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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The New Machine

The Colorado Thumper is sold and Terry Lutke is building a Falcon 32 H.P. Generac 4 stroke.

Monday, December 14, 2009

And a New Door Opens

Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome

How I contracted this horrible condition and lived to tell the tale. 

AIDS usually comes on slow but in my case it struck like a clap of thunder.  One minute I was driving home from work, just another happy PPG pilot looking forward to having dinner, playing with the kids and hitting the sack early so I'd be ready for a dawn flight.  The next, I was talking to the police and trying to figure out how I was going to load my flying equipment and a change of clothing into a  Toyota MR 2.  They gave me ten minutes to pack-up and haul my legally restrained ass out of the neighborhood.
I'll have this thing fixed before lunch.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

#376 & #377 Thanksgiving Friday Springs East

(Paul, Ranger Bo, Joe, Jerry)

What a great afternoon!...At one o'clock I was in the office looking at the sky and pacing the floor. It took ten minutes for me to make up my mind and abandon the store to Mike. I was home by 1:40 and dressed loaded and on the road by 2:00pm. At 3:15 I was pulling in to Springs East watching a whole bunch of guys playing the low and slow over the LZ.
Most of the PPPPG Club were there and Mike Bennett and I made up the Denver contingent. Once again the air was perfect, smooth as glass with the only bumps coming from the wings in the air. My first flight I used the east taxiway and blew the first launch when the wing came up very wild. I'd like to think that I snagged a line on a weed since there a few likely suspects that had grabbed lines during set-up. Jerry gave me a hand setting up and the second attempt was smooth. Lots of banking and playing with the trimmers out. The PPS felt good and I could have used either wing but I'm liking the feel of the PowerPlay with trim out. Gotta find a way to rig the Eden III so I can reach the brake pulley with the trim out.

John had his Kawasaki "Beast" mounted on a quad and was able to fly it even though the prop was way too small. For a time he worked with Juanita pulling her on the quad with his vehicle.

It looked awkward but she was able to get it inflated and feel the wing without having to worry about the prop blending the wing. At one point I was on final when he started backing into my path. No worries... I didn't have to land ... so I climbed out and played a while longer.

Later on the ground I caught up with Bo, Jerry, Paul, and the rest. There were some of the new guys (Robert & Ned?), that I knew from the forum it was good to meet them and put a face with the internet persona. WOW...Perfect weather on a day when a bunch of us could get off... We might not get another day like this till Spring,

Seize the Day!

Friday, November 27, 2009

#374 & #375 5th Annual Birthday Flight Snowflake

Today was one of those beautiful clear fall days.
I got to the field at 2:00 and Paul Dillon showed up shortly after. We stood around and chatted for a bit but both of us were itching to get into the air and even though it was early we agreed that it was flyable.
The wind was light from the North and almost in line for me to use the runway. However it wasn't perfect so I set up to inflate into the wind and then turn 30 degrees to taxi down the runway for a moderate crosswind takeoff. It is always a pleasure to roll out on a smooth surface so I had plenty of motivation to attempt a bit of cross wind. Instead of using the exaggerated chevron I set-up a normal wall to get the wing overhead a little quicker. It worked and I was off on a nice long birthday flight.
I stayed in the area going as far east as the gun club. The air was smooth even this early in the day.

Paul and I tooled around each other for awhile . Then I spent a good 40 minutes just boating around. There was a small group of antelope but I stayed high and let them be. There had been 4 or 5 jets passing directly over head as they climbed out of DIA so we both stayed below 1000 feet. When we landed the wind had come down which made it a little more difficult for Paul who prefers to reverse launch into some wind. He decided to call it good with the first flight. I gave him a MV 2009 patch and cap which he insisted on paying for.
It was still early with a good hour till sunset so I took a second flight that took in most of the sights...the gun club...old radio tower ... and I climbed to get a good look at DIA and Buckley.

What a beautiful way to enjoy Thanksgiving and my 5th Birthday Flight ...
warm... clear...quiet.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Simms is questionable

This afternoon I checked out Simms, it is covered with tangle weed and worse there are new "No Trespassing" signs posted at the entrance to the field. It's looking grim...I might be able to find a place to launch over by the school but probably not for long. With Titan and Simms gone all that is left is Snowflake and the Southern sites. What a drag...I have to find some place close to home.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

#373 Falcon Walmart

This was an off day. I met with Kevin on the corner of Woodman & Markscheffel, it was too wet and muddy so we went to his 2nd choice which they call Falcon Walmart. I'm sure it was a better site a year ago but the construction has continued and the field we selected wasn't that big. No problem for foot launch but a little tight for me. The field has recently been cut but the cuttings were still there and perfect little chunks of tangle weed.

