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.

Mike Bennett tells of his incident

My friend Mike Bennett was injured while flying alone at the Snowflake sports Park.   He asked me and the couple of other guys who knew to keep it quiet and to give him some space.  
Today he came out and here it is …. Thanks Mike

Well I will stir things up. Some of you know I had a little accident this past labor day where my spinning prop met with the side of my head. Long story short, my engine was cutting out at higher RPM so I landed to adjust the carb. I had the motor running and I verified that it was still cutting out and it was. I then took the engine back to idle and adjusted the high jet needle a 1/16 of a turn. I braced myself like I always have one foot on the bottom bar, left hand on the top tube of the frame and one foot back with the throttle in my right hand. Well I hit the throttle and it went to 8000 RPM’s in a split second. I was kinda not really ready for the instant on and by back foot slipped off a weed mound and I started to fall backwards. At that point the motor started to lift off the ground with only my left arm to hold it off. It seemed like slow motion as the motor was slowly coming towards but in reality I only had a split second to just turn my head to the side (instead of hitting me in the face) before being hit by the spinning prop.

Next thing I know I am on the ground laying on my back the motor is still running at idle laying on the J-bars and my head is buzzing big time and me left ear was ringing like it never before. I got the engine stopped and my first thought after that was I cut my ear off. So I checked my ear and it was still there but when I pulled my hand away it was covered in blood. My phone was next to me on the cargo carrier but I just could not dial the phone as my hands where shaking too much.

I was flying alone at Snowflake so I did the only thing I could think of which was to get in the car and head towards Rogers house. As I got in the car I saw my head in the rear view mirror and realized this is not good at all. I got in the sub and floored it up towards the house honking the horn the whole way. By the time I got to the house, Roger and Pat were already coming out. Their daughter who just happened to be visiting was a trauma ER nurse and took over right away. I was conscious the whole time and was doing great until the ambulance got there 25 minutes later.

The ride to the hospital was fun as well. The guy put two IV’s in my hand which was still sweaty from flying that morning and as he turned away for a minute to talk with the driver about the best way to get to the hospital, they popped out. So he had to put them back in and them put a third one in my arm. My head was pointed towards the front of the van so every time the driver hit the brakes all the blood in my body would start towards my head and it would just POUND. Anorther 25 minutes back to the hospital.

After the first CAT scan and getting stitched up (somewhere around 60 stitches), they told me I had a major concussion, some bleeding and bruising in my brain but it did not crack the skull. I spent 28 hours in ICU and with a second CAT scan, the bleeding and bruising had gone down so they sent me home.

Just over two months later I’m back to 100% other than a scar. The hair is growing back inside the scar already and by next year this time most of it would not even be visible so I am very lucky. So that is why I have not been flying  (at all) working on paramotors, talking on the forums nor did I tell many people about it until I was ready. Yes I will be flying again very soon with some changes. The first change is for the first few flights I will be trike-ing. However I have a few project going on like finishing a powder coating oven big enough to powder coat PPG frames. I have the standard black and I want to Change the color of the used trike I bought from Alex so I will not fly unil that is finished which is looking to be about the first of the year. Note: I will be offereing my powder coating services as well as continuing my PPG repair services to the PPG community for a reasonable price.

A couple things I learned in this process, first don’t fly alone. If I had got knocked out I could have bled to death. Second, always think that the engine will spin up faster than you are used too. Yes the throttle was not stuck but it spun up sooooo fast like I have never seem before, I got caught off guard, it can happen. Third make sure you are properly braced when taking a motor to full throttle. I plan to use my cargo carrier with the frame locked in before I make field adjustments again. Last is (at least for me), my wife really loves me. In the hospital I was saying I was done flying and bless her heart so said “Don’t say that, you know you love flying too much, just take a break and you will get back too it.” She also did say “However if you do anything like that again, you are done flying!”

I have pictures on my web site if you are interested but be warned the first one is very graphic. The next two show the netting where my head went through and the rest show stitches and healing with the last one picture two months.

Mike Goes Down! #744

Mike is down here

Joe’s flight

Slight incursion into Punta Gorda airspace.
Good flight for me.  Not so much for Mike.  Bob’s write up tells it better than I
Yorkshire LZ
Flight 19
Flight time 01:52
PIC 16:32
45 miles covered
Allup wt 280lbs
Wx: clear 10/vis, 80°F
Mike Lange
Joe Onofrio (trike)
A planned flight turned into a locate, assist and extricate adventure.
I was testing my phone cradle strapped to my thigh, headset with radio cabling running under shirt and Mic switch running inside left sleeve. The setup and takeoff was normal but the phone fell out during the run. I noticed it as I was configuring for cruise. During my quick approach and landing I forgot to grab brakes.
Should hv landed before Mike who had setup in the exact location but I was hot and was landing with tip steering only, geez. To fast for me to run so second base slide was in order, just clearing Mike’s wing with motor power. After explaining to Mike about the phone, he called it and it was right between us in working order. Reset the wing and off I go again. Only gloves were forgotten.
The plan was to meet Joe Onofrio at Wal-Mart distribution center than fly north checking out a POI and possible LZ’S, none checked out. Arriving at the rendezvous waypoint, Joe was bugging out to the south as we arrived. He had an appointment with contractors. I’m the only one with communication.
My waypoints were two to three miles apart. Mike generally flies in my blind spot, so I navigated along my preprogrammed waypoints. After crossing a large plowed field with Mike in tow his silencer departed and broke the prop forcing him to attempt a 180 back to the plowed field, but altitude was not on his side and an orange grove landing was inevitable. He sent me a text at 8:07 though I wasn’t paying attention to anything on my phone except navigation until arriving back at the LZ and noticed Mike hadn’t landed at 08:37. Checking msg’s Mike sent me ” Muffler fell off. Broke prop stuck in trees ” Mike was unable to send me his location, so I flew between waypoints close to where he thought he had landed. He said he was stuck in a tree so I focused on large trees around dirt fields between waypoints and not orange groves, though eventually I saw him waving his arms alongside an orange grove. Thinking I needed to check fuel and land in an area for takeoff, I chose the plowed field next to the Orange grove though after landing it was apparent it wud be a difficult launch, I chose to call it a day knowing our location was within a hundred yards of vehicle rescue.
Their was only a ditch crossing with water, mud and man eating fire ants to the groove.
I text Joe our pickup location. Mike and I climbed an orange tree to untangle the Paraglider without damage. Probably took an hour plus with success. Joe arrived, help with the wing extraction and took some pictures. We loaded all equipment in the pickup and departed back to the LZ.
1) Radios are a hassle but worth the effort.
2) Learn how to send your location with your phone if able.
3) Water and a cold ass Corona at the LZ
Sun reflecting off navigational markers in Charlotte Harbor

Walmart Distribution Center 

Leaving class D Airspace Oops!

Mike’s garage trophy

They took risers off but what a tangled mess

Smiling Mike

We bagged us a wing from this here tree!