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.

Beautiful Cross Country 547 and 548 at Vance Brand

What a beautiful morning to fly with the Balloons!

There was absolutely no breeze at Vance Brand airport this morning.  The sky was clear and I could see one lone balloon at altitude off to the south.  After launching I noticed there were 3 others at low altitude east of the Boulder Reservoir.  I climbed to 500 feet and went to meet them.  There was a 10 mph breeze from the north and the Falcon picked up to 40+mph.   Smooth air all the way.
I did encounter a small fixed wing GA at the same altitude who was heading right at me.  He turned away 1000 yards off my nose.  It could have been that he did not see me until I started to bank away giving the wing more visible surface area.
The return was slow and it started to get bumpy when I dropped altitude to get out of the head wind so I climbed back up opting for the smoother air.   I cant really call it a cross country because I was only up about 40 minutes but it was 14 miles … 7 out and 7 back.
This weekend is the Fly In at Bubba’s.  Have a great time guys … I cannot make it this year.

#543 Vance Brand

The take off was a little dicey.  Once again I was heading down the western “runway” right toward the picnic bench that I bounced off of a couple of months ago.  The air was still but I expect that I was in a bit of a downwind take off because of the speed of the trike. Just as I was about to abort the trike lifted off and I turned to the right and flew over the swoop pond. 
Once up, I turned to the south to chase the balloons Dawn and I saw on the way out.  There was only one left but I caught up with him and we flew together until he descended into an affluent neighborhood.  I was amazed to see him glide through the neighborhood at rooftop level even descending lower at times when he passed between houses.  On the east end of the community there was a large green space where he landed.
All I can think was that the guy either lived in the neighborhood or had good friends there!
It was a good flight with good air and beautiful skies.

Jerry’s First Flight

Robert K on the PPG Flock Forum


It was great today. Went flying the hill at 10:30 with Marek and Jerry. Marek flew his Wistler 2, 14M from the top. Light 2 MPH wind from the east. Boy did he run. Jerry and I flew from the medium launch. Great flights. Started to snow lightly by the time we landed. Headed out to Longmont to meet Joe O. Jerry made his first 2 flawless flights in 2 mph conditions with great forwards and on his second flight Marek joined him on my Spice 22. They looked like they were having fun carving it up. Jerry is a natural and landed with the hugest smile both times. So please welcome Jerry Patton to the Flock. He will be a fun addition beside being a great pilot. Now we have to ponder what wing he should buy. He already outgrew his Aeros Vitamin 30M student wing on his second flight. I’m thinking maybe a McPara Chronos 25M??? How about you Mike?

Robert K

Jerry’s first Flight

Great Inflation and Runout


Snow to the South West

Base Leg

Motor Off

Starting Flare

Full Flare …. Seated Position

Soft as Charmin Butt Landing 

Great First Flight!


I’ve been looking forward to number 500 since before my first flight and this was a good one. 

Yesterday, I hung and pitched the spare blades to 3750 RPM.  Mike’s did a great job repairing the rig, he replaced the bent steering bar and broken cage parts, made two new axles and repaired the broken wheel where the bearing failed.  After tuning the blades, I rolled around the complex at moderate speed.  It would be nice to have some brakes other than the soles of my feet, but thats a topic for another posting.
It was a bit of trouble getting out of bed but the snooze feature saved me and I was at the field before 6:30.  The surface was wet and muddy from last nights downpour.  I used the fan to blow as much of the water out of the hay as possible.  It was a good trick using the motor like a hair drier.
I wanted the trike to get rolling a little easier and keep the wing as dry as possible so I layed out on the jeep track.  Luck was with me, there was no breeze so I could take of in any direction and… why not have a runway if you can?  While I was getting ready to hook in the risers, I noticed the line keepers were missing.  Mike had taken them off when he was repairing the machine and even though he pointed it out to me I’d missed it when preparing the machine..  At first I was devastated, my tool bag and spare parts were at the apartment and  I had just cleaned the truck, and  knew, there would be nothing in the cab to cobble together a temporary set.  But … in the truck bed under the 4 by 8 plywood sheet I found some broken zip ties and a few feet of 6 ml line. AND …Wa Laa … the new keepers were in place and not necessarily temporary.
Flying in the Clouds

Pilot Rainbow

The launch was perfect.  Climbout was slow because of the high humidity and possibly because of the new blades at a different pitch.  But soon, I was climbing with enough authority to make a go of it.  I headed out to the lake, and…there they were… a huge bank of low clouds.  There was a large cluster that went up maybe 2500 feet and around it were  several dozen smaller clusters with little floaters going down to about 400 feet. 
For the next 50 minutes I played in the clouds.  Several times I got chilled to the bone but this was too good to quit.   I went above, below, between and around but avoided going into the cotton candy.  It was cold and wet and a little scary.  I did fly right along the tops and kick a few just so that I could say that I did.  I knew that I was technically bending the rules but…. at this altitude …. in this place.  I wasn’t worried about encountering any other aircraft.   The sun was obscured most of the time so I wasn’t able to get any spectacular trophy shots of my shadow but I did get one with a faint pilots rainbow. 

What Fun!

Pikes Peak Powered Paragliding Club visits The Flock

#487  #488
I got to the field at hour early and was just setting up for the second launch when Jerry and Robert pulled in.  Nice light breezes, blue sky and good friends.  Jerry brought his chase cam which he let Mike fly.
Ned’s perseverance paid off.  I have never seen a guy wear the paramotor as long as Ned, he never took it off after three failed attempts.  It’s hard to run with authority after  carrying 100 lbs for 12 minutes.  Finally he took a break and with Jerry Kerr’s coaching made a nice take off and 30 minutes later a nice landing.
I flew off to the Aurora Res. with the PP Sting.  When I came back I played around the patch for a bit and did a couple of touch and goes. 

Jerry enjoys the good air

PPPPG & the Flock


Chase cam

Ned finally sits down

Mike’s feeling good