Volutions with the XT engine (which has not been produced for many years) can still ask Parajet for parts. They will actually manufacture these for you if they don’t have them on the shelf! And we are talking about a machine originating from more than a decade ago. This is also good news for anyone buying a second hand Parajet machine. This may mean that you have wait for the part to be manufactured (bearing in mind that machine manufacturing time priority is given to the latest paramotor components) but the part for a long-discontinued paramotor engine or frame is not unobtainable. That is outstanding.
There are countless examples of new pilots finding out about paramotoring by meeting Parajet at various festivals or exhibitions and shows, then being given good advice by them and contacts for a good PPG school. Even when the aforementioned customer goes and buys a paramotor from a different manufacturer, because their school was tied in with them or because they saw a cheap deal on the web, it’s not uncommon for them to be back in the future buying a Parajet because the cheap bargain turned out to be less of a bargain than it originally seemed, especially the sometimes worryingly cheap deals for a new machine which sometimes turn up on ebay and other places.
By pushing the sport (even through their BG brand which got paramotoring into circles of people who would normally not have discovered it) the sport benefits as a whole; schools benefit, wing manufacturers benefit, shops benefit and pilots benefit. It’s a good philosophy and as forward thinking as their cutting edge products.
Goodwood and Farnborough Airshow, are incredibly expensive to attend and often the leads generated from them have taken hundreds of hours to acquire and process. Having brought paramotoring to the attention of the public, these people often go to their nearest school and buy a different brand of paramotor – but the sport has benefitted. The bottom line is that the more events that Parajet attend (ie, the more money Parajet spends on this kind of activity) the more the sport grows and benefits. Schools, wing sales, motor sales and general enquiries all have noticeable increases in numbers after events like Goodwood and Farnborough. Even such things as sponsoring Parafest (which Parajet did this year) helps keep the paramotoring economy buoyant.
When buying new, the cost is often a major factor in decision making, but remembering the old saying ‘Buy cheap buy twice’, is very relevant in our sport. A good example one is of the paramotor copies which appeared after the Zenith was released.
If a number of pilots bought one, then needed a spare part only to find out that the machines are no longer made, or the design wasn’t right so the manufacturer had abandoned it, then pilots are scuppered – as soon as they break it they’re stuffed. There is no continuity – Parajet have had customers asking them to make parts for other machines for this very reason. This works out to be very expensive and impractical and not good for maintaining happy pilots. It has happened where a pilot has brought in some damaged parts from a Zenith copy, having heard Parajet can make parts. They can, but the design time to redraw the part into a CAD programme, stopping the machines from doing their normal work to run this one-off part, and then resetting it back normal afterwards means that you’d be paying as much for four of these parts as you would for a complete machine. In several instances, customers have been offered a good deal on a new machine and they have ditched their broken paramotor in favour of this.
OPEN DOOR POLICY
Parajet operate an open door policy for everyone, and I really urge anyone who’s thinking about buying their first paramotor or replacing their current machine, to make a visit. You’ll not regret it and you will definitely learn something as well as enjoy being surrounded by such an array of the best that paramotoring manufacturing has to offer.
Until recently any visitors would just walk into the factory but Parajet has recently installed a customer area so when you walk through the door you are greeted by a nice display area with machines (currently with the Zenith, v3, Maverick and the new trike on display) along with brochures and a coffee machine – which is going to be installed imminently. That won’t change the friendly greeting you always receive at Parajet, it’s just that now you have a nicely lit area which is away from the production area (not that the production area is anything to be ashamed of, it’s very clean, well organised, spacious and well lit). And laid-back. Maybe the kind of thing you’d expect if you got to visit, say, the McLaren workshop.
By visiting you can decide about whether the quality of the materials and the manufacturing processes, the levels of service and support from the entire team, the thought that has gone into every component and manufacturing process, the longevity of parts and the benefits of being a substantial UK based manufacturer is better than the other options.
You may not end up buying a Parajet machine, but you can make a decision with your eyes wide open and decide whether buying a cheaper machine and saving a few hundred quid up front will be a good decision in the long run. I know how I feel about it, it would be good for you to visit and decide for yourself.
Really, go and check it all out. The only thing I can’t confirm is the quality of the coffee because that facility wasn’t installed at the time of my visit … although if it’s anything like the way Parajet does everything else then it will be perfectly balanced between bean count and water volume, with the temperature optimally set for the average pilot with an option to fine tune it to your own preference.