Eric Dufour is has been one of our country's most prolific paramotor
instructors since coming from Canada in the early 90's. His successful
schools have been in numerous locales including western Florida,
Albuquerque, NM, north central Florida and now Christmas, Florida. But
his Canadian citizenship always required that he periodically leave the
U.S. annually. That, and other reasons, was enough for Eric to apply for
This Visa requires high level skill in an area
that would be considered a benefit to the country, enough to warrant
being able to live here permanently. That's hard to get. As his wife
Elizabeth tells it, only about 1 in 20 who apply, succeed.
Saturday, Elisabeth and the Britts threw a party for Eric and about
60 of his closest friends. And of course, the entire thing was
structured around flying. Phil Russman and I joined in the festivities
while also doing some taping for the upcoming video series. Mostly we
just had fun. It was a great group of people that I truly enjoy hanging
On Saturday night we consumed heavily then watched a gorgeous
4-minute tribute to Eric, with pictures from his youth mingling in with
really cool video shot of Eric from Phil's helmet cam. Hopefully he'll
put it up on YouTube. Michelle Daniele and I also read a little tribute.
Well, mostly a tribute with a bit of roasting, too.
Flying was awesome, as usual. Saturday morning I earned my "Gator
Patch," an award for those who successfully "tip" an alligator. In my
case, an inflated version of the real deal. Marty Hathaway and Captain
Don (who recorded it) had this poor thing laying with its nose perched
down on the water. No, it wasn't the real gator patch, an award saved
for those few who have tipped the real thing, but it's as close as I'll
ever get to being in that particularly exclusive and secretive club.
Quite a few pilots earned their patches that day.
Lets just say that these guys know how to have fun. Lord knows you
won't find a more welcoming bunch.
Unfortunately, I have very few pictures mostly because I was
primarily recording video. But thanks to Leslie Britt, I've got a few of
our last morning's flight and some Droid phone shots. Perfect weather
meant that we could basically fly all day and fly we did.
Thanks again to Mike Britt, also an accomplished pilot, who's place
we hung out at and who built the famous parabarge that we used every day
to get to the flying site. The man can build anything. Now he's built a
new boat, smaller and more nimble, that's used for extracting pilots
whose propulsion has ceased in places undesired. It was needed twice.
When we arrived, Eric was drilling two students through their 15th or
16th flights. They just kept at. Both were in excellent physical shape
and had no problem with the pace. Eric was, of course, relentless in his
pursuit of excellence for them.
Phil and I flew the little SD 100's which are plenty pushy and quite
comfy. They worked flawlessly. I also tried the new Venus 23 and liked
it a lot. If you're looking for slippery performance with good handling,
this one is tops. Hopefully I'll get to do a review but Carlos Curti,
the excellent pilot who was trying it, has been putting some hours on it
also seems to like it. One value is that it would be a great soaring
We also flew some formations for Phil who is a genius with his helmet
cam. The combination of knowing what to point it at, being smooth, and
being a good pilot makes him especially adept.
Row One: 1) Elizabeth & Eric
celebrating. 2) Parabarge Crew. 3,4) Frank Savignac shows off his new
Fly Products trike. It's not legal to be flown in tandem in the U.S. but
is in Canada. He's even got his Canadian registration number on it.
Row Two: 1) Carlos' prop fell off but,
with help from his friends, searching from water, land and air, they
found it. He promises to preflight next time. 2) At the party I got to
eyeball my inflatable victim up close. 3) Eric gets another pilot
airborne. 4) This is Mike Britt's second creation--a mud boat, specially
equipped to carry PPG's, of course.
Row Three: 1) Phil Russman is powering
up his editing machine with a Diet Coke--nectar of the gods. 2) Steve is
tuckered out. For good reason, he just completed something like 15
flight in order to reach exactly 100. Congrats! 3) Thanks to Tim who let
us use his Blackhawk motor for some spot landing work. Also thanks to
Eric Dufour who let us fly countless spot landings on an overworked SD
RDM and to Frank Savignac whose RDM Walkerjet let me go on the formation
Onward to Pine Island
Next up was Pine Island. After dropping Phil off and visiting a
friend in Bradenton, I met the boys of PlanetPPG. Unfortunately Paul
wasn't there but Doug but the others were wonderful.
I tried out the Nirvana Rodeo and Cruise Trike, a 23 pound carbon
fiber affair that is nicely done. One thing I had to try was a reverse
inflation while basically "wearing" the trike. And it worked. I didn't
want to run the motor in case something went awry, but if the motor had
been running, it would not have been difficult. I watched (and
videotaped) Nirvana's Pavel pull it off in Phoenix last year. That's a
cool aspect of the super light weight trike.
We were going to fly more but a recalcitrant motor (different unit)
and impending weather cut that plan short.
I didn't get many pictures because I was busy trying and flying.
Thanks to the fellow who helped me by shooting video. St PeteDoug
falwell, Kent vermeer
Now thanksgiving in Fort Myers with my parents is making a fine
top-off to my little jaunt.