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Another Podium Finish

So summer is nearly here and it has kicked off in style in the UK with the start of the competition season. Early April saw us holding the first leg of the British Championship at the fantastic Hull Aero Club, as usual the British weather forecast was marginal so many pilots avoided the long drive north thinking it would be wasted. This was a mistake for them as we managed to set several good tasks and get an official league result. Myself and Mark Morgan shared joint first with Barney Townsend in third place.

We then returned to the same location for the British Open Championship in mid may, where we managed to attract more overseas pilots than British entries! We had pilots from France, Belgium, Estonia, and even 6 pilots from Qatar all aiming for the top.

Day one was an early start with a simple figure 8 slalom and the man to watch as usual was Alex Mateos. Although he was not flying his full on slalom equipment as this is a classic competition he still took and early lead and won with a good margin. Belgian Stefan Michils was second and myself in third.

We then continued the day with a snake navigation, this involved following a curved track on a map but 3 legs had to be done at a constant speed. You also had to start the course on an exact round minute (GPS time) There were also hidden gates along the track so you must not deviate otherwise points would be lost. Adventure team member Fabian Couderc had a great result on this winning the task, British pilot Alex Anderson scooped second pushing Alex Mateos back to third.

Around mid afternoon the thermals were building therfore it was time for a pure economy task. For this you have to fly for a minimum of 1 hour on as little fuel as possible. Alex Mateos won this but with such a huge margin it was incredible. He did 1h 50 minutes and only used 880ml of fuel with a Polini Thor 200!

Once the afternoon conditions calmed down we concluded with another pylon slalom. This had long straights between the pylons so really suited the faster wings. Alex first, an Qatar pilots Mohammed Alyafei second and Nasser Al Kuwari third.

Day 2 and another slalom in the calm morning conditions, followed by a navigation/speed/distance combination. This had 2 parts, part 1 was collect as many turn points on the map and part 2 was to fly as far as possible on a single section of marked ’corridor’. You only had 60 minutes from start to finish so it was a mad race around the nearby coastline followed by a distance leg. You also had to cross a finish gate before the allotted time was up so judging this was critical. Team Adventure captain and World Champion Pascal Vallée was first Stefan Michils 2nd and myself 3rd.

The afternoon allowed us to do an economy distance task with the aim of going the furthest between turn points using the least amount of fuel. British competition virgin Jamie Bartholomew much to his surprise won this with a good margin over 2013 British Champion Michel Carnet and World Champion Pascal!

Saturday morning and the final day started at 6.30 with a pylon slalom, then a challenging speed navigation turn point hunt. The conditions were safe but quite turbulent so it was a rough ride for 1hour 20 minutes on full speed around Hull. In fact the best part of that task was when my feet were firmly back on the airfield. Amazingly I got a third place with Alex and Michel joint first.

We finished the event and afternoon with a declared time navigation. Your given a map with a set route and gates to cross, before you leave you have to declare the time it will take you in seconds to get to each gate then go and do it. This can be very challenging especially as we had strong winds at altitude and trying to predict strength and direction can mean that your prediction cannot be flown as you don’t have enough trim range to speed up or slow down to suit.

So after 3 full on days the results were as follows

British Paramotor Champion 2014 Michel Carnet
2nd Place Philip Jennings
3rd Barney Townsend

British Paramotor Open Champion 2014 Alex Mateos
2nd Michel Carnet
3rd Pascal Valée

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Postcard from Marshall Islands

If I wasn’t convinced before, I definitely am now, I live the most privileged life, especially one that an adventurous Paramotor pilot could wish for. Since the last scribble, not only have I been one of only a few to have ever ventured around the postcard perfect Seychelles Islands but even fewer have been to the exotic and mystical Myanmar with their flying gear and now my ventures have brought me once again to the incredibly remote Marshall Islands and to everyone’s knowledge here, I seem to be the only one who’s ever gone skywards in this independent island republic with a propeller on his back!

As if it couldn’t get any better, permission was also given to fly from the International Airport on the atoll and capital of Majuro, enabling me to capture not only the incredible remoteness and fragility of these Islands whose highest peak is a mere 2m above sea level(!) but also the amazing diversity of colours in the crystal clear waters below.

I’m now on board one of the famous Indies Traders (http://www.indiestrader.com) surf/dive live-aboard boats traveling with a fresh group of top Brazilian surfers/kiteboarders. Filming these guys/girls was always going to be a challenge for me, not only with the aquatic ‘terrain’ beneath my feet but also with frequent storms and strong winds and minuscule take-off areas. Sometimes it’s necessary to wait until low tide to gain use of an exposed sandbar but I have to be very wary of not flying too long lest there be nowhere to land on my return! We’re going to be in the Marshall’s for another week before making an incredible voyage from here to Fiji on the lookout for the most remote, undiscovered surf and dive locations ever encountered and for me that means flying locations too…

As always, my flying kit gets so much attention and the craftsmanship and design of the Zenith chassis along with it’s incredible portability always gets rave reviews. It’s also standing the test-of-time as an adventure/expedition flying machine and despite continually being assembled and dismantled, shoved into corners and tight spaces and always being around a salty air environment, it looks amazingly well for the service it’s provided. It won’t look new by the end of the trip but I’m confident it’ll get me all the way through.

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Spring has sprung!

The competition scene for 2014 has started and I have just returned from Hull Aero Club where we had the first leg of the British Paramotor League.

The forecast for the weekend wasn’t looking brilliant and I was in 2 minds weather the 3 hour drive was going to be worth it. Quite a few pilots were absent, some abroad others just deciding the forecast wasn’t worth the trip. It actually turned out ok with us managing to get a good few tasks in early doors.

We briefed late Friday night for a 6am launch the following morning and did a simple figure 8 slalom with precision landing. This was perfect for me as I’d decided to use my slalom gear for a classic comp. The Zenith had the Thor 200 in and I was on my new 16m Dudek Snake, so I had every reason to win the task and thankfully I did with a 2 second lead over Mark Morgan who had also gone with the same theory. He was using his Zenith Moster and 16m Ozone Slalom. If you’d told me 2 years ago that there would be 2 pilots flying 16m wings in a classic comp I wouldn’t of believed you but it shows how fast wing technology is going now and how efficient small wings can be.

We then launched for a 1 1/2 hour speed navigation task. Once I took off I realised the conditions were a lot worse at altitude than ground level so I took the decision not to fly. I’m not a fan of being bounced round the sky on full speed bar so although it wasn’t going to get me any points I didn’t regret it. 2 other pilots also chose to sit it out so we were all in it together. When the brave souls returned they confirmed my suspicion that it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. Fun has always been a big part of competing and although I want to get on the podium and score points if I’m not enjoying it then I cannot see any point of forcing myself.

