Flight Day. #1114. Spinout!

Well…. That was interesting. This morning… the first day of 2022, I had two aborted launches with a tip over.

The whole thing was so smooth and gentle, that, the second it was over, I knew …. It was OK. Nothing was bent, crushed or broken. Man or machine. The only visible evidence was a scrape on the outer ring and the original keeper was bent flush to the cage. A perfectly acceptable crumple zone, that soft metal V just folded in and absorbed a lot of energy. And…. cage is still round.

The tip-over was the end result of the nose wheel catching an edge just at take off speed. I was drifting toward the boundary of the blacktop and dirt and had started to steer back to center, when (I think), the front wheel barely lifted and immediately touched back down. The sharp edge of the nose wheel appears to catch the edge of the blacktop causing the Falcon to pivot off it’s nose and spin 280 degrees to the left. Then, with it’s energy spent, the Falcon gently tipped over.

Video credit Jacob Niely

Could this accident been avoided? Yes, I can think of a couple of scenarios that would have saved the launch. If I just followed my course and run off into the weeds, it would have been fine. If I’d have popped a little brake before I caught an edge, I’m confident the Falcon would have flown but I like to build as much speed as I can so that the trike leaps into the air.

However if I pulled brake after catching an edge, it would have been a disaster. I’d have spun under the wing and without the friction of the wheels on the surface, it would have probably turned a lot more than 270 degrees. And….When I came back down , who knows what direction I’d be pointed. One things for sure, I’d still be at takeoff speed and probably would have rolled violently. Round tires would , have helped and that’s something not related to reactions or muscle memory. But I like the way the flat wheel steers and it’s small diameter helps to direct the prop wash above the wing before launch. So… I’m going to think a little more, before changing back to the conventional round nose wheel.

After quick check of the rig and lines, I reset and tried again. And… failed again! This time the A-assist ratchet slipped and the wing headed off to the right where I followed it off the field. It was an embarrassing non-event. So… I gathered up the wing and determined to fly, reset for the third time. By now, the wind had picked up to 5 knots and was coming from 90 degrees off the earlier heading. This time the launch was quick, clean and very lofty. No issues with the lines at all.

I’m still not happy with the A assists and I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to not having my hands on the A’s during inflation. Today, the wing was a little slow to come overhead. I’d like to dial it in so I can try Robert’s Throggle.

The air was trashy up to 300 feet, where it settled down but the breeze had increased to 18 knots. Jacob had launched earlier and was well on his way to the beach. I called him and we swapped position reports. He was over the causeway about to descend to the beach. The wind looked like it was going to continue to build so I stayed over the patch.

I landed clean by the truck and waited for Jacob. After waiting awhile for his return I called him again. He was having a slow time penetrating and it took him awhile to make the last mile. Unable to penetrate he eventually he had to descend into the turbulent layer below 300 ft to gain ground on the LZ. His landing was spot on, despite the strong breeze and bumpy air.

It wasn’t a good day but it wasn’t a disaster either. It’s been more than a decade since I crashed on takeoff at Bubba’s. These things happen… and… after all… I did get to fly.


A few days after this was uploaded, Tucker Gott, PPG’s YouTube phenom, put the video on a Blooper Reel. I thought! “Cool, at least there is a good write up “, maybe he’ll make a learning moment out of it.” But then, he called the rig “Rickety and Janky”, what’s Janky anyway? Maybe it’s Janky but Terry doesn’t build anything that’s Rickety. Geez!

Maybe I’ll have to buy a Risky Briskets Tee Shirt

This has been a bad week for Powered Paraglider Pilots

First I heard was from a post by my friend Ava. She reminded me to be careful, she also attached a link to a PPG death in Draper Utah.  Jim Peterson was killed when he spiraled into a LDS Chapel during church service.  Jim was a good pilot, he had logged many hours in all conditions.  We have met up a couple times at The Gathering at MV.  He was a good guy, quietly competent.
A couple of hours later I saw on the Colorado PPG Flock that one of Mike Bennett’s guys, Sean Hall, had a serious accident, breaking his femur and suffering multiple internal injuries.

