Northern Florida Tour

Helicopter tour, Island Flying and beach broach

I've been spending too much time having too much fun to write about it.

Tim Kaiser is piloting the Enterprise at present, targeting long-time pilot Terry Cohen's slice of Oceanside bliss. It's been some time since we've shared air so this should be fun.

The last several days have been fantastic. Mike Britt, Elisabeth, Eric and the gang have been exquisite hosts through a steady stream of students and friends including Masha who enjoyed her first time aloft.

Disappearing Island

Mike Britt's paraboat adds many launch options. A particularly cool one is disappearing island, just east of New Smyrna Beach airport, which is under Atlantic seawater during high tide. Thus the name.

Boats surround its beach, snuggling onto the sandy surround and disgorge occupants who generally hang out nearby. That leaves plenty of room to launch paramotors.

A sizely group of us headed there on Tuesday, the barge festooned with too many paramotors. It took two trips—one to drop off the gear and another for passengers. The barge would be hard to sink since its floats are filled with Styrofoam but that didn't stop us from trying. We had to position occupants for leveling purposes. Plus, there are a limited number of life jackets.

This was my day for motor issues but Eric was gracious enough to lend me time on his nicely running SD 100. And I got to try out Albert's "Mike Britt Christmas Special" trike. That was especially fun because I got to try out some techniques.

The techniques aren't particularly new—experienced trikers have been doing them for some time. But I've described them and wanted to put my words to the test. The gist about how best to drive the trike around while kiting the wing. Where do you put the wing before and during the turn to reduce tipping tendency? How much? Where do you put it in a crosswind? Should it be exactly overhead or slightly upwind? This was the perfect place to experiment because any sliding would reveal technique failure without flipping. You can prevent a flip with propitious use of steering towards the tip. If the trike starts to tip in one direction, immediately steer slightly in that direction. The test was a resounding success. Thanks Albert!

Eric and I did a quick spot landing contest. Right after he nailed one I took his SD and Escape up. Ready for the excuses? Mostly I wasn't ready for a bigger wing and ended up short. It looked perfect turning final at 50 feet but I way overestimated glide. That big wing wafted seemingly straight down. Oh well, next time.

The River Rats go deep. In a few hours this island will disappear below the Atlantic Ocean's rising tide. Fly quickly. Some photos by Masha Dessureault, see file name.


Eric is one driven, dedicated instructor. Every morning they head out for the flying field, leaving with the parabarge at 7:15 am. Not 7:16 am. Visiting friends who tag along best be ready lest they miss the boat.

The first river day was Masha's first flying day. After she'd done lots simulator work, tandems, several hours of ground school, practice with a video and kiting in the trike, she was ready. With Eric on two radios, they went through several inflations before she headed aloft. She had at least two more flights after that before bumpy weather shut the training down.

Several of us continued to fly and Rick from Virginia flew back to Christmas, landing in the field next to his van.

A couple days later, on the next River visit Tim was able to join us for what turned out to be perfect conditions. He tried out the new Pluto wing to compare with his Silex. He liked it a lot. I took the Pluto up for some airspeed tests but it had gotten too turbulent by then.

Besides Eric, Masha and myself, numerous other pilots joined us at various points including Mahsa's mate Marc Mourre, Frank and Joan Savignac, Rob Catto, and Rick from Virginia.

The misty morning boat trip out was enjoyable on its own. I'm sure it gets old after a bunch of trips but it's a cool way to enjoy the nature that passes just a few feet away.

Christmas, FL morning: Looking back on these pictures I realize what an incredible opportunity we had just to see these sights, let alone fly them. It was especially fun sharing it with these people.

Afternoon Formation

It all came together last afternoon (12/14) at Mike's place. At least 10 of us were airborne at the same time. As usual I had a photo mission in mind. Thanks to Eric, Frank and Tim who obliged my requests.

Beach pilot Todd showed up for his first inland flight which obviously went well as we shared some air together cruising down low around a nearby ranch. We're careful to give the cows and horses their space but these animals are well acclimated to the sound of propellers--this is airboat country.

1) Eric Dufour gets his wingtip within about 5 feet of my fisheye lens in order to get this shot. He's flying his new Power Vega. 2) Todd Adams skims the ranchland below me. 3) Frank Savignac and Tim Kaiser snuggle up to my right. 4) The formation in good form. Photo by Todd Adams.

This Takes the Cake

After flying, out came the food and tales—either at a restaurant or in the glider shop. People with a passion are somehow more fun to be around and this group is no exception. Thanks to chefs Elisabeth, Marc and Masha who's fare was fine. Simple and tasty.

