Unwelcome invader on Paramotor retrieval of Helicopter
I had paramotored up to retrieve the helicopter and was now
helicoptering home. On final approach to my ramp, about 300 feet high,
something caught my attention. Just above me and to the left was a
gut-full of venomous spider dropping down its line. My hands were
obviously busy working the collective and cyclic so there wasn't much I
could do besides trying to blow it away with my mouth. That didn't work
and it didn't do my flight path much good. Spidey dropped another 6
inches, putting himself right in line with my left hand—the one working
the collective and throttle.
I knew it was a Brown Recluse. I've seen those terrifying bite
pictures and it was about to be chewing on me.
Sure enough, he descended the rest of the way and landed on the seat
just beside my left hand. At least he wasn't on my hand. Yet.
I resigned myself that getting bit, as ugly as that may be, still
beat crashing into a flaming ball of blades, helicopter parts and
paramotor fuel (my Fly 75 was beside me). So I concentrated on the
Just before setting down I saw him ascending back up his line to the
ceiling. Ahh, that's a relief. I touched down, lowered the collective,
whipped out the ship's log and smooshed him into oblivion. Yuck.
Yeah, yeah, I'm sure he meant me no harm and all that but how am I
supposed to know? It's not like I study those things. And yes, I realize
that he was not likely to have been a Brown Recluse—hey prefer cool dark
places and are, not surprisingly, reclusive. But its like snakes, even
though I know in my head that most aren't poisonous, I've got no idea
which ones are which so they all get treated as rattlers.
That was a distraction that no instructor ever reviewed!
On a Brighter Note
The paramotor flight up to retrieve Ellie (the helicopter) was
magical. Taking off from my backyard was different this time but also
more rewarding. I was flying the Plasma again which I've really grown to
like for its speed and handling, but it takes more power—something my
little Fly 75 has little to spare.
was dead calm with a slight tailwind aloft. Inflation was slightly
crooked but manageable. I had to run a bit left while staying on the A's
to get Mr. Plasma fully overhead before going to the brakes. Then with
some speed I steered down the centerline and ran like the wind! At first
I wasn't sure I'd be able to get airborne at all but with just enough
brake pressure, eventually I was slapping the ground and eventually
labored into flight, eking out the shallowest of climbs.
It was obvious I wouldn't be climbing above those two trees
(the picture at left is looking down the same
launch a couple years ago) but I knew they were staggered so
I just flew a little slalom around them. That was fun anyway. I just
hate subjecting to the neighbors to all that noise.
Once aloft I pulled the trimmers to full slow for a better climb and
headed for my route above power lines right-of-ways and other
people-free areas. It was nearly perfectly smooth. Music played in my
ears—ear buds are perfect for that.
A couple hundred feet high the inversion warmed things up so, in
addition to my many layers and laced up boots, I had enough to avoid
freezing like I did flight back a couple weeks earlier. Being warm is
About half-way there I found some soccer fields to play in. They even
had cones to play with. It was far more difficult to manage with such
little power because I could never allow a low energy state to
develop—there just wasn't enough power, especially when going downwind.
That was just another challenge, though, and enjoy it as much as flying
the higher powered machines. It did take three tries to pick up the
smallish cone but success under the circumstances was sweeter. I circled
around to drop it back where I picked it up. No, I couldn't get it to
stand up again.
Heading further north I found a gravel walkway through the beans.
That was, of course, irresistible for foot dragging but just barely—I
couldn't afford too much drag. There would be no relaunching from this
narrow bean-bordered little walkway, either.
Getting closer to Gilberts, I circled around the area where I'd
experienced my engine failure in Ellie several years back. Its changed
quite a bit but I could still see the low spot where I had landed—it was
sort of a clearing with marshy looking, but solid, grass.
Arrival over the helipad was early but Darryl's truck was there so I
knew I could land right away. But then another favorite song came on and
I couldn't resist playing over the swamp, swooping and diving, kicking
choice leaves and tickling various swamp things. It was glorious. Plain
glorious. Finally I saw Darryl emerge and give me the "OK, enough
already, land that thing!" signal. So I did. Over the swamp, shut off,
Oh it was sweet!
I don't know why that cross country is so much fun—more than it
should be, really, but it may be that I've been going out on so few of
them in recent times and I miss that. Just me and the machine dancing to
a beat in 3D over new terrain with a mission to accomplish.
No, even the spider that later gave me a scare couldn't take away the
pure joy of that flight. It was another great example of what incredible
freedom we enjoy with these things. Until next year...