Log

2007 Convention & Competition

Apr 11-14, Big Cypress Preserve West of Fort Lauderdale, FL | Friday
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The event of the year is in the history books. Ouri Kahn and Carlos Signini, event organizers, told me they've endured some of the worst drought in years until the convention. Then it rained enough to make Noah proud—early arrivers nearly got stuck as they slogged through soft turf. Fortunately it dries quickly.

In spite of the water they did a wonderful job and I thank all the Paragators for taking it on.

Wednesday was a practice for competition and that's all we got in—practice. The weather did improve more than expected, enough that competitors and organizers got in great evening fun flights.

Great weather on Thursday followed thunderstorm that started out as a dump truck. Stan Kasica first said he heard thunder. Someone else said, "no, that's a dump truck." There was no confusing the lightning that soon flashed. We got everything put away just in time and the one pilot who was up, Kirk, landed uneventfully dry. The weather cleared up blissfully and we were able to finish the entire competition.

First Row: 1. Some of the gang. Ashton Brunner, Marty Hathaway, Dave Fore and Kirk Sellinger.

2. Michel Carnet flies low over a pond. I stayed high and let my lens do the skimming. 3. Michel arrives back at base. 4. Chris Bowles banks up a Silex. He is helping with the event.
5 & 6. Michel gets the stick

Second Row: 1. The masses beginning to gather. This year's venue is huge! The competition is being run at the south end and can run pretty well on its own. 2 & 3. Stan Kasica turns corners on his SD with Speed Demon wing. 4 & 5. Michel Carnet in various positions.

Competition & Piston Problems

We had 8 competitors registered, many very experienced and one, Michel, is the reigning English national champion and has won 6 times. Eric Dufour did not compete this year so the rest of us had a chance.

My Top 80 lived in storage for a year and let me know how unhappy it was about it, being hard to start and quitting several times in flight. Eric was kind enough to loan me a motor which I was poised to launch with when they wisely shut it down for the pending thunderstorm.

Only Ashton Brunner didn't compete because he was picking up a stranded pilot. Stan Kasica helped me get my motor running well enough to fly the main event. Unfortunately it really, really gave up the ghost during the endurance event and gained a new feature--the piston top decompression hole. Yes, she burned a hole right through the piston, probably from an air leak.

What's worse is that it happened 10 minutes after launching. My endurance would have been great, too, in the big, soft thermals. I was climbing nicely with cruise power or less when I heard the most "I'm done" sound I've ever heard. Even after it quit I kept climbing. In fact, I think my time was 26 minutes and I landed with 1.5 liters.

Don't blame the Top 80, any motor would succumb to such mistreatment. It'll live again but I've learned that I can't have motors sitting around at various places unless  they get flown occasionally.

 


One of these days I'll enjoy writing about some of the people who've made an impression on me. This positive side of pilots sometimes gets short shrift. We have many incredibly positive people in the sport and I'm thankful when I can make their acquaintance.

Other pilots have been exceedingly gracious in letting me mooch gear but I've flown so much in these two days that I'm not that desperate. Much of my plan was to do testing anyway so now I'll have less distraction.

Thursday's Other Flying

It's packed! Pilots poured onto the field as sunshine took over. It was somewhat bumpy during mid-afternoon but flyable for some (albeit at a bit more risk) all day long.

Later on it became a zoo as everybody piled onto the field looking for a piece of the incredibly tasty air. Some wildness also came over the field with big wing-overs, pitch pendulums, spirals, foot drags and other shenanigans on the main field. Fun but a little scary with so many pilots. The air was soooo sweet. Warm, too. Just enough breeze let us choose forward or reverse. I even put the motor-assisted light-wind reverse to the test and it worked as advertised.

Monster

I got to try some other machines and tonight flew the most powerful paramotor to date, eclipsing the Fly products Fly 130 by just a bit although at some increase in weight. It's a Hirth 313 powering a 51" prop on an SD frame. I took some notes and measurements and will have a review up soon. What a pusher. Thanks to Mike Britt who trusted his monster machine to my 140 pound self.

Friday

An interesting day. It was nice in the morning and the sky filled with wings. We knew increasing wind would ground many of us so pilots wanted to get it while they could. A large cu-nim sprouted south of the field but kept its distance. Like others before, it passed well south.

Pilots who launched early enjoyed fairly light winds down low but were paraparked only a few hundred feet high. As the morning wore on, bumps built and ground gusts grew until it was pretty strong by 11am.

The Paramania boys went nuts in the strong conditions, swooping and turning close to the ground. We just have to keep them from doing that in the prime evening time near the pattern. They do a great job flying and it was fun to watch but it was certainly risky, too.

One bizarre event was when Ohio pilot Kurt Fister and a friend were escorted off the field by the Miccosukee Indian police. They had arrived the night before and didn't want to pay the fee to fly from the convention site. So they launched nearby and, according to organizers, were flying against the pattern and over the vendor area. Organizers alerted the police to let them know that these pilots were not part of the event and would no longer be welcome. When the two pilots returned, the Miccosukee police escorted them off the property with the admonition not to return lest they be arrested for trespassing. Hopefully this doesn't hurt our chances for a possible return.

