Galveston Texas WingNuts 1st Annual Fly-In

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After spending Thursday night with Walt Burchfield and his bride in Dallas I headed south toward Houston. Just past the city I started seeing signs of damage from hurricane Ike. The first thing I noticed was the big McDonalds arches on posts high above the highway were missing parts. Then when I got to Galveston it was all beat up, there were blue tarps on the majority of roofs and lots of storefronts were closed. By the time I crossed over to the island it was total devastation, all the homes left standing were on stilts with the 1st floor blown away. Maybe one in 50 houses showed signs of people living there and the rest were either being worked on or waiting destruction. There were debris piles 6 feet high piled up[ along the Hwy. waiting for the trucks to come and haul it away. It’s 18 miles from the center of the island to the west end where we were camping and 8 miles to the nearest convenience store.

When I got there the wind was blowing too hard for me to launch but the texas wingnuts are primarily foot launchers and several of the guys were in the air. I decided to wait till sunset and used the time to set up camp. Jeff Goin had arrived the day before, he greeted me warmly and at his suggestion we went out to the beach to practice reverse kiting with the trike. It took him a couple of times to get a feel for the risers being attached to the power loops but in 45 minutes he had it figured and with me behind the prop to provide thrust he was doing successful reverses no sweat. Later I shared some leftover ribs with Jeff in the Enterprise and we had a great time. No topic was left out (except politics) from pianos to particle physics.

The next morning I got up early and took 2 long flights. The wind was about 8 mph and no problem since I had some experienced guys who knew how to hold the trike so that I wouldn’t turtle during inflation. Once up it was wonderful flat air near the sea I flew at about 700 feet parallel to the beach. Then when I flew over the scrub on the other side of the Hwy it started to get a little bouncy. The locals told me this is what to expect but I was thinking BUMPS and really it never got over about a two on the bump scale. I went about 5 miles up the beach and basically enjoyed the view.

Chris Page spotted a sea yak in the no mans land north of the residences so he and “Cowboy” went on a salvage mission. They got the kayak but I guess it was harder than dragging a bull elk through dense undergrowth. After Lunch I had three more flights. Two to figure out that I had left the choke on again and a nice long one. When it was time for the xc I had to stay behind because the wind had come up and “Cowboy” insisted that I would be asking for trouble. I still think if he had held the trike I could have gone for it but I wasn’t going to argue with a local instructor…so I licked my wounds and wished I was with the guys going out to Woody’s Bar.

The XCountry was a long flight and several of the guys ran out of gas and had to be picked up. In fact, had I gone ,I would have been walking too because we were told that it was about 12 miles each way and it was more like 20.

Later that evening Beery broke out the boudin, Sonny built a huge campfire and we had a damn good campfire. Lon even brought out a couple of busted props for us to sacrifice to the gods of PPG. I hung at the fire till about 9pm and went to bed early.

The next morning I was up before dawn the wind was 6mph and I took off without assistance. It was a great flight. After more than an hour in the air I landed and had something to eat. Jeff had just landed so I took a couple of Monster coffee drinks over to the Enterprise and as usual he was more than happy to stop whatever he was doing to spend time with a fellow pilot.

Ever since the Monument Valley Fly-In when this log was used by various people and the address was given out during the PPG Radio show I’ve been a little self conscious about what I write. So… even though Jeff might read this someday, I’m going to put down my thoughts about this guy. Jeff Goin is a genuine person with a remarkable history and an amazing set of credentials. He is passionate about the sport and truly one of the finest PPG Pilots in the world. There wasn’t a minute of the weekend that he wasn’t flying … kiting …working on the equipment…or just talking flying with the guys. His knowledge of aviation is encyclopedic and his curiosity is without end. I watched him work on a reverse with my trike, he was having trouble getting the wing to come up straight and when one guy would have been cussing, Jeff was fascinated and said “Wow! Now why is it behaving like this”. Then he proceed to work with the wing like a horse trainer with an unruly charge until eventually he figured it out and had the wing “behaving” as it should. He is selfless and tolerant and gracious about his notoriety. I’m honored to know the man and consider him a friend.

After a break I went up again and spent the better part of the flight flying as low as I could west along the beach. Most of the time I was at 6 to 10 feet but for huge chunks I was within two feet or less. Every once in a while the wind would pick up and I’d feel it pull me a little off to the side. It was a great opportunity to practice subtle wing control. I landed into much stronger winds and that was the end. I could have probably had someone hold the trike for me to get one more flight but it was time to pack it in.

Author: JoeO

Powered Paraglider pilot since 2005

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