The wind stayed strong the rest of the day so we had no more tasks. Sunday was forecast to be much worse than Saturday so I was surprised as the rest when we were awoke at 5.15 to an early briefing and told to get ready for another slalom. This was a longer run than the day before but the Polini 200/Snake combo won through getting me another first.

We then planned another navigation task but with string winds above 500 feet it was pointless, so instead we did a slow fast task. This is where you have to kick 4 sticks whilst flying as slow as possible then do the same run again but as fast as possible. The person with the greatest difference between their times wins. It also turns out my little 16m wing has an incredible speed range and I not only had the fastest time but more amazingly the slowest too, another first place!

So that was it, only a few tasks but worth the trip up. I had a close second place overall in the end even though I had completely skipped a task so I was happy with that. This means i’lll be carrying some points over to the next event in 4 weeks time….

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African Adventure

Once again I find myself in the eviable position of not only being able to escape the horrid British winter, but also being asked again to take my beloved paramotor to some exotic locations to film aerial footage for a Brazilian TV series called ‘Paradise Islands.’

Starting on the east of the African continent, so far we have worked our way through various archipelago’s along the coasts of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique and have now ventured out into the Indian Ocean, currently sailing a beautiful catamaran around the small islets to the north of Mauritius. Aerial activities so far have been a wonderful mix of mostly barefoot, beach take-off’s and strong ‘trade-wind’ flying, always having to be extremely cautious of the possibility of changeable conditions (storms) and the harsh reality of a possible water landing. Thankfully I’ve had access to relatively clean AvGas in the African countries as the local petrol there just cannot be trusted for any machine taking to the skies. My trusty TOP80 engined Zenith has so far not missed a beat and I keep my fingers firmly crossed that it stays this way. As always flying in these locations, I carry my GPS SPOT tracker, surface marker buoy, mask and snorkel, life jacket and a great new addition, a large capacity Powerfloat automatic inflation system for the paramotor which is very comfortable (and reassuring!) once fitted to the harness.

There was a bit of a compromise on equipment for this trip, I had to keep the weight to an absolute minimum hence the fitment of the TOP80 to my much traveled Parajet Zenith chassis, not a bad choice as the little engine is as bomb proof as any, and as I could only bring one wing I am extremely happy with the decision to have my Paramania GTR22 as a reliable, fast and safe way to ensure skywards activities and being super-stable for filming. As always there are plenty of admirers to the form and function of the delightful Parajet Zenith design and it continually reinorces my beliefs of it being the perfect traveling paramotor (every piece of my flying equipment including wing, spares, tools, bags etc fits into 2 suitcases..)

There have been some exceptional circumstances so far, each location having it’s own special appeal and it’s always so unique flying exotic islands but maybe the most memorable so far would be flying just before sunset, first chasing juvenile sharks over the shallow waters then climbing to over 3000 feet above the incredibly beautiful underwater ‘sand-scapes’ of the Bazaruto region and landing on the beach next to the disused ruin of a hotel where Bob Dylan once stayed in it’s hayday and composed the aptly named song ‘Mozambique.’

The next stop is the Seychelles in a few days where it’s hoped during our week there that I can fly right on the Equator over some delicious island sculptures and then we are off to Myanmar (former Burma) for some extreme, remote island hunting where definitely a paramotor has never ventured before..

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Less flying, more partying!

The season is upon us and I’m now at home tucked in bed recovering after the Parajet Christmas party. Caroline and I traveled down joined by fellow team pilot Ric and his girlfriend Chloe not quite knowing what to expect. One thing I do know is if Parajet are involved then anything could happen.

It turned out to be an amazing evening with a casino, sumo suits, Gladiator pugil sticks, freshly made pizzas, beer and wine aplenty and even an appearance from Santa himself. Not to mention his 2 cheeky little elves!

Yet again you outdid yourselves. Thanks all for a great evening.

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The craziest day of my life

So I have just returned from Peru where I was with fellow Parajet team pilot Glenn Tupper. Other than travelling around this fantastic country our mission was to fly one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu.

We arrived into the nearest town Santa Teresa late Monday evening after a 5 and a half hour drive from the mountain city Cusco. The original plan was to launch from a sports field in the town but when we arrived it was all fenced in and inaccessible. After a brief drive down the valley next to a rushing river we found a flat area that was perfect, so we waited for dark, set the alarm for 5 am and camped there overnight. Next morning we awoke to light rain so our first thoughts were this isn’t going to happen, but we got up and packed all the camping gear away hoping for it to improve. Sure enough by 6 it had stopped but then we could see that all the surrounding mountains were clagged in with thick cloud. Only thing we could do was wait, prepare all the equipment and check the carburation as we were at 4000 feet ASL.

By around 9 it was starting to look promising with low level cloud lifting and some of the peaks visible so we decided to go for it. Our concern was that during the day it was going to get very thermic and there was a good chance of rain in the evening as it was the rainy season. I launched first on the Zenith Polini 130 and 22GTR, followed by Glenn on the Zenith Polini 200 and 24GTX. We climbed to 8000’ over our launch site so could make an easy landing if we had any issues then headed off up the valley. We were following the Urubamba river and passed over the hydroelectric power station they have there at the foot of the towering Wayna Picchu peak. As we came round the final bend we saw it, there it was right in front of us the lost city of the Incas, Machu Picchu. It was an amazing to see this huge site just blended into the side of a mountain. To think it was all built by hand with no tools all the way up on top of a mountain is hard to comprehend. We flew back and forth along the valley for about 15 minutes getting some nice pictures and video for Glenns documentary, then headed back to the van in the valley. Once landed we packed up and headed further along the road to a thermal spring, this is where the day started to change!

We had just got out the van when a police 4x4 arrived and the very polite policemen along with a worker from the hydroelectric plant wanted to know if it was us that had just flown around Machu Picchu. Now at this point i’d like to add it wasn’t our intention to just turn up and guerrilla fly an area. Glenn had spoken with a contact from the nearby area of Urumbamba and his advice was we should be alright as long as we didn’t overfly the site, something we stuck to and stayed in the valley next to it. So the police refused to believe our innocence and asked that we lead the way to the station in Santa Teresa. It was on this journey we had the forethought to remove the memory cards from the camera, replacing them with clear ones and hide all the GoPro’s. It would of been a shame to loose all the great pictures after going this far.

We then spent the next few hours ‘assisting’ with their investigation while they waited for the other to come down from Machu Picchu to join us.

