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
BOB ARMOND in SPIRIT



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. 

http://talkingppgradio.podomatic.com/player/web/2012-02-25T20_25_15-08_00

(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. 
ParaToys
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….


Salton Sea 2011

The Adventure Continues

Walking the Big Wheel

Monday
The weather was terrible. 

A huge storm , sweeping north and east from San Diego to the Great Lakes was shutting down the middle of the country.   Denver was snow packed and frigid with snow showers and high winds.  Driving to California without new rubber on the Ford was not an option.  This was the first time in 6 years that the weather was an issue.  The storm came in 24 hours early and I missed the window that would have insured dry roads.  Mike Miller was a huge help when he cancelled his service calls to free me up to buy snows and get out of town a few hours quicker.  The plan was to head south to Albuquerque and try to get under the storm instead of punching through the backside somewhere West of the Rockies.

Loading the truck was slapstick, all exposed surfaces were covered in ice and the blizzard was blowing into every nook and cranny.  Every time I tried to pull the trike up into the pick-up the ramps would slip under the back wheels  Finally after 5 failed attempts I figured a way to secure the ramp and loaded the Falcon.  Wasting no time I just threw the tent, wings, gas, big wheel and everything else on top. The only silver lining was that 15 mph winds helped me kite the big tarp over the pile.  Using my best frozen dock lines I lashed the tarp and said a prayer…

It wasn’t pretty but at 1:00pm I was southbound on I-25. The roads were packed with snow and visibility was horrible but I was feeling good driving a  loaded truck with new tires.   It was a tough drive, the average speed was 40mph with long spells of 10 mph when the visibility fell to 50 feet.  I was happy to hit 50 miles per hour after passing Glorieta.  Finally I arrived at the Route 66 Casino outside Paramotor City at 12:30pm.  In Albuquerque the roads were wet with intermittent small storm showers.

Tuesday
The storm had caught up but the highways were plowed headed west.    I had not noticed it yesterday because I never got up to speed but now the truck was bogging down and unable to get over 70 mph. I stopped in Gallop and wasted $300 bucks at the Goodyear store where they diagnosed the problem as a clogged fuel filter.
But… I thought it was fixed and headed out into the storm. It wasn’t until was 30 miles out of town and hit clear roads that I realized that the truck was still having problems. In Holbrook I bit the bullet and went to the Ford dealership. Even though it was 4pm they took the truck and thanks to a veteran Ford Tech the problem was diagnosed as a bad igniter coil. At 6:30 they cut me loose. I was at the very southern edge of the storm going in and out of blizzard conditions about every 30 minutes. It was amazing how the roads would be clear one minute and almost instantly turn to packed snow and ice.  I’m guessing that the fast moving edge of the storm was being focused by the terrain with fingers of blizzard crossing the highway. The winds were gusting 50+ with only the big rigs and I braving the weather.  I finally made Blythe and stopped for the night. So much for power driving all the way to the Sea.

Wednesday
Finally, I was out of the storm, the winds were still strong but the skies were clear. I had hoped to hook up with Jeff Goin and the Australian contingent at Glamis. The idea was to fly the dunes Wednesday night, camp there and head to the Salton Sea Thursday morning but after talking with Jeff and hearing that it was a blow out; I stayed on Hwy 10 and headed to the North Shore to visit Salvation Mountain.


Pligramage to Salvation Mountain


Salvation Mountain  (  http://www.salvationmountain.us/  ) is located in the lower desert of Southern California in Imperial County just east of the Salton Sea and about a hour and a half from Palm Springs. Salvation Mountain is Leonard Knights’ tribute to God and his gift to the world with its simple yet powerful message: “God Is Love.” Leonard’s passion has lovingly created this brilliant “outsider art ” masterpiece resplendent with not only biblical and religious scripture such as the Lord’s Prayer, John 3:16, and the Sinner’s Prayer, but also including flowers, trees, waterfalls, suns, bluebirds, and many other fascinating and colorful objects. Salvation Mountain must be seen to be fully appreciated as those who have made the journey will attest. Its 50 foot height and 150 foot breadth is made totally of local adobe clay and donated paint and is truly unique in the United States and probably the world. From its Sea of Galilee at the bottom, to the big red heart in the middle, to the cross at the very top, the reoccurring theme of “Love” is everywhere at Salvation Mountain.

