Route 66 and the Wild Horse Canyon

Every 2 years Michelle Daniele Hosts 

Route 66 Flyers Fly-In 
at Paramotor City

This year I did a sprint. Drove down on Friday and drove home on Saturday…. 

It was too windy to fly Friday night (at least for me) but Jim King went for a quick spin in the sunset.  Sue had stopped by the tent announcing that the wind was coming down and that she was thinking of going up.  So….. While Jim and I  walked back to our trucks we debated the value of rigging up for such a short window of flyable air.  Jim was saying it was hardly worth the effort and I said yea , but it might be real good.  Jim looked at me and said , Ya know, You might be right.   Five minutes later Jim is setting up. AND…
It was spectacular!   Jim took off with a beautiful full moon behind him and rode toward the Sunset. After he had tasted the air,  he found it not so sweet, so… he turned back to land. and, “stuck it”,  like a gymnast going for the gold.  Jim Doyle and I stood there in awe of Sky King, one of the unsung heroes of  PPG history.


A personal highlight was sleeping in the bed of my truck under the stars.
It brought me back to the summers when I “slept out” 6 days a week.  That night we were experiencing what is called the “Super Moon”, the brightest moon in 75 years.  About 11:00 somebody foot launched and flew around the field for about 20 minutes.  Very cool.  His wing wasn’t light enough to video but it did reflect the moonlight on the turns.  I’m going to have to try it someday.  Tonight was the perfect night and all I can say was good for him.  One of these days …. It’s officially on my Bucket List.  Maybe at Lake Jean or Apex in Nevada.   But one of these days I’m going to do a moonlight flight.
Saturday morning I got up at 5:00 and launched with Jim Doyle who was leading the cross country to Wild Horse Canyon.  Great flight …. good air all the way.

After the flight we enjoyed the traditional omelets in a bag breakfast.  My jalapeño bacon was a huge hit, they ate all 5 pounds!
The Route 66 crowd is family and it was so great to see my friends.
Thanks Michelle for having us back.

Monument Valley 09 Friday

Friday Johnny Fetz & his “Junk Buggy”

The “Epic Flight”

The first take-off was difficult. I set-up at the North East part of the runway by the hanger. It was an uphill take off and my climb was just barely enough to overcome the the grade of the runway. I cleared the fence at the end of the runway by two feet and turned North where I skimmed the surface for 100 yards before starting to climb. The go…no go point came after lift-off when I was climbing ok, then I hit some sink and and my climb went to hell. Aborting would have been “absolutely bad”, I was committed and had to fly it out, even if I was just going to fly to the crash site. I felt sure that I that I would clear the fence but the terrain West was not a good place to touch down and I was “puckered” to the buggy for awhile. At 1200 ft. the air calmed down and I set off for the Monuments. When I arrived at “lookout point” I turned to Sentinel Mesa and made a slow turn to take some pictures. Absolutely beautiful! I could look into the Valley of the Gods to the South, across to Brigham’s Tomb to the North and back to Gouldings in the West. Later when I was back over the field I resisted landing and loitered over the field for a long time watching the activity below.
That morning and through the afternoon the whole gang showed, Jeff Goin had the top RV spot and Carlos Segnini with his crew were down the hill just south of us. Luc and the Russians were on top and Ola and Faith were in a cabin on the edge. We spent the afternoon hanging around the campsite talking PPG. It was all about Jeff’s upcoming video on Mastering PPG and John Fetz new kevlar prop, where we had flown and where we would like to go. I sat there by my tent, taking it all in and watched my wind indicator as it danced to all four points of the compass. The sky was filled with big puffy clouds that were tinged red on the bottom, reflecting the color of the earth below. It was a great relaxing afternoon.
The evening flights were bumpy but good. I launched during a calm moment between the puffs and only flew for a short time staying close to the LZ. Anyway, it was much more entertaining at the airstrip. Chad was demonstrating the his new ultralite wing, it weighs 5 pounds and kites like nothing I’ve ever seen. Chad was playing it up big, strolling around and occasionally reaching out to tug on a riser making like he wasn’t paying any attention to the wing at all. The hook-in is designed low and the risers are very different, like braided kevlar lines rather than conventional webbing with mallions. I would have loved to fly it but it’s far too small for my rig.

