Paramotor Power

Harley Milne arrived in Oshkosh on Sunday after a grueling seven days paramotoring from Sonoma, California, to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. This 2,200-mile, unsupported trip is impressive, but Harley’s used to difficult challenges. This is the third time he’s tried to do what seems impossible as a paramotor pilot.

“Back in 2020, I finished a 50-state tour,” Harley said. “I drove from state to state, and then I flew in each state, and I became the first paramotor pilot to fly in all 50 states. … That led to the coast-to-coast trip, which went from San Diego all the way to the coast of Florida, and that was a supported trip.”

What does a supported trip look like for a paramotor pilot?

“I had an entire crew,” Harley said. “There were two chase vehicles, a doctor, a meteorologist, videographers.”

However, for his trip to Oshkosh, Harley decided to go unsupported. This meant traveling completely on his own, finding his own food and habitations along the way. This could occasionally be difficult, as Harley’s path went through the desert and across mountains. Planning for such a trip might seem daunting to some, but Harley knew what he was doing.

“When I plan these trips, I figure out where I want to start and where I’m going to land,” he said. “You can set up what is basically a direct route. From there, typically you’re looking at, how do you want to compass it. Once you make a straight line, you start to look for where the airports are and what the distances are so you can make sure you have enough fuel to get from one point to the next.”

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The route Harley decided on was 2,200 miles, going from Sonoma over the Sierra Nevada, following I-80 into Wyoming, and then following I-90 to Oshkosh. For that long journey, Harley didn’t have much with him. Along with his motor and glider, he carried extra fuel, a high-tech helmet that receives information from his phone, the Garmin inReach Explorer, and safety gear, putting his launching weight at almost 100 pounds.

Overall, the trip went almost exactly according to plan, though Harley’s schedule was a little sporadic.

“My flight schedule was pretty much from about 4 a.m. until roundabout 10 p.m.,” Harley said. “Typically what I was doing was trying to catch a nap and sleep about four hours in the middle of the afternoon, and then usually between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., I tried to sleep for as many hours as I could. … In this case, my average flight was about three hours, and you’re trying to cover about 120 to 150 miles in that three-hour flight. It’s a long flight to be in basically a lawn chair.”

Upon arriving in Oshkosh, Harley was greeted by a small crowd and doused in champagne in celebration of a job well done. From beginning to end, Harley has had supporters throughout the paramotor community.

“I think what I love about the paramotor community, and aviators in general, they’re always there to help each other out,” Harley said. “If you’re struggling to do a launch, if you break something and need a spare part, someone will come and help you out. This trip, it’s just amazing. The verbal support that I’ve been getting, people just encouraging me. It’s very humbling.”

So what’s next for Harley?

“I would like to do a big water crossing,” he said. “For example, I would like to fly across Lake Michigan. I actually have a trip planned to fly from Alaska all the way to Russia, but that’s been put on hold.”

Either way, Harley will continue to conquer paramotoring challenges, helping others along the way. Each trip he takes, Harley fundraises for the nonprofit Resurgence PPG, which helps veterans learn how to fly. More information can be found on his website

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