Go here for the Czech Republic Part 1.
Let the whirlwind begin. Here's the latest.
In London at the moment about to head for Luxembourg where I'm
meeting up with Jeff Hamann to head for Basse Ham. Afterwards it's on to
Prague and various stops in the Czech Republic including Mac Para,
Nirvana, and Axis Paragliders.
Tue 06/19 Nonreving is a great perk of
my job, but it's not always rosy: I got bumped from the first nonstop to
Heathrow. Not to worry, I always have plenty to do and this gave time to
edit the video shot that morning about Leon Wacker's safety ring.
Thankfully I made the next flight and lucked into one of the good seats.
I have to say, if you've got to go to Europe, United's business class is
Wed 06/20 London was sunny! I couldn't
believe my good fortune because I had the entire day to play, just
walking around checking out the city. It was a lot of walking just
getting from the Heathrow gate to the exit. I took an express train into
downtown, not paying terribly close attention to where it wound up. But
I'm traveling extremely light so it wasn't that bad and, being perfect
weather, made the hour of walking to my hotel actually enjoyable.
You just have to laugh at the name of this hotel. "Inn and Suites."
The room has less area than the Enterprise (about half I'm guessing) and
the shower stall *IS* the bathroom. There is no separate shower stall,
it's just like Enterprise A where the shower just misses the sink and
toilet. No matter for me since my plan wasn't to spend a lot of time in
the room. Plus, I really don't need a lot of space. Give me electrons
and my computer. I have gotten a fair amount done.
London was gorgeous. They're in the throes of Olympic preparations so
I don't know how much of the construction is due to that. I have to
think that big cranes are for something else given the impending date
but don't know.
This subway system is awesome. Not that Chicago's is bad but I just
don't get to use it much because of where I live. Here it has been
invaluable in my 1.5 day stint.
That's all for now, next stop: Basse Ham.
Basse Ham Day 1, Fri June 22.
This will be brief. Wow, I have met some of the earliest names in our
sport, including Author of an early book on Powered Paragliding, Jose
Ortega. This was the first book I ever bought on the subject, followed
by Noel Whitall's Paramotoring from the Ground up. I've Met Noel, too,
and they're both super people. Relative to Jose, I'm a latecomer so it
was cool to meet him. Plus, few other humans can relate to the effort
that goes into such an endeavor.
I've also met seemingly everybody in the sport who makes stuff. Many
of them are right here. If all goes well I hope to do an interview of
one tommorrow on how a two stroke works with him describing it with his
cut-away two stroke.
Someone told me that this would be the last year they were having the
event at this field so lets hope they find another venue. This is, by
far, the best organized fly-at-a-field event you could ever ask for.
I've got no idea how they pull off such a huge thing.
Yesterday, heavy rains turned the place into little more than a swamp
and a tractor was enlisted to pull out stuck vehicles. And it was windy
for much of the day but a few diehards went out and kited, getting
frequently lifted. I was on an 18 meter GTR that had some cool
innovations they're working on. Got quite the lifts on a few occasions
so it was blowing pretty good.
Finally it mellowed out enough to fly and, after a very impressive
show by some of Europe's top competitors, I headed aloft on the new
weight-shifting Air Conception 130cc. This is the Machine that Eric
Sells and hopefully I'll get a quick review of it. Great power, good
weight shift, reasonably smooth and remarkably quick throttle response.
This super lightweight (46 pounds) machine has no clutch and a manual
(pull) start so it will be cheaper than their electric start, clutched
That's all for tonight. We finish flying at nearly 9:30pm so, by the
time all lies are told and dinner is served, we're more cooked than the
food. A quick note on dinner. Service was slow. Really slow. So here
comes Eric Dufour taking command. He walked around the table, got our
orders, passed them on to our less-than-attentive waitress and we got
served. It was hilarious. She didn't even seem to mind. OK, off to bed
with me for what will now be another 6 hour nap.
Basse Ham Day 2 Saturday 23
I've got little voice left and am utterly wasted. It feels like I
flew all day even though really I only flew 5 times including a noon
sortie. Each flight was on a different machine and most were on a
different wing--might as well kill two birds with one stone. That's
probably not the best phrasing, is it?
There are some really amazing people here who are frequently early
influences on our sport. And I've had several discussions with the
people who make and test paragliders for various companies and who are,
in some instances, diametrically opposite in their ways of thought.
There is little that seems more impassioned than the subject of reflex
technology. As someone pointed out, it's been around for years--even I
noticed it on the 1998 Silex. But boy is there some different takes on
it and some interesting aerodynamic discussion.
The biggest thing here is the incredible amount of paramotor stuff.
The Fresh Breeze tent, for example, must have had 12 paramotors on
display. It was a huge corner presence that included the various wheeled
craft along with their entire fleet of foot launched machines.
I can't possibly name everyone here but that's OK, you can find that
on the internet, I'm sure. I tried the new four stroke,
A 40 cc paramotor? Yup. It's a Greek company that makes a really
lightweight frame that has the fuel in its aluminum members. They're not
the first to do this but they are certainly the lightest. The prototype
40 cc machine weighs all of 24 pounds. Yes, that includes the engine.
