Florida Filming

Working on Master Powered Paragliding with Eric Dufour and Friends

Greetings from row 21, jetting back from an extremely enjoyable and productive Enterprise trip to Christmas, FL.

You can tell a lot about someone by the friends they keep. And Eric has managed to surround himself with a cadre of incredible people, starting of course, with his gorgeous and meticulous wife. I add meticulous because of the work she does brining the shredded remains of gliders back to their gliderly form. It looks like surgery--guts hanging out in unnatural ways, pieces parts in various stages of reconstruction and the lines of life seemingly everywhere in a chaotic order known only to Elisabeth. My own wing has gone under her knife so it's good to see the high-level care that goes into it. It's also weird to see how quickly a glider can be deconstructed with one of those stitch-cutter things. Gotta love the engineering that goes into this stuff.

Mike Britt

I didn't even get to see Mike this time because he was on holiday with his wife up in IL (our paths crossed). But I continually marvel at his seemingly endless capability and approach to life. His day job--one of his own creation--is doing what nobody else does with gasses, mostly refrigerant recapture and purification. He's a genius with figuring out how things work and, more importantly, is blessed with the skills to build the things to work. And welding. Man can he weld. Anything. Eric has this new Titanium machine (very cool -- more on that later) machine and I asked him about welding it, when he told me Mike says its no problem. Right. That's Mike. How about anyone else? Apparently it's not as difficult as some make it seem but still, if you gave Mike a hot candle and welding stick, he'd build you a paramotor. In his tent. Mike has a mechanical IQ off the charts.

Then there's my aluminum redrive. Tim's actually. A crack was opening up on a mounting flange and Mike was able to fix it easily, doing a gorgeous job of making the little Top 80 happy again. As it happened I never flew either of my motors because Eric offered up his new Ultra 130 which he's beating on to find any problems before customers do. Aspiring competition pilot Steve Coffey also flew it quite a bit. It's quite the machine, at 46 pounds, ready to fly WITH electric start and probably 30% more thrust than a Top 80. I'm getting spoiled by electric start. Maybe I'm getting soft.

Eric was training so we went to the river each morning aboard one of Mike's creations. I say "one" because there are two Parabarges--the small mud boat and the full pontoon boat. Both are stout aluminum craft purpose-built for carrying people and paramotors, even trikes. The mud boat deftly handles the shallow, muddy waters of summer's dry season whereas the full parabarge is a relative aircraft carrier, well suited to hauling a full wing of fabric flying machines. The boats were built with help from numerous paraflyers and people from all over the world have now ridden on them to enjoy some of Florida's most incredible flying along the north-flowing St. Johns River.

At home, Mike and friends have crafted a compact flying field appropriate for experienced pilots. It's really cool to wake up, walk a few hundred feet and launch. There's enough room for PPG3 level pilots to fly figure eights at foot drag height or even do a Japanese Slalom.

I'm very appreciative of having a place to berth the Enterprise with full hook-ups. That's something I'm not used to since I'm almost always at a flying field, airport, or parking lot somewhere unknown. Solar panels keep me powered during the day but at night I must burn dead dinosaurs. At Mikes, I plug in.

Master PPG

The main mission of this trip was taping for Master PPG 2 through 4 and boy did we get a lot done. Eric Dufour is an absolute gem to work with. Like Steve Mayer and Bill Heaner who helped so much with PPG 1, Eric will make these videos much, much better. A lot of this stuff is just tiring and, frankly, monotonous for the pilot. Challenging, too.

Take, for example, the launch control demo. Remember these are for taking flying to the next level. This demo involved no-or-light--wind forward launches. We induced a cravat in the wing then had Eric inflate and deal with the cravat while running. On the first one the cravat came out during inflation. On the second one, the cravat was too big and had no chance of coming out in spite of him keeping the glider under control while trying. On the third one the cravat came out too quickly and finally, on the fourth one the cravat was almost perfect. I say almost because he was unable to get out and instead lifted off, fully under control, then cleared it inflight by either pulling the stabilo line or doing big ears. All that for what will be on screen for less than 20 seconds on Master PPG 2: Advanced Launching.

Eric's stamina is impressive. He's always been extremely fit but, after heart surgery, had to slow down a bit. He's been pushing himself through a physical regimen of exercise to recoup his endurance and, by any measure that I can see, has succeeded remarkably. Although he complains of slowing down a bit, it's hard to tell. He was working with a student (a fairly advance trike pilot) while working with me on the video. It was a lot. He'd finish with the student, come over to his motor and offer "what's next."

We didn't require many takes on the spot landings. He did the perfect swoop early on, and then did another one, just for the fun of it, where came in, power off from 300 feet, swooped down, plucked a ball off a cone we'd set up and landed just beyond. First take. You da man! Both cameras were rolling--a wide-angle GoPro his frame so the view will be able to see all of his hand movements and my big camera on the ground. That footage will be in Master PPG 4: Advanced Landing.

We also got wingtip drag footage. I suggested using a large wing since it's easier to do with the larger, high aspect ratio wing but he chose to do it with his small Pluto. OK. It worked well and he made it look good. Obviously this stuff is risky, and I make that quite clear in the video, but want to cover the dynamics and inputs required. It's only about a 35 second piece in Master PPG 3: Inflight Precision.

As opportunity arose we did trike footage that will be a nice adjunct to some cool stuff I got last year with Mo Sheldon. At one point he did a 360 degree circle on the ground which isn't that hard if it weren't for the turbulent conditions and wind that he had to deal with.

A big thanks also to Jacksonville Tandem Instructor Rod who was kind enough to do several tandem flights for the camera. He did two flights with Leslie Britt, one with me as passenger and another with me as pilot. Rod did a great job and we captured probably all of the required tandem footage although I'll try to get some variety, too.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Leslie was just gonna bring leftovers for our Thursday meal but then additional bodies started showing up, pilots from Canada mostly, but also some locals, and soon we had a crowd on our hands. Leslie rose to the occasion and wound up preparing an extremely delicious feast. Kind of like her dad, this women is amazing on her own right. She can shoot just about any kind of gun with high accuracy, foot launch a paramotor in no wind, call a class of screaming 8th graders and then make a feast for 20.

Overall it was a wonderful time and I look forward to going back. Thanks!

1. Morning fog made for some interesting images. I've got two sets of scenes for wingtip drags and this will be one. But it's the descriptions and animation that will bring it to clarity.

2. Taping with a home-made camera shoulder-holder.

3. OK, there was a bit of goofing around that went on. This is Eric's trike trainer, a Green Eagle which Steve Coffey is trying to get a ride on.

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