Double Surprise

10/14/2013 A Double Surprise

So this is why we don't fly over people.

My "phone" is this ginormous concoction of coolness with a huge screen--great for looking at wind graphs, radar images, videos, pictures, navigation, AND, gasp, I can call people on it. Like many of us it has become remarkably indispensable. It's ginormity suggests that you wouldn't want it falling on your head although maybe its also got a lot of wind resistance. You know where this is going, obviously; here are the details.

The Flight

I went to Winter Haven airport to talk with TC Helicopters owner Mike. This is where Ellie (the Enstrom F28A) will be getting maintained. My normal routine will continue where I helicopter here carrying the paramotor, fly the paramotor home, and reverse the process to pick her back up after the annual inspection. Now I just wanted to fly the paramotor trip. This is super handy having a helicopter maintenance shop only 10 away AND he's my neighbor! Moreover, him and his wife Jenny are just plain good people. It seems I've lucked out yet again.

Shortly after liftoff I realized I didn't have my phone with me but decided it wasn't wilderness enough so, with sunset time ticking quietly under the Top 80's hum, I pressed on. Turns out I *DID* have my phone with me but didn't know it.

Limited landing options made me climb to about 600 feet and into the teeth of a 12 mph north wind. OK, so "teeth" seems a bit excessive but it is, after a third of my cruise speed. Even with my Speedy Gonzales wing it adds a lot of time. It was smooth so I just cruised, trimmed fast and hands off, steering by weight shift.

Along the way I came across a development swath with open roads and acres of mowed goodness. Mmmm, I thought, that would be a nice potential launch site so  I landed to check it out. Just because I could. Damn I love this stuff. After kiting the wing a bit I took a couple pictures then headed back on course, going around the many lakes and developments which was thankfully easy to do. This area rocks for PPG at least until the housing market restarts.

Soon I was upon Fantasy of Flight only to find it awash in fencing--tall black fencing that made no sense. It enclosed a bunch of areas that also made no sense. It was too small for horses and not shaped for any sports I was at a loss. Look at the pictures and see what you think. I did find out later: I had stumbled on the national paintball tournament. Cool! I've played paintball (badly) and really enjoyed it. I actually captured the flag for our team once. That was cool and extremely tiring. I also still wear the reminder of a close-range exchange with my own brother. Thanks Mike.

Back to the flight. Flanders field is only a few miles North of fantasy so it wasn't long before I was buzzing about the house. What a gorgeous area. The lake was a former sand mine that got embiggened to put houses on. Only 7 houses have access to the airstrip and, of those, only three have lakefront. In a way it's too bad because I'm not into boating so the whole water thing is a bit lost on both Tim and I. Maybe I'll get a kayak for exercise if I can get past the highly poisonous water moccasins. At least the gators you can generally see. I'm told that a 3 foot snake can do you in. Great. Sunshine extracts it's price.

The flight back was pretty quick and I landed just as the last sliver of sun was consumed. I put my stuff away and went to get my phone to navigate to the campground.

That's when I realized it was missing--surprise one. It must be hiding in the Enterprise. Since I was alone there was nobody to call it or locate it. I've got a program that can track the phone but had no way to use it. So I went to a nearby McDonalds, logged onto the internet and, to was astonished at two things: 1) it was obviously with me in flight and now rested just south of Fantasy and surprise 2) it obviously survived a 500 foot fall!

After some fighting with Skype I finally got a hold of Tim and we arranged a time to have him start calling it. I then headed to the spot--a wooded area next to an lime grove. I actually shoe horned the enterprise back into that grove so I could get the lights on the area. It was, after all dark, and the snakes were hungry.

I walked in that black brush, through spider webs, pricklies, and bugs for probably 30 minutes. Nothing. Finally I gave up and BACKED the enterprise out of there. Remind me not to do THAT again.

After much logistical falderal I picked up Jim Yeager at MCO, docking the Enterprise  at Le Lynn RV "Resort" (they' aren't "Parks" anymore) around 1AM. He's helping me with some planned home improvements and the home inspection was Tuesday. He agreed to join my phone search in the morning.

The Search

Now the fun begins.

Jim and I talked to the landowner then traipsed back into the woods again. Back and forth we looked with my trying to get his GPS to work. It was not cooperating. I had my computer out there with saved images of the map showing where my phone was supposed to be. Periodically I'd go back to it, blow off the red ants, and make sure we were in the right area.

Amazingly the phone was still powered because it was still reporting its position and would ring but not loud enough that we could hear it. Strange.

Back and forth we went, gradually broadening the search well beyond the purported circle.

Finally I figured I'd try plan B, calling Verizon with Jim's phone to see if there was something they, or their pals at the NSA, could do to get it to ring at full blast. Jim was off talking to an insect guy who was taking insect samples several tree rows away. I was thankful for his help and wasn't surprised that he'd had enough.

While trying to get through Verizon's best customer defenses Jim's phone rang. It was my phone. What? I answered. It was Jim on my phone! YEAHHHHAAAAA! Now, where the h*#@ did you find it?

Turns out Jim had not, in fact, given up but had broadened his search to a wider area that was easy to see and, amazingly, found it waiting patiently in the sandy grass. Oh my Bob what a relief. 17% remained on the battery.


Where he found it was over 100 feet from where the program reported. That's only weird because it had a clear view of the sky so GPS location should be spot on. Normally it shows me within a few feet of my actual location so I was surprised at the error. Maybe the Life360 program has some issues but, to its credit, we obviously wouldn't have found it otherwise.

Jim saved me several hours of boring resetting let alone the expense of a new phone. Thanks man!

Lets hope this is a good reminder to keep better track of the thing, make sure its secure in flight, and set up the program with all of its sound features enabled.

Always an adventure.

If everything goes well, we'll be closing on the house sometime in November. It was originally scheduled for Nov 1 but might get pushed back to give the current owners more time.

Anybody interested in a Chicagoland house on a beautiful little airport?

1. Here is the house's inside. Jim is trying to be serious and useful (which I appreciate) while I act goofy. Chuck, the current owner, is probably wondering.

2. The hangar looking from the runway. After the addition we'll be able to pull the helicopter out without moving the airplane.


1. This is what Life360 showed.

2. This is what I did on Google Earth to measure how far to walk in.

3. This is where Jim Yeager found the phone. Jim is the dude.

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