2008 June 6: My first venture across the Atlantic

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2008-June-6 What a time. Drift off to sleep somewhere over Maine and wake up approaching the UK. Remarkable. I've had dinner and just finished breakfast. Tasty, too. I didn't know anyone still did meal service. I suppose it's enticingly profitable to fill up even 200 seats on a Boeing 777 which nets $100,000. In the 8 hours aloft we'll burn probably 80,000 pounds or about 12,000 gallons of gas.

The strange glow to my right is sunshine starting up at 1AM Chicago time. Lord willing I'll be flying a paramotor by Paul (Bailey, that is) by this afternoon. Lord willing my unwinding body clock won't affect my flight performance.

If all goes by plan, I'll be renting the car then meeting Phil and Natasha. Phil had the great idea to use a common frequency on the radio so we don't have to rely on cell phones at $1.29 per minute. We're glad to have those phones, of course, but won't be chatting excessively at those rates. Now lets see how I handle driving on the other side of the road in London. I'm thinking that spot landing a paramotor will seem like child's play. It'll be interesting.

2008-June-7 What a treat. Paul and Dawn Bailey are wonderful hosts and showed us a rousing great first day in England. No time for details since we're to go for a morning flight. Three Bailey 4-strokes propelled us nicely about the countryside and I tried out the Ozone Viper for the first time. Also got a flight in Paul's Thruster, a well-behaved 3-axis ultralight that he hauls his paramotor in. Cool setup he's got here.

Yesterday was also my first meeting of Natasha, a sweetheart of a lady who is tolerating, and certainly complementing, Phil Russman.

We had the real English experience and adventure yesterday just with driving on the left side of the road. Here's to hoping we survive another couple days of THAT!

Row One: 1) Paul Bailey behind me. 2) Natasha & Dawn. 3) Natasha flies by with Paul. 4) Up close and personal.

Row Two: 1) Paul shows off a header tank used in competition. These pilots love to compete and the drive to reliable efficiency has netted many improvements to his four stroke design. 2) Paul above, Phil Russman below.

2008-June-8 What a whirlwind. There's so much to do, so much to learn, and what a hoot is the process. Paul Bailey and his wife, Dawn, are amazing hosts. I'll need a bigger motor, though, if I keep up eating like this.

Today I spent some time in the home shop of Paul's where he works on machines that either need service or final assembly. The factory is about 20 miles away but some of the work gets done here, too.

Paul has been busy.

He showed the many machined parts that go into his 175cc motor and the improvements he's made over just a few years. Interesting and impressive. Thank God people like that are making motors so the mortals like me can fly them.

ParamotorsUK (updated 2008 June 18)

This afternoon, Paul flew me over to spend the afternoon at ParamotorsUK where Geoff Soden had invited us to visit. What a treat. There's a lot going on in this sport and it was cool seeing some of it coming together here. Competition will spur some and pilots wanting better stuff will do the rest. Creative people like those I met here and other will make it happen.

I got to meet both Noel Whitall, author of "Paramotoring from the Ground Up" and Mike Byrne, the first paramotorist. He first flew a paramotor of his own making in 1980 and this just happened to be the 28th anniversary of his Konig powered flight.

Many other great folks had gathered including an English national runner-up pilot, Mike "Chilly." Ray McMahan let my fly his Bailey 150 and Mike let me try his Dudek Plasma. Man do I like that ride! This is the first reflex wing I've really liked, in fact. Not that the others are bad, they're great for their mission, but this also has superb handling, including the tip steering which was surprisingly responsive and light. When Phil and Natasha showed up to pick me up, he gave it a go, as well. Then Mike brought out his small. Now that's the ticket. If I were to buy a reflex wing today it would be one of the Plasmas.

I was fascinated at the innovation going on. One fellow, Michael Trueluck ("Jabba"), is applying his expertise in racing engines, fuel control and other bits to come up with some cool stuff and has more planned (Jabbasport). Expect to see more from him. Hopefully I'll have more on that elsewhere around FootFlyer.

Everybody was quite gracious and the time was too short. Thanks to Geoff and everyone for being so welcoming. I was thrilled to be a part of their afternoon and honored to meet Mike Byrne and Noel Whitall.

1) Doing a foot drag out of the way with the Plasma. 2) Ray hamming it up. 3) Phil inflating Mike's Small Plasma. 4) Jim Carolan and Geoff Soden set up Jabba's thrust tester.

Paul Bailey Cross Country

When we got back to Paul's, some friends had shown up and Paul had been giving Rides all day in his ultralight. There was food on the Barbie.

First things first, though. Paul is all about cross country flying. In fact, he's equipping Michel Carnet for an attempt at the world distance record. Think 14 hours aloft. He's scheduled to go in the next few weeks--an effort that obviously deserves an article on its own. I'll bet we hear lots more on that one in the coming months.

Paul had motors set up for all of us to make for one last cross country country. And what a spectacular one it turned out to be. Love this home, you can launch in any direction and have little more to contend with beyond tall grass.

Winds had died off to where we all did forwards (my first since arriving), launching into the prettiest green landscape you could ever want to fly over.

All of my flights since arriving here have been on four stroke motors. All flawless, too. And I'll admit to really liking the electric start.

This flight was amazing. Phil and I battled for camera position periodically but it was most fun when I put the camera down and relaxed to enjoy the view. Phil got some great video.

We just tore up the countryside during what was a very short little cross country by these guys standards.

Upon returning we all came in for a spot landing which was easy to nail without any turbulence. Finally. we missed them yesterday in the bumpy air and I missed at Geoff's field (except for the one where Mike RAN the target to me!).

After packing up it was refreshing to just sit there and take it all in. Eating, chatting, reviewing the day. What an end. This morning, we' an hour or so away from leaving for Geneva. Europe sure has been good so far!

Paul Bailey took Phil and I out for a Cross Country around Cambridge, England. It was a hoot, with waterskiing and wheat surfing followed by spot landing in Paul's back yard to awaiting kibbles. Paul did the water skiing and, a few times, got completely soaked!



Phil gets his significant other, Natasha, buckled in for her first ultralight flight around Paul's place. She flew the thing, too. Paul's comment: "She did better than the two of you!" referring to his offer of control to Phil and I.

Putting my Michigan bag to good use. My one paraglider bag was too heavy so I had to break it down into two.


1. Phil (left) and Paul cruise for the camera. Phil got some great video including a particularly deep shot of Paul foot dragging through these fields and in the water.

2. This engine piece from Paul's 175cc 4-stroke is milled out of a solid aluminum block. It's almost artwork! Many improvements have made the motor run cooler and improve reliability.

I tried out this Earbone headset that is both audio and microphone. A push to talk in your hand is handy since you need not release the brake to transmit. Unfortunately, quality wasn't as good as a decent mic and it came out of my ear during flight which renders it unusable. It must be pushed all the way in so as to contact the ear bones. Speak slowly and loudly for it to work better.

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