Phantastic Phoenix

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.

Lake Pleasant

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 landing.

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.

Nirvana Flying

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 pics.

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.

Sailplane Flying

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 happened.

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 him.

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 other things.

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!

1. I tried out some new gear and, in the process, got a picture that I've been wanting to get for a long time. It shows why forward inflations can be difficult— The D lines are pulled .

2. Tim and I flying the glider just south of Lake Pleasant.

3. My first flight in a SGS 2-33 in probably 20 years (or more). It actually came back fairly well.

4. Adam, Tim and I flying around enjoying the scenery, taking pictures and playing.

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