Filming w/ Motor Failure

2012 Aug 22 Prairie Preserve, Powered Paragliding, Naperville, IL

Fog has its uses.

In thin layers, close to the ground, it's the perfect medium to expose wingtip vortices playing their twisty game. So, when I got up before sunrise and saw fog to the East I figured it would be a good opportunity. But morning is cold, even in the summer and especially down low. After all, that's why the fog is there: yesterday's heat radiated away, cooling the ground-hugging air which got pissed and squirted out its water. Oh well, I don't get that many opportunities so I relented and texted my neighbor and fellow flyer, Pete Sachs, to see if he would be a video victim. He called a moment later. We're on!

My situation here is that every morning the wind oozes out of the North, even if a south wind is forecast. That's good since I can only launch to the north from my back yard. Pete chose a nearby field and, since I had to get my camera gear ready, it worked out perfectly--I flew to his field just as he was getting ready. He launched and we headed for the fog.

Unfortunately we were a bit late to get the best of it but we he did fly through a few wisps that look good on camera. I also got some other fun video before we headed back. I landed with him just in time for the wind to switch. Almost like clockwork, at 7:13 am the oozing north wind switched to a 3mph south. Thanks Pete!

Scary Arrival

The day before we went filming with a front mounted camera to get clips of various maneuvers. It was, unfortunately, a bit frustrating. After launching from the back yard I started to assemble my camera mount when I realized I had the wrong fittings. Great. I went back, landed to the south which was probably a 3 mph tailwind slider on pavement. That was a month's worth of shoe sole!

At least the next launch was easy since albeit a bit bumpy with the increasing wind and neighborhood trees.

The really interesting part came while filming some wingovers, where you go above the wing. I went to climb up a bit and the motor wouldn't go to full power. It was smooth, but would only give up enough for a shallow climb. Bummer. I was high enough that I did one big wingover then the motor sputtered even at low power.

Mind you, the terrain below me is entirely landable so this isn't a safety emergency but I thought I'd make it to my house. Now that was sketchy. So I quickly stowed my camera stuff and worked the throttle. That got me enough power to make my house. I shut it off and began my approach. An increasing Northeast wind necessitated landing to the North which is quite tight. Making the turn to final I was blown closer to the neighbor's tree than I liked and wound up pulling too much right brake. Enough to spin the glider. I felt it immediately and let up -- thankfully quickly enough that it didn't go more than a quarter turn which allowed me to finish a normal flare and landing on the taxiway.

That was close. Another half second and the outcome could have been dramatically different.

What a great reminder that safety doesn't come through skill, I comes through margins. If you get better at something you can either spend that skill on greater margins or greater (riskier) challenges. I'm reminding myself that I've been spending it on greater  challenges.

1. Flying down the nearby creek with a GoPro mounted in front. I don't like seeing the mount so I use an L-shaped arrangement that gets the camera high enough. There are plusses and minuses, of course.

2. Pete Sachs cruising Dragon Lake.

2015 Jeff Goin   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!