Fun, Flying, & Trying in Kankakee

2013-July-12 Everything Paramotor and Paragliding In Northern IL, Chicagoland

Ahh the Midwest. Corn. Beans. More corn. Oh wait, it's wheat! Cut wheat is great because if you get dumped while tickling your feet in it you can run it out. Beans? Not so much. Thankfully they were young enough that I was able to run it out.  Hay bales are fun, too, for playing on but you need some decent wind to land-and-stand.

This year's Kankakee Fly-In, put on mostly by Jaro (ChicagoParagliding), enjoyed the best weather ever produced by the Milky Way. Each morning was infused with this little 4mph wind that let forwardaphobes do reverse launches and everyone else enjoy easy inflations. Perfect smoothness lurked only a couple hundred feet high and easy footdrags awaited those willing to endure a bit of "texture." It was nice enough to do a 360 degree footdrag before the crowds built up.


There was some cool "fly candy" present this year. New wings and motors aplenty. Hopefully I'll get abbreviated reviews on them in the appropriate spaces.

Here's a writeup from Shane Denherder.

Dominic Vintanio, one of the Ohio flyers who has been flying since 1999 or so, posted this about the event:

Kankakee was definitely a success. As we all know, fly-ins are hit-or-miss weather-wise, but this one was definitely a hit. The weather could not have been much better. On Friday and Saturday you could have flown at any time of the day.

There was also plenty of towing available everyday for as many pilots who so desired -- and there were many. Thanks to Jaro, Steve and Joe for the rigs and the efforts. The roads are long and straight and the bailouts are, well, everywhere. It was fun to tow up, fly up under the cummies, and then land at the fly-in field. I've been to quite a few fly-ins, and this was the first that I was able to motor into on one day (from the motel), and freefly into on another. Again, it is difficult to realistically envision a better weather pattern for a fly-in.

Local instructor Scott Baxter was there and was extremely generous with the MacPara demo paragliders that he had on hand. Whether you wanted to inspect it, kite it, or fly it, it was yours for the asking. Flying the Eden 21 at my weight was a blast. Very nimble and responsive. I also saw him out on the field on numerous occasions helping newbes and wannabes. And when he wasn't lending someone a glider, helping to handle it, or fielding question, he was on the mower cutting the sod-like 70 acre flat plot that is appropriately named Enjoy Field, and which is surrounded by tens of thousands of acres of flatland.

Thanks to the owner (some call him a dictator), Joe Yobbka, for the accommodations. There is a large barn-like hanger with a well appointed mechanics shop. Located within are 2 bathrooms and a shower. Upstairs are 6 bunk beds (I think they rent for 5 bucks a night). There is also a very large open area where you can crash on an air mattress, a sleeping bag, or just the floor. There are also 2 campers for rent (cheap).

It looks like Jeff Goin was, as usual, inspecting, demoing and sizing-up whatever "new" equipment that he could lay his eyes on. I know that he did this with the Scout and the Parajet, and he seemed to have fallen in love with a Viper (or was it a Viper 2?). Knowing Jeff, I'm sure there was more, but that's what I saw. We'll look forward to the reports.

Even though it is arguably out in the middle of nowhere, Kankakee is a family friendly fly-in. There is a large pond/lake directly behind the hanger that kept numerous kids occupied throughout the hot, sunny days. They were rowing around on little boats and other floating crafts and doing every other thing that you can imagine kids doing in and near a water hole. There was a bonfire near the lake at night and food, music and any other entertainment that one desired to improvise or engage in in such a setting. And a sky full of stars -- LOTS of stars out there in the flatlands!

Enjoy also has a regular hangglider towing operation and during the day there were rides available and happening. Of course, for instructional purposes only. Plenty of room in the sky for all.

Thanks also to Red Bull for providing the cool tent and the endless supply of free Red Bull. It was much appreciated by many.

There was only one incident that I am aware of, and it belonged to me. During the maiden flight on my 22 Plasma, I heard a loud explosion on climb-out at about 60-80 feet up. I killed the motor and landed in the beans. The only thing left of my MAH prop was the stuff sandwiched between the prop plates. The rest of the matter was gone. The stout double ring FB Monster cage was ripped open at the top like a soda-pop can, and the leading edge of the new glider showed glaring evidence of where fiberglass shrapnel of significant size had passed through. I was just glad that none of it hit me or anyone else (no one else was anywhere near). This experience reinforces three things for me: (1) always were a helmet, (2) always do a (better) pre-flight, and (3) be very mindful of the conditions under which you throttle up your motor whilst on the ground. For me the experience was especially a wake-up call on item (3). I have seen many occasions in this sport where spectators and others are within (or even roughly within) the plane that is created by the spinning prop. It could be a disaster that carries out to a huge circumference. Pilots beware. It could happen.

Setting aside the perfect conditions, as with every other fly-in that I've been to, this one was filled with a bunch of really good and interesting people, some who I knew and some who I've just met. We of course all share an obvious (and some would say quirky) commonality in what we are addicted to, but I again experienced that feeling that we also share something else that I can't quite put my finger on. I get that same feeling every time that I leave a fly-in. And every time that I try to figure out what that "something else" is, I get lost in seemingly disconnected varieties of thought, which then distill into something as simple as "good people" -- so, I'll leave it at that. We are indeed a special and a lucky group of people.

Above: Campfire by Perry Plotkin

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