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Paratoys 2012

Feb 19, 2012 Michell's Perspective

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 home.

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 was awesome.

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,

Michelle Daniele

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 USPPA.org.

Michelle will also add to that content and I look forward to reading it.


Remember, If there's air there, it should be flown in!