Then came the news of Egil.  Wonderful Egil. The guy who counseled me during a very difficult divorce. A man of the world. When he was a student of Roberts’s we used to meet at Vance Brand to chase the tourist balloons. It seems Egil also had a serious crash.  Apparently his happened while flying alone.  It’s only by the grace of God that his accident had been witnessed by hikers who called for help.  He is intensive care with life threatening injuries.  His daughter is with him.
I thought that was the end of it.  Three is a charm, and all that.
But…this evening, the top post on my news feed was from David Muench’s wife Marisa.  She was asking for patience and to please not call her.  Dave is not dead, he is not paralyzed, he doesn’t have brain damage…. That’s all she knows …. she’ll let us know when she knows more. 
Jim Petersen

Sean Hall (Colorado PPG Flock)

Egil Wigert
David Meunch
It’s interesting….The Internet has been strangely quiet.  There was just one, long winded rant from Dell, followed by 80 stupid responses, including mine.  I don’t know the particulars and It’s too soon for incident reports.  That is, …..if this carnage actually gets written up.  A decade ago, we poured over every scratched frame to try to determine what caused the incident.  Jesuit scholars would have been proud of the way we argued the possibilities  Now…. Not so much.  Maybe it’s because of the trash talk so prevalent in the PPG digital universe.    Maybe our sport has grown and matured , we aren’t the brave pioneer family we once were.  Well, Brothers…. Some of our own are suffering today.  
So far we have done a little kiting and he’s had one shot using the Trike Buddy.  In the next few weeks he is going to solo.  I’ll do my best to train him and hopefully some good will come from the recent tragedies.  I’m going to take Tony’s quest for flight,  more seriously, than last week.

Blew Launch and Blended the Wing

I waited a week to write this one up because I’ve been trying to figure out what was the cause of a very expensive incident.  During the last few launches I’ve been having trouble with the lines getting bit during inflation.  Was it the keepers kicking out lines or perhaps it was the APCO Lift EZ doing some crazy dance where the outside lines were slack and getting grabbed while the center of the glider was going through the prop wash?  I’m still not sure what the problem is but I’ve decided it didn’t have anything to do with this incident.

Here is what happened.  The wing came up crooked and I pumped the brake to get it back on track, at the same time I was reducing thrust.  I expected the wing to overshoot but instead it did what APCO said it would, it went overhead and stopped. Then, because I was still decelerating, it stalled and fell into the paramotor.  I added power too late to get ahead of the wing and killed it only after the wing was being sucked into the hub.  Apparently it’s a fine line between having too much power and not enough when you are trying to stabilize an oscillating wing.  Too much and you get rolled, not enough and the wing  stalls.  Its also very possible it that there was a tail wind which would have stalled the wing almost as soon as I started to slow down.
One of the cons to flying at Shell Creek is that the vegetation on either side of the runway can make a wind shadow.  I had motored out to the LZ leaving my wind sock 100 yards away attached to the truck where it showed very light and variable air.  There could well have been a nice northern breeze just over my head and I didn’t catch it.  The airflow at the Parking area has it’s own issues, between buildings etc.
No matter how I analyze it ….pilot error.

There are no pictures because I wasn’t of a mind to document a perfect wing slashed to ribbons.

Dumb Chute Story

This morning I got spanked!

Excellent weather, dead calm, clear skies.  76* 99% humidity high density of altitude.

I wish there had been a witness to this mornings botched launch.  
The best I can figure is …. 
I didn’t pay enough attention to the wing.  The LIFT EZ has been nicely benign.  Ever since the first flight, every inflation has been straight as an arrow and ready for throttle-up.  I think it was Jerry Frost, at the dry lake Mirage in Central California, he used to launch as if every one was on a short runway.  He would inflate the wing and go full throttle almost immediately.  Well…. The last several flights with the EZ have been easy.

I suspect….  I got lazy and didn’t look.  I assumed the wing was up and stable when it was probably way off to the side.  The roll out and initial inflation seemed normal.  When I went to full throttle i was immediately pulled to the right. The nose wheel was the first thing to impact followed by a good bounce from the right rear. The left wheel came in hardest causing a bent axle.  The fiberglass struts were stressed but not damaged.
I also remember the trike yawing to the left just before impact.  I don’t know where that came from, it’s almost as if the left rear wheel had been snagged by a cable but I wasn’t able to locate anything that might have cause a snag.  
Like I said ….I wish someone had been there to witness.  It seems obvious that the wing was off to the side.   Fact is, I wasn’t paying attention, I assumed the wing was acting as it had for the previous 15 flights.
Here is the list of damages
1.  Left rear axle
2. Nose wheel smashed
3. Two prop blades were nicked where they flexed into the motor drive pulley.
4. Slightly bent cage … No repair needed.
Right knee sprung
Sore right shoulder
Fortunately there was no damage to the wing.

