First Flight in Illinois: All 30 Seconds

2008 May 19 Spicely gets her first taste of IL air, but only until the prop came apart

I had no idea a potato could fly that far.

The scene must have some resemblance to a civil war era battle. Dave Moore shoved an unsuspecting spud down the barrel of his latest creation, a potato canon worthy of the name. That potato became the first to fly at yesterday's Batavia Polo Field gathering. It went off with a bang.

He works a series of valves to first infuse clean air into the ignition chamber (barrel's bottom), stuffs the potato down with a pole, introduces propane mixed with air, aims, then presses the trigger, lighting a piezo induced spark.


The potato projectile shoots with enough speed that it's hard to follow without looking down the barrel. I stood back in case something let go like my prop did. Oh yeah, speaking of prop...

Half Minute Flight

When I laid out my wing (Spicely) a tiny breeze came out of the south with a bit of east. Looking over the motor, Jay Reynolds commented on a crack in my prop. Just one more flight, I thought.

The launch was the way I like them, simple. I inflated then eased into foot dragging left turn. Thinking back on it, I remember needing a surprising amount of power briefly while going downwind and then the groundspeed seemed unusually high. That was a tailwind gust but I was going west which shouldn't have been directly tailwind. So I started the climbout and just as I went to get into the seat, I felt a vibration. Nope, that won't do, and I shut the motor off followed by a landing back towards the southeast. Turns out a piece of my prop broke clean off. No other damage and the prop is easily repairable. The strange thing was a strong wind shift.

When I landed, the wind was now due east and quite strong. Obviously that tailwind gust I felt was the leading edge of a small gust front. And the wind continued to blow at probably 10 to 14 mph. Consequently, the other pilots decided to wait until the wind mellowed. Some did kiting practice, as did I.

The fun had just begun, though.

Lance Marczak can build anything. From anything. And he's a great guy—one of those who'll give you the shirt off his back. He was on his way and offered to stop in to my house to pick up a prop but I told him not to bother. No matter, it turns out he had a spare paramotor with him. One that he'd bought for $500 but hadn't flown yet. One that I'd never heard of. One that looked like it was from the middle 90's. I plan to continue expanding my paramotor history section and want to do a piece on paramotor lineage. This one looks like a piece of history and Lance offered (wanted?) to let me be the first to fly it.

I've had an interest in paramotor history and hope to expand on it (time, time, time—need more time!). What better way to learn about the past than to fly its creations.

The Arco Spacer

So lance got everything together and fired it up. Don't you know it started on the second pull and purred like a kitten. It has a Bing carb on a Solo 210 motor with redrive. The box exhaust has a silencer and is the quietest such unit I've seen—not surprising given it's German origins, just like the very quiet Fresh Breeze.

The harness looked just like the Fresh Breeze Flyman model with detachable harness and floating over-the-shoulder bars. It's much like a free-flight harness with low hook-in points. You get in the harness then clip that into the motor.

1 - 4: The cover and first 3 pages of the user manual. 5: Jeff Getting ready to fly. 6: Arco Spacer sans harness. Check out the stock box muffler but with silencer. A bit of power was sacrificed but it was a lot quieter.

We did a test first without the motor running. I put it on my back, kited the wing then turned around as if to launch. Winds were still strong enough so that Lance and Jay could push me into the air for a short flight to make sure there was nothing untoward. It was fine.

So Lance fired it up and I went to launch. Just as I went to turn around, the motor died. I'd been holding a bit of throttle to keep it running and, during the turn, the throttle popped out of place.

The throttle is unusual in that it uses your thumb. Unfortunately, the mechanism is such that it can come out of its holder. So next time I concentrated on holding it better and the launch was uneventful.

It takes a bit to spool the prop up but flies ok. There will be some necessary adjustments, though. The motor hung somewhat heavy and was tilted too far back. I consciously leaned forward a bit to reduce that. But torque was quite manageable and it had adequate thrust. Vibration seemed a bit higher than normal but that could have been an out-of-alignment prop.

Overall, a pretty amazing way to get aloft for $500 (what he paid for this thing) and not a bad ride. I'll now be curious to hear from anyone who knows anything about it. Does it predate the Fresh Breeze or is it a clone? Stay tuned. And thanks Lance!

A new student showed up, Jim, who just happened to see one of us driving by. He came out to join us and should be an excellent addition to our little Illinois group. We're not allowed to do training at the Polo field but that's OK. It's a welcome privilege that the owner allows us to use the field. I and the others are all very grateful.

Thanks to Eugene for taking pictures with my camera.

Dave Moore and Lance also flew although it wasn't for long. Rain splattered lightly towards the end but, all-in-all, we had a great time just getting together.




Jeff foot dragging with the Arco Spacer.

Dave Moore and Daughter (with boyfriend) use and pose with their "big gun."

Jay Reynolds pulls in and Lance flies by.

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