Leonard’s house

My daughter Olivia had seen Salvation Mountain in the movie INTO THE WILD and very much wanted to go there so I thought it might be fun to visit and send her a few pictures.

Dinner at the Mexican Resturant

Chad Bastian, Bob Peloquin John Fetz and I went to the local Mexican place which was packed with tables of pilots from around the country. It was great to catch up with the guys. Bob was enjoying his retirement; Chad was officially healthy and gaining weight. Greg and I were just plain glad to be out of town. After dinner Bob graciously offered me a berth in his RV.  It was plenty cold out and I grateful to have a warm place to sleep.

Thursday
Was a blowout. I spent the day catching up with friends. A few of the Professionals were flying and Jeff put on a display of reverse launching with a Paratoys quad.



Jeff Going doing Quad Reverse

Sometime when I was wandering around Leon Wacker put the complete set of charts for the Tom Bigbee and TVA and Mississippi River into the truck.  He remembered talking to me at Bubbas about maybe taking the inland waterway down to New Oleans.  What a Guy!
The big event of the day was Perry Molter’s amazing double riser twist. There were plenty of witnesses when he launched into 10 mph wind with a powerful and unfamiliar motor. Almost immediately he torque into a riser twist and started to spin into the ground. At 20 feet, he reapplied power and avoided impact but twisted again, at the last possible moment he regained control and flew off to enjoy a 15 minute flight. I wasn’t sure if it was a display of extraordinary skill or a very lucky newbie … Perry has amassed an amazing number of flights in just a few years and is a good pilot on his way to becoming a great one. He was awarded the Bonehead Award at the banquet for the double riser twist and accepted it with good humor.

Mike Robinson presenting the Bonehead Award to Perry Molter

That night we had dinner again at the Mex Place which was still struggling to handle the unexpected rush in business.    Later at Bob’s RV after a shower and hot tub I watched the movie  Danny Deckchair, about halfway through I fell asleep. 
Friday
Was a good day, I got in two long flights. The first was an hour and a half spent mostly skimming the beach to the north. I visited the old dome site and practiced the low and slow. After lunch and a visit to the vendor booths I went up again and did the same thing to the south. The sea has receded a bit from last year and there were several areas where you could see a recent fish kill. The beach was loaded with dead fish and there were patches of carcasses visible just off shore. I would have liked to spent some time inland but the thermals were popping all over and it was really only nice on the beach.  On thing caught my eye was a good size boat abandoned on the beach, it looked like it had been there a long time.  But the best eye candy of the show was Jeff Hamman flying his Manta Ray complete with a remora fish hitching a ride.
  




by Elisabeth Dufour

  As I was packing up the Nirvana team launched and did a night show.  LEDs embedded into their props projected graphics linked to a computer.  I don’t understand it but they were able to program lettering and graphic onto the spinning props. 



Team Nirvana



Night time synchronised aerobatics with a light show….
WOW!   Watch the video

View it here…   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJWs-p0xefk 

That night the Mex place was ready for us, we were greeted by Jose like long lost cousins. The food came quick and the portions were large.   Lots of pilots having a good time,  Later,  back at the ranch I hit the hot tub with Marek and Robert we were entertained by a precocious little boy who so wanted to fly like his daddy.
Saturday
Was the best!
I got in 6 flights including the X-country race to the Knob. The air was good all day. There was an inversion at 1800 feet that had to be powered through but the air at altitude was as nice as it could be. I climbed to 7000 feet and took in the sights. It wasn’t crystal clear but I was able to see from one end of the Sea to the other. Unfortunately my camera’s battery failed and there are no pictures.

ParaToys new field Photo bt Para-Flyers of Florida

The Falcon performed like a champ. It’s climbing at better than 500 feet/min from the beach and was still over 400ft/min at 7000ft ASL.  Below the Japanese Slalom was taking place it was safer than the cloverleaf but not as interesting to watch.  I caught three or four runs with Robert Jerry Alex and Marek and decided I’m better at participating than spectating.  It’s just much better to be in the air!




