Dec 22, 2009 A little bit of everything with wings
Here I go again. Paramotoring is a great workout as evidenced by the
most painful upper leg muscles I've felt in a long time. It's a good
pain, of course, in how it was earned.
Tim Kaiser and I are trekking again, this time in Phoenix, AZ where
the Enterprise has been awaiting action that has been too long in
coming. 62 days to be exact. Pain from that fact focused most clearly at
the airport parking exit where my wallet quivered nervously as the
fellow's eyes opened up. "You were here SIXTY TWO days?" he asked. "I'm
afraid so." The Enterprise was exacting vengeance for my neglect.
Dec 20, 2009
First stop was Lake Pleasant where Phoenix northernites gathered for
aerial frolic. Like everywhere I go, pilots tend to congregate in
separate areas near their homes albeit with frequent cross-pollenation.
It had been a couple weeks since I'd flown and neither of the
Enterprise motors had been run in two months. So it felt particularly
good to get airborne. Mr. Blackhawk started right up and ran perfectly,
always a relief after such a long dormancy. I warmed it up briefly then
checked all the connections, especially its exhaust. I love the Black
Devil but its exhaust can be troublesome. They all can. But I've got
safety wire on both main exhaust bolts which has saved my bacon when
both bolts came loose the safety wire's kept them on.
Adam and his son/prodigy, Wyatt, were there along with Ryan Shaw of Paradrenilin and several other folks. I went aloft quickly for a fix
then Tim got his fix. But we wanted to reshoot a scene for Master PPG 1,
one that's already done but that we think can be done better. It's where
the pilot starts wearing a free flight harness, turns around and, during
the turn, a motor appears and he launches. So we shot several versions
with the kiting harness, then with the motor, shot them again in the
same way. Then I'll mesh them together while editing so it looks like
morphing from kiting harness to motor launcher. I have to say, it looks pretty cool.
Then I did a bunch of power-off spot landings. Oooh those felt nice
and Tim got most of them from various angles and zooms.
Somewhere in there, a high-time free flight pilot got his first motor
launch done, on wheels as it happens. The first couple tries were aborts
then he made it on the third in spite of a scary looking oscillation.
Paraglider pilots shouldn't treat even trike launch casually. This
fellow did it right, getting help that possibly saved him many hundreds
of dollars worth of equipment. He topped of the flight with a flawless
Finally we went on a cross country. Adam, Tim, Shawn and myself
headed out for some fun and photos. Adam has gotten quite adept with his
high-def video camera, capturing fun shots of racetrack flying, pipe
drags, path following and pretty scenes around a small lake. He put
together a fun
little mix of his shots.
The racetrack was a hoot. It was Adam's idea and I jumped at it.
After circling low once to see where the wires were I went down for the
drag. I've never done that before--dragging my feet around a hard-packed
dirt racetrack. How cool. I got a couple burbles from drifting wake but,
otherwise, the two rounds went very well.
Adam also showed me my first pipe drag. A long, smoothly curving
piece of black pipe lay there, calling our feet. After Adam did a pass,
I gladly accept his wave to do it myself for his camera. The pipe's
surface offered an ice-like slipperiness which made it a dream to slide
along. Man was that fun.
Alas, darkness forced us back to the field. I climbed up to 500 feet,
crossed the runway, shut down and ski'd into another fond memory.
Dec 21, 2009 The next morning Ryan Shaw
of Nirvana offered to let my try out his motor and wing. I'd flown the
Rodeo before at Paul Czarnecki's but didn't get many pictures because I
was doing video. This time Tim was there to take stills so I got more
I also wanted to try the wing, a 19 meter model that Nirvana pilots
used in various precision type competitions.
The motor is a very nice implementation with lots of quiet power,
easy portability and good balance that I'll do a review on. With the big
prop it has a fair amount, but manageable amount of torque effect. Newer
pilots should definitely start out with the smaller prop, though.
The wing, a Komaka XS (19m²) was a big surprise, I absolutely loved
it., mostly for the handling. Turning is extremely responsive as it can
be way more divey than even the Spice, my current favorite ride. In
fact, it reminded me of the few speed-flying wings I've tried where
fairly light brake input quickly allows a big dive. I love that trait.
