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Jeff vs The Dust Devil
This was the biggest yet and, I have to admit, probably the best.
For one thing, there were more vendors with lots cool new stuff for the sport. We owe a lot to these
creative sorts who pour themselves into their passion, usually at the
expense of some more-lucrative endeavor.
As to the number of people, there were probably quite a few more than
the 290+ registered pilots. I personally know about 10 who came but
didn't fly there, they just came to hang with friends and check out the
gear, of which there was plenty.
The event let me get to know even more of the incredible people that come into
PPG. Oh the stories they have to tell.
Kudos to Mike Robinson, his beautiful but microphone-shy wife,
Michelle, who was a big part of the event's success and to a large
number of volunteers to help out, everything from being safety officers
to doing clinics, performing foot launch tandems to introduce new
prospects, and probably the most loved volunteer was the fellow who makes
this field much nicer than last year.
This year was won by Chad Bastian. Everything, it seems, was won by
Chad! And he deserved it all.
Most notably, though, was the official competition in which we had
more competitors than in a long time. I have to say, I was leery of
doing this and thank Mike Robinson for suggesting it, for giving us the
field for our time and then even competing. It was the first competition
where we had a wheeled machine fly and it was Mike that did it.
We wanted to be respectful of the other pilots time so we worked out
a short course comprised of just a launch, cloverleaf and spot landing
with at least one pilot airborne at all times.
A HUGE bunch of thanks to our Judges. Eric was the Lead Judge, helped
by his wife Elisabeth who is a bulldog about accuracy. Steve
Clyatt, an paramotor instructor and 757 Captain Brian, helped keep score
on the cloverleaf, even backing up the timing. Leslie Britt and Brian
Thivierge helped Elisabeth run the spot landing which is no small task.
And John Rhule made sure we got the field set up with the requisite
One cool thing is that now any of these people would not qualify to
officiate their own sanctioned competition. Hopefully there will be
others but I realize that it's a lot of work.
Our pilots were exceptional and I thank them for making the best of
our tight schedule. We gave no penalties being ready, that is, everybody
was ready to launch when asked. That was the key to having 12
competitors and finishing in 35 minutes. The field closed at 10 before
1pm and reopened at 1:35pm.
One thing that was cool were the number of spectators who watched. I
was thrilled to hear that lots of people enjoyed watching. We kept it
going quickly so someone was in the air at all times. My only regret is
that there wasn't enough room to put the spot landing target closer to
the crowd line but it just wouldn't have been safe. Maybe next time
we'll figure out a layout that would allow doing so.
Kudos to Chad Bastian who won. And won, and won! He was part of our
U.S. paramotor team in Italy last year and made another impressive
showing here. He also won the kiting war, beating me, I might add. We
were the last tow standing but I had to keep moving to keep my wing up
in the light wind and he was able to kite his ultralight with nary a
single step. That's a cool wing, by the way, with super lightweight
everything, including its tiny rope-like risers. But he knows how to
We also had British Paramotor team pilot Dean Eldridge who took 2nd
place. He's doesn't show up in the U.S. rankings but the prize money was
doled out according to the winners so he got to take some Yankee prize
money with him. We used all the entry fee to go into a pot that was then
split 50/30/20 by the top three pilots.
The kiting war was not related to the USPPA competition and, just
getting into the kiting war required catching a toy parachute of certain
colors. There were probably 25 kiters. My deal was funny since I was not
planning to go for one of the bears. While retrieving my video camera, I
saw a crowd running towards me, looking up so I looked, too and right there,
coming down near me, was one of the little fuzzy fallers—I just went out and nabbed it!
Shows, Clinics, & Acro
Mad Mike gave a phenomenal acro show, D-bagging out of a Trike and
doing everything from SATs to an infinite tumble. It was fun to watch, a
mini airshow and I don't think anybody minded taking a break from their
AirParamo instructor Mo Sheldon put on a kiting clinic and did
tandems. Chad Bastian also did tandems and, get this, did them with a
Top 80 Miniplane!
One of the reasons this place is so special is the typically
beautiful warm weather and all-day flying in a hugely varied landscape.
There are canyons to explore and miles of mountain-backed beach.
We dodged a bullet, though, at this event because southern California
had been some of the wettest wildest weather in history. It ended mere
days before Paratoys started and left in its wake a muddy mess that
lingered, in spots, through the fly-in. Had that weather been a week
later, the spot that I'm parked right now with the Enterprise would be
It was a great treat to spend some time with my original PG instructor,
Jeff Williams at dinner Friday night. We talked about everything from
global warming to reminiscing about my training. Too bad he's not
teaching anymore but his day job is a great gig since he gets to work
from home and periodically soar his back yard.
I love the stories. So many people, so many passions, so many
stories--way too many for my aging memory to recall here. One stands
out, though, from Tom Scott of Olympic PPG. Tom has a fascinating
background with many years as a cop. I'll not spill the beans, because
I'm gonna put it in the magazine article, but suffice it to say that his
props have an interesting "twist."
Short. Bob built a reputation for being a bit, shall we say, longer
winded than some would want. So this year, Michael Purdy, who, by the
way, did a brilliant job of helping Mike put everything together, got
Paul Anthem and Michelle Daniele to MC the thing. They did a GREAT job.
Paul, of "PPG for Morons" fame, and Michelle put on a
great little show.
It was fun seeing Bob roasted by Michelle. Bob Armond has a sometimes
deserved bad-boy reputation but Michelle and I have seen his other side
in action and Michelle shared that with us in her typical, almost tear
inducing, description of one particular example. Only Michelle could
pull that off.
All in all a fantastic time. Lets hope we can keep doing the event
Thanks Mike for putting it on.