After many hours they had been though all our flying equipment and documented it all but more importantly seemed happy with the 2 empty cameras and an old GoPro that we found on the dash! Once this was sorted we then were asked to go to the police station at the top of Machu Picchu. This turned out to be a bigger adventure than we realised as once we got to the train stain at the bottom next to the hydroelectric plant it aspired we had missed the last train so the only thing was to hike the 2 hours to the top with the police and various witnesses! It was pouring with rain and starting to get dark when we stopped half way up under an old wooden shelter for a break, everyone was soaked but surprisingly cheerful considering it was us that had caused this. To my amazement they called over to a guy in a nearby hut and before i new what was happening we we all sharing a bottle of beer together!

We then walked the remaining hour to the top, signed a few statements and we were free to go. No fine, nothing, just 9 hours of wondering what may happen to us.

When we left the police station we saw the 3 witnesses who’d seen us fly. The bus driver spoke great English but the guide and archaeologist didn’t. We knew the guide had taken pictures of us as these were shown to the police so we jokingly asked if we could have a copy, so now fast forward 10 minutes, were all sat in a Chinese restaurant together eating, drinking beer and talking about paramotors, Machu Picchu, archaeology and photography. We gave the guide $50 for 120 pictures taken from an angle we could of not got and everyone was happy…..What a strange, strange day!

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Winter Slalom Training

Having not flown much for the last month due to catching up on all the unfinished jobs at home, it was great when some of the guys decided to organise a mid-week slalom training session. Even more exciting for me as I had a brand new wing to fly.

After the success in the hands of the Polish team I have got the latest 16m Dudek Snake slalom wing. So combined with my Parajet Zenith Thor 200 I knew it was capable of great things.

After a lots of sedate runs getting used to the differences it was time for breakfast! So we just hedge hopped to the local farm shop and landed for a fry up. The afternoon allowed for more practice and each time pushing a little harder and the times kept dropping. By sunset I was worn out so glad of my lift back home and a rest!

Unfortunately the first British slalom competition is in two weeks time and I’m not able to make it….but more of that to come. All I can say its going to be and amazing week in a totally different continent.

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Flying in Spain

I have just returned from a month in Spain where I have been working with Parajet Dealers Flyspain. Its great to be able to get away from wet and windy England for some time and enjoy the beautiful weather for paramotoring and paragliding southern Spain has to offer.

Along with teaching fledgling pilots to fly I have also been busy exploring the skies of Andalucía looking for picturesque and interesting xc routes.  While flying the Parajet Volution above the campo, I’ve discovered lakes castles and mountains which will make awesome turn points for the up and coming paramotor safaris next year.

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Paragliding at the Air Games

Well the flying trips just seem to keep on going as I’ve just returned from a wonderful week in Turkey. For those unfamiliar there is a coastal paragliding site called Ölüdeniz and its got everything for a great holiday.

There is the most beautiful bay with the bluest of seas, great food and drinks at cheap prices, watersports, jeep safaris, quad biking, oh and a 2000m mountain to fly from!  So once a year at the end of the season they hold the Ölüdeniz air games with acro pilots, BASE jumping, and everything else in between, it seemed to good to miss. The week was spent paragliding during the morning, a quick lunch followed by an afternoon flight. This left the evenings to catch up with the rest of the group over a nice meal and a few beers in the bar. So if you ever fancy a reasonable holiday that the while family can enjoy while you get chance to fly then I highly recommend Ölüdeniz.

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Paramotoring in Oman

I’ve Just arrived back from Oman where we have been demonstration the capability’s of the Parajet Zenith as part of the PADSS (Parajet Aerial Defense Security Systems) programme. One of the awesome things about being a Parajet Team member is trips like this!

I got the invite while returning from a 3 week trip in France for the first World Slalom Championships and the Coupe Icare festival. The email went something along the lines of “are you able to come to Oman next week. We need your flying kit ready for shipping by 11am tomorrow.” GAME ON! 

Before I knew it I was in fellow team pilot Phill Jennings car racing down to Heathrow to meet up with the rest of the guys. Oman is a hot but wonderful country with a real relaxed atmosphere. Unfortunately there is no recreational aviation in Oman so I feel extremely privileged to be one of only a hand full of pilots to have had the opportunity to fly there. Fingers crossed it wont be the last time!

Now for a couple of days in the UK before heading over to the the guys at FlySpain in Algodonales to introduce some new pilots into the wonderful world of Paramotoring!

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The Travelling Paramotor Pilot

From the cool northern fjordlands of Norway, the next destination on this epic paramotor/filming trip for ‘Aerials2’  was Austria, though we arrived in Vienna to find that Sylvestre’s Parajet Zenith’s had gone missing.

Further investigation showed that it was still in Norway though no one knew why it didn’t make the flight. I was dreading the possibility of having not prepared it properly for transportation internationally on a major airline but thankfully it arrived a day later with all components present. We really had to work our way around the weather in the northern part of the country, dodging showers and wind but managed some great footage of old castles and classic Austrian countryside. Then we headed off for the southern region of Carinthia and met up with the hugely talented, super nice-guy and Parajet Team Pilot Xandi. We had some epic early morning and late afternoon flights with him around his home surroundings and were blessed with incredible conditions, culminating in a gob-smackingly beautiful flight above a cloud blanketed mountain, 5000 feet above where we had taken off.

Next up was Albania and again a paramotor goes missing in transit, this time my Parajet Zenith, only to turn up at our hotel the next day, but not before I had worried myself stupid again that I might have to go back to Austria to retrieve it, causing a delay in filming. As it was it just meant we had to stay a little longer in the capital Tirana which meant we made arrangements for me to fly around the square in the middle of the city!! What a buzz, imagine getting clearance to fly around Trafagar Square… Impossible! Albania was exceptionally good to us including having perfect flying conditions the whole time we were there meaning some outrageous coastal flights as well as some very beatiful inland ones over some very historical sites.

Greece was next up and being a bordering country we drove there in a rented vehicle to the unique monastery influenced town of Meteora and met up with our host, my good friend and professional photographer Harris Christopolos. After some blustery flights around the ancient monasteries perched on top of some very strange rock formations, we had to head east instead of the favoured west, due to very srong forecasted winds there. This enabled us some outrageously dramatic flights around Mt. Olympus though, taking off from the beach and reaching almost the height of this tallest of mountains in Greece, nearly 10,000 feet.

To get some contrast going for the series we then headed for Namibia in the South of Africa! Extreme caution was needed here flying over large game animals and strong conditions but there was so much content and such diversity that we managed to shoot four episodes here. From the eye-popping enormity of Fish River canyon in the south, the epic ‘worlds-largest’ sand dunes a little further up, the dramtic Skeleton Coast with it’s ever changing weather and finally the highest peak, the awesome Brandberg (burning mountain) it was an action packed 12 days there!!