And yes, it even includes the prop.
I flew two of the new Air Conception 130, the follow-on Ozone
Speedster 19, an Evo 2, the really lightweight Parajet Zenith with a
Pollini 100, and the v5 Bailey 4-strokes including one with the new
throttle body fuel injection. I also tried a Paramania GTR with some
cool improvements on the brake lines by one of the competition pilots.
There's always one.
A nuclear plant billows steam out of enormous cooling towers only a
few miles away, making it the area's most prominent landmark. Among the
relatively few rules are: don't go near this plant, it's illegal, they
are understandably leery about our craft, and doing so probably risks
are welcome at this site. Don't you know, someone, not one of the
brighter bulbs in the box, not only flew NEAR the plant, he apparently
flew THROUGH the billowing steam! It's a f*cking nuclear plant! I mean
really, do you even need to attend a briefing, or look at the map's big
red circle plastered all over the entrance wall, to know that
flying OVER such a thing is a bad idea?
When stuff like this happens it makes me marvel that we can fly these
things at all.
Thankfully, he didn't take a collapse flying through his nuclear
powered thermal and plummet in. Wouldn't that be some great press,
especially on the heels of the fellow who flew his PPG into a nuke plant
for publicity's sake (and crashed in the attempt).
Free spirit is good. We're nearly all free spirits in some way almost
by definition of flying these crazy things. But we've got to remember
that, like all freedom, it comes with responsibility, with a willingness
to follow some rules. OK, enough of that. Of course there's balance;
organizers act out their gestapo fantasies, either, and they didn't seem
to here. In spite of my careful efforts to never go north of the water,
I had an official come "remind" me that we couldn't fly North of the
river. I never did but, given the perspective from below, it was He was
nice about it, though.
The Last Basse Ham
They told us this may be the last event like this because the land
we're using is to become a sand pit. What a bummer. The level of
organization here is truly amazing. The town seems to like it, which
isn't surprising given the amount of money this must bring. It's a
gorgeous little town, too, like most that I've cruised through to get
Basse Ham Day 3 Sunday June 24
Looking out my Ibis room window was beautitful--clear, almost no
wind, and and thin overcast looming nearby. I figured it would warm up
nicely and be nearly all-day flying. There was one more machine I wanted
to try, the Adventure with a new harness. Jeff Hamann asked me to try it
and I was curious how the sliding, high hook-in harness would work and
what changes had been made in the many years since I had flown an F4.
There is no U.S. dealer so opportunities are rare. I'll have an
abbreviated review (they're all abbreviated anymore) hopefully in the
next month. The one I really wanted to try was their weight-shift, low
attachment machine. As much as weight shift is being able to get to your
risers quickly in flight while having the brakes at a good position.
By the time we got everything ready it was probably 11AM. Each
paramotor needs a number but many of the demo units had none so I
borrowed Jeff Hamann's since we didn't bring a machine. Winds were
increasing and it was surprisingly turbulent. I went up, did my tests,
played around with their "Flexway" wing (a VERY responsive 21m" then
came in for a landing.
Not long afterwards the winds came up, bringing cold rain. The event
was over. Of course there was still hours of kibitzing and met some of
our sport's preeminent names. That was so cool.
It's just the perfect example of why
you just never know what human ingenuity will construct.
Some other new stuff was Miniplane's Diego and Mateo are working on
some improvement to the suspension system in hopes of increasing the arm
room. I never notice it but apparently some do. They're also working on
a throttle body fuel injection system. It allows extremely precise
control of fuel mixture with an attendant increase in complexity. There
are quite a few connections, sensors and modules that must work right
for proper purring. I love it the way it is but competition pilots may
appreciate the benefits of lower fuel consumption and far better
Paul Bailey has been selling his V5 four stroke for at least a last
year but this was my first time trying it. Wow. Lighter, more powerful,
nicer suspension system and better torque management. I'll do a more
proper review later but am impressed with the machine.
Fresh Breeze has a boatload of trikes to complement their foot-launch
line, including several four stroke options. I have yet to fly the Flyke
but I don't think they had one available for demo.
Adventure has made some changes to their lineup and now include a
weight shift model with low hook-ins. Sadly I only got to try the base
model, they didn't have a demo of the low hook-in version. It's in queue
for a review.
Nirvana has tweaked their Simo based model and introduced an updated
Top 80 powered Machine that I have yet to fly. But I'm in Prague, Check
Republic right now and hope to try their machines tomorrow at their
factory. That'll be cool and I'll promise to take pictures.
I'll close this entry down and start another for the new portion of
my travels. I've gotta say, it's fascinating to think of the history in
the place where I now sit in a clean, well-appointed, internet providing
hotel room smack in the middle of Prague's center. It's cool. Bus travel
here, by the way, rocks! It was cheap, clean, had a bathroom and, more
importantly, had an outlet! Much of my writing was done on the trip (far
more than for the Blog).