That's the Point

It's a special place for soft wings and we're making the best of it.

We were talking about the need to replace my flight suit when it dawned on me that there are two paraglider shops within a few miles of us. Paraglider shops! Cloud 9 and Superfly. Talk about kids in a candy store.

This is Salt Lake City, where the Enterprise is hanging out until heading for Monument Valley in a few weeks. One big reason to come was Tim's desire to improve his comfort level in free flight. Although he's a P2, he's very conservative and reserved about new and/or crowded sites. A sky only gets more full of paragliders at Torrey Pines or competitions.

We arrived Tuesday night and headed for the south side so we'd be ready come morning, staying right there at launch. When enough light made it morning we peeked out only to find there were already students kiting. Consistent winds rightfully make this a training Mecca—you can generally count on kiting practice, one way or another, every AM. If its too strong, move down the hill, if it's light, do sled rides down—the ride up is quick and paved thanks to quarry truck-worthy road.

Unfortunately I don't have the Bobcat this time. That's the speed wing I flew last time to so much joy during particularly strong conditions. We didn't have the wind for it, anyway. Spicely would have to do and, in fact, performed admirably. The Spice is remarkably lifty for its 22 meters and I was able to soar pretty freely. It took a lot of hill hugging and frequent side-hill landings but there were times when I was able to make 5 or 6 passes without touching down. It's actually fun on the edges of sustainability because it means ground skimming. I luuuuuuuuv ground skimming! For one thing it allows me to enact a small amount of revenge on the point's reviled vegetation, rebar weed, aka iron weed. I'm sure it has a real name but the "rebar" moniker is most accurate. If you designed a shape to snag paraglider lines, this is what it would look like. All you need to do is snag one line in that stuff and its probably over.


After soaring Thursday morning we headed out to Salt Air where Steve and Wes were flying. This place is incredible, with a good half-mile of what I thought was incredibly smooth sand. I took a little flight on Wes's nicely-built little trike with Steve's Flattop motor.

After launching, I flew around briefly to get some feel of the machine and its solid handling Ozone Rush wing. Throttle response and torque was normal for a Simonini machine so I came in for some taxi fun. It seemed smooth enough and one thing I love doing on wheels is a 360° taxiing turn. You land into the wind then start turning while keeping the wing slightly inside the whole time, keeping just enough speed to stay controllable. It's a good exercise with minimal risk since the speeds are slow as long as there isn't too much wind—the downwind portion will obviously be rolling faster by the amount of wind speed. We had about 5 mph wind so it wasn't too bad. This works great on grass or smooth surfaces where I've done it many times.

Not this time.

All went well through the first half of the turn then the left wheel hit a hole. Uh oh.

That caused a rapidly diverging left-right wheel oscillation which all but stopped my forward momentum, ending in a low speed tip-over. I immediately killed the motor and thankfully didn't get the prop. But then the strangest thing happened. The motor tried to start again (electric start). All by itself. I wasn't touching the starter and, in fact, kept my finger in the kill switch so it wouldn't actually start. But the motor kept spinning until Steve and Wes pulled one of the plugs.

I'll limit such shenanigans to sod farms and or other smooth surfaces in the future. It was an expensive lesson (bent cage quarter) although it could have been much worse.

PM Cruise & First Motor Flight

A bit later Tim and I foot launched for a cruise down the lake shore.

Salt Lake is huge and reminds me of California's Salton Sea, only 4000 feet higher. Surprisingly my motor hasn't needed any adjustment since I left. Yes, I know, I should have leaned the mixture but its working so well I'm loath to muck with it. Looking at the carb wrong has been shown to make it quit working.

We did some foot drags then headed west towards Bonneville Salt Flats. Not that we got close, that's quite a ways off. Steve warned us to keep at least 500 feet from the Marina since a pilot had buzzed the boats and caused quite a stir among boat owners. We certainly didn't want to put undo pressure on the site.

The flight wasn't terribly long, we just wanted to check out the area before making a longer evening trek with lower sun.

Later on Bill Heaner and one of his students joined us. Mark, (I think) took his first flatland flights. He'd launched the motor from a hill before but never on flat ground. This was the perfect place, too, with a steady 5 mph breeze and a big clearing. He didn't need all the space and had three beautiful flights. It helps that he was already a P2 pilot with lots of wing handling practice.

Tim joined me for a final evening flight and we called it a day. It was gorgeous. I practiced some spot landings, swooping in on my wing bag and picking it up. I tipped it but didn't pick it up on the last one. In smooth air like that it seems like cheating.

Unfortunately we learned later that soaring was epic at the north side. Our previous attempt at flying the north side was met with light winds and I did little more than hop from one finger of land to the next.

Steve invited us to attend the local club's meeting which was interesting. That's an active group and includes a few "point rats" who are staying at the point for several months. I'll bet there were 30 folks there discussing everything from maintenance of facilities to dealing with scofflaws who don't join the club and fly there. They're not wanting to be jerks about it but the state requires all pilots to sign the waiver and be members for the period. It's cheap and all the instructors, it seems, have the forms. There was a fairly serious crash recently of a pilot who didn't sign up which upset state officials. You can understand their concern.