The wind was fresh from the South and while we set up it shifted slightly to the east. My first launch was aborted when the throttle cable snagged a line and I couldn't get it free...even with the wing mostly loaded. There wasn't alot of room to fool around so I aborted before I got too far down the runway. While I reset Kevin took off and soon I was ready for
#2 This was a mess...The wing came up fine but my acceleration was poor and it fell back. I tried to save the launch. Big mistake... The PPS will not come back up unless you have control of the A's. I've been thinking of reinstalling the A assists and this would have been the perfect time to have them. I would have probably got the wing back overhead but what happened instead was ...the wing fell back and caught in the propwash, it pulled the buggy back and turtled. Fortunately I was able to kill the engine quickly. The cage was tweaked a bit but the spinner and soft damp earth saved the prop.

Kevin landed and encouraged me to try again. I wasn't too keen after two bad launches but the air was good. So...I started the motor to be sure the prop was still balanced and tracking clear of the cage. The motor came up to 3600 but I couldn't get any more.
#3...The wing came up clean and started to overshoot but I added some brake and accelerated. The run out was long and I barely had enough room but eventually I got up and started circling the field. Climb rate was lousy and I noticed that the RPM's had dropped to 3400. After several laps I started to get some altitude. The air was good with just the slightest currents. After 10 or 15 minutes I did a fly-by and landed. It was a nice landing, with a low & slow turn just before final and a 3/4 throttle gentle landing.
Kevin...thanks for the ear plugs!

Today I dressed for cold weather but didn't need to. The gloves I selected were not nearly as supple as I thought, it hard to handle the lines and when I had to reset twice I was clumsy and hot in the "snow suit". Next time ...set up the wing ....test fill it ... then put on the heavy clothes.

To Dos...
1)Add washers to the cruise control nob. DONE
2)Check the PPS for snags and debris...check the mallions on both wings
3)See about pulling the cage back into round.
4) Rig the A assists for winter flying
5)Check pitch of the props

Sunday, November 8, 2009

#371 & #372 Goodbye to Titan ...Again

Taking down the windsock for the "last time" at Titan

Greg and I met at Titan, we watched Steve Alley launch from his house shortly after. I thought he was going see us and land but he turned North West and that was the last we saw of him. Later I found out that he had flown to work. "Lucky guy" to have an LZ right next to the fire station.

Before we were able to set-up and launch the fellow from RUSH Soccer came along and told us we couldn't fly from there. He let us go today... but "NO MORE". He claims to still own the land but also said that he was not going to build a soccer field because of some zoning issues. So... for the time being Titan is closed... Steve and I have to check on some issues with Douglas County Zoning and the ownership of Titan...perhaps something can be arranged so that area will still be open to us.

Two flights, the first was 30+ minutes. I flew over to the balloon port and checked out the corn maze. Both times I crossed over the inlet to Chatfield was bumpy. I'll never forget that place because it was the site of my worst collapse. I tried it at 1000 feet on the way in and 500 feet on the way out, no difference...bumpy as hell but worth it because I was able to check out the balloon. It hovered close to the ground for a long time and eventually climbed to about 1500. The air over the port was pretty calm but it was a fresh Easterly closer to the hogbacks. My hands were really getting cold so I landed and put on the heated gloves. They are a pain in the ass and bulky as hell but my hands were warm.

The second flight was shorter. Lots of sinking air on takeoff and getting whacked shortly after liftoff kinda took the joy out of the flight. I lapped the field a couple of times ....went North to find smoother air and when it was looked like the conditions were deteriorating, I landed back at the truck. For awhile the winds picked up and a few small gusts blew through but to mellowed and I was wishing that I had not put the rig away while waiting for Greg to land. He got in a marvelous flight, well over an hour and a half. Got behind the hogbacks and covered lots of ground.

I'm thinking about talking with John Fetz about putting winglets on the prop blades, He seems to think it will ad significant thrust it will be interesting to hear what Terry thoughts are.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

#370 Snowflake

(Photos by Mike Bennett)
Moderate Easterly Breeze...Greg Mike Mark Marek and Myself. PPSting 250 Nice air for boating around.

Garmin C-176c if starting to loose it. Shutting down for no reason

Plenty of thrust good climb...maybe the Atmospheric Density is helping me. It was 50+ degrees.
I missed out on the cross country out to Aurora Airport ...I'll pay attention next time!