Michelle and CC Our …”First Ladies of PPG”

 

Elisabeth Dufour …  Eric’s  “First Lady of PPG”

After the morning flights Jim Doyle gave me a set of Pulstar iridium pulse plugs that he installed on the falcon.  It made a nice change, the idle came down slightly and top speed increased 250 RPM. It seemed to run smoother at idle and run up a little faster. Jim is representing the company for love of the sport and they are well worth the money! 

After lunch was the X-country Competition. Early in the event Dean Elderedge broke the world speed record with an early morning flight and a so it is not surprising that a common topic among the pilots was speed. There were 4 classes … Footlaunch reflex and non and wheeled reflex and non. I launched in the 3rd heat wheeled non-reflex. Initially I followed the beach until I climbed above the inversion then I turned inland and followed the highway out to the knob. Once at the knob I had a heck of a time spotting Brian who was monitoring the goal box. The idea was to overfly the box low enough to read the “secret number” painted inside. When we got back to the LZ we reported to Brian and gave him the secret number to prove that we had completed the objective.

On the way back to the LZ Bob Peloquin caught and trotted passed me . He was flying a  Viper2 26 with the Simonini Trike Buggy. There may be a controversy as to the stability of the reflex wing but there is no doubt as to it’s speed. He should have won the class except for a misunderstanding as to how to finish. ….Seems he needed to overfly Brian before landing and did not. I was not aware of the rule either but by pure dumb luck did the right thing. Pierre and Greg were also flying in my class and got off a little later than I. The Eden III was loaded heaver than their wings and unless I made a real mistake I should have been plenty faster.

Later I spoke with Brian and offered to help with next years race.  I’m sure using some of the techniques from yacht racing we can make it more competitive and fun to watch.  I shudder to think of the variables involved in PHRF ing different wings and weights but …At the very least a NOR ( Notice of Race can make it more competitive and fun to watch.  I’m sure it’s done in the European Comps. 

The Flock

After the race I had some Empanadas and wandered the vendor booths.  Alex Varv came with his modified Kangook paramotor.  He has helped me out over the years with parts and advice and I was looking forward to finaly meeting him.  It was too bad that his motor was getting so much attention because the booth was full and we didn’t really have an opportunity to chat.  Next Time.  The paramotor looked great and if his claim of low torque is correct it will be a great boon to the sport.  The harness was by far the nicest I have ever seen.  

That evening was the Banquet Hosted by Paul Anthem and Michelle Danielle.  They get better every year.  This year Paul showed his skill as a vocalist NOT! …  but it was better than last years outhouse skit.    Michael Purdy and Eric Dufour announced the winners of the first comp of the season and Jeff announced Dean Elderedge’s  World Speed Record. 

I received the trophy for Classic Wing Quad  X-country Race and  Michell gave away lots and lots of swag.  Mike Robinson said a few emotional words and a new Memorial Airfield was dedicated by the owner who pledged the land to us.  Later The Pilot Project Band entertained us with classic rock.  It was a great party followed up by the hot tub and bed.

My first PPG trophy !

Sunday

Up early and into the sky.   Beautiful morning to go high and say goodbye.  Everyone was packing up when I walked the flight line one last time to say my farewells.  I hooked up with Pierre and Greg and we made plans to convoy to Glamis together.  When we got there the wind was blowing 8 mph gusting to 12 or 13.  I set up but aborted after seeing Greg parked at 50 feet.  Watching him fly the trike buggy made me remember just how great the combination of Simonini and a Trike Buggy is.  Very nimble machine.   We made a wolf camp and sat around the fire until well after dark telling stories and enjoying the moment.  I used Roberts Pop-out tent since my was broken and slept like a baby.

Monday
Glamis

The next morning we all flew.  There was a good breeze but the surface winds were low enough for an easy launch.  I stayed up for a little over an hour the winds were against me on the way back but I was in no rush.  The non event of the flight was when I lifted off I realized that I’d forgotten ear protection.  No problem I looked around and saw the answer in the closed cell Styrofoam I was using to mount the tiny tack.  I pulled off a couple of pieces and stuffed them in my ears… Worked like a champ.