You can still turn it flat by using appropriate opposite brake but if
you WANT to dive, it will do so, and pronto. It would bite quickly
anyone who got the least bit aggressive without due respect. I don't
know about efficiency because I lazed out of doing the full test
battery. Hopefully I'll be able to score a demo version to take home,
maybe next summer.
I completely forgot to try the cart which is light enough that you
can stand with it for doing reverse launches. Next time.
Next up was a glider checkout for me and glider ride for Tim. The
plan was for Tim to go up with one of their instructors for your basic
commercial glider ride. And I really wasn't planning on a full checkout,
it's been 30 years since I've flown the SGS 2-33 so I just wanted a
refresher. But the checkout went well and Ron, who manages Turf Soaring
School, offered that I should take Tim up. Cool.
Ron has more flight time than God, most of it teaching, had me go
through the usual drills, gave me some good points of wisdom, refreshed
others and set me loose after a checkout in the rear seat so I could
give Tim the A-ride. We also did a couple spins with recovery on a
heading. It's been a long time but I used to use spins to get down
before our club's 1 hour time limit was up.
Oh what fond memories! My entire flying life started with this
glider, a venerable metal and fabric Schweitzer creation of the 1970's
which has seen lots and lots of air time. I'll be back.
South Side Soaring, well, Gliding
Monday was a busy day. After glider flying we headed for the South
Side, hoping to chuck ourselves into a soaring flight. While driving
there and talking to Adam, wind's changed and we had to go to a
different launch site. Shawn picked Tim and I up at a convenient parking
area, drove to near the launch site where we then hiked the remaining
mile or so.
Then the wind died. Then it went tailwind. Ahhh parawaiting.
Thankfully, the wind cycled enough to let a couple pilots launch. 13
year old Wyatt showed us how it should be done with a perfect prance off
the steep, rocky slope. There wasn't any room for error there and only
room for one glider at a time. If it came up crooked, you'd have to
abort right away. And don't let that wing frontal because the ledge was
sharp and craggily with a cactus chaser to anyone who blundered over it.
I wanted to go last so as to film each launch. Each pilot took time
on launch awaiting some headwind. Darkness drew closer. When Tim got his
just-before-me turn the wind died again only now there was only 20
minutes to sunset. The wind was mostly cross but slightly tailwind from
where he was laid out. I found another little area, to his left, that
would let me launch into the cross without any tailwind component. That
way, if he had to hike back down, I could just go for it. That's what
Thankfully my wing came up nicely and I headed out for a super-smooth
sledder. I can still enjoy those flights and, on landing, I did the
longest foot drag I think I've ever done, sliding along the pavement for
what seemed like 50 feet plus. How fun!
Tuesday was forecast to be lousy and indeed it was. That's ok, we met
up with a non-flying friend and worked on projects.
All the flying left me incredibly sore. So many launches, landings
and foot drags wore out my inner thighs. I come on these trips and think
I can just go whole hog without building up to it only to find my
physical limitations. Kind of like the guy who hasn't been in a gym for
20 years thinking he can become Arnold in 1 session. Ouch.
1. Hiking up was slow but, given the
beautiful place and weather, I can't complain. The only downside was
Tim's pack. He didn't have a rucksack and had to make due with a
very-awkward stuff sack. We'll bring a rucksack next time. 2) Adam
launches perfectly. Notice that he's holding FULL brakes to keep the
wing from overflying, something can be a risk on steep inclines since
the wing is trying to fly way out in front. 3) The free flight crew
gathers below along with an out-of-town motor pilot who just happened
upon us. That was fun!
Wednesday dawned clear but cool. I didn't come all this way to see my
breath condensing so we're begging off the morning session and heading
for Mo's new shop at PRA with plans to fly either there or McCartney.