Video by Mike Bennett

Thursday, November 5, 2009

# 369 Chatfield

Another good day. John Sieb was climbing heading East when I arrived. The wind was light from the East. I launched quicky to lots of lift all the way to Chatfield. It was smooth most of the flight but on return to the LZ it started to get bumpy and I landed after probably only 20 minutes and John was down 10 minutes later. He had gone to 8000 and mentioned that it was getting rowdy for him as well. I was going to say that this was one of those exceptional uneventful flights where absolutly everything worked as advertised. ... but...when I got home and downloaded the video....It stopped recording 10 seconds before the landing...Will I ever get it right?
Everytime I land at Chatfield without getting hasseled I smile because it means I have at least one more flight before it's closed to me forever.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"The Gathering at Monument Valley 2009

Fly the Holy Grail Of PPG
October 9-10-11 2009

Pictures of Second Annual
Thanks to:
Faith Wesstrom
Beery Miller
Chad Bastian

Pictures from the first Annual...Thanks to:
Texas Wingnuts
Pikes Peak Poweredparagliding Club

For More Information
Go to:

Monument Valley 09 Wrap-UP #363 to #367

This is one pilots blog of the event... In reverse order :)


It was a strange morning, the wind was coming over the mesa from the west but it didn’t look or feel bad. The forecast was for light winds in the morning building to 20 plus after noon. I set off several helium balloons that acted different every time.

Final Briefing

One took off to the Southeast and the next went straight up. At the north end of the apron it was a little more consistant with the balloons tracking southeast. Few pilots were serious about launching and everybody seems a little spooked. Finally, John Black launched in his quad and I decided to check it out for myself.
I walked the buggy to the far end of the runway where Sue and her boyfriend were packing up. Her gut was telling her to stay on the ground and wisely chose not to chance it. I on the other hand still thought it was flyable and was determined to give it a go. My first attempt was aborted when the PowerPlay fell back but on the second it came up clean and I launched quickly. It was smooth for the first 200 feet but started to get bumpy and increased as I climbed. I came down 50 feet and flew away from the mesa where I encountered the bumps a bit lower than before. I figured that it was the winds curling off the mesa and it would be a bumpy ride at leadt till I got far enough to the east to get out of the rotor and then It would be a rowdy upwind ride home. Since I had already had 4 good flights and there was no chance of getting back to the park I turned back and made a clean landing with a minimum of power.

Mexican Hat

That was it…the 2nd Annual Gathering at Monument Valley was over. John and I wasted no time packing up our gear and policing the area. I said my good-byes and headed for home.

Old Town

Due to the severe storm up north I went home via Pagosa Springs and Salida. It’s been a long time and I forgot how beautiful this area is. Next summer I’m going to make it a point to visit Paul Dillon.

Flights #363 to #367

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Monument Valley 09 Saturday

Mo made it in late last night and gave the briefing...thanks Mo...

Conditions were wonderful, light breezes made for easy take-offs. I launched from halfway down the runway to avoid yesterday’s mistake...and I switched to the PowerPlay Sting. What a difference! The climb was much better; I locked the throttle at 80%, hooked up the foot steering and headed over to the park. The rig was climbing at 130 ft/min and with a strong tailwind ...moving fast. I figured that if I had a hard time penetrating on the way home, I would go low and if that wasn't enough, I could land out and hitch a ride back.

Jeff and the Boys (Ivan Mo Uri Mark)

Photo by Faith Wesstrom

There were wings all over the place, some were heading into the valley and others were coming from the North after visiting the seven sisters and possibly rounding Brigham’s Tomb. After clearing Gouldings, I flew south along the highway and crossed over Wetherill Mesa into the Valley of the Gods, three miles south of the visitors center. It was spectacular. I was surrounded by a labyrinth of massive buttes and delicate spires towering a thousand feet above the desert floor. After doing a couple of big slow circles I turned North past the Camel and Elephant Buttes until I reached the West Mitten where I turned back towards Gouldings. At 2500AGL the best speed was 5 mph at 2000AGL it was up to 10mph and at 500ft I was clipping along at 18mph.

Photo by Faith Wesstrom

When I got back to the field there was a plane circling the LZ waiting for everybody to clear the runway. I positioned myself at 500 ft just north of the airstrip so that I would be well inside of the flight pattern and out of the way. There was a truck sitting right in the middle and I was hoping that he knew there was a plane waiting to land. It took entirely too long, with the foot steering engaged and the throttle set to cruise I circled for at least 15 minutes. Eventually the runway was cleared and I landed with a long low and slow run up the runway. This was the best flight so far.

Photo by Faith Wesstrom

After Lunch a bunch of us piled into the pick-up and went for a tour of Navajo Tribal Park. We had a great time stopping at the various outlooks and pointing out places where we had been and planned to go and taking the obligatory,“We were there", pictures. All of us agreed that the monuments looked allot bigger from the ground but scarier from the air. I was astounded when Jeff told me that he was anxious flying close to these massive and unchanging structures because I felt the same way. We both knew that they couldn't "suck you in" but at the same time it took force of will to fly right up to the wall of something so huge and unsympathetic.

Csaba Lemak

Seeing the monuments from the ground was a real eye opener. For one thing, I realized that if I were ever forced to make an emergency landing, I had better be able to glide to a road, because it would be almost impossible find smooth patch amidst all the skree. Not to mention the difficulty in pushing the Rig to a place where I could be picked up.

Faith and Ola Wesstrom

That evening we met at Gouldings for the Big Dinner.

