Epic X-Country

Port Charlotte to Lake Wales

Flights #995 #996

Falcon 4 stroke APCO LIFT EZ. LG. 31

Miles logged 85.1

Time. 2 hours 37 minutes

1000 feet

Ave 31 mph

Trimmers in neutral

It was Mike Lange’s birthday last week and the crew got together to celebrate. After dinner we were sitting around the dining table and, as usual, the topic of cross country came up,and as usual, it was Port Charlotte to Lake Wales. However, unlike every other time, it came to pass.

Bob was the key. Early in the week someone posted about flying and I came back, Friday morning. Nothing came from it until Thursday afternoon when I got a message from Mike L, “Looks like we’re going to make that flight tomorrow!”. For the rest of the day the texts and messages were flying. We crammed 3 months of musing into half a day. Routes, logistics, misgivings, reassurances all the typical issues were brought up and handled. At 10:00pm, just as the texts were starting to slow down, I was ready.

At 4:45 the alarm went off. I went through the usual rituals and hit the road. Then everything went to hell. We were to meet at the Orlando LZ and I got lost. Nothing looked right. I turned on Orlando and drove right past the LZ. When I realized I missed it I texted Mike and he said they were launching from Yorkshire instead. Yorkshire?, Yorkshire? I knew I’d flown from there recently but I couldn’t for the life of me, remember where it was. I was fishing on the nav app trying to figure it out when I got a text from Mike that they were going back to Orlando. I’d just been there so I pulled a u-turn and after 5 minutes of driving around and once pulling within 500 feet of the gang and turning around again, we finally hooked up. Luckily we planned the meet a little early and it was still nautical twilight.

Bob the Pilot Harrison says it best.


Adventure flight #1

Mike Lange and Otten hv bn wanting to fly a x/c for a while. Well all the gears aligned for a North Port to Lake Wales flight via Avon Park Wally World for a slushie of all things.

We all gathered at Mike Lange’s house to reconfigure the chase vehicle. Meeting Joe at the LZ for a 06:45 departure.

Except for departing at sea level, it was a maximum effort takeoff having calm winds, high humidity/Temp and heavily laden with fuel, energy drinks and granola bars. Mike Otten kited my wing up nicely with a longer run than usual, then foot dragged half a football field mowing a new path in an already mowed grass median, eventually easing into the air. We weren’t sure if he was going achieve positive rate for gear up or a high speed face plant. Mike Lange and Joe Onofrio kited their wings into lifting position and were off with a bit longer runs.

I had programed road crossings into my GPSTest app for course monitoring. Was a bit of a challenge to keep up utilizing back country roads.

The Wally World stop was like adding an exclamation point to the adventure for Mike and Mike, I think Joe is still scratching his head. 😉 It was an open mowed lot with low obstructions for normal takeoffs. We used the philosophy of asking for forgiveness rather than permission, we used neither, so we’ll save it for next time.

On takeoff Mike Lange let the fast inflating Hadron XX get ahead of him, experiencing a 1/3 collapse, he kept the flying side straight while the other reinflated, throttled up and liftoff. Joe’s wing had a little waddle to it in the beginning. He straightened it out in taxi and throttled up.

Mike Otten controlled the wing nicely but didn’t have a normal takeoff. After mowing another path through already mowed grass, he had to add heavy right brake to counter a sharp left turn after liftoff while navigating between two oak trees a light pole while NOT stalling a strange wing. That took a level head and skill. Once through the obstructions he circled around to the left for another landing.

Mike was flying my APCO Lift and forgot to clear the four control lines or verify their proper connections. The L/Tip steer toggle was either wrapped around the risers or snapped into the brake snap causing an aggravated left turn.

Mike lange and Joe Onofrio were in a holding pattern until the event was over. I must say using radio communications, keeps everyone in the loop for changes and normal decision making.

The rest of the flight was a non event. They landed with fuel to spare at the AviatorPPG facilities located on Lake Wales airport. Jon allowed us vehicle access to load gear. After which we shop talked over lunch at the Depot restaurant downtown Avon Park before heading home.

Looking forward to the next cross country flight.

Bob the Chase Pilot


I’m afraid that my 1000th flight is probably going to be a let down. The last three flights have been fantastic! The weather has been remarkably cooperative. I look forward to the winter sun and longer flight windows.

Above solar farm … Below our pit stop LZ

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.

