Pikes Peak Poweredparagliding Club
One took off to the Southeast and the next went straight up. At the north end of the apron it was a little more consistant with the balloons tracking southeast. Few pilots were serious about launching and everybody seems a little spooked. Finally, John Black launched in his quad and I decided to check it out for myself.
I walked the buggy to the far end of the runway where Sue and her boyfriend were packing up. Her gut was telling her to stay on the ground and wisely chose not to chance it. I on the other hand still thought it was flyable and was determined to give it a go. My first attempt was aborted when the PowerPlay fell back but on the second it came up clean and I launched quickly. It was smooth for the first 200 feet but started to get bumpy and increased as I climbed. I came down 50 feet and flew away from the mesa where I encountered the bumps a bit lower than before. I figured that it was the winds curling off the mesa and it would be a bumpy ride at leadt till I got far enough to the east to get out of the rotor and then It would be a rowdy upwind ride home. Since I had already had 4 good flights and there was no chance of getting back to the park I turned back and made a clean landing with a minimum of power.
That was it…the 2nd Annual Gathering at Monument Valley was over. John and I wasted no time packing up our gear and policing the area. I said my good-byes and headed for home.
Due to the severe storm up north I went home via Pagosa Springs and Salida. It’s been a long time and I forgot how beautiful this area is. Next summer I’m going to make it a point to visit Paul Dillon.
Flights #363 to #367
Photo by Faith Wesstrom
When I got back to the field there was a plane circling the LZ waiting for everybody to clear the runway. I positioned myself at 500 ft just north of the airstrip so that I would be well inside of the flight pattern and out of the way. There was a truck sitting right in the middle and I was hoping that he knew there was a plane waiting to land. It took entirely too long, with the foot steering engaged and the throttle set to cruise I circled for at least 15 minutes. Eventually the runway was cleared and I landed with a long low and slow run up the runway. This was the best flight so far.
Photo by Faith Wesstrom
After Lunch a bunch of us piled into the pick-up and went for a tour of Navajo Tribal Park. We had a great time stopping at the various outlooks and pointing out places where we had been and planned to go and taking the obligatory,“We were there”, pictures. All of us agreed that the monuments looked allot bigger from the ground but scarier from the air. I was astounded when Jeff told me that he was anxious flying close to these massive and unchanging structures because I felt the same way. We both knew that they couldn’t “suck you in” but at the same time it took force of will to fly right up to the wall of something so huge and unsympathetic.
Seeing the monuments from the ground was a real eye opener. For one thing, I realized that if I were ever forced to make an emergency landing, I had better be able to glide to a road, because it would be almost impossible find smooth patch amidst all the skree. Not to mention the difficulty in pushing the Rig to a place where I could be picked up.
Faith and Ola Wesstrom
That evening we met at Gouldings for the Big Dinner.
Into the truck and down the hill we went. Ola looked very comfortable sitting in the buggy and Faith was riding shotgun as the token lady but I worried that I was going to lose either Ivan or Uri off the back, fortunately I remembered the speed bumps and we made it without incident. At dinner I had the ribs which I wish I’d tried sooner because it was by far the best dish on the menu. Sitting with Johnny Fetz, Chad and Greg Bishop, we talked about next year and things we wanted to do. I really hadn’t thought about “non-organizing” it again but listening to the gang …it sounds like allot of people are talking about coming back and doing it again.
After the meal I got up and said a very few words, thanking everybody and inviting them to come back next year. Someday I’m going to surprise them and prepare a real speech but for now the minimalist thing was working for me. One thing for sure it was much more satisfying that the last time when I had a pilot down and no one knew his condition.
After dinner we hung for about an hour and told hanger stories. It was a hoot to see Jeff sitting with John Black and Mo. The atmosphere was celebratory, just about everyone got one “EPIC” flight and no one was injured.
Eventually it broke up into lots of little parties. I made the rounds and visited a couple of them; the campfire discussion was in full swing with Russ, Faith, Ola, Ivan, Johnny, Uri, Chad and a few others. Tonight’s topic was wing design, what’s new, what’s being developed… and… Government interference in the Ultraflight World, the good bad and ugly. Russ had an abundance of firewood so the fire was high and accommodated the large group nicely.
