Palm Bay. 870 & 871

I drove to Palm Bay Friday afternoon.  Fortunately I’d dropped a pin on the compound when I was up last month but Rex had to drive around a bit before he found it. 
 Here is the address: 2273 Skywood Ct SW.  The Compound is partially developed land similar to 
Placida but not as large.  We were restricted to 2 blocks with a cul de sac separating them.  The field is ringed by smallish trees but there is plenty of room to climb out.  

There was a lot of guys getting ready to fly and the winds were light.  I set up at the farthest end and waited for the pilot ahead of me to launch.  When it was my turn I inflated the wing and started to roll.  James Farewell pulled the trigger at the same time from the left side, crosswise to my runway.  I was just taking off when I saw we were on a collision course, so I cut power, touched down and taxied until James was clear.  He saw me and also modified his launch.  Several people mentioned it and I guess it looked pretty dicey but neither one of us felt we were in danger.  Anyway, it was a good flight with no other surprises.
After the evening flight I wandered around and caught up with old friends.   Leon Wacker was there with Scotty and his engineer (?).  I also saw CC, her partner, Elisabeth and Eric, Eric Fairwell and the entire Avaitor gang including a grumpy demo team from Kuwait calling themselves ARMY.  I’m not sure what they are all about.  Apparently the Kuwait Military sponsors their equipment and pays for their expenses.  If they are supposed to be flying ambassadors from the Persian Gulf, somebody should talk to them about diplomacy.  Among themselves they are all smiles and chatter but when I sat down with them and James during dinner they were anything but cordial.   Maybe it was a language barrier, I hope so.  Later that evening I had dinner with Rex and his lovely wife Sherry.  
The next mornings flight was wonderful with the best sunrise of the season.

                            (photo credit, Mike Lange)

Once again I stayed high…. At least until the last 15 minutes when I played around the patch.  
The finisher was lunch with Jeff and Tim followed by a casual drive down the East coast.

799 Fun and Sun

 Mike Lange and I got up at O dark thirty and drove to

Lakeland for the Fun and Sun Aviation Expo.  
Fun and Sun is one of the largest Fly In and Expos in America, second only to the big one at OshKosh.  It fills the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport and hosts a tremendous number of vendors and a huge diversity of aircraft including a fine showing of vintage airframes, including warbirds.  

When it got too hot to wander around the field, Mike and I sought shade at the Aviator booth.  Eric  Fairwell was a great host.  Not only did he provide all the water we could drink, he also hooked us up with passes for the gate.  Eric is the Nirvana dealer and has done a great job promoting the product and the sport.  When my friend Rex Mangurian mentioned that he didn’t get a copy of the bible during his training, Eric promptly gave him a copy which Jeff Goin happily autographed.  Great Guys, I wish them the best.

Planet PPG had a booth and Paul was in his element, giving seminars and demo flights.  Paul has recently gained control of the Pine Island Airstrip and has been busy clearing trees and making it into a premier PPG school.  

Rob Catto was there with his excellent PPG simulator, the Virtual Foot Flyer. I was impressed with how real the experience was.  Unlike a video game where the control inputs are buttons and joysticks, the Virtual Foot Flyer has you in a harness, pulling brakes and using weight shift. It allows you to swivel your head and see where you are looking. There is a turbine blowing wind in your face and the sound effect include a sub woofer that feeds vibration thru the harness.  The whole experience was increadably realistic.  When it was over, I exclaimed, “When I’m ninety,  I want one of these things”.

I also met Nick Reed who is building the V Twin Flyer.  Nick is a past student of Terry Lutke and is building an airframe along the same lines as the Falcon.  He has made a few changes, primarily a large castered nose wheel which I’m sure improves ground handling.  The fit and finish is very good  and his pricing is competitive.  Terry is supplying some key parts of the redrive and in typical Lutke fashion, he has given Nick his blessing.  It’s good to see that another builder sees the value of this design.  

