Dessert in the Desert: 2004 Paratoys
Feb 9, 2004 Salton Sea, CA by Toni Davis
The sun rose over the Chocolate Mountains and glimmered off the
Salton Sea as the sound of the first paramotor was heard starting up;
and it just got better from there! The one and a half hour drive from
Hemet to the Salton Sea for Bob Armondís February Paratoyís was well
worth it. I canít think of a better place to fly in the winter,
especially given my attire: t-shirt and shorts.
The first thing that became evident was the relaxed environment and
organized method of handling registration and traffic control on the
field; with 166 pilots registered this was the largest gathering of
powered paraglider pilots ever! And yet there was never a problem
finding a slot to takeoff or an open space of the sky to fly in.
this open sky gave pilots the chance to show off their stuff and for the
manufactures to let us test fly their best stuff. The rivalry was
evident and of a friendly nature.
∑ Bruce Brown had a new motor that
he is importing: the Airfer Hurricane.
∑ Walker Jet showed up in force
with a large number of motors.
∑ Jose and Javier of Aerolight were there and helpful as always.
∑ Jim Jackson of Para Lite was there with his suitcase-fitting sky
cruisers. His helping hand kept him from even getting the chance to fly.
∑ David Beres of Beres and Hirsch props was carving props for any body
that broke one and some that did not ( I had one on order that he was
kind enough to bring with him).
∑ Check De Santis had the kit built
frame that he is manufacturing, it looks to be a very robust and light
unit that takes a minimal amount of time and skill to build and still
knocks down to a size that is easy to transport.
The first competition
with tasks that meets the FAI requirements took place and was definitely
both fun to watch and most likely fly in. I missed out due to wrenching
on engines. We did have an excellent guide for the events with Arnon
Lufi showing us how to do the tasks; he is a world class competitor from
Bob Armond came up with a neat way of raffling off a new Sky
Cruiser paramotor. It wasnít for the faint of heart: if the sight of 100
pilots chasing wildly after hundreds of little parachutists wonít get
you then being at the bottom of the stack of 14 other pilots might. I
was number 7 of the 14 and Michel Purdy was at the bottom and almost
received a broken rib or two!
Flying conditions were perfect for cross
countries. On one of my flights I did a winds aloft check and discovered
the same kind of conditions that happen at Albuquerque: the ďboxĒ. At
low altitude the wind was out of the south at about 7-8 mph and at 700
feet it turned around to the north. That allowed a 15 mile trip to the
north staying low which yielded a GPS ground speed of 30 mph and the
same speed southbound up at 700. Using only half tank of fuel I covered
30 miles. That would give me a range of 30 miles out and back with a
full tank and still have a 15 min reserve!
There were no injures at
all this year and with all the x/cís going on only one out landing a
couple of dirty knees from hard landings and one damaged aircraft due to
a blown takeoff in a hang glider trike in the mud close to the waterís
edge some bent cages and broken props!
We have a new Spandex King,
Johnny Fetz who managed to nudge out Alan Chuculate with more air time
in Spandex then even Alan who had pull starter problems.
Iím not sure who did more tandem flights letting the crowed of on
lookers get a first hand look at our kind of flying it was either Mo
Sheldon of AZPPG or Arnon Lufi!
Every time I looked, Nick Scholtes was
flying a different motor or wing or both. One of most interesting was
the Paralite Vitarazze 80 that looked like an RDM but smaller. And Bob
Armond had a showing of his new wing in force, I like the graphics that
make it show up well in the air. Phil Russman was everywhere with a
camera so letís hope he puts out another video.
Andy McAvin was playing fighter pilot with his new wing and I could
not shake him from my 6 oíclock position so he gets the ACE title for
the show. His line of wings, the Mac Paragliders, are some of the
smoothest handling wings that I have had the pleasure of flying.
Itís just fun to fly with old friends and make new ones for 3 days of
non stop flying.
I havenít seen Check (Francesco DeSantis) since 1996
when he did my tow training in Florida. I had 8 of my own students come
to this show, 3 of which have soloed and got the chance to fly at the
show. Due to the large number of pilots there was no training flights
allowed for safety reasons but that didnít stop the new guys from
learning Ė a number of seminars were given during the show at the
convention center and just talking to the more experienced pilots proved
helpful. Everything from reserves to engine maintenance to navigation
was covered. These kind of people are what make this sport what it is
and help it to grow, become better, safer and more fun for all of us.
Off to the next fly-in, will it be in Florida or New Mexico or here in
California? Only where the free spirit takes me - see you there!