Polk City to Chicago
2014-05-21 Enterprise Trip To Endless Footdrag and Beyond
We've left for the Endless Footdrag!
We left late on Tuesday night after a full day of preparations. The
Enterprise will be out for 4 months, staying North for the summer. This was intended to
be an escape but we're now getting ready to sell the
Naperville house which is under contract. The
listing wasn't even up on MSL. That's good, obviously, but certainly quicker
than we planed on. Let
the scramble begin.
been gone so much that Bubba (the Bonanza) was feeling neglected so it
was time to fly. A few miles north there was a controlled burn going on and smoke made the resultant
thermal plainly obvious. It was so fascinating that I went back, landed
at Flanders, got my camera, and took off again to photograph it.
Thermals are uneven, lumpy affairs. The smoke makes this readily
apparent--Very educational. As I've always known, thermals are where you find them,
not necessarily where you think they come from. They certainly will
form along the wind lines which is why, if you're in sink, turn
perpendicular to the wind to improve your odds.
It's 16 hours total but we're not pushing too hard. This evening I went for a roller blade and stumbled on a hot air
balloon landing. That was cool. He placed it nicely in a grassy area
next to a mall and the crew made quick work of packing up.
It was good to get out skating, too. Going to the rhythm of a good
song is almost as fun as flying. I have to say, though, that seeing the
balloon float in made me long for flight. And we could have, too, this
mall area we found had plenty of open areas.
If you haven't listened to audio books while driving you're missing out. It
turns the trip into a movie. I can't do it while writing or dealing with
speaking parts of the video, but while I'm driving it's brilliant. Tim
is kind enough to do most of the driving so I can get work done and boy
does the time fly when I get enmeshed in something, whether it be a book
Airspace And Law For Ultralights
I'm now solidly on the timeline. Making minutes, as it were, towards
completion. The title is firm now and a cool little opening animation
has been created. It's another one of those little pieces that will be
onscreen for probably 7 seconds and I spent several hours creating it.
There's a lot of that in this video, though, since it's so essentially
Much of it is centered around understanding the border between G and
E airspace--that's where we fly. And charts expend enormous energy on
it. This is not merely an academic exercise, either--it points out WHY
this stuff is relevant. We don't want to get impaled on an airplane any
more than they want us there. The video explores this "Why."
An event has not been more aptly named since Beach Blast. Park on
100's of acres of manicured paramotor launch and have a good time. It's
a beautiful place to fly and Britton is a welcoming host.
LOTS of great people here. This feels like the largest number of
folks I've seen. Partly that might be due to not having Beach Blast.
Garret Reed and Blanie Wagner were offering free flight tows. I took
two on Friday but missed out on the best climbs Saturday. Super nice
folks with a great attitude.
From the dumps to dreamy in one day. 8 pilots entered the event
but, at this point, it is the only one scheduled for the year. The dumps
were because on the first round I turned wrong and got DQ'd in the
cloverleaf. Dreamy after the second round where I flew a perfect set of
tasks -- nailed every landing on the frisbee, got the bomb drop within a
few inches and, thankfully, flew a decent cloverleaf. It wasn't
particularly fast but it was in the correct direction with no sticks
missed. When both rounds were tallied, it turned out to be Ryan Shaw as
3rd, Chad Bastian 2nd and myself in 1st. Never give up.
Some experienced pilots who are new competitors joined the fray and
did very well. That was good to see. I should probably retire on a high
Where Tim & I we're parked is a secondary line probably a quarter
mile from the main line of activity to allow for better launching based
on the forecast wind. Instead of walk, I've been flying the paramotor.
So yesterday, between the competition and flying back and forth I
launched at least 20 times.
Spoiler alert -- it was more of an slide than a crash but, given the
spillage of blood I think I'm entitled to the term.
Practicing for the cloverleaf on Friday was the first time using my
new finger toggles with tip steering in a cloverleaf. I put the tip
toggles in the same finger as my main toggles. That meant I couldn't
differentiate pressure from the tip steers and main brakes. Turns out,
that' s a big deal.
When rounding a pylon I started sinking and pulled brakes. Nothing
happened, I kept sinking. It was an amount of brake pressure that SHOULD
have stopped the descent easily but it didn't. For a moment I thought
maybe the wing was going parachutal because it just didn't feel right,
so I came off of full power and did NOT pull more brake. I did let it
level off and I descended into the grass, sliding mostly on my right
knee. Ouch. It was a smooth affair but smoothly removing the first few
layers of skin still hurts. I got up, reset for a forward, realized my
mistake and relaunched. NOW I put the tip toggles in my pinkies and that
solved the problem nicely.
1. The course.
2. The flight line.
3. Screen shot of the results
4. Winning pilots, Ryan, me, Chad.
The morning started out with a practice
round in an easy little 2-3 mph breeze. We got through it in about 45
minutes so Britton asked if pilots wanted to do a real round and we
agreed. Let the games begin. Let the wind die.