Stupid is as stupid does

Well….. Our favorite poster boy for mental illness has done it again.  Just two days after a video showing Dell having a mid-air with a student while attempting a “cage stand”, another surfaces of Dell chasing a bird of prey for 7 minutes, kicking the frightened animal in flight.


It sure lit up the big list.  Over 70 messages in less than two days.

Sure enough it was taken down by Dell who claimed copyright infringement.  Go figure ?  He is claiming rights to the video which will convict him.  An admission of guilt?  His aide says no, he filed the copyright infringement in the hope the true author will come forward to protest him pulling the video.

I will defer to Jeff Goin who spoke to the media.  His blog post summarizes the case well including in interview on Salt Lake TV.


Here are links to Jeff’s articles about Dell.

See also www.PPGTruth.com.

Salton Sea 2012 Fligfhts 530 to 537

Salton Sea

First day:  Two Flights   
We left Johns house at 10:30am and arrived at the Salton Sea 4:45am.  Unlike previous years we had chosen to “Power Drive”, to the Event rather than spend a night in Las Vegas.  It was partly budget and part timing but it was quick and fairly painless for us to take turns and keep moving. As soon as we arrived, John set right out to build his campsite, while I stretched out on the front seat and napped till dawn.  We set-up in my favorite spot behind the swimming pool.  I was happy to see that we were the first ones but sad that the area wasn’t the grassy park that I remembered. They had stopped watering and the grass and it had all died, but…. there was shade and it was better than pitchin a tent on a dusty desert road adjacent to the field.
At 8 am it was a beautiful morning with light winds coming from the lake.  John and I loaded the truck with our paramotors and drove to the field.  The first thing I noticed as we walked up to the Registration tent was a life size cutout of Bob Armond standing by the entrance with his arms spread and a  sign saying “Free Beer Tomorrow”.  Some people were offended, but I just smiled and said “Yeah Bob”.   We paid our fees,  collected our Bob Armond Memorial T-Shirts and moved out the field to fly.

Michelle Danielle…Joe Onofrio…Jorden Danielle

My first flight was special.  I cruised the area and visited places I had fond memories of.  There…. was the spot where I distroyed the Simonini Trike Buggy after launching with a huge tumble weed caught in the lines  and there… was the old dome where my first Paratoys was held, I came here with Brian Smith all those years ago.  I worked on trimming the wing that wanted to turn to the left regardless the wind direction.  After some experimentation I was able to fly straight with the right trimmer out two stops. I was flying straight and feeling good about it but something was out of balance and it would take some time before I discovered the problem.  I was not sure if it was the wing or the hang points.

The afternoon was marred when Phil Russman and Mike Robinson had a mid-air collision about 30 feet up over the LZ. I don’t know who was at fault but words were exchanged and Phil was asked to leave. At 6:00pm Mike called a pilot briefing and chewed the bunch of us out for a litany of wrongs. We had all received a page of rules but, as usual, the day before the fly-in, nobody was paying attention to the rules.  I was no angel…, when the landing area was full of wings and I was out of gas, I decided to hell with it and landed in the launch area.  We were all guilty.  Bob was gone and this “new boss” just didn’t have our attention. 

The event was not starting off well.  The biggest problem was stolen equipment. One pilot had a wing stolen when he landed out and had to leave it behind while he carried his motor back to the field, other stuff was stolen from the Vendor booths and there was some money missing.  Now…., I’ve been to many fly-ins and theft had never been a problem, so this was something new and not a good sign, for this fly in or future ones. It is no secret that Mike doesn’t love doing the Paratoys event and was planning to make it every other year instead of annually.  So standing there in the twilight, listening to the ass chewing, I wondered if this might not be the last Paratoys Fly-In, at least the last one at the Salton Sea.
Day 2
Great day!  Four long flights in T-Shirt weather.  After dinner I hung with Chad and Greg until it was time to meet Dawn and show her the way to the Fly-In. 
Day 3
Nice casual breakfast then out to the field to walk the line and introduce Dawn to the community. While Dawn and I were chatting with Michael Purdy we heard that there were 35 mph gusts west of us at the gas station … 10 minutes later it hit. A huge wind front blasted through the flight line.  It was strong enough to rip the windsock from it’s mast at the center of the field.  There were about a dozen pilots in the air and it was clear they were in trouble.  All but one were able to get down, with only minor injuries and equipment damages.  The last pilot was blown off shore.  Dawn and I watched him work his way back to the beach  only to be blown back out over the water every time he descended to land.  Finally he went for altitude and was blown out of sight.  I remember thinking that we were watching a man flying to his death. 