A real blast from the past was Randy Schlitter, the president and founder of RANS Aircraft.  Thirty years ago Randy owned a small bike shop in Hays Kansas and I was a manufacturers Rep selling bike parts.  Once a month I would make the trek to Kansas City and along the way I would visit every small town hardware store and try to sell a few bike parts.  I fancied myself as the Campagnolo expert and my sample bag was full of high dollar racing parts.  The reality was….I was lucky to sell a few boxes of Wald bearings and maybe a sissy bar or some inner tubes.
Randy’s shop was one of the few real bike shops between Denver and KC.  It was just a small space with limited inventory but Randy was the real deal. He read the trade magazines, followed the trends and dreamed big.   Even then, he was interested in manufacturing.  I proudly carried a RANS belt pack that he developed when he was looking into the bike pannier business.  It was ten cents of quilted fabric with a couple of belt loops sewn on.  I’ll never forget the logo. It was done in that weird ballooned font of 1970 computer culture.  Eventually he designed and produced the RANS Recumbent, which was the most affordable recumbent available. Quickly, the RANS Recumbents became a true player in the industry, with significant production and good distribution.  
I remember sitting in his kitchen one morning and asking about the drawings of  aircraft that were laying around.  Some were conventional looking aircraft and some were futuristic lifting bodies similar to the modern stealth fighter.  Randy calmly told me, that someday, he was going to build airplanes.  
NOW…. THIRTY YEARS LATER…. RANS is a leader in light sport Aviation.  

There we were, two old guys, sitting in the shade of his exhibit, chatting about the “good ol” days and all the changes we’ve seen.  He told me that he had recently sold the recumbent manufacturing business but still kept his hand in as a consultant.  We talked about the Aviation business and how it was starting to come back from the recession.  I was happy to learn that Randy is still sailing, he is looking for a new boat like the Hunter 26.5 I left in Colorado.  We made plans to hook up in Punta Gorda and sail together.

Paul C. Enlisted me to fly a demo tandem with him during the evening flights.  I was pretty nervous,  its been years since my last foot launch and I think the last tandem was with Moe Sheldon at the Salton Sea more than 5 years ago.  I was worried that my knee would fail and I’d end up embarrassing Paul by face planting but we launched and landed without incident.  Thanks Paul.
Here is a video of the launch….

Photo by Eric Fallwell

After dark there was an excellent aerobatic show with lots of LEDs smoke and magnesium flares.  Mike and I hiked back to the car with our heads on a swivel.

The Gathering at Monument Valley 2013

I packed the truck with everything except the perishables on Monday.  Tuesday was easy, Dawn and I loaded the coolers and were on our way by noon.  We took old Highway 6 instead of I-70 to enjoy the fall colors and avoid the heavy traffic leaving Denver and arrived in Glenwood Springs around twilight.  It  was abnormally quiet,  there was very little traffic and hardly anyone on the streets.  I thought that there might be a big event that had emptied the town, but it turned out that it was just the slack time between summer tourist season and hunting season.  

Slack is good because I had no trouble finding a parking place right in front of The Historic Colorado Hotel and they kindly gave us a room overlooking the truck. Perfect because I had the paramotor locked but it wouldn’t be hard for someone to help themselves to our gear.
The Colorado is a special place with memories going back 4 generations. I remember photos of my great grandfather standing outside in the garden with my then, teenage grandfather, on one of their piano business trips.  The hotel has seen good times and bad.  At the turn of the Century it was the choice of wealthy Europeans who would take the train up from Denver to soak in the hot springs and enjoy the clear dry air.  It was the favorite of presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft and for awhile became known as the White House of the West.  During WWII it was commissioned by the United States Navy as a convalescent home and served over 6500 patients.  
Not wanting to leave the dog alone  we decided to order room service and hope for the best. Wow! It was the same meal we would have had in the main dining room, beautiful presentation and excellent food.  The new owners are working hard to bring the old place back to it’s glory and I wish them success, because the Hotel Colorado deserves to be preserved for future generations.

