Michele Daniele is one of the prettiest,
most fun, positive, full-of-life and encouraging people on the planet, who also
happens to be a capable paramotor instructor and gifted writer.
We're lucky to have her. One of many fond memories I have was during
their early fly-ins (and mine) when I was a complete air pig and
asked how early I could take off, especially given my loud little
direct drive. She took me aside and said, in a way that only
Michelle could, "Jeff, this is a fly-in, if anybody gives you
grief about flying early, you have them see me!" Of course I
did launch and that next morning and had a great flight. Michelle made an early
impression. The following is her perspective on the recently
completed Salton Sea event.
by Michelle Daniele
Jerry, my daughter Jordan and I arrived at the sea on Monday
afternoon. It's like someone plugged me in. I was now connected. For
some reason, I thought I might be one of the first to arrive but nowhere
near that. I set up my mobile wing shop on Tuesday morning at the RV
Park and began working almost immediately. I could see that if I wanted
some free time, I had to be ahead of schedule and so that night, while
everyone slept, I worked. No complaints because it only meant that I
extended my vacation by that amount of time. I listened to music until
the coyotes drowned it out. The moon was near full----- sleep is such a
waste of time at the sea.
I don't really know why this event has such a hold on me. Maybe it's
because it was at the Salton Sea that I last saw Alan Chuculate and Bob
Armond. Maybe it's because I've been to every one of them here and
performed at the banquet the last 3 or 4 years, or because I'm the girl
that fixes wings. I'm sure it must have something to do with a nickname
someone gave me and the fact that I am a desert girl and I feel so at
I've had a lot to do since I got home but I'm finding it's been very
difficult without the other half of my heart. I'm hoping that after
writing this, "it" will realize that it's time now, to come home.
I was once again was given the great honor of being the MC at the
banquet. It was short notice so I didn't have the luxury of preparing
something ahead of time, and since I'm not a big believer in
coincidence, I had no choice but to let the next 3 or 4 days dictate
what I was going to say and do on Saturday night.
The details are not as important as the outcome and as early as
Thursday afternoon, you might say that things were not really going well
for a fly-in. Money was lost, a mid-air had occurred, a pilot's wing was
missing. (Oh---and not to mention the fact that the girl fixing
everyone's wings had tweaked her knee really bad and was hobbling
around) So, what might have appeared like disaster for a fly-in, had an
opposite effect that only real circumstances can create.
At a specially called mandatory briefing on Thursday night, I watched
Mike Robinson take hold of his fly-in and with power under control,
calmly and gently let us all know exactly what he expected of us and
what we could expect from him. He effectively lassoed wayward undertones
and gave everyone permission to start having fun again. Very reminiscent
of Eric Dufour when he addressed our fly-in in Albuquerque the year we
lost Barton George.
So in the time given me over that three day period, I developed
earned respect for this quiet, new owner of Paratoys and I saw two big
men swallowed their pride just because they were asked to. I witnessed
gutsy men fly-- not with God-given talent-- but strictly out of
courageous inspiration to be free, and I suppose that's the stuff that's
better than talent and given by the same giver.
Even the girl with the bad knee was blessed to have a husband drive
all the way to Palm Springs to get her a knee brace so she could go back
to work. Monday through Friday, were glorious. Perfect weather, warm
temps, flying at almost any time of the day you wanted. Pot lucks,
bonfires, gorgeous sunsets, full moon, old and new friends...even the
smell of the dead fish reminded me of where I was and how much I loved
being there. The week ended way too fast and all of a sudden it was the
weekend. Everyone that hadn't checked the weather had high hopes for
Saturday. Most of you know the events that took place and once again I
was given a glimpse of why I never met a pilot I didn't like. I had the
chance to talk to two of my close friends that had been caught in the
front and not surprising, it was all about the guys on the ground. No
one would have guessed in a million years that the small framed, sweet
faced, white bearded, southern accented, gentle man named Sky King, was
the one in the air that afternoon riding an invisible bull in an
invisible rodeo. When asked if he knew his wing had collapsed in every
conceivable fashion and at one point wadded up and began to fall
straight down until it re-opened and rocketed him back up at
unbelievable speed, he said he just thought he had hit some bad sink.
Jim--- you are my "Sky King"! The other pilot I knew was one of our
own. (It's funny because both these guys fly yellow Silex's.) His name
is Steve Hanson. He is the one on YouTube, landing back at the launch
field. He said he knew he was going to be OK when he saw a dozen men
running for him, ready to grab him the instant his feet touched. I got
someone to take me over to him to check him out personally, and after he
got up from rolling around in the dirt, I couldn't help but laugh and
give him a kiss on a mouth and teeth full of dirt. Saturday afternoon
Scheduled for 6:00 pm on Saturday, the banquet got an early start as
the wind was still blowing and there was no flying (except for one) that
afternoon. My husband picked me up from the RV at 6:40 as I was typing
the last of what I was preparing to say at 7:00.
As I walked in, the room was full and the mood was light because our
missing pilot was eating dinner and drinking wine (wine that my daughter
stole from our RV to make sure he had some). He was smiling a lot and
enjoying his new stardom. With Mike's permission I asked the rescued
pilot if he would be the first to speak after Mike's opening.
He entertained everyone with a very funny and heart warming story of
his encounter with Mother Nature and how she deposited him into the
hands of a couple on their way to church. They assured him that the
helicopter flying around was not looking for him, offered to put some
gas in his tank if he wanted to simply fly home, and when he declined,
took him to church before they brought him back. As you might have
guessed, he is not from this country; he had no cell phone and knew no
one's phone number. The mood turned rather festive at that point and I
was going to sing "My PPG's Busted" but it "wasn't" and I didn't have
time to write a different song about how my knee was busted.. So,
instead I told the men and women there, what was on my heart and how
honored I was to be a part of the PPG community and reminded them I'm
not one for that "kinder, gentler" stuff, and that the most awesome
thing about each and everyone of them is the fact that they are
courageous, wild and free. I asked them to please stay that way. The men
of PPG have captivated my heart. They have shown me what free men look
like. It's truly a beautiful sight to a woman.
Prizes were given, competition awards were presented and then Phil
Russman presented 20 minutes of the finest videography on the planet and
memorialized Bob Armond in the truest of light. Not too many dry eyes
and lots of laughs. The girl with the bad knee sang a song she wrote as
her gift to Bob's memory and the night ended.
In closing, I have to say, I long to be back there. Mike, please
don't make any decisions about next year yet, but call me in a few
months about how I can help out. To all of you, plan to meet me there.
And to John Black-if you truly meant what you said to me, I'm already
making plans for Beach Blast. After all, I still have half a heart
left...and this great song idea.
Always in awe and always at your service,
It was, as always, a blast. I'll have a complete
write up in Powered Sport Flying Magazine which should be available in
Barnes and Noble starting in March as well as through
Michelle will also add to that content and I look
forward to reading it.