We’re now in South Africa on the final leg and have just 3 days to shoot the 16th and final episode so we will soon be zooming off to the Wild Coast to hopefully get the final, amazing aerial images to seal this series and also this wonderful and fast paced adventure. Apart from a little routine maintenance, our trusty Parajet Zenith TOP80’s have been our perfect flying companions and have safely, reliably and comfortably powered us through 120 hours of flying in the last month in some of the most extreme locations. It still amazes me ever time I unpack them from a suitcase and then a little while later take to the skies, enabling me to see and film the world from that vantage point we all know, love and crave more for. Roll on the Wild Coast!!

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World Paramotor Slalom Competition

So as usual it’s the day after another epic trip, this time to the small airfield in Aspres-sur-Buëch in the French Alps where the first World Paramotor Slalom Competition was being held. As competitions go its a very simple format. You launch and fly a pre determined route around several inflated pylons. Your time is measured using infrared gates and scores are instant. Of course flying full speed 2 meters from the ground whist doing high wingovers turns is great fun it requires lots of training and nerves of steel!

The plan for the 7 day competition was for 2 days of training to get the 75 competitors familiar with the format and airfield rules. It also allowed us to tune our engines as we were launching at 900m ASL.  After initial problems with my Polini 200, I had the Walbro carburetor set by Pierre Aubert and it ran perfectly all competition.

So here we all are, pilots from 17 countries (UK, France, Poland, Czech, Russia, Spain, Italy, Qatar, Thailand, Lithuania, Swiss, USA, Belgium, China, Tunisia, Germany, Estonia) and as usual the weather wants to stop us flying. We had 1 day of training then the next blown out. The first day of competition then the next 2 blown out, it was very disheartening after traveling so far. Finally the last 2 days allowed more flying and we managed to get the rest of the solo classes validated and start the team relay.
The team event was quite a highlight for us. It works with the first pilot flying the course then as he finishes through one timing gate the next pilot has to enter through the other with as little time wasted in the change over. He then flys the course and hands over to the third pilot. Timing your entry on full speedbar whilst judging another competitors speed is good fun.

The other big challenge is remembering the course as we were doing 2 different ‘stadiums’ back to back without landing, both with totally different tracks. You generally had around 20 minutes to rehearse and remember them before getting ready to launch. So there were pilots randomly walking around the deck with eyes closed visualizing the route or running round cones on the ground!

The Polish and French teams were amazing to watch and a league above the other nations. It was also interesting to see the equipment choice. Most if the top pilots were going for all out power and were flying foot launched Polini 250 machines with close to 100kgs of thrust. Wing sizes were generally 19-22m but the smallest was a 15m Dudek Snake that Grzegorz used to become World Champion.

How did I do? Well after a promising start I was in 16th place but dropped to 21st after taking it too steady on the last 2 runs. This left me in the top third of the pack so not too bad but definitely lots more training required.

As a team we finished 7th out of 13.

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It’s been a crazy month!

This last month has been the busiest and most varied I think I have ever had since choosing paramotoring as a career but every second has been epic and I wouldn’t ever wish to change a thing. A very warm welcome was received by the flying folks in Brazil although the weather was the chilliest on record and a bit of a shock after leaving a heatwave in the UK, usually it’s the other way around…

After a few days the sun came through though and allowed us to make some jaw-dropping flights along the coasts around Santos, Saquarema and finally Rio de Janeiro and up to the ‘Christ-the Redeemer’ monument, 2000 feet above the city and above the planes coming into the International airport! Brazil is crazy and always exciting! The guys from Paramania were there also so we conducted some seminars and talks at various locations in between the flying which went down very well. It was great to see a strong presence of Parajet Zeniths there with just about every current engine option covered and colour combination too, all lined up together on the beach they looked amazing and attracted a lot of attention.

From the coast and beaches it was time for me to head north and start my filming duties again with EMI award winning director Sylvestre Campe for our series ‘Aerials’ for Brazilian TV (and maybe elsewhere for the future.) The destination for the first couple of episodes was the amazing Rio Xingu river that feeds into the Amazon, up in the lovely, hot, sweaty part of the country, right next to the Equator. The flying up here is tricky as it’s mostly jungle and river and the conditions become extremely thermic and turbulent by mid morning, sometimes settling in the late afternoon. There’s also a shortage of places to take off but every now and then there are small sand bars on the river, big enough for a beautifully back-dropped launch area. So early starts and extreme caution in preparing the flying equipment was paramount.

Once again the versatility of the Parajet Zenith chassis shone through being so easy to throw in the back of a pickup or or small boat and and then pack down into a suitcase afterwards for transportation to the next destination. And what a contrasting destination it was being the fjord laden, mountainous and relatively cool areas of northern Norway! Having before only read about and drooled over pictures of this Scandinavian delight, it was absolutely mind-scrambling arriving there and being able to view the absolute beauty of this place that only flying a paramotor can deliver. After skimming fyords and glaciers and flying in some of the most stunning and dramatic terrain, everything is now packed away again ready for the next destination where we will meet and fly with Parajet Team Pilot Xandi Mesush in his equally beautiful, lush country of Austria.

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Flying in France

So as promised in my last blog here is the latest on my trip to France. I have known Pascal Valleè from 2009 when we met at my first British Open and have competed against him many a time since. For those unaware of him he is one of the top pilots in France and recently became World champion in 2012. When he is not competing he runs a very successful school in Angoulême and also runs various Master classes across the country.

So at the last French open I spoke with Pascal about some dedicated slalom training as the World slalom competition was in a month. Although I have entered a few of these style competitions before and have been doing precision tasks for years I am only self taught so I new I could do a lot better. So I packed the camper and drove the 700 miles to the South West of France for a busy week. The first morning was a usual 6am start, erecting pylons before sunrise so we could maximize the morning. I was the only English ‘student’ and was joined by 2 of Pascals 3 Six team, Fabian an ex French champion motocross rider and Mikey a local builder. After a quick brief it was time for me to demonstrate my best moves using my GTR 18 and Zenith 200. 3 runs later I was confronted with the truth…my technique was poor! Although not slow it was lacking fluidity and could be improved on immensely.

So slowly task by task I tried to unlearn my bad habits and listen to Pascals advice to improve my times.

The days were long and hot so we were doing 4 hours during the morning till it got thermic, and 3 hours in the evening till sunset. I can tell you that after 6 days and over 120 take offs and landings my body knew about it!

In all most of my times improved by 3-4 seconds which is great but more importantly I have lots more work to do and they will get even better.