Down at the Bachelor’s Quarters there was a rowdy game of Texas hold-em. Csaba and John Black were going at it hard and heavy while the guys who had donated to the cause looked on with great big smiles. The happiest guy was Jim King who had seen god earlier in the day when he got pinned to the earth by a running paramotor. Story is, that Jerry had fixed him a couple of Margaritas before dinner and he was feeling no pain. At Bob’s RV the “Acro Film Festival” was winding down. I was almost bowled over by Ivan when he staggered out of the RV… heading to bed…too tuckered for any more carousing.
Toward the end we had some excitement, one trike was flipped launching in a puff and another fellow got dumped when he was whacked coming in on final with power off landing. The last part of the video was Beery getting dumped by a rotor at the same place I had a hard time climbing out.
That evening Johnny and I shared dinner, his shredded pork and my Italian sausage, it was “wolf camping” at its best. Several of us sat around the campfire talking propeller design. Csaba Lemak of Electric PPG fame joined us and talked about some new products he is working on including a high quality composite prop that could be produced for a fraction of current manufacturing costs. Ivan kept things light trading jabs with Stann Honey and Mark Latham. Mark seems to be a much happier and healthier guy than the last time I saw him. I enjoyed his story of flying a glider up to 24,000ft riding the mountain wave.
The morning was a blow-out, gusty and switching winds. We stood around and some of us kited. A couple of guys even went up for very…very short flights but it wasn’t good air and since there were going to be lots of opportunities over the next few days I didn’t sweat it. About 10:00am I met with Jerry and a few other guys for breakfast at Gouldings. Other than flying, the topic of the day was the foul weather that our families were experiencing only 8 hours away. Denver had just broken a 100 year low temp record. Black ice had put the city in gridlock …but at the gathering… we were enjoying 72 degrees and beautiful skies.
The afternoon was spent with housekeeping, showers and a nap. At 4:30 we headed down to the field and waited for the winds to come down. It was coming from the Northwest and I set-up downhill, across the runway expecting to lift off at the helicopter pads. I missed it, but Ivan was setting up to the left with the same plan and we started our launch together. I saw him …he saw me…we aborted together and it was just dumb luck that kept his wing out of my prop. We apologised to each other and started over. Of course Beery got the whole thing on video
I left Denver at 10am and arrived at Monument Valley just at dark. I could have been there sooner except that I stopped to catch up with Steve Katers in Glenwood Springs. Ten years of making this drive representing the bike industry has made it hard to just power drive straight on through, there are just too many friends to catch up with! The mountains are spectacular, Indian summer is happening all over ! It’s dry and warm and colorful! Luc and my Russian friend “Crazy” Ivan, were already set-up at the upper tent site. Luc had fixed some pasta for himself and his father and graciously shared it with me. My favorite place overlooking the “Big Indian”was open… so I backed the truck between two Greek Olive trees to unload. When I was backing in, Luc shouted “Joe is the first pilot in the trees”. I didn’t understand at the time and thought he was making a joke, but later… when I was covering the buggy for the night, I discovered that I had caught the cage on a branch and bent it pretty badly. The buggy wasn’t flyable. I was heartbroken and spent the night thinking I was grounded for the duration of the Fly-In.
Post by Beery Miller:
I’ve got some photos I have posted up on the <http://www.txwingnuts.com/> website that I took while on the way to Monument Valley from Houston, at Monument Valley, and some of the surrounding areas of Monument Valley.