Today is our last day and we'll concentrate on soaring. Maybe we'll even get a good ride at the North side this time—a similar weather pattern to yesterday may keep the force seems with us. We'll also be doing motor maintenance and preparing the enterprise for her 7 day mission to Monument Valley and on to Phoenix where she'll stay for a couple months before heading for San Diego.

Friday Finale

Morning at the south side was much like the morning before only a tad stronger. Busier, too, which made for some interesting situations in plying the pattern. "Ridge rules" are more suggestions than rules because of the dynamic nature of conditions and pilot behavior. One pilot's idea of flying along the ridge is another pilots too-close so it's easy to end up with three lanes where pilots are flying in opposite directions on both sides. It's still surprisingly easy to always have an out and a great tool is knowing where your shadow is, especially during the portion where its in front of you (sun at your back). A quick glance reveals any unseen flyers getting close. If their shadow is blurier than yours, they're above you.

Crowded skies are probably Tim's biggest trepidation and he had his hands full in this sky. He makes conservative decisions so the first time a real conflict arose, he bailed out towards open sky. Good move but it obviously means staying up is harder. Better an early landing than a lengthy ambulance ride. Bill Heaner told me of several accidents where new pilots fixated on the ridge "rules" and wound up hitting the hill. They got the ambulance ride.

I had a blast, trying different things, kiting around on the west-end concrete stands, doing slides, climbing whatever I could, soaring down in the iron weed and occasionally kicking the little heads off of those obnoxious yellow plants whose main meal is paraglider lines. But oh what a price I'm paying now (a day later) for all that physical activity. Kiting does take it out of you.

I've met a number of motor pilots out there including Russ and his wife Angie. Russ was featured in a past Powered Sport Flying article with his custom built 50's looking motorhome. He showed up, kiting in the parking lot after flying, "Jeff, is that you?" How cool. We had a great time catching up and hope to caravan together to the Monument Valley fly-in. He was driving another one of his crazy, and beautiful, creations, an enormously jacked up 50's truck in bright yellow with purple trim.

Mid-day was spent taking care of motorhome matters and setting up a new paramotor cover (here's the one). The old version didn't hold up nearly as well as the more robust one that Tim has on his machine so I got his model.

Around 4pm we headed back to the Point's North Side where pilots were already up and staying up—a very good sign. Good conditions meant it was crowded. The simple ridge rules that all neophytes learn were stretched even more here as pilots would occasionally circle in thermals trying to bench up. I had no prayer doing so on my 22 meter wing although I was impressed at how I was in the middle of the pack regarding height—Spicely was showing her efficient side.

Tim sat this one out, it was just too crowded and weird. Once you get up it's actually surprisingly easy to manage but, from the ground, from a new soaring pilot's perspective, it can look daunting. I probably didn't help when I landed to tell him about how this was a bit more complicated due to pilots thermalling but still easy to manage. You have to all but ignore the ridge rules and count more heavily on your skills in walking on a crowded sidewalk. Yeah, you're supposed to stay on the right but you do whatever it takes not to run into someone. There's limited movements you can make in a paraglider but there's a lot more room than a sidewalk so it's nowhere near as bad as that first impression suggests.

After a good hour of soaring with a couple top landings, it was getting later and I didn't want to get "flushed" so I landed. Then Rusty showed up. We talked for a while until it dawned on us that pilots were still soaring! "Hey, you should get some of this air" I suggested. He's a local so  this isn't such a big deal and he didn't want to go up and sink out. I told him I'd launch too and, if he sunk out, I'd be right there with him. So off we went, he on his small Brontes and me on my small Spice. Most pilots had already landed and a few sunk out so the lift was decidedly diminishing. We scratched. Rusty even landed on a hill finger and relaunched once. Finally, after about 15 minutes of this, it was getting weaker and staying up harder so decided to land on top while the option still existed. Rusty did the same thing just behind me. We both landed on top within a minute of each other. That was fun! Nothing like a little competition to add some spice.

What a great conclusion to a fun little trip. After talking with Rusty for a while, Tim and I headed out to prepare for our return. The time was hugely enjoyable and I'm glad to have made it. This is why the Enterprise is such a blast. Now I'm looking forward to Monument valley and maybe some flying on the way. Afterwards, I'll be heading for Phoenix, AZ where the motorhome will live for probably a month or so.

Until next time...

1. Home.

2. Ham for cam. One fun activity was swooping down on the flowering ironweed and kicking the flowers off. This is my small part at trying to make the hill a more line-friendly environment.

3. Tim Kaiser launches for his first soaring flight at the point, top landing (well, sliding) after about 15 minutes.

4. The dreaded dip that did me in.


1. Headed west, the Ridge Rules say that pilots flying along the ridge should be on my left here. You can see that's clearly not the case. Turn-around complications and differing concepts of close make this anything but orderly. It's still surprisingly easy to manage.

2. Russ and his gorgeous wife Angie. She's not just a pretty face, either, getting out on dirt bikes and now kiting paragliders. We just got to get her airborne!

3. I thought I had it nice living on an airport. This fellow's back yard is the north side slope. Here he's seen packing up after a ridge flight.

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