Baja PPG Masters Clinic
2011-Oct 24 These 11 pilots joined me
in search of fun, flying and advancing their skills.
What a trip. What a group. As I expected, we learned from each other.
Pilots from England, Canada, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. joined me for a
week of paramotor fun and learning at Michael Purdy's little slice of
heaven just south of San Diego.
In spite of persistent clouds and fog we managed a decent amount of
flying -- getting most pilots airborne most days, frequently for several
flights. It's fascinating to see the differences in equipment
familiarity. Most of the British pilots flew low hang point machines and
reflex wings while the Americans favored high hang points and standard
wings. Different strokes.
English Paul (as opposed to Canadian Paul) was a free flight junkie.
He wanted some soaring time in a big way so, when it finally cleared
enough to see the ridge he pushed to hike up to launch even with almost
no prospect of staying up. It's been several years since I flew here and
I'd never hiked up. The halfway launch, yes, but that was probably only
a third of the climb. All my other visits we would either top land with
motors or drive up the back. But now there is a GREAT path and I've been
working out so decided it would be fun even if only for a sledder.
A bunch of us trekked up there including 68 year old, but quite spry,
Jim King, and Indy Air Hog, Phil Morgan, who wasn't thrilled with the
whole climbing business but sucked it up anyway. He endured in spite of
having no ruck sack to carry his wing and harness. Thanks to Paul for
loaning one of his to me. Climbing a 700 foot hill while saddled with a
bulky stuff sack and harness will suck the life right out of you.
After reaching the top AND helping carry Phil's wing for a piece of
the climb, Richard discovered that his borrowed harness had no
carabiners. Ouch! Seven hundred feet of arduous climb and now he had to
walk down. Alan from Saudi Arabia (He's an ex-pat from England) hiked to
the top just to check it out.
Launch is a gorgeous round top with astro turf spread across the many
line grabbing rocks, making it easy to lay out and inflate. I'm demoing
a new wing, the MacPara Chronos which, even at 19 m² projected, turned
out to be awesome even for soaring. I'll do a proper write up later but
it treated me quite well on the ridge (and motoring). The wind was weak
but I was able to slow my descent as much as the others who were on
regular free-flight paragliders.
I tried out several wings and one that stood out, but for different
reasons, was the new Ozone super lightweight motor wing. It was
too big for me but was amazingly easy to inflate and kite -- possibly
the easiest since flying the Ozone Ultralight. If you struggle with
no-wind launches, these are something to consider. Of course MacPara has
a well-deserved reputation for easy launching wings. I just love that
the choices are getting better and better.
So off we went, one by one, landing in the nicely maintained LZ. On
landing, Paul made a beautiful pose for my camera but, unfortunately,
that also made him go a bit long which did give him the close and
personal bush experience.
About this site: very nice! Kudos to the Fly La Salina club for a
great trail, launch and landing area. Make sure to get in touch with the
locals before flying here. It's pretty rough here at mid-day since the
ridge is a good mile back from the water.
The next day Paul went up there on his own and soared for an hour. I
had some filming to do so wound up motoring in the morning then going up
there in the afternoon for his round two and my round 1. Phil Morgan
joined us AGAIN and this time got to actually soar. He was appropriately
wary of the turbulence but managed several passes without losing
altitude. I was lucky, found a thermal, circled up in it high enough to
make it all the way to the beach with a few hundred feet to spare. I
couldn't make it all the way to our beach house but would have been
Even in Mexico there is a limit to the noise and we found it. One of
the neighbors who lives there apparently raised enough of a rucus that
they asked us to move our flying away. So we settled on a process of
flying the motors out in the morning and landing them back in the
evening to keep our noise footprint to a minimum. We used a noise
abatement profile--immediately going to minimum cruise power after
launch until well clear of the closest houses. That worked although we
only did it two days since, thankfully, it wasn't an issue until the
Master PPG Video
I'm indebted to a a group who helped me work on some scenes for
Master PPG 4, specifically two that show different techniques for
landing on a moving vehicle. Yes, of course that's ridiculous but it's
fun and not actually as hard as it looks. Keep in mind that the car's
speed represents a perfectly steady wind. The only tricky part is
landing on SLOWer moving vehicle. That's tougher. Once on top of the car
it's just like kiting in one place. If the car starts turning, lead with
the wing as necessary.
Michael Purdy drove his land rover, Frank GE spotted, Bart Simpson
(yes, that's his name) drove the quad and Stu Smith ran a camera. We had
a camera on the car, one on my frame, and Rocky Detzel ran my big
Of course I forgot to turn on my frame camera and had to land. At
least I remembered before we did a bunch of filming. I used the
opportunity to practice and, as it happened, the other cameras captured
a good run quite nicely. We planned it out so that I would be landing on
the car in front of Rocky and it worked out pretty good -- he got some
Another scene involves capturing objects in flight. It has the pilot
picking up a balloon from the ground then flying up, releasing it, and
recapturing it as a game. You can this with a lightweight plastic
garbage bag, too, but helium balloons are nice since they don't fall
one of which I've already got but it these conditions were much
easier so it came out better. You'll see the others as well. Video 4
will also likely have an extras section since it's shorter. I may have a
"fun cuts" with little stories on how we did some of the shots.
Rocky is an FPV (first person view) radio control pilot meaning that
he flies his model by looking at a video relay from the model. The video
feed and radio range allow him to fly several miles away. And he puts a
higher quality camera on the plane to get really good quality video. The
results of that are nothing short of mind blowing when flown expertly in
tight areas. Hollywood helicopter pilots are going the way of
typewriters within our lifetime. Rocky showed us video where he took his
model through spaces that requires flying sideways. Another spot was too
tight--he hit the tree, it knocked him upside down, he managed to push
forward and recover to keep flying the plane back. Cool stuff.
What happens in Mexico, stays in Mexico. There was alcohol (after
flying) and the group did their part in contributing to the Mexican club
economy. I stayed back and worked on my projects but oh boy were the
stories fun! When you see one of the guys, be sure to ask!
Discussion & Flying
We did discussion of various topics, following a loose outline, based
on the Master PPG Video series. It was a two-way learning session that
was fun and informative. It wound up being mostly in the morning after
breakfast since we could fly all day and nobody was especially motivated
to take on morning's fog or chill. Without sun, it was definitely chilly
-- most of the time I just stayed in my flight suit.
Thursday was probably our best day of flying since we saw the orb.
You know, the one that makes only periodic appearances when you've only
got a week to spend and a perfect beach launch calling? Yes, the clouds
took a break and let sunshine finally rule the day's latter half. This
was when we filled our soaring desires. I think Richard even got to try
paragliding with carabiners.