Cloud Flight 751 Arcadia

Met up with Bob and Mike O at 7:00.  The Arcadia Airport is mid sized with a large nicely mowed grass field.  There was thick ground fog and a lite 5 mph breeze from the north.  As the fog started to burn off we set up and Mike launched right away.  Bob set up and blew his first attempt.  I was hoping to get good video and attached the Go Pro to the right side of the wing.   Mike was out of sight almost as soon as he took off. We could hear him buzzing around and I assumed he had gotten above it very quickly. 

My first launch was a bust.  The wing came up crooked and I tried to save it to no avail.  The Go Pro was dragged and swung up over the lines just as I aborted.  Here is where it got interesting.  The wing was thoroughly soaked during the first attempt.  While I was setting up for another, I kited it to build a wall and was amazed by the crisp inflation.  WOW, What a difference!  I’d forgotten how a theEden III used to feel, this was definitely not the wing I had been flying the last several months.  It was very responsive ground handling and once up it just felt different… better.  I’m guessing that soaking the wing gave it almost zero porosity and dry it would not pass that test.  I think it’s time to get a new wing.

#750 Shell Creek Air Park

Mike O and I were greeted at the field with a magnificent Sunrise.  The grass was wet and there was standing water all over the place.  I watched an armadillo amble past us on his way to Frank’s hanger.  Cute little fella reminded me of a puppy the way he moved.  I brought my chase cam and was hoping to get some good video of our flight.

Mike launched while I fussed around with the camera and set up.  It looked like strong wind aloft with Mike was barely penetrating as he loitered over the field.  Surprisingly, once up, there was very little wind.  Maybe 8-10mph from the East South East.  We flew east at 1200 MSL 4 miles and played around the phosphorus mine.  Good flight with no drama.

Over the last few weeks I’ve become convinced that my Eden III is ready to be retired.  It’s sluggish and the turns are flat.  In order to get a hard banking turn I have to lay on the throttle and really pull some brake.  I bought the wing from Mike Benett who flew it for about a year.  I’m guessing it has 400 hours of heavy use.  The last inspection was 18 months ago and it passed but I’m not so sure it would pass today.

Recent maintenance:
Mike Lange welded a break in the cage where it attaches to the frame bottom left.
Repainted the previous repairs to prevent rust
Replaced the line holders
Replaced two outside D main lines
Maintenance Due:
Replace all fuel lines
Change oil and filters

Jeff Toll …. Another good man down.

RIP Jeff

Flight is freedom in its purest form,
To dance with the clouds that follow a storm.

To roll and glide, to wheel and spin,
To feel the joy that swells within.

To leave the earth with its troubles and fly,
and know the warmth of a clear spring sky.

Then back to earth at the end of the day,
Released from the tensions which melted away.

Should my end come while I am in flight,
On the brightest day or the darkest night,

Spare me your pity and shrug off the pain,
Secure in the knowledge that I’d do it again

For each of us is created to die – 
And within me I know I was born to fly.

Anyone who has flown powered Paragliders for more than a few years has lost a friend or aquantance.  Stupid mistakes, failed equipment, overinflated egos and or skills.  For what ever reason it’s always, ultimately, the hand of God.  

Today when I checked Facebook  I discovered that fellow pilot, Jeff Toll, a partner in Team Fly Halo, had been killed in an accident.  My experience with Jeff and Team Halo is limited to The Gathering at Monument Valley and I only chatted with Jeff a few times so I cannot claim he was a great friend.  Nevertheless it didn’t take long to know he was a talented pilot, a strait shooter and very likeable guy.  

Here is a eyewitness account:  I’m not sure who wrote it and hope it is factual.

There are a lot of questions regarding the passing of our brother and legend Jeff, and there’s a lot of confusion and grief about this accident.

Myself, Keith Butt, and Jeff fly out of a three-acre lot in central Chesapeake, Virginia. The location is perfect with few obstructions and almost no potential for rotor.

Yesterday morning I looked at the sky and saw almost nothing but blue as far as I could see. The weather was perfect with winds about 1 knot out of the north-west. I texted Jeff and Keith saying I was going flying, and to see if they were interested in going too. Jeff wanted to, but said he was taking his wife, Jessica, out last night. Somehow influence overcame him and he was compelled to come. That’s a little bit my fault.

When I arrived at the field, Keith and a friend of Jeff’s, Mike, were already in the air, and as I pulled onto the field, Jeff was getting airborne.

I parked directly behind Jeff’s Jeep and began quickly unloading my motor from behind my Highlander, conducted a quick preflight look and began fueling. Jeff and the guys were flying overhead and around the field, and Jeff passed directly over me and waved vigorously shouting, “Hi, Micah!” As far as I know, those were the last words he said.

