It gets ridiculously hot on the field here at BlackHawk Ranch. I haven't worked this hard in the heat since Tara and I laid the rebar for the foundation of our workshop. Several times today I thanked my lucky stars I'm not a farmhand, roofing contractor, or any of a thousand other things people do in the blazing heat of day out of necessity to feed themselves and their families. In the grand scheme of things we're insanely lucky to be "working hard" out here.
Anyway. Today, it was my turn to try on a paramotor!
After getting familiar with the BlackHawk 125 standing (vs hanging in the simulator), I tried taxiing down the field with the engine off. As expected, it was a hell of a lot harder to run with 50 pounds of machine on my back. Joe assured me when the prop was spinning it wouldn't be so tough.
A few hours later, after our long midday break and a bit more practice, I was ready to try a powered taxi down the field. If things looked good, Joe would give me the all clear to take off.
It was nuts! Over the course of about 30 seconds I had to loft a massive glider over my head, stay under it by running in the right direction, correct course with the break toggles, manage the engine's throttle, and charge as straight as I could across a dusty field with 50 pounds of metal, nylon, plastic, gasoline and spinning wood on my back. Not exactly the most natural activity.
I'm happy to report that physics still works. Just when I thought I couldn't run any further (or faster), I didn't have to. Joe radioed for full throttle, I immediately floored it, and before I knew it, I was in the air. The sight of the ground disappearing beneath my dangling feet, the wind in my face, the thrust of the prop and the lift of the glider yanking me skyward for the first time—I'll never forget this moment! Thank you Joe!
In my head, I imagined the scene as being something like this:
Once I was aloft, Joe ran me through all the controls—the same stuff we did in the simulator—managing throttle, brakes, trimmers, and the weight shift system. I felt right at home and completely relaxed in the air. The scenery was stunning. Dusty orange fields spread out into the horizon as far as the eye could see. New Hogan Lake's fractal-like shoreline shimmered in the evening sun, begging for a fly-by. It was like being on the top of a mountain with a fraction of the hard work required to get there!
Near the end of my flight, while I was circling the field, my motor died! I have to say, this was not the most confidence-inspiring experience, but I really wasn't concerned. We had planned to land with the motor off anyway. When I radioed to Joe what happened he calmly and easily walked me through the landing. A few minutes later, I touched down gracefully, less than ten feet away from him, exactly as planned (a "spot" landing).
I really hope Tara gets a chance to have this experience before we leave, and that tomorrow goes better for her than today did. As fun as this was, I'm not really interested in flying without her.