Into the truck and down the hill we went. Ola looked very comfortable sitting in the buggy and Faith was riding shotgun as the token lady but I worried that I was going to lose either Ivan or Uri off the back, fortunately I remembered the speed bumps and we made it without incident. At dinner I had the ribs which I wish I’d tried sooner because it was by far the best dish on the menu. Sitting with Johnny Fetz, Chad and Greg Bishop, we talked about next year and things we wanted to do. I really hadn't thought about "non-organizing" it again but listening to the gang sounds like allot of people are talking about coming back and doing it again.
After the meal I got up and said a very few words, thanking everybody and inviting them to come back next year. Someday I’m going to surprise them and prepare a real speech but for now the minimalist thing was working for me. One thing for sure it was much more satisfying that the last time when I had a pilot down and no one knew his condition.
After dinner we hung for about an hour and told hanger stories. It was a hoot to see Jeff sitting with John Black and Mo. The atmosphere was celebratory, just about everyone got one "EPIC" flight and no one was injured.
Eventually it broke up into lots of little parties. I made the rounds and visited a couple of them; the campfire discussion was in full swing with Russ, Faith, Ola, Ivan, Johnny, Uri, Chad and a few others. Tonight's topic was wing design, what’s new, what’s being developed… and... Government interference in the Ultraflight World, the good bad and ugly. Russ had an abundance of firewood so the fire was high and accommodated the large group nicely.

Down at the Bachelor's Quarters there was a rowdy game of Texas hold-em. Csaba and John Black were going at it hard and heavy while the guys who had donated to the cause looked on with great big smiles. The happiest guy was Jim King who had seen god earlier in the day when he got pinned to the earth by a running paramotor. Story is, that Jerry had fixed him a couple of Margaritas before dinner and he was feeling no pain. At Bob's RV the “Acro Film Festival” was winding down. I was almost bowled over by Ivan when he staggered out of the RV... heading to bed...too tuckered for any more carousing.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Monument Valley Photos

Monument Valley 09 Friday

Friday Johnny Fetz & his "Junk Buggy"

The "Epic Flight"

The first take-off was difficult. I set-up at the North East part of the runway by the hanger. It was an uphill take off and my climb was just barely enough to overcome the the grade of the runway. I cleared the fence at the end of the runway by two feet and turned North where I skimmed the surface for 100 yards before starting to climb. The go point came after lift-off when I was climbing ok, then I hit some sink and and my climb went to hell. Aborting would have been "absolutely bad", I was committed and had to fly it out, even if I was just going to fly to the crash site. I felt sure that I that I would clear the fence but the terrain West was not a good place to touch down and I was "puckered" to the buggy for awhile. At 1200 ft. the air calmed down and I set off for the Monuments. When I arrived at "lookout point" I turned to Sentinel Mesa and made a slow turn to take some pictures. Absolutely beautiful! I could look into the Valley of the Gods to the South, across to Brigham's Tomb to the North and back to Gouldings in the West. Later when I was back over the field I resisted landing and loitered over the field for a long time watching the activity below.
That morning and through the afternoon the whole gang showed, Jeff Goin had the top RV spot and Carlos Segnini with his crew were down the hill just south of us. Luc and the Russians were on top and Ola and Faith were in a cabin on the edge. We spent the afternoon hanging around the campsite talking PPG. It was all about Jeff's upcoming video on Mastering PPG and John Fetz new kevlar prop, where we had flown and where we would like to go. I sat there by my tent, taking it all in and watched my wind indicator as it danced to all four points of the compass. The sky was filled with big puffy clouds that were tinged red on the bottom, reflecting the color of the earth below. It was a great relaxing afternoon.
The evening flights were bumpy but good. I launched during a calm moment between the puffs and only flew for a short time staying close to the LZ. Anyway, it was much more entertaining at the airstrip. Chad was demonstrating the his new ultralite wing, it weighs 5 pounds and kites like nothing I've ever seen. Chad was playing it up big, strolling around and occasionally reaching out to tug on a riser making like he wasn't paying any attention to the wing at all. The hook-in is designed low and the risers are very different, like braided kevlar lines rather than conventional webbing with mallions. I would have loved to fly it but it's far too small for my rig.

Toward the end we had some excitement, one trike was flipped launching in a puff and another fellow got dumped when he was whacked coming in on final with power off landing. The last part of the video was Beery getting dumped by a rotor at the same place I had a hard time climbing out.

Video by Fait Wesstrom
Other pilots showed considerable skill and patience waiting for the right moment to set down. I was really impressed by Perry Molter who made several passes before he committed and landed on the runway with an amazingly clean and swift flare. There was other carnage that I didn't see, but heard about later. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt for which I'm thankful. Much like last year, the LZ was a free for all, but everybody seemed to be a bit more aware of the conditions and respected the site.

