Don't Blink: 2010 Summer Summary

2010 Month Day

Don't blink—summer is rolling by in fast forward. Fly-ins and flyable days have been plentiful but will be dwindling fast. I've probably done a hundred launches in the last two months, both for the video and for fun. Doing stuff for the video is especially fun, especially when I learn new techniques in the process. Repetition is a given since multiple “takes” insures that I get proficient. There are many ways to skin the many cats of paramotor technique.

USPPA.org's calendar shows that almost every weekend had a fly-in somewhere. How cool. There's just nothing like a warm, calm, morning to ooze into flight. Everything about it stretches the senses, even for experienced flyers, as neurons refresh anew the sights, feels and smells. Lightly floating debris on the wind makes the experience more powerfully 3-D. What a wonderful world when motion grants us control over dimensions like our craft does. Precise control, too, darting to tiny targets that can be tapped with a foot. Rarely do I come back, it seems, with no new vegetation on my cage.

Florida flyers flock to their beaches for cool refreshment in the relentless tropic heat. It's still muggy but so much cooler by the water. True, few beaches remain for flying but, for now, it's a great treat to fly them.

Our desert southwest is a tough place to be in summer. But even there you'll find mornings to be tolerable. Yes, being 90°F (22°C) at sunrise hurts but it beats the cold.  Only the hottest evenings keep pilots grounded. Lets face it, there's just no way to be comfortable when the temp pushes past 100°F. Of course “it's a dry dry heat,” but look, it's a dry heat in my oven and the turkey still roasts. I mean really, if the temperature is a setting on some ovens, you probably don't want to be out in it.

Here in the Midwest we're winning win the weather wars with many sunny, calm mornings and perfect warm evenings. And the corn is getting just high enough to make tunnel flying possible through the tractor paths. Yeah, it's kind of a ridiculous endeavor, but then, so are many things we do with paramotors. This is a good argument for genetically engineered corn—it gets to that perfect tunnel-flying height earlier in the year.

Speaking of bizarre—at the recent Kankakee fly-in, near Chicago, IL, we were working on a scene for the Master PPG video. It required the pilot to run in a 360 degree running circle while keeping the wing overhead, using thrust as necessary. Friday evening offered up calm enough wind to pulled it off—what a treat. I gotta tell you, though, we look really silly running with a paramotor on our back and the wing not fully lifting. Really silly.

Another Midwestern treat is towing aloft—using our paragliders as most of them were designed—for soaring. Alan Abair, who lives in Southern Michigan, instructs in paragliders and has a hydraulic payout winch with 3000+ feet of line. Staging from a mile-long road, we were getting nicely above 2000 feet and staying up for over 30 minutes. Thermals were big, wide and weak but then it wasn't terribly bumpy, either, with nice soft lift to work. For anyone who hasn't tried soaring, it's well worth the diversion, especially if you've got hills around. Towing is a great option but it can be quite risky if the pilot and tow operator don't know what they're doing. I still cringe at stories of those who had buddies tow them with cars. That's a good route to the Darwin Awards. Be careful.

This was “Bubba” Peters year for his biennial high altitude extravaganza in the Colorado highlands. Launch is from his slightly sloping front yard amidst scenery that's as spectacular as the launch is challenging. He's at 9000 feet. With the typical 80°F July temperature your density altitude pushes 12,000 feet—you'll definitely be the road runner. One mph worth of wind is worth probably 2000 feet of density altitude so a 4 mph wind makes it feel almost normal. Of course your climb rate will be abysmal regardless of wind. Remarkably, I've flown a Top 80 at that altitude but would have been far happier with more push. Anyone who gets themselves airborne earns Bubba's high altitude patch—a rather significant accomplishment.

Nothing going in the competition arena yet. Hopefully Eric Dufour and company will run an event in the fall, especially since we got waylaid in May. There's a hang glider competition that I may enter with some pretty cool events. One is the 3-landings race—the fastest person to do 3 landings with a 360° turn in between each. Then there's a spot landing and bomb drop. Ought to be different. I've enjoyed this task where I held, as much as possible, one wheel on the ground as I circled on a sod farm. Hang gliders trikes seem easier in some regards and harder in others, as you would expect, so this competition will be interesting if my schedule allows.

All in all, summer is passing by at breakneck speed. I'm trying not blink but, with my eyes beginning to water, I'd better get airborne to dry them out.

Eric Dufour. You'll see more of this picture probably.

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