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Paramotor Green Card Party

Nov 22, 2009 Prolific Instructor Eric Dufour Earns "Extraordinary Ability" Green Card

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 an "Extraordinary Ability" Visa.

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 out with.

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 wing, too.

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 flight.

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.

Any serious paramotor school will have the right tools like this throttle simulator. Plus they'll have a good simulator with moving brakes, and some way to get the student aloft before flying on their own.

A throttle simulator doesn't seem like a big deal until you try to teach someone kiting then add a throttle. It adds surprising complexity. Eric has made this simple throttle simulator that moves just like the on his SD paramotor so students can get used to handling the wing and throttle before strapping on a paramotor.  It makes that difficult transition noticeably easier.


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Remember, If there's air there, it should be flown in!