Tony Littell

Tony Littell suffered a fatal Powered Paraglider Crash this week. He was my student.

We worked together three years ago and he flew regularly. Tony knew the principles of aviation long before we ever met. He had a longtime interest in RC model aircraft. One day when we were working on his gear he showed me his planes and I was impressed with the fit and finish. He also was an experienced falconer. He had a good mechanical mind and “enjoyed figuring it out”. I never doubted his ability to become a good pilot.

He terminated instruction before I could sign him off for PPG1. However, we did cover the entire USPPA Syllabus and we spent several days and many, many hours kiting the wing and ground handling his new Falcon 4 Stroke quad.

I’ll never forget the time I borrowed a trike buddy pusher unit from Leon Wacker. Tony and I shared the cost of freighting the unit in. The idea was for Tony to be able to practice taxiing without the worrying about the prop chewing up his wing. It was a great concept, the trike buddy acted as a pusher that Tony could control the same way he would his Paramotor. He could inflate the wing and run down the field, learning how to dampen oscillation and stabilize the wing overhead before committing to launch. Unfortunately the carburetor on the Harbor Freight motor had an air leak that prevented it from getting up to power. We wasted a beautiful day rebuilding the carb and when we finally got it running, the rains had flooded our fields. Well… that wasn’t going to stop us! We loaded up the equipment and drove out to Shell Creek Airpark. Then….. we spent the morning spinning wheels and throwing rooster tails of mud at my practice wing. I was frustrated to the max but Tony took it with grace. Eventually things dried up and we were able to get some good time at the field. He struggled with slowing down and stabilizing the wing but after several trading days he, “got it” and could inflate the wing and ground handle with confidence.

By October, Tony was well along with his ground handling, he was comfortable with the equipment and ready to fly. We waited On the weather for good day for his solo. When it didn’t happen I apologized and left for a couple of weeks to attend the big fly-in at Monument Valley. Tony was supposed to wait for me to come back to solo but while I was gone, he cracked off his first 7 flights and like that…. Tony was a pilot.

During his first year we flew together several times and I felt good about his skills and progress. We had a few excellent flights together at Placida and I specifically remember one sunset flight when John Sieb was visiting from Colorado. Everybody was grinning ear to ear when we got back from that one.

He, like me….was a soloist, Flying mostly alone. And…when I dropped out of the scene for 9 months after Huricane Irma he racked up an impressive number of flights. By the time I did get back into the air, he had 70 plus, under his belt.

When he had his accident We hadn’t flown together for several months. A couple of times we were going to hook up but it didn’t work out. So…. when I saw the posting from Bob that Tony had been killed after catastrophic equipment failure I was caught by surprise. I’m not going to speculate as to the cause of the accident before having inspected the equipment but from the eye witness report it seems likely that the left side weight support let go. Webbing ? – Carabiner ? – Risers ?

The Memorial Service is tomorrow.

Another good one …. done gone on.

Volvo Open 70. From Tortola to Bermuda,¡

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This was a good one. Monday night, Jay called and said, “So…. I’ve got 2 sailing adventures to talk about”…… , can you be ready to leave Wednesday morning?

Tortola , Virgin Isles, to Bermuda, 840 nautical miles, with 4 crew on a Volvo Ocean 70

Dawn took Jay and I to the airport, making sure I picked up a last minute can of chewing tobacco.

Sunrise in Tampa over the skyway bridge

Flew to San Juan with muscle bound blind guy. Took a while to figure out he was blind.

Small Saab powered prop plane with in flight pitch adjustable blades.

We took a Taxi to the west end with a local sailor. He pointed out wrecked boats, trashed mangroves, ruined buildings and tarps all over. Irma and Maria did a number here and there is a lot of real estate going back to nature.

Met up with Johanas and his man Kuba. One hour prep, lash dingy, rig fore sails, final drink at the dockside restaurant and we are off. Miscommunication at dock causes brief moment of chaos narrowly avoiding crushing the stern and possibly collision with anchored boat. All handled with aplomb. Took my jitters away, everybody fucks up sometime.