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.


Video by Fait Wesstrom

Other pilots showed considerable skill and patience waiting for the right moment to set down. I was really impressed by Perry Molter who made several passes before he committed and landed on the runway with an amazingly clean and swift flare. There was other carnage that I didn’t see, but heard about later. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt for which I’m thankful. Much like last year, the LZ was a free for all, but everybody seemed to be a bit more aware of the conditions and respected the site.

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.

Jeff Goin on Monument Valley 09

Jeff Goin
Photo by Faith Wesstrom
Post by Jeff Goin:
It’s breathtaking. You can easily see why film crews found this a perfect backdrop for so many John Wayne and other westerns. They had to love it when Technicolor replaces monochrome. Red rocks and others mix light and shadow in ways that our mind’s eye paint as art. Beautiful art. And its amazing to see it all from the variable perch of our little 3d machines. Unfortunately, that freedom comes at a price. I pulled in well after the morning but pilots reported that it was quite bumpy at Gouldings, where we launch from, as early as 9am. That’s not surprising since a west wind aloft was spilling over the huge mesa just to our west. But those pilots who went out early reported good conditions and gorgeous flights.What a diverse group of pilots. Pilots are here from as far away as Eastern Canada and Florida and I suspect that they are not disappointed. In spite of challenging flying conditions, it’s tough not to appreciate the place–especially with the beautiful weather tossing up brilliant blue skies that interact so well with this incredible terrain.Friday afternoon I was anxious to get in the air. By 5pm pilots were getting their gear positioned all over the aircraft parking area and runway but it was still quite gusty, ranging almost calm to 15 mph. I watched some of the kiting and it was telling. Not yet. By 6pm I figured that, even though it was still kind of gusty, at least the thermals would be diminished and I launched. The best way to launch a paramotor in switchy conditions, in my opinion, is to consider it a two part process. Get the wing up and moving nicely then, when all is well, go for it. Don’t linger in the run since inflation and running are the most vulnerable times, but take stock of your readiness for flight before committing. Running briskly, wing overhead and tracking, then power up using necessary but minimum brake inputs. Sometimes locations make this assessment period very brief, especially in zip wind.Not long after launching it became obvious I probably shouldn’t have. The wind aloft was westerly and much stronger than anticipated, curling over that huge mesa a half-mile to the west. I headed east towards the monuments and away from the rotor. Wow. What a sight! Two other pilots joined me and I did get some video and pictures in spite of nearly continuous level 2 bumps. The video will be nearly worthless but some of the stills worked out. Meanwhile, back at the field, there was some minor trauma when a trike pilot got wind-whacked and flipped over with the usual damage and a scraped up arm. Pavement is not forgiving. Other pilots wisely watched the shenanigans and decided against flying.The strong west wind also meant that I would be taking a long time to come back so I returned pretty early. I’m trying out the Ozone Viper 2 and appreciated having the reflex available. I came down to find a reasonably smooth altitude and motored in. It wouldn’t be pretty near the airport with nearly the same turbulence as when I left so chose to land farther away from where I took off and come in under power. Landing with power gives you more control in shifty air but at some extra risk of damaging the gear. Good thing I had the power because on short final a gust tried to dump me but a good goose of Mr. Black Devil at the last minute averted what could have been a firm arrival. I was happy to be down. Others launched with varying results. One pilot got airborne only to be dumped just a bit before the fence. He wisely chose land and reset instead of pressing on in hope of clearing the fence.Landings were even more exciting. One pilot took 3 approaches before finally getting a good window and setting down nicely. Another came in power off, got lifted then dumped and landed so hard that he tumbled, bending his cage. He’s an extremely experienced flyer who just got weather-whacked. This place, in this wind condition, is not very forgiving. Three pilots didn’t make it back because there were unable to penetrate so they landed out. Good move.I’m glad to have gotten my one flight, and it was spectacular, but it was not an ideal choice. If the wind is like that again I’ll just do video taping from the ground! Morning beckons and is supposed to be better. Winds are typically oozing down the runway, forcing an uphill launch but I’ll take that over turbulence any day.

