Beach Blast 2009

Paramotors Invade crowded Panama City Beach

John Black has outdone himself here. I don't think I've ever seen a U.S. city this far behind any paramotor events. All have tolerated our presence but John, and the forward thinking folks here, have made us welcome. Nicely done. They are apparently for next year as well. And folks, enjoy this while it lasts because historically, beach fly-ins have a life-expectancy of between 1 and 3 years. This is a rare opportunity to experience a unique way to fly while showing the public our incredible capability.

There is only one other beach fly-in that is held, somewhat under the radar, in Galveston, TX. Those Texas boys, who are here now, have a huge beach that's perfect but it's out away from everything. Better for flying, but more spartan for accommodation, spouses and exposure. Here, the launch is right out your hotel's beach door. It's much like the now-extinct Treasure Island Fly-in but with a welcoming city.

I almost didn't make it due to a work trip that ended Friday night. Morning airline connections wouldn't have gotten me here in time, especially since my primary mission was recording video of Chris Santacroce's motor maneuver's clinic. So I wound up flying the Bonanza (small single-engine airplane) down early Saturday. Even after going around a nasty line of goo (thundergoo, an official aviation term, I'm sure), it was still only a 5 hour trip from near Chicago. Gotta love living on an airport!

I got a room with a view right in the middle and at about paramotor fly-by height. Perfect for video. After setting up the camera I went to the balcony and started shooting. I'd grab a few minutes of launches and flybys from here then go down.

Within 2 minutes of starting, a fellow took off, flew by my balcony and started a right turn. A hard right turn. A too-hard right turn that caused him to spin around backwards and flop down into the sand on his back. Amazingly, and for a change, I managed to stay steady on him the whole way down. This may be the clearest ever shot of a spin in high def from just level with the wing. Thankfully, he was completely unscathed. His motor took all the impact, aided by soft sand. Needless to say, it could have been much, much worse.

At first I figured it was another attack of the torque monster but, in looking at the tape, not so. In fact, it was right brake that did the deed. Torque monster's attack the left brake by twisting the pilot left, thrusting him left as the wing goes right. He pulls left brake to stop the turn but pulls so much that the glider spins. That's the usual modus operandi. In this case, he pulled a bit more brake than the wing could handle.

There was a wedding so the flying had to be shut down at 5:30pm on Saturday but, with all day flying, that's not a huge deal. The banquet was held at a well-known local steakhouse and John did a great job. Chris Page was the big prize, a free-flight harness given by Blue Sky Air Sports.

John is apparently in talks with Disney World about possibly having an event there and, amazingly, they are open to it. Not likely but I didn't think us getting welcomed back for next year was that likely, either. Wouldn't THAT be a hoot!

With almost 190 pilots (184 at last count), this has proven to be a popular date and location. As I write this pilots are launching (and I'm taking video breaks) into a laminar southwest breeze.

Congrats John and company on your first, and very well done, event. Put Panama City on your calendar for next year.

The 6th story view gives a front seat to the action. These rooms were heavily discounted for this event and they're all condo's, so they have full accommodations.

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