308 & 309 Vance Brand Airport

X-Country at Vance Brand

Marek and I got there early and flew before everybody else showed. Both back tires were flat, probably from the tall weeds I’d been rolling in. A can of “Fix-A Flat and Marek’s air pump took care of that. We took off about the time Robert Kittilla and his student showed up. The winds were very light and steady. After about 30 minutes we landed and prepared for the cross country.

Vance Brand from 4 miles out

I blew the first launch when I let off the A’s too soon but the second attempt was perfect. It was starting to get thermal almost immediately and so I went for altitude and steered to avoid the blacktops and other heat sources. Beautiful country with lots of small ponds and country estates. Unfortunately we didn’t stay together because it would have been fun to travel as a flock but I did see John flying low and Mark off in the distance.

Hay Stack Mountain

Boulder Reservoir

When I got over the Reservoir I choked because it looked like two wings were in the water I flew closer and decided it was just a couple of boats rafted bow to bow. Both ways I concentrated on level flight and my throttle control is getting better. The earth was warming and I was flying through areas of lift and sink that were dramatic. The 4 stroke couldn’t overcome the sink and I was dropping at 80 ft./min. with full power.

I never used the foot steering because I had the trimmers out most of the time but I was allot more comfortable flying cross country in this machine than anything else I’ve flown.

When we got back I watched Robert’s student crash on take off. It was a combination of switchy light air. warm air and too full a gas tank. No injuries or equipment damage. John got back 20 minutes later than the rest of us and seemed to have no issues with the bumpy air. In fact he took a quick flight on Roberts Velvet. It’s the first wing he has flow other than his Paratoys “Muse”. He said, “It made me a little nervous to be so fast down low”. As talented a pilot as he is he should be flying a spice.

As usual there were swoop divers to entertain us.

X-Country & Luau

Wild Horse Canyon Cross Country

Virga on three sides

Up early to a beautiful but scary sky. There was virga popping out on three sides. The local guys were advising to launch but be ready to turn back or set down if it started to get rowdy. I launched and went high quickly. There were two groups of three below and I would overshoot them circled around and stay on their 6. I can hardly wait till I’ve a little more time on the Thumper because I missed the boat as far as scenery goes. From 200 feet it was spectacular but from 2000 feet It’s not that impressive. I could tell Bubba’s group was in the weeds from the way they were turning around every feature. I was a little concerned that I would not have enough gas and flew the plan which was get high and if I ran out I would be able to glide to a place where I could be easily picked up. As it turned out I didn’t burn as much as I thought but when I looked at the tank it was damn low. My mistake was not realizing that since the buggy was at an angle the gas tank was tilted to the back making it look lower than it was.

When I got back to the field I was still way up there

Lava Canyon

John Black surprised me by taking his girl friend for a mid afternoon tandem ride. After his speech at the Salton Sea I thought he would mellow out. Oh Well He is the pilot in command and a very talented one at that. Good Luck to you John.

The afternoon was Debbie’s famous Amazing Competitions. We had a water balloon fight and the highlight was the Spam toss. I got pegged by a balloon right in the camera pouch which ended the great life of my little Cannon…oh well?

That evening was the big Luau dinner, Michelle and CC went all out. There was a traditional pork dish, potatoes, shrimp, and a chocolate & fruit fountain. The band played and Michelle gave a short but emotional speech that had an underlying message that I’m not sure that I caught. I hope there are no major changes in the air for Paramotor City! It was a great evening These people are family and I’m proud to be “one of the cousins”.

#70 Cross Country

Nice Long Flight !

I’ll always remember this one because as I was coming back I saw lightning coming from Blue Sky. More on that later. I took off at 6:30 am with the wing coming from the South. After climbing 2000 ft AGL I headed south following Roxborough Rd. until I go into some turbulence that was being kicked off of Wildcat Mountain which is really only a little cone that sits along about 1 mile east of the hogbacks. So I turned east for a ways and then continued south until I was over Sedalia. This is really beautiful country. The homes are widely spaced and fabulous; the term estate better describes it. Some were Tucson others were French chateaus and there were a few plain old ranch houses. This was my farthest afield yet and when I got to Sedalia damn if the wind hadn’t turned 180˚, so, I was fighting a headwind all the way back. For a bit I was worried that I was going to have to “land out” until I dropped 900 feet and was better able to penetrate.
As I was approaching the LZ I was looking at blue sky ahead and all was well…then out of nowhere lightning struck in front of me. I didn’t loiter over the field like I had planned instead I checked the windsock and set it down on the first pass. While I was packing up the wing it started to rain with great big drops, not enough to get me wet, just a few minutes and then it was gone. I guess next time I’ll make it a point to check my six once in awhile.