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