Helicopter Bridge Inspection

Apr 21, 2007 I-355 & Pool from the Ellie Foo Foo

The paramotor has made me think about engine failures a lot more even while flying other craft. During the competition last month I was surprised by the very sudden demise of my Top 80. So now, flying the helicopter, I'm even more constantly looking for "outs." Knowing the wind direction is even more important since I'll have only about 20 seconds to ponder my naveal. You pretty much have to have a plan in mind already. There are times, admittedly, when I'm thinking "ok, don't quit me right now." These thoughts aren't consuming, just a constant background. 

This evening's trip had two basic purposes. Two friends and myself wanted to check out and photograph the Interstate 355 extension, DuPage County's money dump—its "Meandering Project", and the pool where I'll be testing the Agama Water Rescue System. Of course it's all for fun, this helicopter is, after all, my charitable donation to the economy. I help support Oliver's Helicopters who keeps it running smoothly (well, as smoothly as a helicopter can run).

For good pictures, the doors must go. Paramotor pilot Tim Kaiser was the photographer and doorless flight should be no big deal. But the other passenger, who'd only been airborne once before, might be another story. We put Edgar in the middle. As it turned out, he did just fine and, after refueling he rode by the door and liked it.

Departure and arrival were to the south. Since I'm at the south end of my subdivision we hover taxi'd north to get a good run. Even though you can go nearly vertical, it's much easier to handle an engine failure from an angling climb. The south departure is one where it would be most beneficial for Mr. Lycoming (the engine) to remain happy.

Meandering Project

You know your county has too much money when...

We have this perfectly pretty little stream that runs through the forest preserve. It was lined with trees and added nicely to the scene from above and aground. It's been minding it's own little business for centuries. A hundred years ago or so, when farmers made the land useful, they redirected the water to allow easier tilling.

So now, at huge expense to DuPage taxpayers (of which I'm one), we are going to make the stream meander again. Yes, they're moving many tons of earth and chopping down hundreds of trees to ostensibly make it the way it "was." I was hoping for an ice age project, with freezer lines and compressors maintaining a quarter-mile thick layer of ice. That would put it the way it was when glaciers carved things up a millennia ago. Alas, we must work within our limited billion-dollar budget. Sacrifices must be made.

The Pool

Talk about high maintenance?

You'd think that pools would be pretty easy—water, chemicals, filter and forget. You underestimate the tenacity of water in it's pursuit of freedom. When Mike discovered a leak in his recently installed pool, the water had to be emptied, the leak fixed and $800 worth of water put back int. Yes, $800. No, apparently you can't just run the hose into it. All told it was a $3000. Then it still leaked. No wonder he wanted to make sure I don't drown—I could sink to the bottom and tear a hole in the lining. Another leak.

I'll be very, very careful running into it with my paramotor. Boat owners have whined that a boat is a hole in the water into which money is poured. The same seems to apply for a hole in the ground into which water is poured.

The Bridge

Tim and I have reconnoitered this project on another helicopter trip and it's fascinating to watch its progress. That river crossing section is one long expanse of steel. This seems to be a decent use of tax dollars as it will relieve congestion in the growing burbs. I know there is controversy about these expansion projects and valid arguments on both sides but think about whatever road it is that you take to work. Aren't you glad it's there? I'll bet there was controversy when it was built, too.

Being Sunday there was essentially nobody working on it so I was able to fly right down to the ground. Legally I don't have to mind the FAR 91 rule about 500 feet but practically I cannot do this if there were people around. Vacant as it was I had lots of engine-out options. Aviation's golden rule applies for me, too: "Don't piss anybody off!"

It will be fun to track progress of this roadway since I'll eventually get to use it for transporting my paramotoring self to destinations southward. That'll be fun.

In a hundred years it would be interesting to see what it looked like during construction.

Here is but a small sample of the many moving parts required to loft this unlikely craft. A cacophony of motion—all designed to defeat aerodynamics by sacrificing dollars to the gods of lift above.






1. Yours truly.

2. Tim (left) and Edgar as I coax Ellie (the helicopter) to life.


Eventually I'll be driving over this interchange on my way to work.

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