Ahhh the anticipation. He's training a couple students including another
fellow from Southwest Airlines pilot Alec Stewart. Too bad I'll miss
We never made it to McCartney because we took too much time checking
out Mo's new shop. Very nice! Lord knows he's got gear in there to make
stuff, with benders, drill presses, and a basic CNC machine that can
make sophisticated parts. Now all Mo needs to do is clone himself so he
has time for all of it. He's on the airport so flying is only about a
1/4 mile away. Unfortunately, you can't take off from his driveway,
which is within spitting distance of planes taking off from
PRA's runway 21.
After a shop tour and review of Mo's latest trike version, we headed
out for a brief flight. Brief because it was so friggin freezing! What's
up with this, can we please get some global warming here. Yes, I know,
local pertubations are irrelevant and all but I'd sure like a piece of
it right now.
Tim, Mo and I braved the cool for some short but beautiful flights
around the area's little hills and many cacti. I also tried out the
latest Power Gold 130—their flagship high power machine. I'll do a
review of it, too but one thing they've done brilliantly is handle the
torque. Even at full power I had very little torque turn tendency and
full power is very pushy! After landing I checked out how they did it
and you can see that the motor is off centered towards your right
shoulder. The large frame did bump my legs a bit on launch but overall
it's a very nicely balanced machine.
I had just repaired my prop from rock damage at Lake Pleasant—the
consequence of foot dragging on takeoff over their rocky surface, a well
known prop-nicker. So I launched here at PRA, flew over to an obviously
old cloverleaf stick, kicked it, and it kicked back, going into my prop
and taking out a big chunk. Oh great. I came around, landed, did a quick
field fix, and continued to fly. More prop work tonight.
1) Mo hoists up his world's most
understanding Golden Retriever, Rosa, using a winch-powered PPG
simulator. This Zuba sim, or something like it, is a must for every PPG
instructor. It has a full set of risers with working brakes. 2) Cruising
along a mound was bumpy but beautiful. 3) Mo kicking up dust on landing.
4) Mo launching the Pluto. 5) Jeff trying out the Fly 130. 6) Tim
showing off a light wind reverse.
Phoenix Regional Airport Tandems
Brrrr! Another chiller in the making although it's supposed to warm
up to 62F. Right now it's 38F. Yuck. I suppose I shouldn't
complain—Chicago is chilling out under an ice storm warning so it could
be a lot worse. Oh yeah, I'm going back there this afternoon. Hopefully.
The plan this morning is to try out a tandem setup on my Blackhawk.
This is improvisation at its best. All the flight hardware is certified,
with appropriate steel carabiners and quality spreader bars. But the
U-bar that helps guide the passenger, and carries no flight loads, is
max lowbrow. We'll see how this works.
No tandem this time. Mo was kind enough to let me use his Pasha 43
and lend a pull but, with no wind, I was unwilling to go for a first
flight. Not only was there no wind but it was variable, occasionally
coming from behind. We did do an inflation that went perfect. I
throttled up, started to run but soon realized that I would need a lot
more speed and just wasn't willing to do that for a first flight on new
gear. I'd rather have at least 5 mph. Next time.
The morning wasn't a loss, though, both Tim and I went for some local
flying and I even got some taping done for Master PPG: 3, Precision
Flying. With Tim recording, I flew along at a few feet level then
pulled some brake in a way that will be used to show, in minute detail,
how brakes control pitch as opposed to how throttle changes pitch, among
I rounded off the trip with a power off, Eric Dufour style spot
landing while Tim taped. Being lazy, I just flew Tim's Pluto which was
already out. What a hoot.
Mo wasn't feeling 100% so he begged off flying this morning,
especially since he had lots of other business to work on. He's sold
quite a few trikes with many more in need of building. His shop is very
nicely equipped, even including an RV dump station, water and electric.
He was an exquisite host for which we are very thankful.
And so the trip comes to an end. We're on our way right now to check
out a property on an airport. Not that a move is imminent, it's not, but
as much as I hate cold, it only makes sense to keep an eye out. Plus,
I'd already talked with these folks about flying paramotors and
helicopters and they were fine with all that--a rarity.
It's been a great time and I thank the Phoenix Flyers who helped make
it even better. We had a great time!