Hopefully the next few weeks will yield some calm nights and I can try and improve things further but failing that i’ll be learning ‘on the job’ with the rest of the British team out in Aspres-Sur-Beuch for the Slalom World championship in September.

Wish us luck!

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A load of hot air!

It’s 12pm on a Sunday night and I’m parked up at Dover dock heading out on another adventure. I’ll save that story till the next update as this entry is all about the excellent weekend I’ve just had.

Every year Paramania’s Pascal Cambel-Jones does a display at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta and until just I had never been. This year after doing a solo display for the last 8 fiestas the CAA allowed him a second pilot so he brought along French acro ace Sylvain Dupuis.

The 4 day event is the largest balloon fiesta in Europe and attracts 250000 spectators on the Saturday alone so it has great potential to show the public what we can do.

The day starts typically early with a mass balloon ascent at 6.30 where around 100+ balloons all jostle for a space in the small arena to launch and fly over Bristol. It’s amazing even at this hour how many spectators have come to watch. There are small sport balloons, competition racers, shaped and sponsored and even the big commercial ones with baskets for 16 paying customers. It’s an amazing spectacle to see.

Once the arena is clear they have various other displays through the day from wing walkers to model planes even a display from a Typhoon Jet. Pascal was given 3 slots during the day which weren’t ideal with mid day thermals and stronger winds it meant his display couldn’t showcase the full ability of our great machines.

The afternoon saw another mass balloon ascent and then once it was dark they lined two rows of 9 balloons either side if the main arena for the ‘night glow’

All the pilots get their balloons inflated and tethered to the ground and then light the burners to the music being played. This was such fun and as we had ring access we were stood right in the middle if it all!

Sunday morning we got up early to watch the final mass ascent and I had been asking around for a basket space. Sure enough one of the Cameron demonstrators was going up and luckily for me had room for one. We launched so smoothly over the crowd and deliberately just brushed the tops if the trees before gently drifting right across Bristol centre. It was a perfect sunny morning and all I could see was about 70 hot air balloons in front of us in the distance. We passed the Clifton suspension bridge and I could see the Severn Bridge in the distance, it was an epic flight just floating over the rooftops of the houses with everyone rushing outside to wave. We landed after about an hour on a golf course just 18km from the fiesta and had just enough time to pack before the golfers arrived to play.

So although not a 2 stroke fueled, crazy blast around the countryside it was an amazing flying weekend and all I can say is if you can make it to the fiesta weekend it’s well worth a visit, and its free to get in.

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Another podium finish!

Well its the next day after the hectic British Open Paramotor championship that was held this year at Hull Aero Club. After 4 days of very early starts and late finishes I’m guessing all the pilots will be feeling as tired as I do.

It started at 5.30 Friday morning with slalom and precision landing tasks, followed by a speed navigation and bowling landing. For the speed navigation we were given a map with pre marked turn points and had to collect as many as possible in 1h45. The turn points were numbered and we had to do odd or evens but could change once during the task. After studying the map and working out the best route I set off and collected 20, this was the same as my team mate Dean so we both shared the top spot scoring 1000 points each.

In the evening we did an economy distance task, where our machines were weighed before and after the task to see how much fuel we had used. The task was 15 laps of 1.6km circuit around pylons with a stick to kick once a lap. All this had to be done whilst flying as economically as possible in quite turbulent conditions. I ended up missing 1 stick so had to do another lap which cost me points but still scored ok.

Saturday morning, another early start and more slaloms and landings. The slaloms were going well but conditions and brain fade caused me to mess up the landings which cost me lots of points, in fact the points from those cannot be got back unless others mess up to.

Saturday afternoon was a curved navigation which we had to declare the times we would be at each of the 5 gates before launching. I had worked out my times well so could make them on time but a mad dash to one gate that I had misread on the map caused me to miss it by 3 meters and loose a few easy points.

Saturday evening was a slow-fast task. You have 4 sticks 50m apart and have to kick them all. The first run is done as slow as possible and the second fast. You are scored with the greatest speed range, so although I was the slowest pilot my fast wasn’t fast enough but still got a good second place.

Sunday morning, up early again for a fairly windy slalom which is always a challenge as turns have to be thought about well before you do the task to allow for the wind.

In the afternoon we relocated to another airfield 20 miles away to do a economy distance task. There were 9 turn points on the map and we had to collect them all whilst using the least fuel. The route was up to us but we had a strong Easterly wind so the best route I found was 65km back to base. This was a long 1h40 flight with low cloud base and tickling along using as little power as possible. My super Top 80 used only 2.59 L per hour giving me a joint 3rd place.

Monday we had the last few slalom tasks and then the wait for the final scores….

After 4 days and 16 tasks I was 2nd place in the British Open and 3rd place in the league, plus I also had top navigtion pilot as well.

A great result just need to brush up on my spot landings and who knows next year…

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Summers here!

Well the British summer has arrived and this year with style. We have had a good few weeks of continuous hot days with great evening flying conditions. A few weeks back the Paramotor Party Boyz organised an impromptu fly in up near Nantwich so I had an excellent weekend of thermalling during the day on my Top 80, and slalom during the evening with the Polini 200.

Since then its all been about the British Open which is this weekend. I have been out every evening training with sticks, skittles, spots and balls hoping to better my two previous second places.

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Visit to the lakes!

Just returned from a week of flying my parajet Zenith in the Lake District. And was blessed with gorgeous weather wall to wall. The lakes are a great place for paragliding and paramotoring offering us the opportunity to take in the breath taking views.

They demand a respectful pilot the vast mountainous terrain means lots of care must be taken not to get into rotor, there are also lots of areas that would require a long walk if you had a engine failure.  But the flights I had were amazing including a valley run to black moss pot with a stop of to dive into the popular wild swimming and diving spot. Then thermalling all the way home. Followed by an evening fly around “the haystacks” which are a rocky out crop on one of wainwrights favorite walks offering views over lake Buttermere. On returning home I was gutted to find my go pro had malfunctioned leaving me with memories instead of footage oh well just an excuse to do it all again!

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Family time and factory days!

After our success last month in France it’s been a busy and varied couple of weeks with training, attending a foreign flying show, arranging future events and working in the Parajet factory!

The El Yelmo flying festival in the olive growing region of Southern Spain was a spectacular event with various paragliding acro displays and a small but raucous paramotor display/comp with all the top Spanish pilots attending and buzzing manically over the enthusiastic crowd. Loads of fun, zero ‘health-and-safety!’ Brilliant!

With favourable gaps in between the British showers afterwards, I was able to make some tandem flights for friends and family, one of whom is my 14 year old nephew Lewis who also demonstrated some superb ground handling skills after just a handful of hours with the wing. He’s now going to get some special attention to his training from his uncle so watch this space!