The next morning we bathed in the famous Glennwood Hot  Springs.  Usually there are crowds of laughing children but in October the hot springs are populated mostly by visiting octogenarians, many from Europe.  I’m approaching 60 and changing into my swimming suit, I felt like the young buck hanging out with the grown-ups.  
After a good hot soak we went for breakfast at a favorite hangout, the 19th St Diner.   In the 80’s when I was selling bicycle parts  it was a great place to have breakfast with friends before heading up to Aspen or sometimes I just stopped to load up on caffeine before the long drive to Salt Lake City.  
After breakfast, we took the dog for a walk and loaded up for the long haul to Monument Valley. The weather was beautiful but predicted to turn bad and… right on schedule, it started to blow. By the time we hit Moab, dark clouds were developing,  the barometer was dropping and the wind was gusting past 30 mph.  Hoping to keep the gear dry, I powered on and we arrived at Gouldings Trading Post at 9:00 pm.   I hurried to unload the truck and just missed getting drenched.  

Thursday it was cold and rainy. Dawn lounged in the condo while I made the rounds and checked with the campground, restaurant and lodge making sure everybody was ready for us. The big disappointment of the day was that the restaurant had double booked our banquet with a wedding.  There was nothing to do, there were no other restaurants within 20 miles so the plan was changed to have a pot luck up at the campground.

 Late in the afternoon, we were treated to a tremendous hail storm.  It came down hard and heavy for about 20 minutes and for about the same time afterward the mesas were coated with a sheen of ice.   I was on the IPad checking the weather forecast every 20 minutes. The low pressure cold front was suppose to pass through that evening,  with high pressure and light breezes for the next  5 days.  I hoped so, because looking across the flats at Sentinel Mesa all I could see was a huge ice covered rock.  The last 5 years had been lucky,  occasionally  the wind came up and spoiled a session, but for the most part, every gathering had been warm and flyable. 

Rain and Hail the day before The Gathering

This year the, “Officers Quarters” were in a different condo.  It wasn’t as easy to see from the road so I put out the wind sock out at the turn off and by 6:30 guys started showing up for the Kick-off spaghetti  dinner.    Dawn was great, she made 8 batches of Pasta and sauce and served it up cheerfully as the different groups arrived. First came the Salt Lake contingent with Russ Bateman and his family, then Paul Anthem showed up with the Indy Airhogs followed by Bob Hannah and the Seattle gang. About 8 o’clock Jeff Goin showed up to claim his room and Chad and Lee Anne arrived in time for a special plate of gluten Free pasta.  By 9 the place was full of pilots swapping stories and sharing food and drink.  We broke up at 11:00 to prepare for the next morning flights.

Kick off Dinner

Friday….Beautiful morning.  A bit chilly…. 
The briefing was well attended and the message was short.  Respect the Terran … Respect the Residents … Use your head and know where the wind is coming from.   
Once again Dawn was a trooper overseeing omelets in a bag.   We went through 90 eggs and thanks to Donna at the restaurant, buckets of coffee, while the guys flew and wandered up and down the flight line.   The Moment was saved by Byron who flew his quad copter all over the flight line.  

About 10 o’clock, Scott Laws, the new manager of Gouldings came down to welcome us.  He started at Gouldings shortly after last years event and has done a great job upgrading the property, they have remodeled  the lodge and shops and upgraded the campground.  The whole attitude of the place has improved along with the accommodations.  This year we were welcomed rather than tolerated and it made a huge difference. 

When it was time to fly the wind was  nil from the South.   I set up at the very top of the runway and did a down wind launch taking advantage of the smooth asphalt and the downhill grade. It was smooth but chilly.   It felt good to be heading east across the flats.  I stayed up for about 40 minutes and only landed to visit with my friends.   Later that morning, Tom Spears, an instructor from from Glenwood Springs, took me up in his delta wst. It was a little bumpy and without a flight suit, damn cold but it was a great flight and I enjoyed every minute.  Thanks Tom! 