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.

310 & 311 East Springs Airport

It’s a good thing I got up early because the thermals were starting to kick up by 7:20.
This morning is the warmest of the year 63 degrees at 6:00am…Light breeze from the North.

Two short Flights 20 minutes and 10. First to 1200 feet and the second to 500. I cut the first one short to greet the new arrivals and should not have because the good air didn’t last.

Kevin later explained to me that, often the dawn breeze is from the North or else calm. It might stay that way for several hours but eventually it starts moving either to the east or south.. If it switches to the East…watch out for bumpy air. Also, the more Westerly the SW breeze also makes for bumpy air.

Jerry Kerr

I launched just ahead of Jerry and we stayed together for awhile. He kinda hung off my left side at 8:0clock and then flew over the top. The difference in our climb rate was dramatic. I think our decent is about the same but I’m guessing that he has a 100 ft/min or better advantage. I hope the Power Fins will do the trick …I’ll settle for a noticeable improvement at least 175.

Oops! Forgot my Helmet

Once again …It seems like when ever I change the routine I forget to put on the helmet. Today I’ll blame it on the new thigh mount for the Garmin 176-c. This time I was grooving to Cirque Du Sol …getting al cosy with my lap toys and meanwhile, my helmet was on the ground next to the buggy. I must have rolled over it during the initial power-up, …I do remember a slight hesitation before I started to accelerate. Anyway it must have been rolled in the prop wash because it was full of vegetation. No harm done … at least it didn’t go through the prop like my Monument Valley Cap.

Equipment Notes

I look forward to getting my radio back from Capt. Black. I’ll actually be able to talk with my friends…imagine that? I haven’t had radio communications in the air since my second flight with Brian Smith and I’ve missed some good opportunities because of it.
Jerry and I were talking about seat belts and the value of a 5 point with quick release. After thinking about it, mine does have a good quick release and do I really need shoulder straps? It might make it hard to reach forward. On the other hand if I have a really hard landing or roll it will keep me under the roll bars better.
John Black showed up late. His flight to the coast fell through and he needed to burn off a little anger. So… Jerry Kevin and I hung around and shared a soda pop. I teased a little about the latest video and he made like his starter button was fouled by water. No hard feelings …it was a non-event. The winds were variable and after switching from reverse to forward he went up for a quickie and came down with a smile. Below is the second instalment of Capt. Blacks incident videos. No Crash Dummies were injured in the making of this video…..

Capt. Black and the Pond of Doom

By Alex Donaghy
John Black’s famous fall

X-Country & Luau

Wild Horse Canyon Cross Country

Virga on three sides

Up early to a beautiful but scary sky. There was virga popping out on three sides. The local guys were advising to launch but be ready to turn back or set down if it started to get rowdy. I launched and went high quickly. There were two groups of three below and I would overshoot them circled around and stay on their 6. I can hardly wait till I’ve a little more time on the Thumper because I missed the boat as far as scenery goes. From 200 feet it was spectacular but from 2000 feet It’s not that impressive. I could tell Bubba’s group was in the weeds from the way they were turning around every feature. I was a little concerned that I would not have enough gas and flew the plan which was get high and if I ran out I would be able to glide to a place where I could be easily picked up. As it turned out I didn’t burn as much as I thought but when I looked at the tank it was damn low. My mistake was not realizing that since the buggy was at an angle the gas tank was tilted to the back making it look lower than it was.

