Blackhawks and Traffic

Chris and I after the Mousam Lake expedition. There’s still snow, though it’s melting fast.

Sanford Out-And-Return to Mousam Lake

Last weekend I escaped for a couple of paramotor flights with my friends. I had yet to test my pull-starter fix (using Loctite on the screw holding it together). After a couple flights, one of them over an hour, the pull starter has not fallen apart. If the pull starter makes it more than 10 flights, I’ll be impressed, and will modify all new pull-starters I receive.

Saturday evening I flew with Chris from Sanford Airport to the edge of Mousam Lake (near Shapleigh, Maine). The air was twitchy for being so late in the evening. It got cold fast as we went North and the sun set. I saw Chris turn around just short of Mousam Lake, so I turned around and followed him back to the airport. We had a tailwind all the way, until we reached the airport. Like nearly every day I’ve flown this Spring, the coastal air made a push into the mainland late in the evening. The windsock was blowing the opposite direction, strong. Crossing into the convergence was bumpy, it smoothed out once we were through.

Coming in to land, I could hear the GA pilots on my radio. Someone was 6 miles out coming for a straight-in landing on runway 25. I was near runway 25 at about 1000 feet. Sanford has 3 runways, and is often pretty busy for a non-towered airport. Jets and helicopters routinely stop in. I steered toward the center of runway 32 and set up to land midfield next to it (near where we took off). I killed the motor pretty high to play with the glide on my new wing. I overestimated it this time, and had to walk for about a minute to reach my windsock.

Chris had landed next to the windsock, and was checking over his motor when I walked up. His pull starter had lost all four of its bolts holding it on. The bolts went through his prop, mangling it a bit. That was the reason Chris turned around short of the lake. He flew the 15 minutes back to the airport on a chipped prop and a killswitch wire that was in all likelihood intermittently touching the crankcase. Thankfully the kill switch worked when he needed it! These things happen, and it’s important to know other ways you can kill your motor (like cover the air intake, turn off the the fuel, flood it with carb adjustment, yank the spark plug).

Blazing Stars

Since the gremlins in my pull-starter had hopped into Chris’s, I was able to fly the next morning with Chase. Chase had never flown Sanford Airport before, so I offered to show it to him. We pulled up at 7:30am. I brought my windsock onto the tarmac. An instructor from the Flight School opened the door as I was walking past and flagged me down– She wanted to let me know that 3 blackhawks were coming in to land at 8:30am, and they would be flying over the place we usually set up. I thanked her and told here we’d be out of there by 8:30.

Heavy metal over runway 32

Well, Chase and I ran a little late, and the Blackhawks a little early. I watched my windsock take a beating as the awesome beasts hovered past it.Traffic in the air had backed up a bit too, so the helicopters were followed by planes landing every minute or so. Breakfast at the Cockpit Café is irresistible to the surrounding aviation community! To top it off, my airband transceiver wasn’t transmitting. While not required at Sanford, I didn’t feel safe flying there without one that morning. We bailed on Sanford and drove down the road 5 minutes to Kennebunk Plains.

I had never launched from the Plains, but I had flown over it and played with it many times. It’s a unique feature in Maine– flat gravel terrain. It was formed thousands of years ago by receding glaciers, and is home to the largest population in the world of Northern Blazing Star, a rare flower. The unusually long distance vision afforded by the Plains made it a favorite hunting spot for primitive man– a use that is still allowed today. I haven’t hunted there, but that connection to the early hunters is something I’d like to ponder out there.

The rules for the park stated that visitors need to stay on marked trails after May 1, and motorized vehicle were prohibited after May 1 as well. Since this was still April, we walked onto the fire-culled, snow-flattened dead brush and launched into the rapidly increasing wind. Chase and I got a few minutes flight, then landed when we found the air had become more spicy than the typical 9am window. Above 500 feet, the wind was very strong out of the West. This fast moving air was mixing with a RAPIDLY heating surface– I left the house at 30ºF. Temperatures reached 87ºF by noon! That’s a 57ºF temperature change in a few hours with hot, dry air. I think the decision to cut our flight short was wise.

And today, it’s snowing up the coast a bit. That’s Spring in New England. I’m heading to Florida tomorrow. I leave you with this memorable flight along Old Orchard Beach from September, 2015:

The motor in video is for sale. I can’t guarantee you every flight will be as beautiful as that one, but it creates the opportunity.

 

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