On a brighter note, testing gear was fun, as usual. One machine that I enjoyed trying out harkens back to 1999 during my very first fly-in, the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. It was there I saw and fell in love with the Miniplane. Being unwilling to adopt early, I waited until the Top 80 became better known here before diving into what wound up as the Sky Cruiser. So it was cool to fly a brand new Miniplane imported by Francesco Desantis.

I also flew the new Aerothrust 130 motor.  It was lightweight and thrusty. I appreciate Dave's help with various extra goodies to weigh machines. I'll have the reviews and weights up soon for the motors weighed.

Saturday

More winds but at least it was flyable in the morning. A good nights sleep was pleasantly ended by paramotor noise. It was beautiful, actually, with a somewhat gusty breeze already coming in from the east. I test flew Fly Products low hook-in Black Magic machine and then tried the Windtek Kinetic wing. That was different. Light brake pressures, large speed range and the first wing I've ever intentionally brought into a stall while flying a paramotor. The 25 square meter paraglider was just the right size for me but it was challenging using the brake pressure scales in the bumpiness so I had to climb way up, above the clouds. Of course that was fun in its own right. Really the whole flight was fun. I penetrated upwind at 2 to 3 feet then climbed up.

Our sport has some incredible people. Giving of their time and resources and just a lot of fun to be around. I marvel and respect those who devote themselves to quality training. I saw some real examples of this here.

Dave Rogers talked about how the U.S. can step onto the world stage and represent the sport worldwide or at least participate in world records. David is now the first U.S. to hold a world record. Although he flew a lot of of laps, they only credited him for one due to a technicality but that was still enough to enter the record books.

Michel Carnet showed off the beautiful Paramotor Magazine and met many of the key figures in U.S. Powered Paragliding.

Competition results were announced at the evening meal Saturday night along with the raffle. Stan Kasica came in first, yours truly was second and Dave Fore was third. Yes, I sure hoped to win but Stan nailed the spot landing and I didn't. What was really frustrating was that I'd nailed 4 of 6 immediately before while practicing. Oh well. Stan's spot landing was particularly interesting given that he did a very brief spin on final. He recovered immediately and still nailed the landing. Yup, I'm thinkin' he deserves it! Finals will be posted on USPPA's site with the original spreadsheet.

Wildlife

The coolest wildlife were hawks that shared thermals with us, reluctantly I'm sure. What an amazing experience. After testing one machine (and getting the harness dialed in) I asked its owner if I could take it up to exhaust the fuel. It was magic. I guess I'm a simpleton who can enjoy this repeated pleasure. We have a most incredible air conditioner: launch from the hot, muggy earth and climb into the raptors cool heights. I needed that and it was inspirationally refreshing.

Other wildlife included an incredible array of alligators. I've never seen so many. Most were pretty small but some of the lake dwellers could have snacked on me. No pond foot drags for me, that's for sure.

The worst nature brought on us were the fire ants. Those I hate. Most of our regular area was pretty free of them but the competition field was well stocked and, sure enough, I got bit. Only 3 bites but man are those nasty looking bites. I maintained my downward vigilance a lot more after that. Marty Hathaway, competition director, got it good during the competition running. I'll bet his legs have some interesting designs going.

There's a lot of new stuff out there! Too much to write about in this quick update but hopefully I'll get something up soon about it. Some new manufacturers are making a mark and the stalwarts continue to innovate. Florida is getting more instruction options, too. Eric Dufour and Elisabeth Guerin are moving back to Florida to set up their school. They still have a close relationship with the Daniele's but figured this would work out better due to the year-round good weather down south. Both companies will be doing glider repairs. I was a bit saddened to learn that the Daniele's will no longer be doing training. If you learned from this team, you know what others will be missing.

New Stuff

There was a lot of cool products introduced, either updated or brand new. Our sport continues to evolve with generally lighter and more powerful motors, new wheel options and other innovations. Unfortunately I missed some and apologize for that.

New engines include the Montanari 130cc Mighty Max, currently powering the Aerothrust ZG Pro, the Corsair Black Magic 130 cc motor with a clutch. It's a little heavier but is based on the popular Black Devil. The Black Magic appeared on the Black Hawk and Fly Products models.

Paramotor frames have some unique and intriguing new concepts. The ParamotorKits.com have a couple new frames including one made out of fiberglass. Fly Products has a new suspension system based on the popular European Pap model. Fresh Breeze has updated their underarm comfort bar system that nearly eliminates torque effects on their line. I didn't get to check out the Nirvana and a couple others. I wanted to fly everything but was cut short by the blowout conditions.

Wheels, wheels everywhere! New entries include the low-slung adventure. Scott Adair has entered the fray with his "Sky Kicker" unit. Unfortunately we didn't see many trikes fly due to the winds.