Seriously, if you can consistently launch
these things in no wind or in a really light crosswind and land within
15 feet or so of the target you're competitive. The cloverleaf? Just fly
it in the correct direction. Go out wide on the sticks--a slow time is
better than a DQ or missing a stick. I give that advice constantly,
including here. Guess what? I DQd on round one I went the wrong
direction on one of the turns. Ouch. I exited and knew it was over. The
judges were looking up at me, probably thinking, shouldn't THIS guy know
which way to go? I had a brain fart.
Ryan flew it brilliantly and most other
competitors flew it correctly so that goose egg hurt. After every task
you come back in for a spot landings. Thankfully I nailed all the
launches and hit the frisbee on each landing so I did wind up with a 3rd
place finish on round one.
It went light and variable so there was
understandable frustration as pilots felt pressured into launching with
unfavorable winds. I was impressed with one guy who pulled off a
quartering tailwind launch. He had no clutch so couldn't feel the wind
but I could. Nice job.
I saw a lot of nailed spot landings.
That's good since a lot of points go to launching and landing well.
Round 2 was in the afternoon with a solid
little consistent breeze of probably 6-8 mph.
During round two I went up to get some
aerial pictures while pilots flew tasks. Ryan Shaw entered the
cloverleaf and, shortly after his first kick, took a sizeable collapse.
He sorted it out, kept his wits and resumed the course but, not
surprisingly, it slowed him down and caused him to miss one stick. I
asked him why it happened and he said it was improper use of brake while
on full speedbar. As he said, it was a brain fart.
We are pushing these things to their max.
I've begged off of full speedbar and trim. My speedbar is now maxed at
about 80%--the pulleys don't touch but get get to about an inch apart.
And I have my trims set at neutral. It makes it a bit less likely that
accidentally using the brakes will cause a collapse. It still happens,
but so far it's been really minor.
Thanks to Britton Shaw who ran the thing
along with Dave Fore all all those who who made it possible. There must
have been 15 people involved in pulling it all off. Britton worked hard
to make it a friendly affair while keeping things flowing. It's a tough
Also, thanks to Ryan, his girlfriend
Dianne and Dad Dave. Ryan provided the pylons, blowers and electronic
timer for the footdrag course.
Most of the volunteer judges were also
pilots and gave up some primo air to run this thing. I, for one, really
appreciate their time and sacrifice.
Garret Reed and Blanie Wagner from Truman
Air Sports brought their scooter tow rig and were pulling pilots up most
every day. I took two flights on Friday. It was nice to be in free
flight right at a paramotor event. With wind they could easily get
people up over 1000 feet but, when I went, it wasn't blowing much and I
only got up about 600 feet.
The second tow was cut short by a line
break which is not a big deal. Damp the surge as necessary and use the
height for whatever you need. What was kind of amusing was that I
thought it was my weak link that broke until Garret radioed me: "you've
got two choices -- either land with the line or release it." Ahhh, I
thought, I've still got it. Not wanting to allow it the opportunity to
catch on something when I got lower, I released it. But I held on to it
so I could fly it back to them. If it caught I could just let go. Worked
Garret and Blanie are good people.
Generous of their time and skills, they were introducing a number of
folks to towing and possibly a few to free flight. Tim & Arrived while
they were doing a towing clinic with Britton playing the student. It was
Thanks for the pulls!
Blanie stretching. Some people don't need photoshop. The only thing
I did with this was to blur the background.
2. Garret and Blanie work together on the tow. Everybody has a
3. Garret sets up an A-assist bridle. This pulls the speed system if
the wing goes back very far. Some wings are only safe to tow with
this system and some tow operators prefer them on any wing.
4. Saturday evening tow setup.
Final Day Filming
Next up? Northbound. After a morning flight we're going to hit the
road, possibly going to the Lake of the Ozarks. It's kind of cool not
having a particular destination in mind.
The morning flight turned out to be really cool. We arranged to get a
group of folks to do some formation flying. A 630am departure was
discussed and I was indeed out there at 630am getting ready to launch
with my video camera. But how often are people ACTUALLY ready to go at
that hour after the partying these things are famous for. I left the
festivities early and still got to bed around midnight.
But I heard a paramotor flying.
"Really?" I thought -- "they're actually launching?" So I woke poor
Tim up to sight my camera framer, which he did graciously, and then
There was one paramotor flying and it wasn't part of the group. I
could see stirrings but clearly it wouldn't be right away. Soon Shane
Denherder and Jeff Toll launched. I followed them for a while. They are
VERY fun to film! We did some tree slaloms, wet drags, and other fun
stuff. Given the right targets, and these guys clearly qualify, this may
be my favorite type of flying. I sure wish I did more of it here.
This Monday we honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service
to their country. We have a democracy here and, in spite of it's
problems, it's an amazing thing. Some people get caught up in negativity
but the tests to see that a real democracy exists (yes, I know, it's
technically a federal republic) are simple: 1. does the leadership
ACTUALLY change on a periodic basis and 2. is the media free. We pass
both of these with flying colors but BILLIONS of people endure
government where that's not the case.
We're lucky. Damn lucky to live in these united states or other
countries where such freedom shines.