When I got back to the field I was still way up there

Lava Canyon

John Black surprised me by taking his girl friend for a mid afternoon tandem ride. After his speech at the Salton Sea I thought he would mellow out. Oh Well He is the pilot in command and a very talented one at that. Good Luck to you John.

The afternoon was Debbie’s famous Amazing Competitions. We had a water balloon fight and the highlight was the Spam toss. I got pegged by a balloon right in the camera pouch which ended the great life of my little Cannon…oh well?

That evening was the big Luau dinner, Michelle and CC went all out. There was a traditional pork dish, potatoes, shrimp, and a chocolate & fruit fountain. The band played and Michelle gave a short but emotional speech that had an underlying message that I’m not sure that I caught. I hope there are no major changes in the air for Paramotor City! It was a great evening These people are family and I’m proud to be “one of the cousins”.

Galveston Texas WingNuts 1st Annual Fly-In

After spending Thursday night with Walt Burchfield and his bride in Dallas I headed south toward Houston. Just past the city I started seeing signs of damage from hurricane Ike. The first thing I noticed was the big McDonalds arches on posts high above the highway were missing parts. Then when I got to Galveston it was all beat up, there were blue tarps on the majority of roofs and lots of storefronts were closed. By the time I crossed over to the island it was total devastation, all the homes left standing were on stilts with the 1st floor blown away. Maybe one in 50 houses showed signs of people living there and the rest were either being worked on or waiting destruction. There were debris piles 6 feet high piled up[ along the Hwy. waiting for the trucks to come and haul it away. It’s 18 miles from the center of the island to the west end where we were camping and 8 miles to the nearest convenience store.

When I got there the wind was blowing too hard for me to launch but the texas wingnuts are primarily foot launchers and several of the guys were in the air. I decided to wait till sunset and used the time to set up camp. Jeff Goin had arrived the day before, he greeted me warmly and at his suggestion we went out to the beach to practice reverse kiting with the trike. It took him a couple of times to get a feel for the risers being attached to the power loops but in 45 minutes he had it figured and with me behind the prop to provide thrust he was doing successful reverses no sweat. Later I shared some leftover ribs with Jeff in the Enterprise and we had a great time. No topic was left out (except politics) from pianos to particle physics.

The next morning I got up early and took 2 long flights. The wind was about 8 mph and no problem since I had some experienced guys who knew how to hold the trike so that I wouldn’t turtle during inflation. Once up it was wonderful flat air near the sea I flew at about 700 feet parallel to the beach. Then when I flew over the scrub on the other side of the Hwy it started to get a little bouncy. The locals told me this is what to expect but I was thinking BUMPS and really it never got over about a two on the bump scale. I went about 5 miles up the beach and basically enjoyed the view.

Chris Page spotted a sea yak in the no mans land north of the residences so he and “Cowboy” went on a salvage mission. They got the kayak but I guess it was harder than dragging a bull elk through dense undergrowth. After Lunch I had three more flights. Two to figure out that I had left the choke on again and a nice long one. When it was time for the xc I had to stay behind because the wind had come up and “Cowboy” insisted that I would be asking for trouble. I still think if he had held the trike I could have gone for it but I wasn’t going to argue with a local instructor…so I licked my wounds and wished I was with the guys going out to Woody’s Bar.

The XCountry was a long flight and several of the guys ran out of gas and had to be picked up. In fact, had I gone ,I would have been walking too because we were told that it was about 12 miles each way and it was more like 20.

Later that evening Beery broke out the boudin, Sonny built a huge campfire and we had a damn good campfire. Lon even brought out a couple of busted props for us to sacrifice to the gods of PPG. I hung at the fire till about 9pm and went to bed early.

The next morning I was up before dawn the wind was 6mph and I took off without assistance. It was a great flight. After more than an hour in the air I landed and had something to eat. Jeff had just landed so I took a couple of Monster coffee drinks over to the Enterprise and as usual he was more than happy to stop whatever he was doing to spend time with a fellow pilot.

