El Mirage The Flying J Ranch


After visiting with Saundra Painter in Santa Barbara I drove out to El Mirage and waited for the wind to die. I’m camping at a small private airstrip that caters to ultra light Delta Trikes. They have a Quonset hut hanger with 6 trikes and several shipping containers where guys like Chad are storing their equipment. To the south east there is another facility where they are assembling and test flying the Predator unmanned vehicles for the military. All afternoon while I set up my camp there was a predator circling over the field. Its a very strange looking plane with the bulbous nose and lots of junk hanging down. The landing gear are on long sticks and the twin rudders are mounted below the fuselage. At the right angle when you cannot see the wings it looks like an insect…more like a grasshopper that a plane flying at 800 feet.

About 40 minutes before sundown the wind dropped and I went up for a test flight. Beautiful smooth air ! While I had the chance I practiced spot landings and several times I was able to touch down within a few feet of my wing bag.

I climbed to 100o feet and chased the sun. The dry lake is partly full but even so there was only a couple of inches of water. It’s less than a mile from the airstrip and a wonderful place to practice the low and slow, there are miles in all directions without a post or obstruction of any kind. 8/10 of a mile to the south west is a small uprising (probably 1000 elevation climb)called Grey Mountain. I climbed until I was even with the top and watched the sun set. When the shadows disappeared I cut power and descended to the LZ.

It got cold quickly and rather than try to heat up a can of soup I drove to the edge of the closest town and had a burger. Back at the tent I listened to the IPod and spent a very cold night in the desert.


Author: JoeO

Powered Paraglider pilot since 2005

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