‘One bad apple:’ Paramotorists want results after pilot flies near Lake County homes

Clermont aviators said they don’t want their community judged based on one lone pilot

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – Members of the paramotor aviation community are speaking out to educate and inform people after a pilot was seen causing concerns for residents in Clermont.

“In any sport or any profession, there is always someone that you know doesn’t hold the standard that you like to hold, but if there is, it makes us all look bad,” said Jack Kruse, who operates a paramotor in Clermont.

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A paramotor is a motorized parachute that either is attached to a person’s back like a backpack or a small light vehicle with the flyer hooked on.

Kruse says that as a pilot in Clermont, he wants people to know his aviation community shouldn’t be judged based on one lone pilot.

He responded after a mystery pilot was caught on video flying close to homes near the Magnolia Pointe neighborhood, where some residents expressed safety and privacy concerns.

Kruse said he knows the area, adding that it’s a popular spot for pilots.

“There is a giant field behind those houses,” Kruse said. “If he was in that field and he was doing his acrobatics in that field, you know a couple hundred yards from the house, fine. If you get too close to the house, that’s not good.”

The mystery pilot has not yet been identified, but according to Jonathan Carr, an instructor and owner of Paramotor Orlando, the community is working to get results.

“So the community itself self-regulates in a lot of sense, so whenever an individual does something to jeopardize the potential rights of other pilots, we try to stop that as soon as possible,” Carr said.

Carr said that while the sport is fun and breathtaking, it has rules for a reason.

He explained that the activity falls under FAR 103, which is the FAA regulation for ultralight pilots.

“We’re not allowed to fly over any congested areas, and we are not allowed to fly in a manner that potentially presents a hazard to any other individuals,” Carr said. “So he should’ve maintained at least 500 feet of distance away from all people, and he also shouldn’t be flying over anywhere that is congested.”

During an interview with News 6, Kruse showcased his paramotors, as he wished to address residents who could be concerned about a paramotor flying in their area.

“We generally fly about 25 or 30 mph. Some of the backpack units might hit 40,” Kruse said.

The Clermont-based pilot explained that while flying, many pilots — even when recording — are moving too fast to invade someone’s privacy.

However, Kruse noted that since Clermont has been expanding, flying has been challenging for some.

“We just fly out of any open field, and there aren’t many of them left anymore,” Kruse said. “Clermont has really changed in the 25 years I’ve been here.”

Kruse said there is no one simple solution, but he and Carr both stated that as an increasing number of people move to the area and learn about the sport, they hope to see an more people reach out.

“If you ever see paramotor pilots and if they are a nuisance, you know we are more than open to speak the best thing is to talk to us,” Carr said.

The FAA has noted that if anyone has a concern about the safety of a flight, they are urged to contact their local FAA flight standards district office.

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About the Author:

Brian Didlake joined the News 6 team as a reporter in March 2021.