I blew the first couple of attempts and was getting frustrated when Alex (Dizzy) came out to help me with the wing. It’s a real pain to have to get out of the harness and go through the whole starting sequence everytime you blow a launch. It wouldn’t be so bad, if I had an electric starter, but getting into the harness with the motor running is stressful and each successive attempt makes it worse. Finally I got a good inflation with the wing stable overhead and after a few rough steps… I was flying. Dizzy had been watching and later was able to give me some good feedback, he said that I was leaning forward for most of the run. Once the wing started to take the weight off, I straightened up and looked good. He also said that my hands were too far forward, which added brake that made the wing hang back. He suggested that the harness was riding to low on my back and to try adjusting the harness differently and see how it felt.
The landing was a new experience. I thought I was coming in alright, but on final approach I started to “float”. It looked like I was going to over shoot the LZ, so I decided to power-up and go around again. I had already gotten out of the harness and for some reason was hanging lower than normal, and I was hanging crooked because one of the leg straps was lower than the other. It was tough getting back into my seat and I ended up having to use both hands to do it. I worried about accidentally hitting the kill switch, but with minor contortions, I managed to get back into the harness. I probably should have just hung until I was back on the approach but I was getting “pinched” pretty bad by the leg straps and flying over the whole damn fly-in, hanging like a puppet is bad form.
8th & 9th Flights
It was a perfect launch and a perfect landing! This was the best flight so far! And I think it was because of an equipment breakthrough. After the last flight I adjusted the harness so that the motor rode higher and closer. The shoulder straps are now a lot tighter and the sternum strap is looser. The new set-up allows me to run in a more upright position which made the launch a lot easer! Once in the air I felt a bit constricted but I could certainly loosen it or live with it. The important thing was I was running more upright which used the thrust better and allowed me to glance at the wing to make sure it was flying straight.
I flew north along the coastline at 1600 feet, until I was over the “rebel” camp of Mo Shelton and his entourage. After awhile I was feeling so good that I took a wild ass chance and used my mirror to check fuel level and I even took a few pictures. Then I climbed to 2800 feet and tried some ¾ power turns. What a rush! It didn’t take much brake to get into a mild bank, and for the first time I felt an increase in gravity. I doubt it was more than half a g but it got my attention…and I liked it!
Number nine was just a quick victory lap. I should have stayed up longer but I was worried that I would run out of gas and I didn’t want to do a dead stick landing. I climbed out, flew over the dome then turned left and followed the beach for about a mile then turned left again and headed back. I kept the power up and climbed all the way back to the LZ and was at 2500 feet when the LZ was right below me. I let the motor have just enough power to engage the clutch and keep the propeller spinning, then I did “S” turns and 360’s for a long time while I descended. This time I made sure to have my legs in position and did a neat little two step landing. I was a great way to end the last flight of my first Fly-in.
It was absolutely beautiful when we left. The air was dead still and the sun had just set. The last bit of twilight was painting the mountains purple, and there was a full moon reflecting off the sea. I marveled at how different the place had become in just a few hours. Where before, there had been the cacophony of dozens of paramotors, now you could hear the occasional sea bird. The crowd was gone and with it went all the furious energy that had driven the event. Everybody was moving slower, strolling instead of trotting. In the air was the silhouette of one last pilot who had gone up for a final flight. I listened to his motor wrap-up as he climbed out over the sea and then drop in pitch when he would glide back toward shore, then power up and out to sea again. I enjoyed his solitary flight for ½ hour. He was really quite good, doing all kinds of maneuvers, which would not have been tolerated when the sky was crowded.
He did wingovers and spirals and a move I had never seen before. The pilot would thrust forward and at the peak of the swing kill the power causing the wing to surge forward and dive. I kept expecting to see the leading edge of the wing collapse but he displayed fine control knowing just when to add a little brake and he consistently pulled out of the dive cleanly with a minimum of pendulum effect. He was still playing in the moonlight when Doug came by to pick me up.