Larger wheeled machines include the rocket ship Fresh Breeze Excitor, the Paracruiser 56" prop MZ 34 tandem and the Paratour tandem designed specifically for training.

Overall

Thanks to Ouri Kahn, Carlos Signini and so many volunteers who made it happen. No, the weather didn't cooperate as we hoped yet I flew quite a bit every day. There was some crazy flying in the pattern that hopefully we can reduce next year and the field was rougher and soggier than we'd like but it was a huge open area to fly from with few restrictions.

The seminars were very well attended. More than ever before, I'd say. I ran out of handouts for the airspace presentation and thought I'd printed too many. It's especially nice having them scheduled while few people are normally flying to give something of interest.

I had a wonderful time and really enjoyed putting so many names to faces. It was encouraging, too. Very encouraging. Thanks all who came and introduced themselves.

Kudos to Ashton Brunno who skipped his prepaid competition to help retrieve a fellow paramotor pilot, to Robin Rumboldt for rewiring so many headsets, to Mike Britt for fixing things. To the organizers for putting it all together, to Marty Hathaway, Scott Adair and the judges for making the competition pilots and to others who gave of their time freely to help so many. Several vendors were constantly helping pilots along with trying to show their wares. I gotta tell you, it's refreshing to see the positive that so outweighs the negative. Hopefully we can stay focused on that. We missed Alex Varv who was unable to come along with others from up north who were planning on making it but couldn't.

Lord willing next year's event will better and improve on this. Whether it's here or elsewhere lets always be thankful when someone is willing to step into the breach so that we can all enjoy gathering like this.

Why Florida?

This is why we have the convention in Florida! Gary Carter, who attended the 2007 PPG convention came back home to this scene. Gary is an experienced paramotor and ultralight pilot who contributed an interesting article to Powered Sport Flying Magazine about setting up an airpark.

He said that, after taking this picture and retreating to their warm home, another 12 inches of snow fell. Photo courtesy of Gary Carter.

  1) Intensity and a smidgen of frustration show on Stan Kasica's face as he almost nails a spot landing. You're not allowed to go to your knees which Stan managed to avoid here.

In the real spot landing Stan pulled it off with a perfect hit--even more impressive considering he spun his wing for an eight turn and still made it. Nailing the spot landing like that is a lot of points.

  2) After everybody was done we got Eric, who didn't compete, to give it a whirl. 53 seconds. Disgusting. Next year we're going to add the Japanese Slalom so it will give us all something new to practice.

 

 

 

 

  1) What is that expression? I'm trying out a new motor, the Miniplane, and taking a picture of the risers. It has a unique and comfortable throttle that's superb for flying but not as good while taking pictures from that hand.

  2) My left ankle with artwork courtesy of the Florida Fire Ants. The little buggers got me good. These bites are notoriously long lasting but strangely this doesn't hurt or itch at all. Yet.

 

 

 

Saturday Night:

  1) John Magdic is high on life. He was giving away these cool little signs just for the heck of it, including programming. Thanks for this one John!

  2) Michelle Daniele performed to an uproarious crowd. "My PPG's Busted" was well received. Unfortunately, the band Pilot Project wasn't here but the karaoke approach worked well, too.

  3) What could possibly be dry enough to burn? Apparently more than you'd think. This wildfire, a relatively common and natural occurrence in the everglades, raged about 4 miles south of our field.

 

 

 

 

  1) Francesco DeSantis is no longer teaching full time but does occasionally do Instructor Rating Clinics. He is seen here hanging onto the risers on a new Apco wing in the wind. English champion Michel Carnet did a graceful flip in the risers that I unfortunately never captured.

  2) I tested 4 paramotors and wanted to do many more but the weather just wouldn't cooperate. I'll fly my own gear in these windy conditions but don't want risk someone's show model. Javier of Aerolight is seen here checking out the Black-Magic powered Compress with low attachment points.

 

 

 

Top 80 Decompression

 

During the endurance part of the competition, shortly after launch, this happened to my trusty top 80. Burnt a hole right through the piston. Compression is dramatically reduced and the force it takes to pull the starter would be dramatically reduced if not for the piston also being welded to the cylinder. Nobody said it was perfect.

 

 

John Dematteo, an up and coming pilot who's working with Eric Dufour, pauses to let me snap the flight line. Large clumps of grass kept pilots doing some fancy footwork on launch.

 

 

 

 

  1) Andy McAvin let me mooch that blue Spice all week, Kevin Page did the competition score data and Chris Singer entertained us with his beautiful butterfly, er, Monarch wing.

  2) Chris is an artist, obviously a skilled one, who dedicated 300 hours of time putting this masterpiece together. He hopes to to further www.LiveMonarch.com.

  3) There were fortunately few mishaps but the strong winds made it difficult for those who choose to fly late. This happened when its pilot fell sideways in a gust.


© 2015 Jeff Goin   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!