That evening Johnny and I shared dinner, his shredded pork and my Italian sausage, it was "wolf camping" at its best. Several of us sat around the campfire talking propeller design. Csaba Lemak of Electric PPG fame joined us and talked about some new products he is working on including a high quality composite prop that could be produced for a fraction of current manufacturing costs. Ivan kept things light trading jabs with Stann Honey and Mark Latham. Mark seems to be a much happier and healthier guy than the last time I saw him. I enjoyed his story of flying a glider up to 24,000ft riding the mountain wave.

Monument Valley 09 Thursday


Despite the drama of damaging the rig I got a good nights sleep and was at the field by 6:45. Ivan came to the rescue, with three other pilots, he put his auto body skills to work and was able to straighten the frame beautifully. It's round and stiff and unless you know where to look... invisible. THANKS IVAN!


The morning was a blow-out, gusty and switching winds. We stood around and some of us kited. A couple of guys even went up for very...very short flights but it wasn't good air and since there were going to be lots of opportunities over the next few days I didn't sweat it. About 10:00am I met with Jerry and a few other guys for breakfast at Gouldings. Other than flying, the topic of the day was the foul weather that our families were experiencing only 8 hours away. Denver had just broken a 100 year low temp record. Black ice had put the city in gridlock ...but at the gathering... we were enjoying 72 degrees and beautiful skies.


The afternoon was spent with housekeeping, showers and a nap. At 4:30 we headed down to the field and waited for the winds to come down. It was coming from the Northwest and I set-up downhill, across the runway expecting to lift off at the helicopter pads. I missed it, but Ivan was setting up to the left with the same plan and we started our launch together. I saw him ...he saw me...we aborted together and it was just dumb luck that kept his wing out of my prop. We apologised to each other and started over. Of course Beery got the whole thing on video

The Eden III felt good but the climb was miserable. Once I was aloft I planned to stay up awhile and enjoy myself. It felt good to be back at Monument Valley, it's taken on the feel of "home field" I had flown here in similar conditions several times. The wind was moderate from the west which meant it was going to be twitchy at the south end of the runway, possibly rotor more likely sink. It flows through the cut from the campground and has to be churned up when it comes out of the channel. It's best to go down the runway at least 100 yards below the hanger. I cruised the open country between the LZ and the highway, enjoyed a few mild wingovers and took in the scenery. Other pilots were laying out their wings and I knew it was going to be a good weekend. The air was a little too rowdy to be getting close to the rock faces but it was fine for playing at 350 ft out in the open. When the air went from level 2, to level 4 bumpy, I turned back to the airstrip and practiced low level approaches from the far north end of the runway. It's a little more tricky with the thumper because the motor is slow to power up. I touched the runway several times before finding the right combination of power and brakes and finally managed to float several hundred yards before setting down to taxi the wing back to the truck. It was a trick, to keep the speed high enough to control the wing, but not so loaded that a puff of wind would lift me. It is easy to get complacent and let the wing wander because the buggy is so stable, but when the wing is off center and a puff hits... you get light on one side in a hurry!

That night a bunch of us had dinner at Gouldings restaurant. The salad / soup Bar was a big hit and when they ran out of minestrone they replaced it with chili ...big mistake... Ivan and Uri probably had 5 bowls apiece. Later, Ivan, Uri, Chad and I watched Sycro-Acro Freeflight videos with Bob Peloquin's in his RV.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Monument Valley 09 Wed


I left Denver at 10am and arrived at Monument Valley just at dark. I could have been there sooner except that I stopped to catch up with Steve Katers in Glenwood Springs. Ten years of making this drive representing the bike industry has made it hard to just power drive straight on through, there are just too many friends to catch up with! The mountains are spectacular, Indian summer is happening all over ! It's dry and warm and colorful! Luc and my Russian friend "Crazy" Ivan, were already set-up at the upper tent site. Luc had fixed some pasta for himself and his father and graciously shared it with me. My favorite place overlooking the "Big Indian"was open... so I backed the truck between two Greek Olive trees to unload. When I was backing in, Luc shouted "Joe is the first pilot in the trees". I didn't understand at the time and thought he was making a joke, but later... when I was covering the buggy for the night, I discovered that I had caught the cage on a branch and bent it pretty badly. The buggy wasn't flyable. I was heartbroken and spent the night thinking I was grounded for the duration of the Fly-In.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Beery on Monument Valley 09

Post by Beery Miller:
I've got some photos I have posted up on the <> website that I took while on the way to Monument Valley from Houston, at Monument Valley, and some of the surrounding areas of Monument Valley.