The trip home was a bitch.  The snow was back with a vengeance.  I drove straight through except for two 20 minute naps in the cab of the truck.  Lots of vehicles had run off the road including one little jerk who had honked at me earlier for going too slowly.  Good trip… Lots of good memories … Thanks Guys

Day #8 Tuesday Glamis #397

Here is a link to Paul Anthem’s video of Flying at Glamis …Kudos Paul!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr3kxjp0zP8&feature=sub

This time, at Chad suggestion, I launched with the Eden III in a low hook in configuration. Surprisingly it worked great. I was able to let the trimmers in or out without any friction lock at the hang point rings. Perhaps because they were attached so much lower than on the Thumper, maybe because the load straps are more in line with the rings. Also the lower line guides on the cage were a help. I could grasp the A lines above the mallions which gave me a much better feel for the wing.
This flight was perfect in every way. I taxied at a slower pace and was able to recover the wing when it fell to the left and tip-touched. Most of the flight was flown with the trimmers out. The Eden III is so much more fun to fly at a place like the Dunes. I could yank and bank and even felt confident enough to get down and dirty with the sand. The 4 stroke winds up slower than a good two stroke so you have to anticipate need for power, it takes practice and it doesn’t approach the performance of a light guy footlaunching, but its do-able. At one point I was running along a sharp ridge with the right wheel kicking up sand on the crest. When I started to feel the trike lean to the left, I added power and it was no problem keeping things level. It is much easier to modulate the power with this machine, I think part of it is the longer movement with this throttle but also the Generic 32 has a wider power band than the Briggs & Stratton 22.
After landing I packed up… said my goodbye’s and set off for Albuquerque. It’s a long drive and I arrived at the Route 66 Casino barely in time for the $5 Buffet. My way of beating the casino is to avoid the slots and load up on the shrimp and prime rib. They didn’t make any money on me!
The next morning I was hoping to fly at Paramotor City but there was a front blowing in So I got back on the highway and headed for home. The snow started falling before I was got to Albuquerque and it was slow going all the way to Raton Pass. The rest of the trip was smooth and I arrived home by 3:00.
Trip Data: 2400miles 38 ½ hours 62 mph average speed. It was a good trip, I had a chance to clear my head and the flying was good for my soul.

I have no idea what the future holds …
But…I’m a little better prepared to cope with it.

260 261 262 Thumper’s maiden Voyage

I was a little nervous laying out the wing but the motor started like a champ and the Thumper took off just fine. The brake pressure required was alot more than I was used to. and I didn’t like the way the buggy was pitching. Chad didn’t think there was anything to worry about but I’m not liking it. After landing Jerry Frost made it a point to tell me that I needed to raise the hang points because I was wheelbarrowing during launch.
The second flight was very short. The machine was so quiet that I forgot to put in plugs and put on the helmet. Right after lift off The hat went through the prop and when I heard the “wack” I was thinking broken prop or worse. I got off the throttle quick and came out of the dive with just barely enough time to flare. I bounced floated and landed. I write that one off to unfamiliar equipment and move on.
The third flight was pretty good. I stayed up maybe 30 minutes and experimented a bit with the wing. It’s really hard to pull. There is plenty of power at sea level . I’ll know more when I get a chance to fly in Colorado.
//www.youtube.com/get_player

#259 and Carnage at the Sea

hLast flight of the Simo
It was a normal launch in every way…Until… I looked up to check the lines and sure enough there was a great big twig twisted into the A lines. It was deforming the leading edge near the center of the wing and I decided right then to get down so I flew over the field and the scrub that borders the north edge and set down in the first sandy patch available. Up to this point it was a non event, I had plenty of clear space ahead and the surface was soft but not too soft… so I set up for another launch. The wing inflated and the taxi was going fine until the sand got allot softer and the buggy sunk in to the mixture of sand and shells. Instead of killing the engine and aborting I added power and a split second later heard a loud crack.
Some lines were cut, the prop was broken, both of the top pieces of the cage were bent and the frame broke at the top motor mount. It’s hard to believe that a line in the hub could do so much damage.
I was hugely bummed to say the least. Grounded and there was still 6 days of flying ahead!