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
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
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.
(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
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
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
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!