The View Hotel at Navajo Tribal Park

That afternoon while Dawn was sleeping, Jeff and I hung in the officers quarters and chatted about the USPPA, Obama Care and his new Air Space Video.  He and Tim are moving away from the cold of Chicago and relocating somewhere in Florida.  They have made an offer on a house in an air-park with room for the business and all the toys.  It’s an exciting time and I wish him well. Around 4:00pm we headed down to the airstrip for the afternoon flights. 

 It was my best flight of the trip.  90 minutes with great sunset colors. Here is the video…

Late in the day Ryan Southwell and his friend Scot launched to camp on the top of Eagle Rock. As far as I know, this was a first.  Several years ago John Fetz did a top landing but he only stayed a few minutes.  These guys landed and camped out.  I await the video and photos from Shane and the Team Halo crew.

Ryan Southwell on top og Eagle Rock

Dinner was in the condo followed by a session of paramotor troubleshooting with Jeff, Chad and Lance Marzec,  who was rousted out of bed someplace many time zones away.Before it was over we had a brand new mini plane apart and Jeff was polishing a piston with a pot scrubber, nail file and  toothbrush.

Jeremy Langejans right side down

Saturday …  The winds were blowing  steadily from the direction of the Tribal Park .  It was a little too strong to attempt flying close to the monuments, so we stayed close to the patch and were treated to an air show out in the flats, East of the airstrip.   The highlight for me was when Ryan Shaw, fresh from the international Slalom competition in Europe, flew his new comp wing the Dudek snake.  Going at least 40 mph he caught and passed a Cessna as it rolled in from landing.
By 11:00 it was getting cold and windy so a bunch of us retreated to the condo for a pot luck lunch.  Spirits were high and it was hard to get a word in edgewise while everybody shared the mornings events.   John and Mary invited several of us to go up in their Cessna after lunch..   Dawn and I were on the second flight with Jeff Goin.  It was wonderful to be back in the park and it was the first time Dawn and I had flown it together.  I expect that one of these days we will own a PPC and fly together all the time but until that day it was a rare treat.

 Dawn’s photos from the Cessna

When we landed the French group were packing for the next leg of their tour.  The group leader, Dieter Debaque, had discovered us a few years earlier and put The Gathering into this years tour.  They added 17 pilots and an international touch that was fun. It looked like the altitude was a bit higher than they were accustomed to.  There were a lot of aborted launches and some extremely long runs, but the did just fine and since they bought a lot of t-shirts I think a good time was had by all.  

The French Connection

The afternoon was too windy for most of us but several did get up and found it very flyable..  I stayed on the field and enjoyed the show while Dawn hung in the officer’s quarters and rested.  There were several aborts and more than a few exciting launches.  Russ Bateman took his son for a tandem flight and not to be outdone, Mo Sheldon took his dog Rosa up in his specially modified and “dog legal” , trike.  The evenings flights were capped off when Paul Anthem did a wonderfully benign turtle on landing.

Paul Anthem joins the “Order of the Desert Turtle”
The Banquet was less than ideal.  Instead of fancy food and speeches in a private dinning room, we had a Pot Luck BBQ  at the campground.   Plan B was a poor substitute but we made the best of it and enjoyed the company. Jeff Goin was planning to leave early and drive to Phoenix but opted to stay for the campfire and I cannot thank him enough for being so generous with his time.  Thanks Jeff, you serve the USPPA well.

