The Necessary Cross Country
2009-08-31 Annual Trek
It's that time of year again. My wallet quivers as Ellie the Heli
heads for her annual inspection at Olivers Helicopters, in
Gilberts, IL, 35 miles away.
When weather allows, which is most years, I strap my little Fly 75
into Ellie's right seat along with a paraglider, then helifly up there
and parafly home. Thankfully, this year the weather cooperated. What's
better is that I still have the Dudek Plasma 22, a sporty, full-reflex
speedster. Cross country is what these wings were bred for—perfect for a
35 mile trek.
Winds were lousy for launching from the helipad, a small spit of land
protruding into a foot-sucking swamp. Launching over that is my only
option and requires a wind anywhere from southeast through west. Today
it was northeast—impossibly close to power lines—so I had to go
elsewhere. While flying Ellie in here I knew that launching from Olivers
was out so I scoped out an area two blocks east. It used to be more
launch friendly but was now all grown up in the tall weeds of economic
neglect. But there was a road that would work.
I laid out, fired up and hooked in. Daryl Oliver, my meticulous (and
amused) helicopter mechanic who brought me here in his truck, was down
at the intersection to look for cars. As I was standing there, idling,
making one last quick check of the lines before launching, a cop pulled
up to my right. I was set up on a barely-raveled road next to a large
commercial driveway so cars could easily get around me. That's where the
I looked at him, he wasn't getting out so I figured "oh well, here
goes," nodded acknowledgement, looked forward at Daryl who gave me a
thumbs up for traffic and I launched. Whew!
The flight back was different than most. My Fly 75 is needing some
adjustment and isn't putting out quite what she used to. Plus, flying
the power-hungry Plasma fast an furious meant that most of the time I
was near full power. But oh how sweet it was when a lake-effect easterly
came crashing in. My route steers clear of DuPage airport and numerous
congested areas which means I go basically straight south then turn
east. Shortly after making that turn, I encountered a stiffening
easterly wind—boy was it nice to be on a fast ride. Tip steering works
REALLY well on this new breed, too (kin to Fusion and Viper). Just to
check the wind, I slowed way down with trimmers in and heavy brakes then
watched my ground progress. It wasn't much. Back to speed.
Landing in my back yard is always fun but after returning from a
cross country like this its particularly pleasing. How grand it is to
occupy a time where such a feat is possible.
A day after dropping Ellie off, Tim and I went tooling around some
far-west suburbs. Just another flight, a joy ride in familiar territory
with my favorite ride (Spicely).
Some nearby homeowners, man and wife toting two adorable little ones,
strolled up to check us out. They'd watched us fly numerous times from
their den window and figured this would be a good time to check it out
We flew around just enjoying the experience. A fair amount of wind
made for jiggly air but it also allowed landing and walking at a really
relaxed pace. I did that for our spectators, walking along the sidewalk
then lifting effortlessly into flight. Man I love that!
Shortly we left the area for a cruise around some new construction,
including another one of our many new monuments to the children—they
still call them schools. These monstrosities sport a half-dozen tennis
courts, indoor swimming pools, more soccer fields that I had time to
count and enough parking for every student to leave an SUV during
classes. No wonder my property taxes fly higher than I do.
There's nearly always some adventure and this flight was no
On the way back I saw a young couple walking up a 25 foot high mound.
The thin mound runs north-south and just barely wide enough for a
vehicle to fit. Easterly winds made it almost soarable but certainly not
with my 22 meter Spice. That wasn't my intention this time, anyway,
landing on it was. I came in to the right of the people, angling in a
bit, approached, pulled brake, swooped up a but and plopped down on the
road. Hand up to keep the wing overhead and started talking to the
I was just standing there, kiting, talking, when the wind died down.
Uh oh. By the time I got turned around it was too late. The wing came
down. Oh well. I talked for a couple more minutes, bundled up the wing,
walked down, reset in a small clearing and launched. How cool is that!
Only with a PPG.
I did come around one more time and did the same thing only this time
I walked down the road, went around them, and launched running down the
north part. Gotta do it right.
Man I love summer!
Just another joy jaunt that reminds me how good life is. If I never
fly again, I can revel in what I've been lucky enough to experience. We
who fly these things have a remarkable ability like none other. Such
freedom is precious indeed and so worth preserving.
1) Some future pilots? 2) Tim had to
correct a 50% curl-up before launching which he did nicely. 3) While out
flying I landed on two mounds. This first one was a big triangular
shaped affair with a cross on top--no idea what that was for, especially
given that this seems like a public park. 4) Cruising. 5) After landing
on the second mound, a long, skinny affair, I was unable to kite so had
to walk a hundred feet to this little clearing. Took out some corn on the
way out of this place. 6) Cruising back.