(This is an excellent interview with Jeff Goin and Lance Marzack discussing the wind front that could have been a disaster.
The wind didn’t look like it was going to moderate so Dawn and I jumped into the truck and drove to the other side of the Salton Sea. I wanted to show her Salvation Mountain and I thought that if the lost pilot had been blown across the Sea we would at least be on the east side to offer him a ride.  I caled Paratoys and told Brian where we were just in case he wanted us to do a recovery.
Salvation Mountain
The winds were light when we got to the East shore but twenty minutes after we arrived at Salvation Mountain the wind picked up and continued to build.  It was not as strong and didn’t on as abruptly as it did at the field, but it was steady and it was clearly not going to be flyable, probably for the rest of the day.  
Salvation Mountain, …one mans mission to praise the lord with nothing but a bunch of paint and desert sand.  Apparently “Old Lenard”, had been sick because we found “Get Well” letters tucked in little alcoves for him to find when he returned.  After wandering around and taking pictures we went in search of Slab City.  Last year I drove around for an hour and got hopelessly lost trying to find “The Last Free Place in America”.   Slab City was made famous by the movie, “Into the Wild”,  it is a squatters camp situated on the site of George Patton’s WW II training base.  I was expecting a happy hippie commune but instead found only abject poverty,  there were several dozen decaying RVs and makeshift shelters scattered across the desert.  Some had the appearance of something out of the “Burning Man Festival” others spoke of refugees or counter culture fugitives.  Needless to say Dawn and I were underwhelmed and only to happy to turn the truck into the wind and head back to the east shore to get ready for the big banquet. 
This year it was a celebration.   Our lost pilot had been found. We started the Banquet by having the lucky pilot telling his story. 
Rich Kennedy “The Lost Pilot”
Rich Valentine had been in the air for 20 minutes when the gust front arrived.  He was on the beach and quickly blown off shore.  The winds were higher at the surface and so he found himself flying a box.  At 1000 feet he was able to  penetrate the gust and fly toward the shoreline only to be blown back over the water when he descended to land.  After three or four cycles he looked at his gas and decided that his best chance was to run with the wind and make for the far shore 12 miles west.  With a 40 MPH tailwind  he arrived at Bombay beach in less than 15 minutes and landed in relatively calm air where he was met by a couple on their way to church.  Since he had neglected to bring a cell phone there was no way for him to contact the fly in.  He had no idea that we had called in the big guns and that there were two helicopters and dozens of people looking for him.
Jeff Goin…Joe Onofrio…Chad Bastian…Mo Shelton
John Fetz  John Sieb  Dawn McLane
After dinner the competition winners were announced and Michelle Danielle presided over the Bob Armond Memorial portion of the evening.   She put her words to song and brought many to tears.  The evening was capped off with the return of Phil Russman who had prepared a video tribute to Bob.   
(The link above is Will Jones interviewing Jeff Goin and Lance Marzack about the near disaster caused by the tremendous wind front that hit Sat. morning)

Sunday morning I flew with the new com helmet and radio for the first time.  Once again my luck with communication equipment is poor.  The PTT button was only working intermittently but I could hear the other pilots just fine.  If putting a new battery in the ear cup does not correct it, I will send the helmet back for repair. The conditions were very thermic.  When I felt the left wingtip get lifted I turned into it and was climbing at 300 fpm (at idle).  After climbing to 1500 feet I lost the thermal and so I turned north and enjoyed a leisurely flight to say goodbye to the Salton Sea.   The winds had built to 10mph when it was time to come down and so the landing was almost vertical,  I love it when I run out of altitude and energy at the same time. 🙂
Dawn kissed me goodbye and headed off to San Diego where she was going to catch a flight back home.  It was fun to have her at the event and I was glad to have been able to introduce her to some great friends. The high winds ruined her shot at a tandem foot launch with Chad but she was a good sport, swallowed her disappointment and made the best out of it.  What a trooper!  I will do my best to get her some airtime soon.
The winds were predicted to be bad at Glamas Dunes so John and I decided to try for Las Vegas.  Traffic was terrible but we arrived in Jean Nevada with plenty of time to hit the buffet and get a good nights sleep.  The next morning we got up early and drove out to Lake Jean.  The winds were 10 mph and gusting.  What a bummer, I had forgotten how nice this place is.  A perfect place to launch in all directions with some great elevation changes to fly around.  Ah well, maybe next year….