I also had a birthday on the 1st of June, I’m not going to let on which one but there’s lots of candles on the cake these days!! Actually my lovely partner, Nicky made the most fantastic chocolate and Guinness cake that was consumed with much gusto with half the Parajet boys after a great evening of flying. On said day, I also received my NPPL(M) Powered Parachute licence from the CAA so decided to convert an old trike I had lying around at the Parajet factory, to take my Volution Macro chassis. As I had to call on the services of ‘Ian the welder’ to fix all the pieces together, I returned the favour by helping out in the factory which I like to do on occasion. All the guys are great at the factory, like a big family and help me out so much when I need some machinery or something fixing in a hurry. They are also very passionate about their work but it’s not until you start working alongside them that you get an impression of how much effort and care goes into each machine. Whenever I spend time here I have an added appreciation of all the elements and processes that constitute the end result that so many of us take for granted. Hopefully we’ll get some favourable weather conditions this week for training so that the lads here that are not yet up to flying standard get their first steps into the air. Because they don’t just like building the them here, they like to be able to fly the things too…

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Age is just a number!

We’ve been out flying and teaching a lot in the last several weeks with the weather treating us nicely here in Oregon. Lots of fun flights in different locations for myself and our students, but one flight this past Sunday has been truly amazing and memorable.

I was lucky enough to be the tandem pilot for a 76 years young gentleman named Fred Noble who’s epitomized adventure sports in Oregon for many decades and who’s been an inspiration to so many different people throughout his life. Fred is probably best known for his accomplishments as a legendary skier, launching off cliffs in several Warren Miller ski movies. Windsurfing and paragliding are only a couple of other sports he’s been quite passionate about and accomplished in.

When Fred was diagnosed a few years ago with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or Lou Gehrig’s disease , a progressive degenerative nerve disease that causes the loss of function of the neuromuscular system, he didn’t let this terminal disease slow him down and he’s been finding new ways to continue doing all those things he’s passionate about, pushing life to the limits, even though he is dependent on using a wheel chair these days.

It was a very emotional and a truly special experience for me to be able to share his most recent adventure with him, to give him the opportunity to feel free like a bird once again. His passion for life and adventure is unbreakable and it just brings tears to your eyes to be able to share a moment like that with him. I was certainly not the only one in our group that day that felt that way either. It’s incredible how he keeps making new friends and keeps inspiring people wherever he goes. He really makes you realize how much life has to offer, you just have to go out there to get it! Looking forward to spending more time with him in the skies this summer! He’s not only planning on being back again soon, but also encouraging others that are in a similar situation to get out there and live life to it’s fullest, or to use his own words ” We (people with ALS) are prisoners in our own body and everyday someone leaves the cell doors open so we can escape to freedom. Get out as quick as you can and go have some fun”.

Very much looking forward to our next adventures…

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Podium finish in France!

Back in the UK now after a 12 day stint in France for the very well organised classic Open Competition and subsequent Slalomania 2013 round 1. Also on the trip were Parajet Team Pilots Phil Jennings and Ric Womersley and Sussex Paramotor, Parajet dealer Mark Morgan.

It all started very well for me with 2 precision tasks, the first one a spot landing and the second a race around the pylons. Good solid points in these meant I started the competition in 3rd spot. However, that’s as far up the standings as it got for me in the Open, with a bad decision made in a ‘declared speed’ task and some technical issues with my carburettor and the attached competition fuel container, I dropped to 12th overall and was not able to claw back more points such was the high standard of the other competitors. One of those being Phil who demonstrated what a great all-round pilot he is, utilised all the skills he’s learned in competition during the last few years to earn a very respectable 5th place and 2nd highest placed foreign pilot. For Ric’s first foreign event he put in some good solid results and could have been the only person to have made an extremely difficult spot landing if only the landing marker was not made out of the slipperiest material known to man! Ricky was the only one who got the spot but unfortunately looked like he had just landed on a banana skin, went over on a knee losing the points, a damn shame.

After a day of rest we started the 1st round of Slalomania for 2013 and all had a swap around of equipment from what we had been using in the Open. I just changed my Paramania GTR from a 22 to my trusty 20, Ric changed from a 24 down to my 22, Phil jumped on a GTR18 and transplanted his Polini 200 engine into his Zenith chassis to replace the Top80 and Morgy got out his spanking new custom coloured GTR20 and Zenith Moster for some action. The scoring for Slalomania is unlike the Open, being immediate but also incurring huge penalties for any mistakes. My brief to the other guys was to start steady and progress forwards rather than charge like a bull at a gate at the first task and risk getting heavily penalised at an early stage. The strategy paid off with us all improving as the tasks went on. It was a little frustrating though when some tasks got cancelled due to the wind, when the 4 of us were all on super solid GTR wings that could have coped with much stronger conditions. Neither did we have any issues with our beautiful Parajet Zeniths, giving great feedback and control in all situations.

The competition was prematurely ended on the Saturday due to unfavourable weather forecasts ahead meaning 2nd spot on the podium for me! Phil progressed up through the ranks to take a great 7th and would have pushed on for more as would Ric and Morgy given more tasks. Ric for instance got 4th place on the last task until it was cancelled.

A mention must also go out also to local pilot Guillaume Vallance flying a Zenith Polini 200 and Paramania GTR20 taking a superb 6th place on his first slalom competition. Well done Guillaume! 3 Parajet/Paramania combo’s in the Top10 but it’s going to be all 5 of us next time around!

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Longest Winter Ever!

At the beginning of December my girlfriend and I decided to renovate the house. Dang, talk about bitting off more than you can chew. Well after a few months of working long shifts on the house I was finally in a place to get out and go flying, that was about two months ago. Problem with that is the weather in Chicago was having no part of being done with cold, rain, snow and wind. So I waited, and waited, then the house flooded, and I waited some more. Check out the attached photos of flying over the floodwaters.

Then bam, this week it turned on. I’ve been sneaking in a quick flight here or there since last fall but this week marked the first week I have flown every day. Finally!! Things are back to normal, just in time I might add. Last week I shipped my Zenith to Brazil and today I shipped my Volution to California.

This weekend I’ll be performing at the Red Bull X-Fighters in Southern California, then ship the Volution to Baltimore, Maryland where my teammate, Chris Santa, and I will be performing at the Preakness Horse Race. The Preakness is second only to the Kentucky Derby in US horse racing and it’s the second stop of the Triple Crown tour. Then Santa and I are straight off to Brazil to hook up with our Zeniths and the rest of the Red Bull Air Force boys for some aerial madness in the skies over Rio.

Well that takes care of May! Check back for updates on this months’s travels and future plans.

