Endless FootDrag 2011
Miles of smooth grass beckons us skyward
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I could have gone for another mile without turning, sliding both feet
along the grassy smoothness of Oklahoma's 2nd largest sod farm. Kudos to
the owners who let us fly here--this place is awesome!
We're just west of Ft. Smith, AR in the middle of expansive
eminently-Launchable grass. Pull your paraglider out and launch right
from your camp site. We're all parked in a central area near where they
store equipment. Yes, this is a field and a potty fly-in but given the
remarkable nature of the field, I'm lovin' it. Plus, I've got ice cubes
in my drink, internet service and air conditioning if I choose to use
it. All courtesy of the Enterprise. It's good being such a simpleton
because just being able to sit here sucking down an ice cold beverage
and writing on the computer totally amazes me.
Thursday was windy during the day but some pilots took advantage of
an evening glass off. Not me; I didn't arrive until midnight. Friday
morning was breezy which made it perfect for another fun time:
paraSkating. I put the rollerblades on and used my paraglider to go back
and forth on the enormous field. It was a blast. And a learned a bit
more about how to do it and the limits.
paraSkating isn't has hard as you might think as long as you're real
comfortable with the wing. It's far more about wing handling than it is
about skating, in fact. Britton Shaw is a great wing handler but never
skated before and thought this looked cool so he wanted to give it a
try. And don't you know, he did a great job right from the git-go. After
a couple amusing inflations where the wing tried to roll him into it, he
got the thing figured out and was tacking like a wild man.
As an aside, don't ever park your motorhome at the Little Rock
airport. So far, in 8 years of doing this, I've never been charged
double if the lot is under 75% or so capacity. Never again.
Yesterday evening we got to try a practice run of the new competition
and I absolutely love it. Everything is quite compact and it goes
quickly. We've got 6 pilots and the biggest field for competition ever.
Funny that now we've dramatically reduced the size requirement.
Britton Shaw is the Lead Judge and runs the launch. He's running it
quickly but a bit less condensed than I had envisioned but it's working
out great. This is safer with fewer people in the air, namely the
competitor doing the task and then, when he finishes the task, the next
guy launches as the previous competitor goes in for his "quick spot".
That's where you shut the motor off at about 50 feet (must be off for 7
seconds) and try to hit the spot.
We did a complete practice run yesterday evening but got blown out
this morning (Sat). However, several pilots did fly in spit of 12 - 18
mph winds. I did several flights and really enjoyed it because we have
such a large area to play in. Dancing with the wind is fun. I even got
some useful high-wind video for the Master PPG 2 video, showcasing
techniques that make it easier to manage.
It appears that we should get a session in this afternoon.
It's a great group of people and, given that there's probably around
20 pilots and 40 total folks, it's fun getting to know people. The large
gatherings are great but it's also nice to spend time at smaller events.
There's also free-flying here, and I have my free flying stuff, but the
weather is not cooperating.
As with most activities, it's the people that make it really
enjoyable and here I've found a great group of people. There are 4
ratings clinics going on, two for instructor and two for other ratings.
Kiting War by Britton Shaw.
There's been a never-ending source of entertainment here. After
morning flights were braved by the few wind-willing, there was roller
blade kiting, regular kiting, students working on stuff, trying out a
new wing and then finally, this evening we were able to pull off a
competition using the new style. It seems the pilots liked it quite a
bit more. It's more work in some ways because there's three launches and
landings where before there was only one. But again, consistency is
Ryan Shaw is going to be the guy to beat now. He's skilled and
aggressive. He's gonna kill me in the slow/fast and Japanese slalom.
I've still got a chance at winning since I managed to hit
everything--all three launches with cone-kicks, all three power-offf
spot landings with cone kicks, and all the sticks. We'll see. Scoring
should be done by tomorrow.
In 2009 at the world air games I saw a great display of
sportsmanship. Leader Mathieu Rouanet lent his complete motor, the one
he would need to win, to a competitor whose machine would not start.
That loan run was eventually not allowed because pilots must compete
with the same motor they started with, but the act was remarkable no
less and stuck with me.
Yesterday, my motor, which has been starting easily, would not start.
Ryan Shaw, my closest rival at that point, loaned me a spark plug
wrench. I took off the plug, saw that it was dry, realized it could
tolerate more prime, and started it after 3 more pulls. Had I not been
able to complete that run -- the highest point task in the competition
-- I would have basically been forfeiting.
Kudos to Ryan Shaw for his ultimate Sportsmanship!
Final results spreadsheet (Excel Format).
Today, Sunday morning, turned out to be some surprisingly decent
flying up to about 200 feet AGL. I flew the alarm clock run (7am or so)
until a sudden wind increase made it nasty. Strangely, after about 30
minutes, the winds died down and soon many pilots took to the air.
I'd guess that most of the 25 or so pilots got some flying in and
many of us (me included) flew morning and evening each day. In spite of
the winds it was a great time. And I got to know a number of new pilots
in the sport and spend time with friends which is always a treat. I even
got to enjoy some of Doug's delicious BBQ -- it's his hobby and I loved
being a recipient!
The competition results are in. Although they're technically
preliminary until scorekeepers Glen or George approve everything. I have
no complaints about how I did. It was, in fact, my first-ever perfect
competition. I hit 3 of 3 spot landings, all the sticks, and all the
launches with cone kicks but Ryan absolutely killed me on the Slow/Fast,
besting me by 150 points on that task. Besides being a great pilot and
nailing nearly everything else, he's got the right tool for that job --
a wing with a huge speed range and the ability to wield it.
This was an absolutely great time with great people. Thanks so much
to Britton for putting it on, Dave Fore for running a competition, and
the judges for braving early hours and lots of standing around. You are
1. Ryan Shaw, Nirvana 200cc, Dudek Plasma 22
2. Jeff Goin, Blackhawk 172, Axis Pluto 19
3. Steve Reed, Parajet 172, Paramania Fusion 23
4. Dave Fore, Airfer Tornado, Dudek Plasma 22
5. Danny DeWitt, Blackhawk 172, Dudek Reaction 27
6. Jiri Sindler, Nirvana Rodeo 200, Katana 27
1. Jeff enjoying the heights. I went up this morning
for the sole purpose of getting some pictures but discovered that
conditions weren't as bad as we thought. So I played. Oh do I love
playing in a wind.
The launch was quite entertaining. Key words--keep
controlling that wing!
2. Britton Shaw "flies" the course on a Fresh Breeze
3. Here's an overview of our camp area and flying
fields. Notice the stylish footwear. I may try to pick up some extra
trips from work and see about replacing these well-loved footdrag wear.
Thanks to Doug Crabtree for providing pictures and