When he was a child, Eduardo Ferreira would dream of flying through the mountains like a bird, which explains why, today, there is nowhere he feels safer or more at home than high above the buildings and beaches of the Algarve. He may have achieved his dream, but the 46-year-old’s wings rely on the power of an engine as well as the wind.

Born in the mountainous area of Serra da Estrela, Eduardo is the only licensed and certified paramotor instructor in the region. Initially a paraglider, he was introduced to the paramotor – essentially a paraglider propelled by a motor – in 2000 and the advantages were clear from the start: “With paragliding you have to go to the top of a mountain, take your partner or whoever, do the flight, and then they have to come get you wherever you have landed.   And if they can’t find you, there are quarrels… It’s all very complicated!” says Eduardo, half-jokingly.

“With the paramotor you have complete autonomy, you don’t have to rely on anyone and you can arrive right back to where you set off.”

After qualifying as an instructor, he now provides paramotoring courses through his company, FlyAlvor, in association with the Lagos Aerodrome. A member of the Portuguese Paramotor Commission and an instructor of the Portuguese Aeronautical Federation and the Portuguese Free Flying Federation, Eduardo’s courses not only teach pupils how to fly, but also vital elements such as aerodynamics, meteorology and flight effects, before they get their licence, with exams much like a driving licence. “There is a lot of theory, because you have to know what you’re doing, and there are rules in place to ensure your safety and the safety of others,” notes the instructor, adding that the length of the course depends on each individual, who must be at least 16 (with parental consent).

But aside from teaching others how to safely enjoy this activity, Eduardo can often be seen taking to the skies doing aerial stunts and entertainment for events, working with aerial photographers, carrying special messages for celebrations and weddings, and, on one occasion, even taking the groom to the altar.

His longest role to date, however, has been that of Father Christmas, donning a Santa costume and flying over Portimão and Ferragudo every year since 2001 – in 2011, Santa even came complete with two flying reindeer –, while he also organises annual Father Christmas paramotor gatherings.

With four paramotors and two trikes, specially developed for disabled passengers, a service that Eduardo introduced this year, the flyer admits there is nothing more fulfilling than taking people up in the paramotor and seeing their reaction as they take in the region from a bird’s eye view. For this, FlyAlvor offers flight baptisms, which take clients (mostly foreign tourists) over Portimão, Alvor, Armação de Pêra or Tavira and last between 15 to 20 minutes. Passengers, who are strapped into a seat in front of Eduardo, are given a helmet and mufflers and are in constant communication for total peace of mind. “I always explain that the engine will cut out once we’re gliding – and we won’t fall! It’s like paragliding; the motor is just there as a propeller for taking off.” That’s one of the beauties of paragliding, notes the Portimão resident: “You don’t need a mountain. You can take off from anywhere, as long as you have 50sqm.” Once up in the sky, the paramotor can travel up to 72km/h, depending on the wing and the wind (if wind conditions are too strong then Eduardo chooses not to fly for the comfort of his passengers, while those with diabetes are not allowed to fly). He is also quick to dispel any fears people may have. “Even if the engine breaks down, it’s just like normal paragliding. In fact paramotoring is much safer than a car!” But what makes the paramotor experience so special that clients and even his own mother  comes back again and again.

Searching for words, Eduardo’s eyes sparkle as he tries to describe the activity that has seen him rack up more than 2,000 flight hours. “It’s just spectacular, and totally different to anything from the ground. I’ve covered the length of the Algarve, from Sagres to Spain, I’ve flown in the north of Portugal, but the best flight has to be between Portimão and Armação de Pêra. It’s an hour’s flight but it’s marvellous. The sea contrasts with the ochre cliffs, and in the springtime the greenery is just astounding.” Along with spring, the paramatorist believes autumn is another great time for flying, or the height of summer if people want to see the beaches in all their high-season glory.

Having also provided his services for television reports, anniversary events and celebrations, and even search and rescue operations, Eduardo spends much of his time where he always dreamed: soaring high above the madding crowds.

Prices for flights start at €60 (booking required).
Contact 965 475 385 or find FlyAlvor on Facebook for more information.

Author: Inside Carvoeiro

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