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Great Result in French Nationals!

My fellow Parajet team pilots and I are currently out in France after competing in the French Open championship in Mondreville, South of Paris. Its been a hectic 4 days with near perfect flying conditions and a busy task schedule. I really look forward to coming out here every year as the competition is really tough and the French train lots, in fact most of the top pilots work 100 percent in the sport, so its almost like a smaller version of the World Championships.

There were 62 foot launch solo, 6 foot launch tandem, 9 trike solo and 14 trike tandem so this meant lots of organising but everything went smoothly.

The first task was a simple photo hunt. You are given 3 tracks to follow and 11 pictures to find. The first 3 pictures were used as course changers so once you found one of those you then had to fly to the start of the next track, whilst all the time still looking for the other pictures. This was then ended at the airfield with a target spot landing. I ended up missing 2 pictures and drifting off course slightly so ended up with a rather disappointing 17th place, I did manage to score a inner ring on the spot though.

We then had a slalom task similar to the cloverleaf but without the centre stick. All the timing is done with an electronic timing gate. I had a 9th in this.

Next was another photo hunt task but this time it we had to declare the speed we were going to fly the curved course. This had to be done before take off and then you had to try and fly that constant speed the whole leg, whilst looking for photos! Also to make it a bit harder the weather was windy and changeable. 7th place.

Task 5 was an economy based turn point hunt. With turn points further away worth more. We were given a measured amount of fuel (3kg) and had to do our best! This is where the Top 80 engine in my Zenith really pays off. I did 1 hour 16 minutes and collected 4 high value turn points giving me a respectable 5th place.

Task 6 was a speed triangle but with a touch and go at another airfield and a landing and relaunch at another. We also had to fly above 150M within 2km of each airfield so lots to watch for before going full speed. An ok 10th place on this.

The next task was pure economy, which is probably my least favourite as I don’t free fly and never really have done except the odd top to bottom flights at Coupe Icare. So we little interest I setup late hoping the really lively conditions might calm down a bit. Anyway the launch window was closing so I took off with the 1.5 litres of fuel we were given and headed off into the smooth but lively conditions. Before I knew it i was engine off and going up only to be joined by the gaggle of top pilots. This turned out to be one of my most enjoyable flights in a long time. I ended up flying for 1 hour 30 minutes and came a respectable 7th.

The penultimate task was a declared turn point hunt with limited time. Only a few pilots risked the extra turn points so the majority of us came joint 4th place.

Last task…a long slalom course with 3 pylons and 2 kicking sticks. An average 12th place.

So after 4 days and 9 challenging tasks I was 5th overall, my best result so far in France and great training for the upcoming British Open in July.

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Parajet triumphs at Boston

I have just returned from an excellent but tiring weekend in Boston Lincolnshire where the British paramotor league was held. This is the first event of the season and a great warm up for the various Open competitions coming later this year.

We had an early start Saturday with first flights at 6am! The first few tasks were pylon slaloms which i was looking forward too but due to poor preparation on my part I turned the wrong way on 2 of the runs. So despite being second fastest I was deducted points…not a good start.

We then had a pure navigation task that involved covering the greatest distance between turn points in a hour and 40 minutes. I made it back to the finish gate with only 2 minutes to spare and did 90.5 km giving me a nice second place.

The next task was an eco-distance, which had several parts to it. We had to weigh our kit before leaving and then fly a marked 8 km radius circle as fast as possible, then proceed to try and cover as many of the 1 km squares on the map as economically as possible. We were also limited to 6 litres of fuel that we had to try and judge at the same time. I planned a cross wind weaving route around the map trying to hoover up as many squares as possible. This worked well as I ended up covering 91 but I went over my fuel allowance buy 0.01 Litres which cost me 20 %. Thankfully my route had got me so far ahead of the nearest competitor that even with the deduction I still came second.

As the wind picked up in the afternoon we did some fun simple tasks. The first fairly straightforward, kick a stick, land lower the wing to the ground, relaunch and kick a second stick. Its very simple but equally something you don’t really practice. The second was similar, kick a stick, land, walk/run with you wing overhead through a small slalom course, take off and kick a stick. I had a 3rd on the first and a poor 9th on the second after using too slow a trim setting.

Sunday morning brought more good weather so after a 6.30 briefing we were off on ‘breadcrumbs’ task. We had to fly from a centre point along a 8 km track of our choosing as fast as possible and back to the centre point, then again on a different track. Before flying we had to declare our speeds and try and do it at those speeds. We also had to fly the return leg of each track as close as possible to the outgoing one. A little challenging and after tuning 1 meter too soon on one of the legs I was deducted points. Another silly mistake which costs me lots of points!

We finished up the competition with a classic pure economy task, so launch and fly for a minimum of 1 hour and use a least fuel as possible. This was a rough one as it was spring thermal weather so pretty rough. Not a personal favourite of mine and I managed a mediocre 5th.

So results were new Parajet team pilot Ric Wormersley joint first with 9 times British champion Michel Carnet, Parajet pilot Dean Eldridge second, Parajet dealer Mark Morgan 3rd and myself in 4th.

A great end to a brilliant weekend!

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Good Result at Boston

Having just returned from 2 months traveling abroad with my Parajet Zenith, I was in a favourable position going into the first round of the British League competition this weekend, having been able to keep my flying skills in shape with good weather whereas many pilots have been scuppered for training during the earlier months of the year with unfavourable flying conditions. Also, the first four tasks were precision based, my speciality, so I was able to make a good head start. My two Parajet Team mates Ric Womersley and Phil Jennings also got off to a good start where others were still shaking off the winter rust.

A ‘classic’ style competition is not all about speed and precision though, there’s also navigation and economy to throw into the mix and as the weekend went on, more of these tasks were introduced. My ability to navigate has improved in recent times but I’m never going to win economy tasks using a big engine and a small wing so as the weekend went on, the advantage I had gained at the start began to diminish though Phil and Ric were doing exceptionally well with their equipment combinations. Towards the end there were just a few points separating the top 3 pilots of the event, myself and Ric being right in there. Unfortunately for me I made the smallest of mistakes on a spot landing, hitting the spot but doing so in a strong cross wind causing me to make a small fall afterwards, nullifying the maximum points for that task. Ric though was cool, calm and collected and just managed to push through on points at the end to take equal top spot! Superb job Ric, a great effort and very well deserved and backing up the decision to have this great pilot join the Team Parajet Pilots.  With me now taking the 3rd position and Phil defending his place from other pilots snapping at his heels, the end result was Team Parajet taking the 1st, 3rd and 5th, not bad at all.

