5th Flight

5th Flight
Salton Sea

My first perfect landing! I spent half the day hassling with equipment. The carburetor needed to be adjusted for low altitude and the starter cord broke twice. The first time was when Bubba was giving me a start. He pulled the knot right through the handle and I felt every bit the newbie that I was. The second time it broke I slipped a washer between the stopper knot and the handle and solved the problem. Eventually everything got put together and at 1:45 I laid out the wing …and on my third attempt…finally…, got into the air. The actual take-off was a lot easier than at 5500 ft ASL. I still had to run but not as far and not nearly as fast. The snap was taking longer than normal to come up to full power but it sounded good once it got there. I noticed that the wing also climbed faster. Most of the other pilots were flying at 300 to 500 feet so I climbed to 1800 to get out of the traffic take in the sights. For the first time in three months I was flying and it felt great!

I could see the whole Fly-in below me. There were lots of wings being laid out for take off and the rows of campers, trailers and tents between the take-off and landing zones. This was the first time I had been in the air with other pilots and watching the gliders from above was a nice change. I especially liked being over the LZ and watching them land. The whole area looked like a development in its first stage. The roads and water were in and there were a few scattered houses. Apparently twenty years ago, somebody got the wise idea to turn the Salton Sea into a luxury retirement community. They built the infrastructure but they couldn’t sell the lots. I’m sure that if the water were good this would be prime real estate. Sea and desert surrounded by mountains. I can see it now …millionaires and moviestars … Cigarette boats and beach bars. On second thought if the water had been good, we wouldn’t be here. So I guess toxic water can be a good thing. I would have stayed up longer but after 45 minutes I was afraid there wasn’t a whole lot of gas left. I descended into the flight pattern and did several “S” turns to bleed off altitude. The landing was great, a perfect two point touch-down. My altitude and forward speed reached zero at the same instant. What a feeling! I threw up my hands and shouted…YES… to the world. It was just what the doctor had ordered. After dozens of days of walking off the field without getting into the air and trips and falls and twisted knees and broken equipment…it was all worth it. No matter what happens from here forward, now…I am a pilot.
I carried my rig back to the trailer in a kind of euphoric fog where several of the guys were hashing over their flights. Bo grinned at and said, “I saw your landing “.

4th Flight Crash Landing

4th Flight
Jan 6th, 2006

Even though I crashed on landing, this was the best flight so far!

Everything was going well. I took off on the first attempt and was winging around the field like I knew what I was doing. My turns were still relatively flat but I felt better about everything. There was more authority in my input and I was getting used to the routine. When I let out the trimmers I could feel a difference in the way the wing behaved. It is much crisper when you initiate a turn and it’s hard to tell at altitude but I felt faster. The whole thing was just much more comfortable than the previous flights.

Brian had me do several figure eights and then asked me to go north, turn and descend to the LZ for a low pass. I was feeling real good about the whole thing. My decent was perfect, I wasn’t going to overshoot or fall short. But…when it was time to add power and climb-out the motor started to bog down. The motor was spinning at maybe 4000RPM and I was just barely descending. I had noticed a delay to power in the past and kept hoping the Snap would start to wrap up. It didn’t and as I flew by Brian and Doug at about 10 feet I was still hoping for a burst of power, at 3 feet I lifted my legs and slid into the earth very softly. The prop was “cutting the grass” during the last couple of seconds but when I hit, something flexed and the prop struck and broke a two inch chip off the end of the blade. It‘s repairable but not for awhile. Even though it ended badly, it was a great flight.

At first I thought that the brake handle had somehow got between the lever and grip which would have prevented it from closing all the way, but the problem was with the Walbro Carburetor. If I had increased throttle gradually, I think it might have powered up just fine, but when I went from idle to full throttle very quickly, it lugged down. Eventually I learned how to tune the carb so that it would come up to power even when I mashed the throttle hard. It never did get smooth and there was still a delay, but after a short lag, I would be at full power. Another issue with the Snap 100 is that it had a very narrow power band. It would advance smoothly from idle to about 4000rpm then it would leap up to 7500 and advance smoothly again to 9200. The result was that I was either climbing like a banshee or descending. There just didn’t seem to be a cruising speed for that motor that fit my weight and wing.