Sunday is was blowing 5 and gusting to 10.   Those foot launching were reporting steady winds with moderate bumps.  It was chilly and less than perfect but it was also the last opportunity to fly for perhaps several months so I decided to go for it.  
I timed the cycles and launched when the breeze had dropped.  Once up, I enjoyed the clear cold air and when I’d had enough of the bumps, I turned back and approached the LZ from the North West for landing.   About 200 yards out I flew into sinking air and dropped 100 feet quickly.  I stayed on the power to maintain my glide so that I would clear the trailers. and spectators.  The wind started picking up but I adjusted and knew that I would still able land safely. The approach was a little bumpy but the landing was going fine, right up until I tried to killl the engine.   Stupidly, my gloves were too thick to reach the recessed  kill switch and I had to let go of one of the the toggles to shut down the motor.  I Iost control of the wing and the trike was pulled and threatened to roll. By the time I was back in control, the trike had been spun180 degrees back toward the direction of the landing.  By putting down a boot and sliding while turning the nose wheel against  the direction of the tip I kept the trike from rolling but it was very close. The wing fell in front of the trike and I slid right up to it’s tip, wrapping lines in the front wheel.   Facing the spectators, I made the cross hands sweep signal that baseball umps use to signify, “runner is safe”.  I don’t know if anybody else got it,…. but, … I enjoyed the moment.   Kurt  Mozer got the whole thing on video and I can’t wait to combine it with the video from my helmet cam to see exactly what happened..  No harm no foul.


The wind continued to rise and everybody began packing up for the ride home.  No injuries … plenty of airtime and good company.  I can hardly wait for next year.

If you cannot see yourself… You are probably flying

Steamboat Springs Balloon Rodeo #665

The 2013 Steamboat Balloon Festival 

right place right time 


Dawn and I had planned to visit some friends in Steamboat and it was only a lucky break that it was the same weekend as the Festival.  We had a concert the evening before, so I wasn’t able to attend the pilot briefing on Friday night. I spoke with Debby Standefer the Balloon Meister earlier in the week and knew I was welcome but little else.

So, with little information and a gut full of butterfly s I arrived at the field on Saturday morning.  I had expected a large park and was hoping for plenty of room to launch but was disappointed to find a small rectangle surrounded by vendor booths.  There was no chance that I would be able to launch early and even after the mass ascension it would not be an easy launch.  There were too many obstructions and not enough room.  Debby suggested that I look around for an alternate site and I found a spot on the other side of the jump pond where a couple of the local balloonists were beginning to set-up.  

Steamboat 2013 LZ

It wasn’t great, there was a narrow runway of hard pack that ended abruptly into a field of tall weeds.  There were some trees to avoid and of course the pond that separated us from the rest of the festival. It looked possible but I was going to have to get the inflation right immediately and make the go- no go decision within 30 feet of the start. 

I spoke with Ian, the senior balloonist, who explained that the visiting pilots were concerned about a large cell several miles off and the possible winds that it might send our way.  The plan was for him and another one of his balloons to launch at this site and act as “Pie Plates” for the others to gauge the air.  He wasn’t too encouraging and told me that it might be a very short flight.  While we were talking a slight breeze came up from down valley which was in exactly the right direction.  I took it to be a good omen and set up.  

Ian launched quickly and his second balloon set up and inflated in record time.  It was now or never.  When I powered up, the wing only need a quick tug on the right side to bring it in-line with the runway.  It felt good from the start and once I was rolling I had no doubts.  Just before I got to the end of the hard pack I lifted off and started a very slow climb-out.  When I got to the trees I did a couple of turns between the largest groves and it was all good.  Dawn said that it looked close on take off and because of the trees they were not able to see where I was until I had climbed up and around the trees.  

Once up, it was a great flight.  I cruised over the Balloon field a couple of times and saw only one balloon that looked like it was going to launch.  The rest of the field was loaded with people milling around.  There was no way I was going to do a fly-by on the field, so I circled at 75 feet and waved before heading up valley to play with the two locals.  

Steamboat is a beautiful place to fly and I look forward to coming back.   The valley air was calm and the ski mountain looked like a great climb 3000 feet to the top.  There was a freight train rolling down the valley and lots to see.  I could have stayed up all morning and would have, except that it was starting to sprinkle and I was worried that it was only going to get worse.  After flying around the smaller balloon I turned back to check out my landing options.  I used the radio to ask Dawn  to clear the field and by the time I had circled once it was free of spectators.  

