Paramotor Featured on Fox Sports

One grueling day of paramotoring on a TV set
July 27, 2010.

Released in March, 2009, it's now made numerous reruns.

Apparently it went pretty good, including Phil Russman's somewhat comical comment just after landing. He ends his run at the the camera saying "and that's the way it's done" just as the wing drapes down on various camera gear. Classic! But hey, Phil was actually the first guy to land in the boxing ring which turned out to be the story they were looking for. Reality was WAY different than depicted. I'll explain.

When we first talked, the mission was to land, power off, in the ring. I expected to be able to land and touch down in the ring but probably not stop which is why I wanted frangible ropes. My thought was that, if I could touch down in the ring, I'd go into the ropes on the other side. Had it been a real ring, it would have stopped me, especially given that those ropes are designed to stop a 200 pound boxer.

Entertainment TV is about entertaining--telling a visually appealing, interesting story. They excelled but it wasn't exactly an accurate depiction of how things went. Problem is, I succeeded with the original intent (landing in the ring power-off) on my first try -- not much story there. The shot where it looks like I missed was not me. It was Phil who wasn't even trying to land in the ring, he was filming--concentrating on getting a good point-of-view shot. Later on Phil, flying the bigger wing did a beautiful power-on landing in the ring and stopped. THAT became the story. They asked me to do that which I did after trading wings and techniques. A power-on landing like that is quite different (and is covered in Master Powered Paragliding 4). Make no mistake, it's still not easy, but it's a lot easier than doing a power-off approach and stopping in the ring.

You COULD do a power-off landing and stop in the ring but it would, as Phil suggested, be easier with a big, slow wing. It would be riskier since misjudgments in energy management would be harshly penalized with a hard landing.

Overall it went well with minimum risk. I'm not a stunt man and take enough risks as it is so I'm glad this went without hitch. You can see log entries from during the event below the video.

It comes in two parts since there was a commercial break in between.



Part 2


Sept 2009 Log entry:

I never knew paramotoring could make me this sore.

Problem is, I was so focused, so intent and working so hard, that being worn out didn't register until nighttime. Then it hit me like a truck.

Yesterday was my first experience on the set of a network TV show, Fox's "Sports Science."

The challenges were plenty, not the least of which was doing the entire shoot in a constricted parking lot and immediately next to a million bucks worth of production equipment. There were 40 foot tall buildings or wires on two sides, 30 foot buildings on the other two sides and a control tower runway 100 yards north. The control tower folks were quite accommodating of us and we remained well clear of their operations. That's the nice thing about a paramotor, you can do that!

"Call" time was 5:30am. We arrived on the set and checked things out. I'd visited a month ago to determine if it would work and design the layout so as to be both interesting to them and safe for me. The entire area was about 400 foot square. I explained our significant wind limits but also that it's typically calm in the morning which is why we started so early.

To be ready for the confined area, I've been practicing launching, maneuvering, and landing all in a 300 foot square area (300 feet on each side). I figured that would give me some margin.

What little wind there was, less than 1 mph, was exactly opposite the forecast direction. Fortunately, it was designed so we could launch either west or east. Their set, with its cameras, booms, and other gear was in the middle. I'll bet there were 40 people on this set; it was quite an involved production, at least to me.

I had a specific corridor to launch through. That provided lots of the challenge because, as the morning matured, a crosswind developed and we still had to launch in the same direction. Our inflation and takeoff area was long and skinny.

One time the wing came up crooked and I only powered up to a jog so as to steer onto the right course before getting to the set. People had to move out of the way but I didn't accelerate until I was back on course and in the desired track. Man was that fun! You control the wing's bank by positioning your body. Wanna go right, run slightly left, get the wing slightly right then follow it around the turn. Being only in a jog, I had limited brake use.

Launch after launch. It was a lot of work but extremely rewarding and they all went off with no resets. Hopefully I'll have more on it, including a very few pictures. Obviously I was occupied and didn't have opportunity to take any pictures until it was all over.

Some observations. They'll ask you to do some very unsafe things only because they don't know about our limits. But once I explained, there were understanding. I simply explained what I was willing to do.

Communications, using the new setup, were flawless. We're using a specific mic that works extremely well with our application and certain radios and a thumb-mounted push-to-talk (PTT). Even at full power we can hear each other perfectly. I'll be selling it soon on FootFlyer and will explain it for those who want to build it themselves to save money. My goal is to have reliable communications with more pilots when I go flying and share that with others.

The folks on the set were all extremely great to work with and it sounds like the final product ought to be interesting. I'm, of course, looking forward to see the final results.

As always, Phil Russman, flying camera, was great to work with, too. And I'll bet he got some great inflight footage along with doing an exceptional job piloting.

I'm told the show won't air until about March of next year. My curiosity will have to wait.

Choice of Gear

Thanks to Bob Armond of Paratoys who supplied 1 Blackhawk 172, a Paratoys 30 m wing,  Andy McAvin of MacPara for supplying a 25 m Spice, and finally to Mark MacWhirter for letting my fly his beautifully polished and perfectly running Blackhawk 172.

When they first called me, the show was going to be about spot landing. "How accurate can you land that thing without power, anyway?" was the question. Secondary to that was landing in a boxing ring. My choice of wing was a higher performance glider that I could slow down, the Spice 25. But it's still moderately fast. Yes, I could quite reliably get into the ring, but could only slow it down so far. No big deal if the emphasis is on just hitting the spot.

Then the emphasis changed. The "landing on a dime" became just get into and stop in the ring. For that, a larger, slower wing would be ideal. And indeed, that is what I did. The Paratoys still has decent handling but, moreover, can be slowed down a lot.

You'll just have to watch the show to find out how it went.

The whole affair was enormously taxing, very intense, and possibly the most focused paramotor flying I've ever done. It was also among the most rewarding. But boy am I glad it's over!

April 16, 2009

The episode has been posted on the internet (see above). They did a great job but, as you would expect, spiced it up a bit in the editing. Credit to Phil Russman who had the foresight of suggesting the big wing and power-on landing. I was doing them all power OFF (idle so I could do multiple attempts) since "fan man's" motor was off at the time of his landing although nobody knows for how long. But when Phil landed in the ring with power and stopped, they were ecstatic and asked me to do just that. Landing and stopping with power is obviously dramatically easier than landing in the ring, power off, over the first ropes and prior to the second.

Either way it was a lot of fun, stressful, and worked out very well.

I've gotten permission to spill the beans. The show is Sports Science on Fox Sports. The task started out as landing on a dime from a power off approach at several hundred feet. All to see how possible it is to land one of "these things" accurately. It morphed until it was all about landing in the ring.

There was one tense moment. I was told to come in for the landing so I shut off the motor. At 50 feet or so, gliding towards the target, they came over the radio "hey, we need a couple more minutes." Even if the hand-start motor was easy to restart (and I'm told this one is), there clearly wasn't time for that. I continued the landing onto the target. The issue was that crew people working nearby didn't know about my approach. So we made the communications channel way more direct and that solved the problem.

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