Ever since the Monument Valley Fly-In when this log was used by various people and the address was given out during the PPG Radio show I’ve been a little self conscious about what I write. So… even though Jeff might read this someday, I’m going to put down my thoughts about this guy. Jeff Goin is a genuine person with a remarkable history and an amazing set of credentials. He is passionate about the sport and truly one of the finest PPG Pilots in the world. There wasn’t a minute of the weekend that he wasn’t flying … kiting …working on the equipment…or just talking flying with the guys. His knowledge of aviation is encyclopedic and his curiosity is without end. I watched him work on a reverse with my trike, he was having trouble getting the wing to come up straight and when one guy would have been cussing, Jeff was fascinated and said “Wow! Now why is it behaving like this”. Then he proceed to work with the wing like a horse trainer with an unruly charge until eventually he figured it out and had the wing “behaving” as it should. He is selfless and tolerant and gracious about his notoriety. I’m honored to know the man and consider him a friend.

After a break I went up again and spent the better part of the flight flying as low as I could west along the beach. Most of the time I was at 6 to 10 feet but for huge chunks I was within two feet or less. Every once in a while the wind would pick up and I’d feel it pull me a little off to the side. It was a great opportunity to practice subtle wing control. I landed into much stronger winds and that was the end. I could have probably had someone hold the trike for me to get one more flight but it was time to pack it in.

Salton Sea 2008

Flight #105 to #125
The 2008 Salton Sea fly-in was wonderful! This was the first time I have been to a flying event where I can truly say that I got my fill. Three days of four flights and two days of two flights…16 in all.
John Seib and I got an early start and drove straight through to Indio California, about 20 miles north of the Fly-in. There was snow and ice for the first couple of hours but as we approached Glenwood Canyon the roads cleared and we powered on until 11:00pm when we stopped at a Holiday Inn and crashed. Wednesday morning we gassed up drove to Vista Del Mar and got in a couple of flights before the end of the day. The only incidents were both non-events. Friday I had an engine out two minutes after take off. I was at 250 feet and still going down wind …no problem. I set down on the beach and called John Sieb to pick me up. It was the same wire I broke last summer during the Balloon fest…the ground wire from the go no go toggle. This time I used a little shrink tubing to protect the connection. A couple of days later my second gas cap got into the prop and parted with a bang. I was startled but no damage.
This was billed as the last Paratoys Fly-in at the Salton Sea and the absence of Michael Purdy…Jeff Goin and some others was conspicuous. Attendance was down a bit and the whole thing had a different feel than past years…There were still campfires at night and kiting wars but there was no Alan Chocolate Memorial Style Competition Somehow it was just more subdued than the past. One of the biggest differences was the large number of trikes and quads. Bob is all about selling his joint venture with Leon. The Paracruiser/Paratoys quad looks to be a winner. And I don’t think you will ever hear Bob calling the trike pilots girly girls again. The day of foot launch being the majority is going away. I hope he finds a wealthy young guy and flips Paratoys for a boat load of money. He deserves it.
John Black made a speech during the Banquet that was reminiscent of an AA Meeting….”HI I’M JOHN AND I’M A DUMB SHIT”….HI JOHN! It was a good thing he did. I guess he is a pretty aggressive pilot but I think he has seen his god. The near fatal crash had to be an eye opener and I doubt he will be doing any mid day flying again. The famous video is at the bottom of this post.

Chad is having a good year, the trike buggy is considered one of the best machines around and I know he is selling plenty. The clubhouse has opened their kitchen for breakfast and it a great time and place to sit and get acquainted. Chad brought his wife who is a delightful woman out going and cheerful.
Bob Armond was also at those breakfasts, drinking coffee and swapping stories. He wasn’t as stressed as years past… he did look tired. I was touched when on the last morning I approached him to purchase an emergency stuff sack and he refused my cash and gave me one as a gift.

