It was a perfect launch and a perfect landing! This was the best flight so far! And I think it was because of an equipment breakthrough. After the last flight I adjusted the harness so that the motor rode higher and closer. The shoulder straps are now a lot tighter and the sternum strap is looser. The new set-up allows me to run in a more upright position which made the launch a lot easer! Once in the air I felt a bit constricted but I could certainly loosen it or live with it. The important thing was I was running more upright which used the thrust better and allowed me to glance at the wing to make sure it was flying straight.
I flew north along the coastline at 1600 feet, until I was over the “rebel” camp of Mo Shelton and his entourage. After awhile I was feeling so good that I took a wild ass chance and used my mirror to check fuel level and I even took a few pictures. Then I climbed to 2800 feet and tried some ¾ power turns. What a rush! It didn’t take much brake to get into a mild bank, and for the first time I felt an increase in gravity. I doubt it was more than half a g but it got my attention…and I liked it!
Number nine was just a quick victory lap. I should have stayed up longer but I was worried that I would run out of gas and I didn’t want to do a dead stick landing. I climbed out, flew over the dome then turned left and followed the beach for about a mile then turned left again and headed back. I kept the power up and climbed all the way back to the LZ and was at 2500 feet when the LZ was right below me. I let the motor have just enough power to engage the clutch and keep the propeller spinning, then I did “S” turns and 360’s for a long time while I descended. This time I made sure to have my legs in position and did a neat little two step landing. I was a great way to end the last flight of my first Fly-in.
It was absolutely beautiful when we left. The air was dead still and the sun had just set. The last bit of twilight was painting the mountains purple, and there was a full moon reflecting off the sea. I marveled at how different the place had become in just a few hours. Where before, there had been the cacophony of dozens of paramotors, now you could hear the occasional sea bird. The crowd was gone and with it went all the furious energy that had driven the event. Everybody was moving slower, strolling instead of trotting. In the air was the silhouette of one last pilot who had gone up for a final flight. I listened to his motor wrap-up as he climbed out over the sea and then drop in pitch when he would glide back toward shore, then power up and out to sea again. I enjoyed his solitary flight for ½ hour. He was really quite good, doing all kinds of maneuvers, which would not have been tolerated when the sky was crowded.
He did wingovers and spirals and a move I had never seen before. The pilot would thrust forward and at the peak of the swing kill the power causing the wing to surge forward and dive. I kept expecting to see the leading edge of the wing collapse but he displayed fine control knowing just when to add a little brake and he consistently pulled out of the dive cleanly with a minimum of pendulum effect. He was still playing in the moonlight when Doug came by to pick me up.
Learn from the mistakes of others.
You won’t live long enough to make all of them yourself.
The Paratoys Fly-In had been great. I doubled my flights, saw lots of different equipment, and even witnessed some honest to god incidents. The first was Doug who tried to take off in terrain that was too rough and obstructed for a trike. It was amazing how fast the trike swung around when he got caught by a small pinion tree. And there were a couple of other trike incidents, one was a guy who rolled his trike when he insisted on taking off with his wing oscillating forty-five degrees. Fortunently there were no injuries and it was certainly a well-built trike because he was able to crawl out from under, reset the wing and launch. Another trike incident was a guy who was taxiing off the field with his wing bunched up with him in the trike, a loose line got caught in the prop and sucked the wing right out of his lap. He broke the prop and parablended his wing.
I also saw a couple of classic mistakes that led to injuries. One was a fellow who didn’t check his carburetor during preflight. When he started it the motor ran up to full power and got out of control. He received a couple of pretty serious lacerations on his arm and leg. The worst injury of the weekend was a fellow who had been flying for a several years but had not often. He took off and apparently didn’t think he was climbing out fast enough. He pulled some brake to increase the climb and for some reason kept pulling brake with full thrust until the wing stalled and he dropped out of the sky from ____ft. up. Both legs were broken and I learned later that he required several surgeries and pins to rebuild his legs. The most dramatic incident I witnessed was a new pilot’s first flight. It was the last day, late in the afternoon and the guy had been training all weekend. His instructor gave him the go-ahead so he could solo before it was all over. I didn’t see the whole flight, but what happened was, he overflew the landing zone and crashed into the cab of a pickup. Just like Dave had done a couple of months earlier he lifted his legs and stuck them straight out in front just before impact. The bottom of the frame hit the cab just above the window and crumpled. Then the pilot slid across the roof and impacted the ground about 10 feet past the truck. Lots of damage to the equipment with only the motor and wing salvageable but luckily the pilot was not hurt. He sat there for quite some time and was obviously shook up but in the end …he walked away.