Powered Paragliding Vance Brand #530

It was cool and there was almost no wind when I arrived at the field.  The first flight was uneventful, I played around for 30 minutes and finally landed when I couldn’t feel my fingers.

The second flight was almost a disaster.  Once again I didn’t notice when the trim cam was below the hang point loop.  The wing pulled hard to the left as soon as I started the runout and I almost crashed into a picnic bench before I slowed down.  In fact I popped up for a second to clear the seat of the bench and the rear wheel struck the seat. I pitched forward and swung back just in time to land.  My Lucky Day…. no damage except for cracked fiberglass strut.

Powered Paragliding in the most rowdy air ever

Dawn and I arrived at Titan at 6:30PM. The winds were blowing 5 to 8 from the NNW and seems to be coming down. I was disappointed that the FRS was not working, I had allowed the battery to run down . It was certainly not a show stopper but I would have liked to have communication with Dawn so that she could be in on the action. While we were fussing with the radios I watched the winds that were cycling every few minutes 150 degrees from NNW to WSW. There were clearly high winds aloft, but down low it looked fine.  No puffs… just a smooth shifting in direction.

When I kited the PP 250 it came up clean and stable so I built a wall and set-up for launch.  The take off was normal, but as soon as I was in the air, I realized that it was going  to be bumpy.  Almost immediately the wing was swung hard to the left and I was in a huge pocket of lift.  I climbed out over the neighborhood and found the air was now moving from the southwest… 180 degrees away from where it was on the surface.  When I got over the field east of the LZ the air smoothed out but the winds were still strong.  I continued around and was soon  back into the bumps over launch area.  This time I turned to the left and found myself in some incredible sink.  I was at full power and descending at over 100 feet / minute.  South of the horse ranch I hit the lift and was climbing 300ft/min at idle.  Now I was too high to set up a landing without hard maneuvers, so I decided to turn east and make a slow descending circle but the wind picked up and I found myself parked just south of the LZ.  At this point there must have been a hard wind shift because the wing folded on the left side.  It was at least a 1/3 collapse but it popped right out and I was still pointing toward my selected landing spot.  My decent was vertical and fast, I flared at the last second and touched down.  It wasn’t a hard landing but the wing pulled back and to the left, rolling me to the side and dragging the trike a few feet, which bent the foot peg that was damaged at Bubba’s last year.  On the ground I looked over the trike and found no other damage.  Dawn saw the collapse but did not see the landing or roll over because I was out of sight on the other side of the Rush Building. …. That was a good thing.

Looking back … Perhaps this could have been avoided … A test balloon might have shown the twitchy air.  I knew there was high wind aloft by the blown out edges on the clouds and… I should have been alerted when I saw the dramatic wind shifts.  BUT … It looked so good…. the next time I’m faced with similar weather signals I will try to be more patient and if the wind is shifting wait  to see if it is a pattern.

It was a short hairy ride … the good thing was … I didn’t freak out and kept flying the aircraft until I was able to get down without real damage to man or machine.

Trike has mid air with balloon

I will let the experts analyze this incident.  I was disapointed and revolted by the bashing from all quarters of the paraflying community.  I will say this…. I knew the pilot and flew with him and his son at the “Gathering”.  He was a healthy and mature pilot with a good conservative attitude toward flying.  While at first blush it is easy to assume the accident was the cause of careless or reckless flying, I prefer to believe that it was “just one of those things that could have happened to any one of us.  Of course mistakes were made but flying with other craft in the air adds risk.  If the pilot had more hours it might not have happened but all of us have been in situations that could have ….. should have bit us in the ass.

Thank God no one was killed

More later