Powered Paragliding…Making great small engine mechanics all across America.

A couple of days later I took the paramotor to a small engine repair in Golden that Brian had recommended. I wanted to have them check it out and adjust the carburetor. A couple of days and $125 later I picked it up, only to be told to increase throttle slowly to prevent it from lugging down. I think the guy didn’t really want paramotor business and was probably intimidated by the spinning prop. I wouldn’t be surprised if he never even fired it up. I sure couldn’t tell any difference in the way the engine ran. Obviously I wasn’t going to get any help from the lawn mower repair community so I began to research two stroke motors and their carburetion. I was able to get line drawings and owners manuals online but the best tips on tuning the Walbro card came from the PPG forums.

3rd Flight Happy 50th Birthday !

3rd Flight
November 26th, 2005
Loveland (Private Estate)
50th Birthday

Happy Birthday flight! What a great way to celebrate a half a century of life. This was the first time I have flown in the A.M. and it was noticeably smoother air even if it was a bit chilly. The only thing worth mentioning was that I started my flare a too early and dropped a couple of feet on landing. It seems to be a common beginner’s mistake. On the plus side, I only I went to one knee even though I probably came down a bit harder than the last two flights. Brian said that I had been looking down at the ground instead of out toward the horizon. I promised myself that the next time I would keep my eyes off the ground. Doug suggested that I find a place where there are steps outside and practice running down them looking at the horizon so that I would know how high I was without looking at my boots.

2nd Flight

2nd Flight
November 6, 2005

My first flight had been such a success that I was back out to the field the next afternoon. When I arrived Brian had rigged his Adventure unit to the trike, Doug was ready to go and Roshanna was there for moral support. Today was a repeat. I blew the first attempt but the second went smoothly. When I got to about 550ft. AGL I flew into a convergence of air currents that can only be described as clattery, not big bumps, more like the motion you experience trying to ski on ice. I kept the thrust up and in about twenty seconds powered through. When I got into clear air I noticed that the wind was coming from the opposite direction of the ground and was considerably stronger, I was not penetrating at all and it seemed like I was parked right over the field.

For the first time ever, I let out the trimmers to make the wing fly faster and immediately noticed a little forward progress. Brian asked me over the radio to turn left and when I applied a little input the wing came around very fast, I’m not sure but it felt like it turned within its own wingspan. Most of the reason for the quick turn was because I was headed into the wind and turning downwind but it was also because the trimmers were out. With the wind now at my back I accelerated and was past the field in no time and heading around to the back side of the pond at the far end of the property. When I turned back, I was slow again and I could see myself crabbing to the side like a kayak ferrying cross current. Eventually I completed the turn and stayed roughly over the field doing figure eights until Brian had me land. It was interesting going through the wind shear on descent. It wasn’t comfortable but since I didn’t know any better I assumed that this was normal turbulence and to be expected on most flights.
Later after I landed Brian told me it must have been a powerful breeze aloft for me to be parked that way. He also said the wind never exceeded 4 mph on the ground while I was flying. I knew that the earth creates friction which slows the breeze closer to the ground but it had to be more that just friction to cause such a difference. Brian explained that it couldn’t be friction because it was going in a different direction and that there was probably a significant difference in the air temperature above the convergence. I couldn’t remember noticing but made a note to pay attention to air temp in the future. We also discussed the benefits of sending up a pilot balloon to get an idea what the wind was doing aloft.

On the following Saturday we met at a field off Titan Road and the entrance to the Chatfield State Park. A local pilot named Monte Flemming had invited “The ‘Flock” to his local field for a ‘mini fly-in’. I arrived at seven and met the guys. Monte is a big bear of a man who flies a Hirth paramoter; it is so big that it looks like it came out of a VW bug. Robert Kittella and Boyd Wilkinson were down from Boulder and there were several other including Dan Kamisar and Paul Meyer

Robert walked up and said, “Let’s get you into the air”. I was ready but explained that I had only had a few flights and needed to wait for my instructor. About then, Boyd took off and for the first time I saw aerobatic flying. He did a few wingovers from 300 feet up and dove down to about fifty feet. Then he came in very low and did a 360˚spiral with the wing tip almost touching the ground. He was probably pulling 3 g’s and going seventy miles per hour. I’d seen pictures on the internet but had no idea what carving the air meant until I saw it. The whole time Boyd was flying, Robert had been taking pictures and one he took of Boyd has been published in national magazines several times and become well known in the PPG community.