Dark quickly. First night was 18knots on a broad reach. Double reefed main with number 2 jib. Short choppy sea. Beautiful leaving Tortola lights of small houses all along the coast reaching up the hills. Bunks are spartan and my choice sucked. The crates under the netting were poking into my back forcing me to pick either 20 inches on the left or 25 on the right. On the left I had the hull pressing me and on the right I risked getting tossed 5 feet to the sole. 3 hour watches during dark 4 hour watches while light. Sitting on the stern I was punched in the kidneys by blue water. Took a couple of turns on the wheel, even reefed the boat is bumping up against 14knots. So smooth, so responsive, a F1 race car on water.

Average speed 11+ knots but the boat is capable of speeds in excess of 25.

Decided to put on foul weather gear.

First day at sea , winds were slightly lower.

No frills cruising. Water only. No cushions or deck chairs. I wonder if any of his clients expect those creature comforts?

Here are the best videos of a Volvo 70 I’ve found, the first is Roy Disney’s boat

Getting to know the carbon fiber boat.

Below, its as black as coal diggers… you know what. A very small galley greets you at the bottom of three long steps. Aft of the companionway is crew quarters with 16 bunks slung along the hull. The center is linkage for the 9 huge winches above deck. The Nav station is aft between the last set of bunks. Aft of the nav station is another compartment housing the steering gear connecting the twin Carbon wheels.

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Forward is gear storage, the head and another large compartment leading to the bow where sails and covers are stored. All black.

All standing rigging is synthetic. All running rigging is spectra or similar material. Twin dagger boards ,canting keel. Soft shackles where ever possible.

Second night. Wore Helly Hanson gear and was good. Better berth. Bioluminescence, shooting stars, flying fish. No moon .

At dawn Kuba discovered the main halyard had parted. It didn’t take much to convince Johanas to go up with my GoPro. He recovered the halyard, affixed the sloppy wind instrument and put a different halyard on the main. New to me was the locking mechanism that takes the strain off the halyard. It kept the main up when the halyard let go but at the same time , we couldn’t drop the main until the skipper went aloft and reattached a halyard.

Looks like the skipper is chewing me out.

looks like a moment of reflection….

Buddies again….

But seriously, Johanas was great. Never a sharp word and an abundance of patience.

We never had any balls to the wall sailing but he indicated that I would be welcome on future deliveries. Who knows…. maybe I could get a berth on the Fast Net Race if he doesn’t sell all the positions.

Food was no frills as well, best described as peasant Eastern European, boiled potatoes with 2 fried eggs on top, spicy rice with beans and a Mystery ingredient that had the appearance and texture of heart of Palm. Mashed potatoes with spices and onions, European tomato soup with heavy cream on top. I have no complaints, It was all tasty and nutritious. heavy on carbs low on protein and artfully served hot in a Tupperware container. They will be provisioning the boat to cross the Atlantic in Bermuda and we were just going through the stores onboard.

Final day…. We motored all night a didn’t have a proper wind to raise the staysail and Genoa till dawn . I helmed the boat for a couple of hours in the afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed it. We should be at Bermuda late tonight and plan to drop hook once in and shake it out sometime tomorrow.

Great dreams,,, Getting into all kinds of trouble in Vienna formal circus.

Becalmed… the first 24 hours we sailed 255 miles under sail. The rest we motor sailed.

A real highlight was going up the mast.

Dinner at Rick Thompson’s House.

Oxford Guest house

Snooker at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club

Dock yard

Oceanographic institute with VR

Flight #1014

Nice. I’d been communicating with Serge for a couple of weeks over messenger. They are on a paramotoring vacation driving from Canada and flying as much of Florida as possible. The Palm Bay Fly-In will be their last stop.

We met at Placida and cracked off a nice flight to Gasparilla and back. No drama.

After the flight we drove down to the Burger Barn for breakfast.