2014 Paramotor Convention
03/22/2014 Palm Bay USPPA Powered Paragliding Convention
Nonstop is the best way to describe it. Even on the windy days pilots
were up at some point, frequently in the wind.
After arrival, we had a soaring emergency. Phil Russman, freshly
arrived from San Diego, got a whiff of soarable conditions near
Melbourne. Lift is to Phil what Pizza is to a dog. Irresistible. And he
can normally sniff it out from the least likely places. He came with Tim
& I in the Enterprise, commenting on the way there about various flags.
"Look at that...the flags are flapping nicely, it should be a good
on-shore blow." Every time we passed a flag he'd have to observe "flap,
flap flap..." Even as we pulled in he couldn't resist. "Flap flap flap."
Phil smelled pizza.
It was cool meeting up with Michael O'Daniel, one of the "Why We Fly"
pilots. He'd had come in from Virginia and drooled at the idea of
Winds were indeed stiff at the field so there would be no flying.
After saying some "hellos" we loaded our gear into Michael's rental and
headed out to the beach. Much to our dismay it was not as strong as at
the field. Oh the pain! We tried anyway but it turned into an hour long
kiting exercise. There would be no soaring.
A huge draw is vendors. This event is perfectly suited and priced for
sellers to strut their stuff. Plus the profit goes to a worthwhile
charity. That's sooo cool. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of vendors
and indeed I got to try a number of goodies. For now, I'm just gonna list them
along with highlights, namely so I don't forget in case I don't get to
do more thorough reviews. I'm also
Andy McAvin, MacPara Blaze 20 reflex wing, nice handling, good speed
increase with trimmers. Easy inflating. Flew it on a machine that I
didn't have speedbar or it was too turbulent.
Ryan Shaw, Dudek Snake 16, reflex wing. I'm not gonna fly this thing again or I'll
wind up buying one. And I need another wing like I need a hole in the
head. It's not that
the wing is revolutionary, it just combines the features in such a well balanced, efficient package.
It's also the best
steering arrangement I've yet flown on a paraglider.
Eric Dufour, Paratour, Air Conception Magnetic 20, reflex wing. Easy
inflation, good handling. Didn't fly for long enough to do a speed test
or get a good feel. Too turbulent and I was doing mock competition
landings. Have also recently flown (before here) the ED4 and incredibly
lightweight "Race" with a 130cc Ventnor motor. Wow, that's nice! Even
with minimal padding (to keep weight down), they flattened the frame
cross bars for comfort and it's surprisingly effective. Bit louder,
average torque management, great thrust, nice throttle response. The ED4
is Paratour's lower cost option and was another nice flying machine with
somewhat better than average torque compensation.
David Batton, Sun Gliders, Grasshopper PPG, Reflex Glider. Did speed
profile on Google tracks. Handling very good if you hold both tip steers
and brakes. Fully reflexed tip steers alone are very effective. Tip
toggles don't go back on magnet but they're held with bungee so they
trail a foot or so when you let go of them. Handling with brakes alone
is a bit stiff.
Matt Minyard, PlanetPPG, Pap Moster 185. This machine has been
from previous versions that I've flown. It handles torque better than past
Paps. Plus it was easier to get into
the seat and quite comfy. Torque handling now slightly better than avg
owing to increased offset.
Power in 160 pound range. Harness very comfy. Vibration well dampened
probably owing to extra padding in harness.
Chris Bowles, Sportix Top 80, good weight shift, comfy, nice
implementation. Slightly more comfy than the Miniplane, slightly heavier
with a more complicated swing arm arrangement.
Chad Bastian, Miniplane Pollini 130, smoother than others, great
throttle response including the mid range. Typical Miniplane comfort
which, of course, I like. Lots of power. 120 pound class.
These guys are top notch. I wish people realized how much of their
lives is sacrificed in the execution of these events. It's many dozens
and, in some cases, hundreds of hours. That's the only way it can work
especially at an airport like this.
The rules are strict and necessary lest they lose their welcome. A
very few pilots disregarded the rules and safety officers tried to be
nice about it but, at some point, had to protect the event. I suggest
people view this as their grandmother's fly-in. It's purpose is to meet
up with friends, see the gear, try the gear, and go tear it up AWAY from
We flew every morning and evening although moderately strong winds
limited opportunities for those less comfortable with high wind kiting.
It was really great to see Scott Adair honored but even better that
his daughter was also honored. The annual "Goin Above & Beyond" award
was given to her by David Rogers. Very cool. Scott was a great proponent
of our sport, ambassador, and wonderful human. There's a park dedicated
to his memory right there on the airport.
There were a number of clinics including my airspace clinic held at a
hangar about a mile away. I'd rather they be right at the action but
then there's no media support. Tradeoff. I've noticed the clinics get
way more attendance if participants can just walk. They did run a
shuttle bus back and forth but that, too, consumes a lot of time for
Rob Catto had his incredibly cool paramotor simulator setup and
offered flights for a $5 donation to the PAL. He did dozens! The
immersive simulation now included pylons to race around and would give
your time. THAT was cool. Nice work.
They're planning next year which is really cool and I hope everybody
makes it part of their plan. It was sooo much fun spending time with
folks. I was exhausted by Sunday afternoon but was a good exhaustion.