The landing was much like the take off,. narrow with obstructions to avoid.  There was no clearing turn before final,  I just set up over the Yampa and followed it in.  As soon as I cleared the trees I went to idle and touched down exactly right.  It felt good,

Time for showers and breakfast


This is a place I want to come back to, the area is flyer friendly and the view is wonderful.  At 6800 feet it’s not to high for a reasonable launch but with the ski area there I could do some serious climbing and never be 50 feet agl.  

Till the next time Steamboat.

Endless Foot Drag 623 to 626

Britton Shaw has hosted the “Endless Foot Drag”  for many years.  One look at the field and it is easy to see why people come back over and over again.  Miles of Bermuda Sod bordering the  Mike Bennett and I had driven through heavy weather to Fort Smith Arkansas for an Instructors Clinic that Chad Bastian was giving.  I arrived Tuesday night and rather than pitch a tent on the saturated field I took advantage of Dawn’s gernerousity and asked her to book a room for us at the Hilton affiliate.  I had been looking forward to camping but a first class room is wonderful too!  We spent the day with Chad and 6 other pilots in the Hampden Inn board room.  What a group…. I think I was the only one there who wasn’t a licensed GA pilot.  Bruce and Terry had been flying for decades, Shawn was a CFI and Apache driver.  Garrett had thousands of sky dives and was a GA pilot.  It was humbling.

We were given the luxurious “Board Room” to have our clinic and spent all day Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning doing class work.  Chad was great keeping us on track and covering the entire syllabus.

Wednesday and Thursday we broke up at 6:00 and went out to the field.  Wednesday was great!  I got in two flights and way over 2 hours of flight time.  I even turned on the strobes and stayed up well into nautical twilight.  Thursday was at the event site and equally good. Friday afternoon I picked up Dawn and we returned to the field where the event was starting to ramp up.  Vendor booths were being assembled and pilots were arriving.  I was tickled to see so many old friends from Fly Ins past.

Just as Dawn and I were getting ready to walk the field and show off Beau, Britton came over and informed us that dogs were not allowed on the field.  The landowner was concerned because of a dog bite to a child the previous year. What a drag.  We set up the spare tent to keep Beau in but he would have none of it, jumping at the door and biting the fabric.  Dawn eventually sat in the tent and stayed with Beau while Chad walked us through some radio training.  It was too windy for any but the most skilled pilots so we watched until dark.

The next morning I got up early and was able to get in a short flight in strong and ratty air.  Kurt later told me the wind was 9 mph gusting to 17 when I landed.  It wouldn’t have been fair to leave Dawn to sit in the hotel with the dog for the rest of the weekend so I packed up the rig and said my goodbyes.
So I didn’t really get to enjoy the Famous Endless footdrag but I did get my Instructor Certification.  Perhaps we could have put Beau in Doggie Day Care but thats water under the bridge now. 

Dawn and I pulled out of Fort Smith at 1:00 pm and power drove back to Colorado.  We were in bed by 1:15 am

Thanks Britton …. You have a great Fly In … I look forward to flying with you in the future.

Bob Peloquin

Chad Bastian

Flying the single surface glider


Andy McAvin

Mike Bennett

Palm Bay PAL Fly-In

PAL Palm Bay Fly In

Dawn and I flew into Tampa for the weekend.  She had a seminar to attend and I was privileged to come  along for the ride.   On Saturday morning I took the rental car and drove across Florida to Palm Bay for the2 annual  Pal Fly-In. It was good to see Jeff ,Leon ,Ray Eric and Elisabeth ….CC, Tim Gaskins and Marty Hathaway and several others.

Small RCA cars that could go 100 mph+.   Very cool
 Leon’s new frame that,accepts wheels.        Very Very Cool
Ray’s new water cooled motor.                      Very cool and light
The PPG DANCE.    OK … we’ll maybe not so much the PPG DANCE

Breezy  but flyable…. The inland waterway is not too far ( 1 Mile)and the ocean is obtainable (2 miles).  It would be a great place for the Falcon.  I dont know how high I would have to climb to cross the inland waterway but looking at Martin Hathaway’s photos … It would have been Epic.

Photography by Martin Hathaway