Myself, I flew about 3 hours at Monument Valley. I had 4 flights, the first 3 averaged about 1 hour. The Sunday morning flight, Jeff Goin and Faith caught on video as I launched uphill towards the mesa, cleared the fence by about 3 feet,tried to make a left (eastern) turn, and then did not have enough power to climb from the sink due to some rotor and was dumped from about 5 feet at the edge of the road. Fortunately, the car stopped. Poor choice on my part to launch in the first place. That was Jeff Goin's first incident Sunday morning he referenced on

I caught some good video of Luke from Quebec and a couple of pilots out in the monuments, flipped the camera upside down to make it look like John Fetz had flipped his trike , two pilots attempting to launch at the same time and colliding on the ground, captured a bunch of other blooper performances,captured several instructional moments where pilots were transferring their wisdom to help others improve their skills, and other entertaining moments. I also went around and shot some video from various perspectives of the valley including one spot from a dry river bed, ten miles off the main road and after the "gravel" road ended. Myself, even though I didn't consume but 3 gallons of the 20 gallons of Avgas I took, the trip was well worth it. They call it God's Country. The ground perspective would have made it almost satisfying in of itself, however theflights above the monuments were the icing to the cake.

Monument Valley is a trip every pilot should make sometime in their lifetime. There were a number of pilots that didn't successfully launch on the trip as it is indeed an advanced launch site. I watch two pilots, one on Saturday nightand another Sunday morning take major sink at the end of the runway. Both walked away, one needing a new spark plug boot, the other needing a new cage. The potential for winds, thermals, rotors, the high altitude, ground hazards for launching, and terrain is not a place for an inexperienced pilot. Even though I have close to 1000 hours of flying in my 5 years, it did not prepare me. Not once was I able to successfully do a forward inflation as either the wing would catch on something or I didn't have the speed to keep the wing loaded. Coming from sea-level beach flying altitude to an LZ one mile high was part of the issue. Anyways, many thanks to Joe for arranging the event. It was great meeting old friends and meeting people behind their usernames like John Fetz, Lance, Brian, Delia, Ola, Faith, Luke, Ron Nolan, Stann, Jeff Goin,John Black, Jerry Kerr, Sky King, Mo, Sean, George, Joe, and so many others. Oh, and watch out if you ever play Texas Hold'm with Jerry, John, or SkyKing. They funded part of their trip from me.


Jeff Goin on Monument Valley 09

Jeff Goin
Photo by Faith Wesstrom

Post by Jeff Goin:

It's breathtaking. You can easily see why film crews found this a perfect backdrop for so many John Wayne and other westerns. They had to love it when Technicolor replaces monochrome. Red rocks and others mix light and shadow in ways that our mind's eye paint as art. Beautiful art. And its amazing to see it all from the variable perch of our little 3d machines. Unfortunately, that freedom comes at a price. I pulled in well after the morning but pilots reported that it was quite bumpy at Gouldings, where we launch from, as early as 9am. That's not surprising since a west wind aloft was spilling over the huge mesa just to our west. But those pilots who went out early reported good conditions and gorgeous flights.What a diverse group of pilots. Pilots are here from as far away as Eastern Canada and Florida and I suspect that they are not disappointed. In spite of challenging flying conditions, it's tough not to appreciate the place--especially with the beautiful weather tossing up brilliant blue skies that interact so well with this incredible terrain.Friday afternoon I was anxious to get in the air. By 5pm pilots were getting their gear positioned all over the aircraft parking area and runway but it was still quite gusty, ranging almost calm to 15 mph. I watched some of the kiting and it was telling. Not yet. By 6pm I figured that, even though it was still kind of gusty, at least the thermals would be diminished and I launched. The best way to launch a paramotor in switchy conditions, in my opinion, is to consider it a two part process. Get the wing up and moving nicely then, when all is well, go for it. Don't linger in the run since inflation and running are the most vulnerable times, but take stock of your readiness for flight before committing. Running briskly, wing overhead and tracking, then power up using necessary but minimum brake inputs. Sometimes locations make this assessment period very brief, especially in zip wind.Not long after launching it became obvious I probably shouldn't have. The wind aloft was westerly and much stronger than anticipated, curling over that huge mesa a half-mile to the west. I headed east towards the monuments and away from the rotor. Wow. What a sight! Two other pilots joined me and I did get some video and pictures in spite of nearly continuous level 2 bumps. The video will be nearly worthless but some of the stills worked out. Meanwhile, back at the field, there was some minor trauma when a trike pilot got wind-whacked and flipped over with the usual damage and a scraped up arm. Pavement is not forgiving. Other pilots wisely watched the shenanigans and decided against flying.The strong west wind also meant that I would be taking a long time to come back so I returned pretty early. I'm trying out the Ozone Viper 2 and appreciated having the reflex available. I came down to find a reasonably smooth altitude and motored in. It wouldn't be pretty near the airport with nearly the same turbulence as when I left so chose to land farther away from where I took off and come in under power. Landing with power gives you more control in shifty air but at some extra risk of damaging the gear. Good thing I had the power because on short final a gust tried to dump me but a good goose of Mr. Black Devil at the last minute averted what could have been a firm arrival. I was happy to be down. Others launched with varying results. One pilot got airborne only to be dumped just a bit before the fence. He wisely chose land and reset instead of pressing on in hope of clearing the fence.Landings were even more exciting. One pilot took 3 approaches before finally getting a good window and setting down nicely. Another came in power off, got lifted then dumped and landed so hard that he tumbled, bending his cage. He's an extremely experienced flyer who just got weather-whacked. This place, in this wind condition, is not very forgiving. Three pilots didn't make it back because there were unable to penetrate so they landed out. Good move.I'm glad to have gotten my one flight, and it was spectacular, but it was not an ideal choice. If the wind is like that again I'll just do video taping from the ground! Morning beckons and is supposed to be better. Winds are typically oozing down the runway, forcing an uphill launch but I'll take that over turbulence any day.

