Ellie the heli was done with here annual inspection and ready to be picked up. The heliport is 30+
miles northwest—a miserable drive but a wonderful paramotor flight. Either I get
someone to drive me up there, a pain for them, or I fly the little
direct drive paramotor, a fun trip. All I need is decent weather. This
was it. Sunday morning dawned with sunshine and breeze but it was in the
right direction, south. That would help me along once I cleared
The hardest part of this trip is avoiding the congested
areas. I've become creative, flying power line and railroad
right-of-ways along with the decreasing undeveloped areas. But once I
get about 10 miles west-northwest, it's smooth sailing. As usual, I took
an aircraft radio with me instead of FRS although I still had music.
About halfway there I flew right over the polo field, site of yesterday
morning's flightfest. Nothing going on this morning. Too bumpy,
probably. As you can see from the altimeter watch, at 8:16 am the sun
has been working it's turmoil for a couple hours. But up where I was,
scooting along in the tailwind, it was smooth as glass. Not a ripple.
The wind was howling up a few hundred feet and the transition to that
strong blow was bumpy. A 4 on the scale. At 800 feet, it was probably
going 35+ mph. Nearing Gilberts I turned to face into the wind so I knew
how strong it was and found myself going backwards. With trimmers fast I
go about 28 mph and, while facing into the wind, was going backwards at
what seemed like about 10 mph. Expect a good shear.
I got thoroughly
trounced while descending through the shear layer but it wasn't so bad
down lower. The worst bumps were about 4, almost 5 then it settled to a
still-rough 3 on the bump scale. When I got down low there was someone
burning trash which made for a great wind indicator. The smoke showed a
light wind. At Olivers, my target, the windsock showed a north wind.
Exactly opposite to the strong wind a few hundred feet above. Look out.
Past success is no indication of present success and I know that. I was
a bit nervous about this approach even though most of the shear was
above me. Fortunately, The approach and landing were uneventful but I
thought to myself how the risk meter was certainly higher. I kept the
power on to counter downdrafts but didn't need it.
Daryl, the Enstrom
mechanic/inspector who does the annual shook his head at me as usual. We
chatted a while then I loaded the paramotor and flew Ellie home. She ran
like a top--very smooth for a helicopter.
Row One: 1) Fermilab. DuPage airport's D airspace cuts through
the middle of the big particle accelerator ring. It's thankfully easy to
remain south of it. 2) On way to avoid people (and the congestion they
imply) is following utility right-of-ways. 3) This quarry is just east
of the Fox River.
Row Two: 1&2) They do make them
big. The guest house is bigger than most people's main house. 3) Looking
down at the polo field. Nobody home. 4) After arriving home and just
before disgorging the paragear.
Saturday evening I had no plans on flying but was going to a party.
After flying over the host house in the helicopter I saw a big field in
back. Hmmm, that looks plenty big to paramotor—I just wouldn't be able
to leave the area. Both Tim and I brought our motors and indeed were
able to make a short flight after dinner. There's no better way to
explain the strange sport we love than to demonstrate it.
We didn't stay up for long because it was surrounded by suburbia and
we had to stay in the field's perimeter which was pretty limiting. It's
still fun. Tim did foot drags in the field while I followed behind. I
did a bunch of touch and goes including some power off landings. That's
a great way to quell concern over the common fear: "what do you do when
the engine quits?"
1) After launching, I flew around, shut off the motor, landed,
restarted, walked by then relaunched. I love doing that! 2) Eventually i
did some touch and goes completely in the confines of that triangular
grassy area. 3) Tim and I flew around in formation which is always an
easy, low risk crowd pleaser. I just keep enough distance that I can
always bail both vertically and laterally. 3) Getting ready. Photo by
I drove to this launch site about a mile from home, paramotored to the
helicopter, rotored my way to the house, then rollerbladed back here to
fetch my van. This was my idea of a fun morning.
2. Olivers helipad where Ellie gets her annual inspection. Landing here
is easier than taking off. Last week when I brought Ellie up here, I
launched from an open area just to the east. This shot is looking