My Heart was Pounding

The following is a totally fictional log entry.

The photos are stock images.
Night flights are against FAA Regulations.

Flight 992.
It would have been great if this had been #1000 but today was the day.
I’d been wanting to do this for as long as I can remember.

Last night the moon was full, the skies were clear and at 3:00am it was 75 degrees. The wind was 4 mph from the East. I set up on the freshly blacktopped road. It was a bit of a trick to clear the lines. Even with a full moon I couldn’t follow them all the way back to the wing to make sure they weren’t crossed and I was doubly surprised when I found one wrapped around the wing while squaring up and folding the tips.

I pre-flighted the rig, mounted the iPad and turned on the Garmin. Everything was done. Try as I might, I couldn’t find anything to keep me from sitting down and buckling up. So I did. My left brake was in my hand and all I had to do was turn the key to start the motor. I was launching to the East the moon was at my back and looking down the runway it was pitch black. The runway was clear but if I was forced to either side, I would have to abort or risk catching one of the Stop signs, 200 feet ahead of me.

It was time, but …. My heart was pounding. I released brake and forced myself to relax. It didn’t take long. It was maybe 30 seconds, when I reached for the left brake, turned the key and started the inflation. The wing came up clean and I knew it was going to be good, the trike was accelerating nicely right down the center of the road. I didn’t need to mash the throttle or pump the brake, it was a clean launch.

I stayed on an easterly course while climbing over the pond south of the RC Airpark. It was exhilarating to see the lights of Punta Gorda across Charlotte Harbor. I started a slow right hand turn and there was the Gulf with that big beautiful moon reflecting back at me. Looking down at the field I could make out the roads but not as clearly as I expected. I knew where the truck was but it was only visible from the west. Worse case, I could navigate back to the launch and that was reassuring.

For the next hour I did laps around the meadows. Going as far west as Gasparilla Marina and back to the Rim Canal. I watched the eastern sky lighten and a few little clouds float across the Harbor. The views were amazing. To the west was Boca Grande, the Gasparilla Causeway and Stump pass. The lights of the Marina and jet port were convenient landmarks, the moonlight reflecting off the gulf outlined the coast and at first light I began to see the details of Cape Haze. To the East was the Myakka and Peace rivers and South was Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island. I’ve flown from Placida dozens of time but this was special.
After the sun was clearly above the horizon I descended from 1800ft and landed without drama.
Cheated Death Again!

Author: JoeO

Powered Paraglider pilot since 2005

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