June Update

Wells and Moody Beaches, with a cool marine layer moving under a warm, moist sky, creating low clouds along the coast.

Ok, so I’ve been slacking on the blog, big time. I’ve been teaching every flyable day since I got back from competitions in Florida, but that’s no excuse– we’ve had some non-flyable weather up here too. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Teaching new pilots

I’ve taken on 3 new pilots this Spring: Troy, Tim, and Jon. Troy and Jon have had their first flights. Their hours (or maybe in Jon’s case, dozens of hours) of kiting have paid off, and their launches have been spot on– well controlled with no oscillations after leaving the ground. We did have one launch that veered toward some trees in a rare North-East wind (the only wind direction where we have a tree hazard), and during the abort of that launch, the pilot lost the tips of the prop. Remember to hold down that kill button until the motor is cold!

Troy carving a turn over Southern Maine (photo by Troy Dionne)

Tim is ready for towing, and shortly afterward, flying.

The weather has thrown us a few curveballs; we’ve been stuck in some sort of everlasting Spring– but it’s a New England Spring, not that Eternal Spring that Colombia seems to have. Rain has been driving, wind has been high, and the windows for flight have been short. It seems to be coming to an end mid-June, but as I type, it looks like weather is going to be unflyable for the next 4 days. C’est la vie. We get what we get.

The Scooter Tow. Simple, Cheap, effective for short training tows. (photo by Troy Dionne)
Troy under tow (photo by Troy Dionne)

When the students demonstrate safe technique and ability to steer the wing overhead, we progress to towed launches so that landing flares can be practiced without $8000 strapped to the student’s back. The tow also gives me a chance to see how the student reacts to the sensation of feet leaving the ground. Tow-day is when flying gets real, and piloting mistakes have consequences. It can only be undertaken once mutual trust between the student and myself is established. Safety-wise, I feel towing is a little more mortally dangerous than paramotoring (Like if paramotoring was an ‘8’, this would be a ‘9;’ but a hell of a lot of fun!). Mostly, we’re towing to save the motors.

A closer view of the Scooter Tow. See the force gauge, used to regulate the pressure pulling the pilot into the sky.

Troy and Jon both towed really well, having controlled launches, minimal need for steering on tow, and slow landing flares. Jon probably had the highest, longest tows the Turf Farm has seen; we used nearly the whole property. The paraglider inside me was a little jealous.

Flying with former students, “knocking the rust off”

I’ve had a couple students from last year come up and fly around. Some folks didn’t get their motors until late in the summer, then didn’t have much opportunity to fly them until after winter. Other students started late in 2017, and need to refresh their skills (I provide continual, casual education up to 1 year after a 9-day course start date).

Early morning flight to the coast. It hurts waking up at the crack of dawn, but it is usually worthwhile.

Well, it’s Summer now, and it’s time to fly! I’ve been looking forward to not just standing on the ground coaching y’all, but going on adventures as your wing-man. Keep your eyes peeled in the coming weeks– I’m planning something big for Late Summer or Early Fall. Windy flying and spot-landing skills will be a must for any XC adventure in Maine, so a USPPA PPG2 rating will be required. Flotation may be required depending on where the adventure ends up.

Working on the USPPA Tandem Certification

Tandem Flight with a brave and willing test-passenger. (Photo by Diana McNulty)

For the past 2 years I’ve been working toward a tandem certification. I was delayed in the winter of 2016 due to my injury in Mexico, but I got back on track September 2017 and finally made it out to a tandem trainee course with Chad Bastian in California. Since then I’ve bought a beautiful new MacPara Pasha 6 Tandem wing, taken USPPA PPG2/USHPA P2 pilots on tandem flights, and I’ve taken the FAA Fundamentals of Instruction written test. I have to make 14 more flights with experienced pilots as passengers before I can take students up– which is good, because I’m going to need a few more flights to sort out the pilot-passenger balance point anyway! You’ll be happy to hear that all passengers have reported smooth flights and landings.

I really want this Tandem Certification because there are things I can teach in a tandem flight that are hard to teach on the ground. For example, I can explain oscillations, and I can instruct pilots to go hands-up (or slight pressure on one brake) to eventually fix the oscillation. However, I would rather be right next to the pilot when I show them how to fix a large oscillation. The pilot can associate their input with the actual, real-life feeling of the oscillation coming out. This is especially important flying out of the many tree-lined airports around here, where you sometimes need to straighten out rotor-induced oscillations immediately after launch or before landing.

A tandem flight can give prospective pilots a taste of the sport without a large commitment of cash, and a tandem can break up the monotony of the sometimes frustrating kiting phase of training.

Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport Open House

PPG Row at the Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport Open House 2018

All sorts of aircraft showed up for the Open House at Sanford Airport on June 9. Johnson Qu brought his Air Conception and Scout motors, Jaime brought his Fresh Breeze Monster and Grasshopper Trike, and I brought my Air Conception and a wing. There were a lot of curious people asking about these machines; the lightest of the ultralights. The Skydive New England crew visited our section of the tarmac after their demonstration jump, so it was nice to meet some fellow canopy flyers.

More…

A Titan ICBM
Cold but pretty.
Jaime’s trike reflected in the wet sand over Parsons Beach
The great Sanford Forest Fire, May 2018.

Looking for images for this blog post, I came across everything else I’ve been up to– refining my software skills, rebuilding another paramotor as an electric start, and… other stuff. And none of this even touches on the wild last 2 weeks of my Colombia trip, nor the Florida Crazy that is Spring Fling / East Coast Paragliding Championships. The competition stuff is coming in another post– I’ve already written a lot about it. Stay tuned!

Sunset over marine layer clouds, and mountains! I should also note that during this flight, we were flying almost 70mph ground speed.
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