Saturday Oct 11 Ah, now this is more like it! Morning was perfect and nearly everybody flew. It was tough launching uphill with shifting light winds but, once aloft, many pilots made the monument trek as did I. Good thing, by the way, my exhaust bolts were safety wired in. Wow, now this is some amazing scenery. Calling them monuments is right on.It's weird how spooky being next to, and just over, these monoliths is. I mean its not like they're going to suck you in, especially given the relatively mellow conditions. They look so hard, so utterly unconcerned about my wellness, so unforgiving of any misstep. I held the brakes just a bit tighter. It took a couple circuits before I'd let go to snap pictures.It wasn't perfectly smooth, by any measure, but 2-level bumps are smooth relative to the sharp nastiness of yesterday evenings flights. That this is an airport became abundantly clear when an airplane, coming in for a landing, had to abandon his approach due to a bunch of gliders on the runway--trikes getting ready to launch. He circled for probably 5 minutes while everyone pulled off to make room. An easterly breeze made everything quite smooth for launch and landing, perfect for trying stuff out. I tried out Chad's Miniplane with Mo's Spice. That's my all-time favorite combination. I also tried his 19 meter "ultralight" wing which was incredible. Mo tried it too. Six foot something Mo Sheldon weighs about 185 pounds and he was tasking a Top 80 with hefting around on a 19 meter wing at 6000 foot density altitude. Hmmm, I thought, that won't be a stellar climb. But at least he was launching uphill. Mind you, the climb was pretty marginal, there was a steady 5 to 8 mph breeze and Mo knows his way around a wing. But still it was impressive. I had a pretty decent climb rate on my flight of the wing but I'm 35 pounds lighter, too. That wing weighs a grand total of 5 pounds. Five. The risers look like clothes lines. Talk about easy inflating, though! The evening was a bust. Once I found out the winds were again coming over the back I begged off flying altogether and, in fact, didn't even get my wing out. Surprisingly, several pilots flew in spite of all that. One pilot took a 40 percent collapse just over the airport and I happened to be videotaping. "Happened" isn't exactly right since I figured there was a pretty high likelihood of badness which was why I was taping. A 40% collapse, without any cravats, is very benign as long as the pilot doesn't overreact. Thankfully, he didn't and came around, rather suddenly, for an uneventful landing. One other piece of excitement was a pilot who landed at the other end of the runway and got whacked just as he was running it out. He fell and his throttle hand mashed into the dirt such that the motor stuck on half power or so. We saw the landing but not the fall. John Black sped down there in his truck, saw what was happening, couldn't get the kill switch, so he reached in and yanked off the spark plug. Nice going.When this airport is in wind shadow, not surprisingly, it's no fun to be flying. That's why I, and most others, didn't go up. Plus, I'd had a great morning flight, why go bounce around in this. Saturday night we all gathered at Goulding's restaurant and told lies. It was a great time. Sunday morning, as I write this, promises to be nice early but, with winds forecast to be strong over the back by noon, I'm going to stay pretty close if I fly at all. It's been a great trip, I've had 5 flights, and could easily end it on this most happy of notes. There is the matter of my now fully fueled motor...