He proceeded northbound from the area where it’s slightly unclear exactly what happened. I was facing him as I was fueling, but all I was able to see was his wing hit a set of overhead power lines as he fell to the ground. The owner of the property, who saw the complete incident, said Jeff’s wing collapsed and he fell quickly to the ground from about 50-60 feet, well over the power lines, and maybe hit the lines on the way down.

I dropped everything and ran about a quarter-mile through about 3-feet of beans growing in the field adjacent to the LA until I arrived at the site where Jeff was.

When I got there, his motor was still running with a little bit of white smoke coming from the spinner. His reduction belt was missing, so the engine was spinning with only its own load. A few minutes later, the property owner arrived in a pickup and dialed 911.

Jeff was lifeless. His eyes were open, but he had no pulse, was not breathing, and had no circulation in his veins.

I cut his harness off of him and the farmer lifted the motor from his back. Knowing he would likely have spinal damage, though weighing that risk with his lack of vital signs, we laid him on his back and I began CPR. It took about 5 cycles of 120 compression/2 breaths before the paramedics arrived. I continued CPR shortly after while they were setting up equipment, then I was relieved by one of the paramedics who continued. He was immediately hooked-up to an AED and fluid suction to try to relieve the bleeding in his chest. He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center.

I’m sure this is a huge blow for Halo.  Jeff Byron and Shane have a unique business model and are poised to be the premier Flight School in PPG.  I look forward to working with them at future Monument Valley Gatherings but with the event less than two weeks away it’s doubtful that they will make it this year. Good luck you guys, I wish you the best.

Update:   Yesterday the Jeff Toll Memorial Airfield was dedicated.  Their home field had been groomed and Jeff was honored by having his name cut into the surface grass.  Mimicking the best of Jeff’s technological GE wiz gimictry a 360 degree cam view was available on line.  I could hear the ambient sounds and panning around I saw the podium and tent that had been erected for the ceremony.
With such a beautiful place to fly, I’m sure that Jeff’s name will not be forgotten by the aviators of the area.

His memorial service was today at 11:00. It was streamed live to anyone.  The PA wasn’t part of the feed, so we had to make do with the house speakers and all the ambient sounds of a church. I had to pay close attention while babies cried and people coughed, to understand Bryon, Shane and Jeff’s  Dad, Ray. They spoke well, Byron read the poem quoted above, Shane told their story and Jeff’s dad wrapped it all up with ,”TOLL …..Together,  Our Love Lasts”.  It presented Jeff in the best tradition of a fallen comrad. My heart goes out to them and also to all the pilots and friends and loved ones who preceded him in passing. 

Video Tribute to Jeff Toll

748 Shell Creek

Awoke early when my wife’s alarm went off.  Thought what the heck.  Just before leaving I got a Facebook message from a new guy … Mike Otten.  We met up at SC and set up.  There was just the slightest hint of a breeze from the NE.  I took off downwind and loitered while Mike set up.  He had a couple of failed launches but got off even though his wing was soaked.  Very impressive no wind launch with a wet wing.  Cruised a few miles east.  Saw a runway cut into one guys property and spiralled down to check it out.  Also chased down a fire only to find it was somebody burning trash.

The FlySkyHy app was having trouble doing accurate altitude calculations.  It was strange that it’s bad at SC but good at Placida.  It might be a cell phone vs. GPS thing.

747 Placida high Flight


Sunrise was at 7:08 Bob and I launched about same.  He stayed low and practiced several touch and goes while I went for altitude and took in the view.  Bob is a natural.  He is currently learning the difference between flying a DC -3 and a paraglider.  It’s fun watching him shake off old techniques.  I’ve heard it argued both ways, that being a GA Pilot makes it harder to learn to PPG.  Bob is living proof that both sides are right and wrong.  

The air was very rowdy below 250 feet where he spent the entire hour.  I got above layer and into the breeze where it was smooth as butter and climbed to 4000+ ft? AGL.  Even with trimmers out, the best I could do was 5mph into the wind.  While coming down I watched him practice, once he came in under power with brakes, slightly crosswind.  I could see it was bumpy … And sure as hell, he fought it down, landed on his feet, kited the wing, turned back into the wind and launched.  It was very impressive piloting skills and athleticism.

If I were feeling poetic I would write a tome.  Suffice to say.  It was a very enjoyable flight.

# 746 Shell Creek

Good Times
Light breeze at surface, 20 mph at 50 feet!  I took off from the runway and when I got to treetop level  the wing was pulled dramatically as it entered the flow.  I took a couple of good swings and flew into clear air. The wind slowly increased as I climbed and topped out at 30 miles an hour at 2000 feet. So… I guess there was a good wind SSE moving across Florida and surface friction slowed it to almost nil on the runway. Nothing else to report, I chased a large flock of cranes and spotted a small single engine plane departing from PG Airport. We were approaching head to head so it happened fast.  Since I was outside PGA airspace there was no foul.