I did some trading and am now the owner of an Eden III 26m wing. It has about 100 hours on it but it’s in great shape and the same colors as my first wing. It handles much better at this altitude and I expect it will be real sporty back home. I slept better because of a new air mattress arctic sleeping bag. Food was more plentiful because the club house opened their kitchen but I still ate way too much junk food.

John Black’s Wild Ride

Lake Havasu

We drove 3 hours north to Lake Havasue City and the next morning, hooked-up with Johnny Fetz at the LHC Airport. John Fetz is legend in the PPG community, 65 years old, and a lifelong pilot he is a hard man to miss, over six foot and barrel chested with his long silver blond hair tied in a pony tail that goes well down his back. This year during the Alan Chuculate Style Competition at Paratoys, John was decked out in a blue lycra skin suit topped of with a 4-color ball cap complete with a propeller. His flying skills are unmatched and he is welcome anywhere pilots gather. In addition to being an aviation expert, John is famous for being able to repair badly damaged propellers of all kinds and he has a good side business fixing props for pilots all over the country.
John cruising Lake Havasue shore

London Bridge

There were seven of us who had come up from the Paratoys Fly-in; all were seasoned pilots except me. The air was light, no more than 2 knots, but it was shifting on an 180˚ arc, forcing us to either wait for it to cycle back around or reset our wings. Flying his trike, Doug was the first to go up, quickly followed by everybody else. Johnny was amazing, when he was ready to go, the wind had shifted 90˚ away from his take off heading, instead of unhooking and resetting the wing, he simply took several steps to the right and blew the wing into position with his motor. I, on the other hand, was having trouble with my motor, it was either the change in altitude or problems with the carburetor but in order to stand up after getting into the harness I had to bend forward and that’s when the motor would die. Finally, after climbing into and out of my harness three times to restart the motor I was able to stand without killing it. However the wind had shifted during my struggles, and when I started my run it was with a tail wind and the wing collapsed immediately. I stood on the runway hugely frustrated and wishing I had 200 flights under my belt and the ability to take off as easily as my mates. I decided that enough was enough and with great disappointment proceeded to put my equipment away.

The guys had been up for 30 minutes and were on undoubtedly the most scenic flight of the trip. By now they would have flown over The London Bridge and would be exploring the shores of Lake Havasu. At forty-five minutes the wind started to get gusty. It was blowing strong from the north when Doug landed and the gusts were increasing with each cycle. Doug and I searched the horizon and saw no sign of the others. At fifty minutes I spotted a couple of wings approaching from the lake. They were both at about 1000ft AGL but began to descend immediately. In no time at all they were down behind the horizon, we assumed on the ground. Only two others got back to the LZ that day. The first was Johnny Fetz who came in flying around, over and sometimes in between the cactus. The fifteen knot headwind didn’t seem to faze him at all. Once he was alongside us, he popped over the airport fence dropped back down and crabbed sideways over to his truck. I was afraid the wind would turtle him on landing but he dropped the wing to one side and quickly gathered it in. Joel also did a great job landing. He kept his trimmers out and approached low to the ground. When he got close he hovered 5 feet up with the motor running at probably ½ throttle. It’s not often you get to see a pilots face while in flight but he hung there for probably 10 seconds and it was obvious from his look that he was focused on keeping it all together. Modulating the throttle and brakes to keep from flying backwards, he was able to set down and collapse the wing without being pulled over. It was very active piloting at its best …up close and personal.
Brian said that the gust fronts came up very quickly and he was alternating between tremendous lift and sinking at 250 feet per minute. He and the others dropped into the desert where ever they were, as fast as they could. It took an hour or so to round everybody up but once again no harm to man or machine. We laughed and joked about the dramatic change in the weather and got back on the road.
Looking back it was probably a good thing I wasn’t able to launch. More than likely, I would have been at a much higher altitude than the others when the wind front came through and who knows if I would have been able to get back down safely with my limited experience. It’s true when they say, “it’s better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air, than in the air wishing you were on the ground”.