Sunday Summary: A gorgeous sunrise belied the unsavory swirls aloft. Southwesterly winds put us, again, in rotor. I had no interest in it—been there, got the T-shirt, didn't like its fit. Joe Onofrio sent up a helium balloon and, surprisingly, it didn't look as bad as we feared and, even I agreed that it probably wasn't dangerous but wouldn't be smooth and, with a forecast strong wind at noon, feared that conditions could suddenly grow teeth. When one intrepid pilot did elect to launch I got the camera. The good one, with the big lens and good stabilization. Sure enough, I was treated to show. He did a nice launch, barely cleared the fence then landed (well, kinda whacked) into the hill just south of us. Neither he nor his equipment suffered any damage beyond a flight suit tear but it wasn't a good start to the morning. That put a damper on launches for a while but then we noticed that there wasn't anything sharp to the wind although it occasionally did gradual changes to the opposite direction. Yup, better time that one right! Then John Black starting playing around with his quad, inflating and taxi/kiting up to the ramp, turning around, taxiing down the runway and finally launching into a short flight. It was an exquisite display of what's possible with good throttle and wing control. You've got to keep enough airspeed over the wing and lead your turns. When he offered it up to me I jumped at the chance. What a hoot. I did one run up to the ramp with a 180, came around between the guys and launched down the runway. God that's cool. No potholes, either.A digression on Quads I saw some extreme examples of the incredible stability offered by low CG quads. John's Paracruiser was the most graphic, though. When another pilot was taxiing it, he got into some turbulence which started him swinging left/right. He lifted off and wound up hitting the pavement sideways, skidding to a stop. Had that been a trike or a anything with a higher CG, it would rolled immediately. In fact, there were two trikes that rolled and were damaged. But John's and another similar unit, which endured highly tipful encounters, just skidded around.Both incidents that I saw would have tipped most trikes. Mind you, I like trikes and, for experienced pilots, they're fine. Quads have drawbacks, too, of course, namely in rough terrain because the wheels hit bumps unevenly. But overall, the evidence is overwhelming that you're less likely to flip a low CG quad than a trike. And of course it makes sense given their broader overall base. Trikes can be improved, of course, by having a low CG and wide rear wheel base, but, all things being otherwise equal, quads are the best tool for beginners learning wheels.Eventually other pilots launched into increasing turbulence and all landed after collecting too many bumps in too little time. One pilot got into enough turbulence that he decided to land a quarter-mile down the runway. His last 40 feet was rapid, pounding in hard enough to wreck the cage and prop. That was hard to watch. He didn't add power and didn't flare until way too late. Fortunately he was fine and hopefully will be able to get his gear repaired since he's part of a French group visiting here. Wish I could speak French! I'd love to welcome them in the same way I felt welcomed in France. Language barriers suck. Rusty was among the last to fly, putting on a great show of foot dragging and generally playing around. He's the one who built this incredible green motor home that mated a 1950's truck to a GMC motor home and has a matching trailer. Overall, it was an incredible experience. Just being here is worth it. Thanks so much to Joe Onofrio, the "non-organizer" as he calls himself, for getting us all together. It has etched out a fine memory that will, no doubt, enjoy frequent visits.

Sky King Talks about Monument Valley

Sky King
Photo by Beery Miller
...I, Sky King of Austin, Texas, arrived home Monday evening after a great road trip to Monument Valley, which was "non-organized" by fellow pilot Joe Onofrio,the Italian piano dealer and former horse wrangler from Colorado. Thanks, Joe,for putting it together and getting permission for the rest of us to fly over such a stunning landscape.---Beery stated it in a previous post, but the view from the ground alone is worth the drive. Then to be able to fly over the famous rock formations, most of them standing 1000 feet or more from the desert floor, was truly a privilege.---Launching and landing from a corner between two rotor-causing rock formations400 feet tall or more was challenging, even for the more skilled pilots attending. I felt lucky to have been able to launch three times (I lost count ofmy attempts). But as Jeff Goin says, it's all about risk & reward, and at Monument Valley the reward definitely justifies the risk. That's just my opinion.---A few pilots suffered bruises and scrapes, but no one was injured seriously that I know of. I fell down fairly hard in a sticker patch Saturday afternoon after landing hot and off-balance at the end of the runway in trashy air -- I should not have launched in the first place -- and became pinned to the dirt under a spinning prop until John Black arrived and carefully reached in to disable my motor by jerking the spark plug wire out. Thanks again, John. Right behind him were Beery, who helped pack up and return my gear, and Nurse Sue from Albuquerque, whose hug made the crash-landing worth it -- remember, risk &reward. Later that evening I tried to get another hug by telling her my leg still hurt. It didn't work.---My starter rope failed to retract Friday morning, and pilot Mark of St. George,Utah, an actual mechanic, fixed it by rebuilding one of the paw springs that had malfunctioned. Then Saturday after my tumble in the desert, Olaf of Indiana and John Fetz, the old man in the sky, working together, fixed a broken kill-switchconnector and repaired the spark plug wire with a part from Beery. Much obliged to you guys.---Besides the activities at the flight line I learned some great poker lessons from Colorado lawman Jerry Kerr and Chabba the Hungarian. Also Sean, Beery and John Black. Captain Black -- (by the way, during this fly-in I learned that Black actually was a captain on an offshore fishing boat) -- won the six-manno-limit hold-em tournament Saturday night. Don't get too excited. The winner-take-all jackpot, which at the end was a heads-up contest between Black and Chabba, totaled a net of $50.---I drove back to Austin Sunday and Monday smiling about the great memories created at Monument Valley. Next up: Galveston, Texas on Oct. 23. Beery, I'll give you a chance to win your money back. Assuming Kim will give you permission to play. -- SKY KING..