Myself, I flew about 3 hours at Monument Valley. I had 4 flights, the first 3 averaged about 1 hour. The Sunday morning flight, Jeff Goin and Faith caught on video as I launched uphill towards the mesa, cleared the fence by about 3 feet,tried to make a left (eastern) turn, and then did not have enough power to climb from the sink due to some rotor and was dumped from about 5 feet at the edge of the road. Fortunately, the car stopped. Poor choice on my part to launch in the first place. That was Jeff Goin’s first incident Sunday morning he referenced on
I caught some good video of Luke from Quebec and a couple of pilots out in the monuments, flipped the camera upside down to make it look like John Fetz had flipped his trike , two pilots attempting to launch at the same time and colliding on the ground, captured a bunch of other blooper performances,captured several instructional moments where pilots were transferring their wisdom to help others improve their skills, and other entertaining moments. I also went around and shot some video from various perspectives of the valley including one spot from a dry river bed, ten miles off the main road and after the “gravel” road ended. Myself, even though I didn’t consume but 3 gallons of the 20 gallons of Avgas I took, the trip was well worth it. They call it God’s Country. The ground perspective would have made it almost satisfying in of itself, however theflights above the monuments were the icing to the cake.
Monument Valley is a trip every pilot should make sometime in their lifetime. There were a number of pilots that didn’t successfully launch on the trip as it is indeed an advanced launch site. I watch two pilots, one on Saturday nightand another Sunday morning take major sink at the end of the runway. Both walked away, one needing a new spark plug boot, the other needing a new cage. The potential for winds, thermals, rotors, the high altitude, ground hazards for launching, and terrain is not a place for an inexperienced pilot. Even though I have close to 1000 hours of flying in my 5 years, it did not prepare me. Not once was I able to successfully do a forward inflation as either the wing would catch on something or I didn’t have the speed to keep the wing loaded. Coming from sea-level beach flying altitude to an LZ one mile high was part of the issue. Anyways, many thanks to Joe for arranging the event. It was great meeting old friends and meeting people behind their usernames like John Fetz, Lance, Brian, Delia, Ola, Faith, Luke, Ron Nolan, Stann, Jeff Goin,John Black, Jerry Kerr, Sky King, Mo, Sean, George, Joe, and so many others. Oh, and watch out if you ever play Texas Hold’m with Jerry, John, or SkyKing. They funded part of their trip from me.
Saturday Oct 11 Ah, now this is more like it! Morning was perfect and nearly everybody flew. It was tough launching uphill with shifting light winds but, once aloft, many pilots made the monument trek as did I. Good thing, by the way, my exhaust bolts were safety wired in. Wow, now this is some amazing scenery. Calling them monuments is right on.It’s weird how spooky being next to, and just over, these monoliths is. I mean its not like they’re going to suck you in, especially given the relatively mellow conditions. They look so hard, so utterly unconcerned about my wellness, so unforgiving of any misstep. I held the brakes just a bit tighter. It took a couple circuits before I’d let go to snap pictures.It wasn’t perfectly smooth, by any measure, but 2-level bumps are smooth relative to the sharp nastiness of yesterday evenings flights. That this is an airport became abundantly clear when an airplane, coming in for a landing, had to abandon his approach due to a bunch of gliders on the runway–trikes getting ready to launch. He circled for probably 5 minutes while everyone pulled off to make room. An easterly breeze made everything quite smooth for launch and landing, perfect for trying stuff out. I tried out Chad’s Miniplane with Mo’s Spice. That’s my all-time favorite combination. I also tried his 19 meter “ultralight” wing which was incredible. Mo tried it too. Six foot something Mo Sheldon weighs about 185 pounds and he was tasking a Top 80 with hefting around on a 19 meter wing at 6000 foot density altitude. Hmmm, I thought, that won’t be a stellar climb. But at least he was launching uphill. Mind you, the climb was pretty marginal, there was a steady 5 to 8 mph breeze and Mo knows his way around a wing. But still it was impressive. I had a pretty decent climb rate on my flight of the wing but I’m 35 pounds lighter, too. That wing weighs a grand total of 5 pounds. Five. The risers look like clothes lines. Talk about easy inflating, though! The evening was a bust. Once I found out the winds were again coming over the back I begged off flying altogether and, in fact, didn’t even get my wing out. Surprisingly, several pilots flew in spite of all that. One pilot took a 40 percent collapse just over the airport and I happened to be videotaping. “Happened” isn’t exactly right since I figured there