Phoenix Backwards

2006-12-03 Mission of Omission: Escape from the Cold
A category 5 nuclear snowstorm loomed on the radar for Chicago's west 'burbs. It was time to leave. The Enterprise, wintering currently in Phoenix, would do just fine. 

Tim Kaiser joined me and we met up with longtime airline friend, Marc Whitehorn. He's the sane one among us, keeping his distance from the aviation strangeness called PPG. Plus, he's smart enough not to live where category 5 nuclear snowstorms dwell. 

The first day was chilly, for Phoenix anyway, and we hiked to the top of Camelback mountain. 5 days later I'm still suffering the pain of that stupidity, but it was absolutely beautiful on top. Over 1000 feet above the city-sprawl that is Phoenix you could hear sounds for miles around. It was also the perfect perch for Tim and I to target of our next-day's paramotor destination: the Superstition Mountains.

I enjoy finding better ways to explain paramotor techniques and get pictures to go with them. One such opportunity came after having just gotten pictures of flying backwards with a free-flight harness—something I do at soaring sites. Why not with the motor?

So I did! The first time I left the motor idling. Then I got to thinking of possible problems. What if I hit the throttle while reversed? Ooops. No more Jeff. So I committed to making future efforts power off. Now the risk is primarily that I have to land backwards which I've done before in free flight for fun. Just keep flying the craft.

The next day I wanted pictures. Even those aren't foolproof. In spite of numerous witnesses to these shenanigans, serious skeptics will say,   "nawwww, but nice Photoshop work!"

Mind you, this is an entirely useless undertaking and there is no conceivable benefit from learning this skill. It is meant primarily as a demonstration. I've told people countless times about how, if they start twisting around under the risers, ease the power back and reduce brake pull--the wing will fly just fine regardless of where you're pointed as long as the power is back. Plus, if you ease the power back in time, you won't end up twisted in the first place. Better yet, properly adjusted motors won't cause it, either.

So we set out on a mission to get pictures of flying backwards with a motor. First, Time stayed on the ground (reluctantly) to get them looking straight up. Then he took off and got some aerials.

Just like in free flight, control is done by pulling the brakes from above their pulleys. Brake press is also used to prevent spinning back around. Another anti-spin method was to put my arm behind one riser to hold the other riser in the twisted position.

Whenever turning around I would apply pressure against the risers to slow it down to avoid continuing in the other direction.

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Marc, Jeff and Tim about halfway to the top of Camelback Mountain.


I was getting low and Tim was far away so this came out a bit blurry. I had to plan things since every landing was power-off.


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The challenge is control and staying reversed. You have to apply a continuous anti-twist force while also steering. That gets confusing at first.


© 2016 Jeff Goin & Tim Kaiser   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!