Be careful about those Wal Mart cakes. After one fine dinner of hot-dogs, we got out plates, forks, and ice cream, then opened the cake box. Yum, yum. Lips were licked and Mark cut into the cake. "Hmm, that's pretty stiff?" he said in his French canadian accent. "Maybe it's an Ice cream cake?" I mused. Then he separated the piece. "That's, it looks like, no...is that...Styrafoam?" Yup, the Walmart folks had sold their demo cake. It was sure disappointing but boy did we get a lot of humor mileage out of that one. When Mark returned to Walmart their only comment was "there's our demo cake!"

Terry's Beach

Our last day mission was to visit long-time pilot Terry Cohen—Mr. Black Silex. Terry is another one of those brilliant but subdued sorts that's so fun to be around. He's done well for himself but is driven more by a zest for adventure. He lives life to love it. You'll not hear about the gazillion dollars he's made, rather you'll hear how much fun we have. Refreshing.

Tim and I met up with him at his gorgeous place on the inland waterway. After a quick tour and some kibitzing on the back deck we hit the road, following Terry to one of his local haunts.

Man do I love beach flying. A steady 8 mph wind made launching brainless. Bring the wing up, yawn, and when you're ready, turn around. It's fun to just stand there or walk slowly while keeping the wing overhead. It's so otherwise unnatural. Deep down it's the realization of a that impossible dream where you walk airborne. This kind of flying lets me savor it—to stretch out the enjoyment. So I sqeeze in some push and start walking. Then a bit more to lengthen the stride as lift makes me light and a final push puts me into flight, dragging my feet in the sand. Wow is that cool.

We did several flights and, of course, with some swooping and extensive foot dragging. I had to remind myself about low, downwind maneuvering. A few times, for a few seconds, I would have been most unhappy with an engine failure.

Although we had to head out afterwards, Terry (and most of the FL pilots, it seems) will be going to Paul Czernecki's fly-in near Fort Myers. I'll be there looking forward to seeing many others.

Terry Cohen flies a vintage DK GTO. Neither looks its age. Tim, Terry and I put a collective mile-long foot-drag down on this beach's soft sand. Third row pictures by Tim Kaiser.


That's all for this trip. I'm currently jetting back into my home freezer of Chicago. No flying for me there, it's too easy to anticipate the next southern sojourn. Flying fun may be over but it's fun to share with you, to relive and savor. Thanks for letting me.


Before abandoning their soon-to-be-submerged airport, these island flyers gathered for a last snapshot. Disappearing Island is covered at high tide but presents wide-open flying during low tide. You need a boat and an aircraft radio—it's well within New Smyrna Beach's Class D airspace.


Motor Madness

An interesting side story concerns my recalcitrant motor. It would lose power then would barely start then finally wouldn't start at all.

Eric Dufour's many years of two-stroke tweaking has made him quite the mechanic. He's like a bulldog, too.

We went through the basic troubleshooting process that including two different carburetors and a rebuild kit. After digging deep enough to check the seals, Eric found no smoking guns. In fact, he commented how it looked good inside despite its many hours.

He had a brand new Black Devil carburetor (WB37c), never ran, that we decided to try. It completely solved the problem. In fact, it solved a couple other issues I'd been having, too.

She's started on the first pull for the past two outings. First pull. Go figure. It's like having a brand new machine.

It's my own advice in the troubleshooting section: be quick to replace the carb. It's easy, quick and likely to help. That $80 solution would have saved hours of effort and a almost-missed flying session.

She now runs as good as the day I bought her 200 flight hours ago.




Helicopter Tour

After picking Tim up at Orlando we played tourist. Even then we couldn't pass up the $25 helicopter ride.

My main interest was seeing another helicopter pilot and machine in action. Like paramotoring, it's the liftoff and landing that is most interesting. Boy was that eye-opening!

The reason the ride is so cheap because it's so short: 4 minutes. To pull that off they waste no time changing passengers, cruising or setting up the landing.

The R-44's blades were still turning as Tim and I got in. Attendant whisked passengers off and on so the practice is quite safe.

Landing was a demonstration of what the machine can do in capable hands. Our arrival slowdown began, from full cruise, at maybe 500 feet. Steadily and somewhat vigorously we slowed until reaching a hover at the pad.

There was nothing abrupt--it was a well rehearsed maneuver done within the machines capability.

I'd recommend it to anyone.

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