was a pretty high likelihood of badness which was why I was taping. A 40% collapse, without any cravats, is very benign as long as the pilot doesn’t overreact. Thankfully, he didn’t and came around, rather suddenly, for an uneventful landing. One other piece of excitement was a pilot who landed at the other end of the runway and got whacked just as he was running it out. He fell and his throttle hand mashed into the dirt such that the motor stuck on half power or so. We saw the landing but not the fall. John Black sped down there in his truck, saw what was happening, couldn’t get the kill switch, so he reached in and yanked off the spark plug. Nice going.When this airport is in wind shadow, not surprisingly, it’s no fun to be flying. That’s why I, and most others, didn’t go up. Plus, I’d had a great morning flight, why go bounce around in this. Saturday night we all gathered at Goulding’s restaurant and told lies. It was a great time. Sunday morning, as I write this, promises to be nice early but, with winds forecast to be strong over the back by noon, I’m going to stay pretty close if I fly at all. It’s been a great trip, I’ve had 5 flights, and could easily end it on this most happy of notes. There is the matter of my now fully fueled motor…
Sunday Summary: A gorgeous sunrise belied the unsavory swirls aloft. Southwesterly winds put us, again, in rotor. I had no interest in it—been there, got the T-shirt, didn’t like its fit. Joe Onofrio sent up a helium balloon and, surprisingly, it didn’t look as bad as we feared and, even I agreed that it probably wasn’t dangerous but wouldn’t be smooth and, with a forecast strong wind at noon, feared that conditions could suddenly grow teeth. When one intrepid pilot did elect to launch I got the camera. The good one, with the big lens and good stabilization. Sure enough, I was treated to show. He did a nice launch, barely cleared the fence then landed (well, kinda whacked) into the hill just south of us. Neither he nor his equipment suffered any damage beyond a flight suit tear but it wasn’t a good start to the morning. That put a damper on launches for a while but then we noticed that there wasn’t anything sharp to the wind although it occasionally did gradual changes to the opposite direction. Yup, better time that one right! Then John Black starting playing around with his quad, inflating and taxi/kiting up to the ramp, turning around, taxiing down the runway and finally launching into a short flight. It was an exquisite display of what’s possible with good throttle and wing control. You’ve got to keep enough airspeed over the wing and lead your turns. When he offered it up to me I jumped at the chance. What a hoot. I did one run up to the ramp with a 180, came around between the guys and launched down the runway. God that’s cool. No potholes, either.A digression on Quads I saw some extreme examples of the incredible stability offered by low CG quads. John’s Paracruiser was the most graphic, though. When another pilot was taxiing it, he got into some turbulence which started him swinging left/right. He lifted off and wound up hitting the pavement sideways, skidding to a stop. Had that been a trike or a anything with a higher CG, it would rolled immediately. In fact, there were two trikes that rolled and were damaged. But John’s and another similar unit, which endured highly tipful encounters, just skidded around.Both incidents that I saw would have tipped most trikes. Mind you, I like trikes and, for experienced pilots, they’re fine. Quads have drawbacks, too, of course, namely in rough terrain because the wheels hit bumps unevenly. But overall, the evidence is overwhelming that you’re less likely to flip a low CG quad than a trike. And of course it makes sense given their broader overall base. Trikes can be improved, of course, by having a low CG and wide rear wheel base, but, all things being otherwise equal, quads are the best tool for beginners learning wheels.Eventually other pilots launched into increasing turbulence and all landed after collecting too many bumps in too little time. One pilot got into enough turbulence that he decided to land a quarter-mile down the runway. His last 40 feet was rapid, pounding in hard enough to wreck the cage and prop. That was hard to watch. He didn’t add power and didn’t flare until way too late. Fortunately he was fine and hopefully will be able to get his gear repaired since he’s part of a French group visiting here. Wish I could speak French! I’d love to welcome them in the same way I felt welcomed in France. Language barriers suck. Rusty was among the last to fly, putting on a great show of foot dragging and generally playing around. He’s the one who built this incredible green motor home that mated a 1950’s truck to a GMC motor home and has a matching trailer. Overall, it was an incredible experience. Just being here is worth it. Thanks so much to Joe Onofrio, the “non-organizer” as he calls himself, for getting us all together. It has etched out a fine memory that will, no doubt, enjoy frequent visits.