Brian arrived at ten with another student, Gary, who had been flying for about a year but not recently. He had an exciting flight when his throttle froze-up at full thrust. Fortunately he was pretty high when it happened because when the cable broke free the motor immediately went to idle causing the wing to surge and go into a very steep dive. It was obvious to the others that he was not a highly experienced pilot because he could have stopped the surge with a little brake and avoided the dive but I was ignorant of what was happining because I thought it was all ‘part of the show’. He also fell pretty hard when he landed because he had flared way too soon and too fast. That flight shook Gary up pretty good, but ten minutes later he was drinking coffee and joking with the rest of us.

1st Flight

1st Flight
Sunday November 5th 2005

(Private Estate East of Loveland Colorado)

The skies were partly cloudy with a slight wind out of the SSE. After Twelve weeks of ground handling I was ready to solo. I’d had too many, “no fly days”, but today looked promising. Brian went up for a short flight and proclaimed it flyable. Doug quickly laid out his wing, buckled into his trike and took off. It was my turn and I was feeling very uncertain about the whole thing. There wasn’t very much wind to help me inflate the wing and the terrain was rough and difficult for running. I laid out the wing, cleared the lines and buckled into the harness. I had a hard time going from a seated position to my feet and in the process spilled about a pint of gas down my neck from the primer hose. Then I stood there for probably 30 seconds to collect my thoughts and check the windsock there was just a hint of breeze from the south. I think Brian was about to give up on me when I finally started the run.

The wing came up straight and I staggered forward. I added some power and began to pick up speed, pretty soon was running as fast as I ever have and was starting to get light on my feet. Then…Bang… I was up, it happened so fast. I had no idea that I was close to take-off when my feet left the ground. I kept my legs running even though I was gaining altitude fast. When I got to fifty or so feet I stopped running and hung in the harness. The leg straps were doing a number on my crotch but… Wow…that was easy, I’m flying! I wondered, ‘how come it took so long’? Brian was on the radio, calmly telling me what to do. The first command was to let go of the brake toggles and get into the seat. What? Let go? It was like, I was afraid the wing would collapse and fall out of the sky, if I didn’t have a hold on those toggles. I just hated the thought of it, but I listened to Brian and let go, reached down and hooked the seat, pulling it under my butt. That wasn’t so bad, but when it was time to retrieve the handles, I discovered that it was a long hard reach up to where the toggles were stopped by the pulley. By pushing down on the seat with one hand and reaching as far as I could with the other, I was just barely able to make a two fingered grab and get the brakes back in my control.

On Brian’s second command I started a turn to the west and did some slow lazy turns over the field. After about 30 minutes in the air I was told to set up for landing. There was a good breeze now, so my glide slope was pretty steep. I tried to keep my eyes on the horizon but couldn’t help focusing on that one spot of ground that was rushing up to meet me. I started the flare at about the right altitude between five and eight feet but I probably did it a little too quickly. Brian later told me that my hands went from all the way up, (no brakes), to full flare in about half a second. I wish I had a video so I could have seen what the wing was doing, it couldn’t have been pretty. Anyway, when I did touch down, there was hardly any forward speed and I landed boots first and then went to my knees in one smooth move.

The whole experience is hard to describe, there was so much going on.. My first thought was… Wow!… I’m really doing this! I remember looking off to the west at the mountains and down at my truck that looked about the size matchbox and at a motocross track behind the estate. The whole thing was just too much to absorb. After I touched down, I stayed crouched down in the same position, frozen in place not moving for probably a full minute. Eventually, Brian came over to make sure I was all right. I think he was afraid that I’d hurt myself, but when he saw the huge smile on my face we shared what can only be described as “that instructor/student moment”. Without a word or gesture, I thanked him for helping me to fly and he thanked me for not dying.

I grinned all the way back to Denver.