The 3 of us now plan to get some training in before the French Open ‘classic’ competition starting in 10 days time and the 1st round of Slalomania, a purely speed/precision competition at the same location, 2 days after. Joining us will be another British Pilot on a Zenith Moster, Mark Morgan. We’ll be over there flying the flag, the Parajet one of course! Wish us luck.

Final results before and after they penalised me for my spot landing… BUGGER for me, great for Ric…!

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Spring arrives early!

Spring arrived a little early in the Pacific Northwest with some great weather for both free flying and motoring. This last Saturday, one day before the time change, some local pilots were towing up over a local lake, others headed to the mountains to get some great thermal flying, while our group chose to go motoring! Our local, ‘just off the beach’ PPG site was warm and sunny with perfect winds. We had five in our group, all flying Parajets, playing around, enjoying the beautiful coastal scenery and the clear blue skies all day long. Fly, land, grab some food and warm up a bit, then get back into the air and do it again, and again, and again… Great to have a day to do nothing buy fly!

It was great to be able to share this incredible day with our friend Daniel who’s a visiting pilot from Costa Rica. Judging by the big smile on his face while flying around on a Parajet,  I think he had a ‘little bit’ of fun!

Some other recent highlights have been some paragliding soaring flights at some of our coastal soaring sites. Last weekend there were about 30 pilots showing up to fly several miles up and down some really spectacular cliffs. Really fun seeing so many familiar and a few new faces out that day and introducing some of our students to the site. Lots of big smiles that day too for sure.

It looks like our season is really getting started here and I’m looking forward to flying a lot more in the coming months. We have several new motor sites that we’ll be checking out too. Should be happening very soon.

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Party Boyz do it in style!

Well i just got back from one of the best social flying weekends in ages!  A small group of friends organised a weekend fly in in Criccieth North Wales so with the camper loaded I drove the 3 and a half hours north arriving early Friday afternoon.

It was flyable on arrival but with unpacking and socialising to do I kitted out and waited for the even better conditions promised next morning. Saturday was exactly as forecast with nil wind and bright clear skies so we spent most of the day exploring the nearby coastline, foot dragging the shorelines and generally having fun. I decided to take my new Polini 200 Zenith and although i’m a light pilot I just love the power it kicks out, allowing me to power round a slalom course or just climb fast when flying hands off taking pictures of other pilots. In fact I counted 10 Polini Thor 200’s there, 8 of which were in a Zenith and the other 2 in Volution chassis, it shows how popular the Parajet brand is becoming!

With the smooth a silk sea breeze it also allowed me to do some testing of various camera mounts that I have made up, including the chase cam.

Sunday was slightly hazy to start but still a great day with some pilots flying the 14 miles or so to the summit of Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. I ventured up the coast and over the estuary to Harlech on a little XC.

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Midweek Fly-in

After a few weeks of snow here in the UK I’ve been dying to get out flying but work and windy days have stopped this happening. Anyway with a good forecast for the Thursday a few fellow pilots decided to hold an impromptu fly in at a field only 15 miles from where I work.

So I agreed a 6am start allowing me to get away at 2 and hot foot it down the road to Crag’s field. There were already around eight pilots there and the field was covered in about 5 inches of snow, so I knew it would be fun. I managed several flights on my new Polini 200 Zenith, and i’m loving the power. Its a totally different beast though to my little Top 80 and my throttle control still needs more work! It also allowed me time to try out my new GoPro Hero 3 so I grabbed a few pics and videos of the day.

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New Year’s Day Testing

I’ve had a shiny new Polini 200 sat in my Paramotor shed now for several months but I’d been waiting for my ankles to get back to full strength before using it. So when the weather turned on New Years day after weeks of rain, I decided it was time.

I’d already built the engine up a few months back onto a second back plate so this allows me to have 2 engines for different disciplines. I have the Top 80 for classic style competitions and the Polini 200 for Slalom. So I quickly swapped the two back plates over, and remembered to change the fuel mix in the tank. With the harness being detachable without any tools it made this job so simple and before I knew it i’d got a completely different Zenith ready to fly.

I made it out into the field a bit later than ideal mainly due to the night before festivities, so only really had time for a few gusty launches with short flights just to check the geometry. It all worked perfectly with no adjustment needed and with 80kg’s of thrust its a delight to have so much power compared with the Top 80. I’m really looking forward to the upcoming slalom competitions this year and with this engine its going to be a big advantage.

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Around the World with the Zenith Top80

At the end of the summer season this year I had the most fortunate opportunity of traveling around the world with my paramotoring equipment and a small documentary film crew. The brainchild of the project is Sylvestre Campe, a well respected film maker in his homeland Brazil (although his origins are from Germany/France.) Deciding that he really wanted to use the paramotor for aerial filming, we worked together to formulate an itinerary at extremely short notice and and also to incorporate some training for him too as he had never before piloted anything himself!

With his fast track training completed in Northern Spain, I then had to leave for a short hop over to Quebec for the Fly Games World slalom competition which consequently I gained top spot on the podium, so some great news to head back to Europe with and a well worthwhile trip.. Back in Europe and straight after the magnificent St. Hilaire festival near Grenoble we were on the road through Italy and Slovenia. There were some pretty tricky flying conditions and locations but our TOP80 engined Zenith’s and Paramania wings coped superbly and we managed to get some incredible footage in the Slovenian mountains and lakeside town of Bled as well as the glorious San Gimignano in Tuscany.

From there we had to leave my trusty van and continue with airline transportation, firstly taking us to Cappadocia in Turkey. It was a relief to get the first commercial flight out of the way as I was concerned that if our paramotors were confiscated or not allowed on the flight the whole project could be scuppered, thankfully meticulous preparation paid off. Cappadocia proved to be such an amazing place, rich in culture and history with the most amazing geological features I had ever flown over so far. To top it off there were also hundreds of tourist hot-air balloons up every morning, adding beautiful colour to the landscape and enabling us to use them to play 3D slalom!Sylvestre had now upgraded from his ‘school’ spec GoFly and was enjoying flying his new REVO2 with it’s greater turn of speed and increased dynamicism, harmonising fabulously with his Zenith.

Next up was Dubai and Abu Dhabi where we hooked up with old pal Ali Al Hammadi for some raucous escapades out into the desert, chasing wild camels and expensive racing horses. The video of the horses in the sand dunes from above is amazing and the horses didn’t flinch once, in fact they seemed to be enjoying the whole affaire and were quite inquisitive of the motors. Eating roasted goat with the local bedouins was another highlight.

From there it was a long haul all the way down under to Perth Australia only to be greeted with blustery conditions forecast for the duration of our 10 day itinerary. Fortunately our good friend, host and Australian Parajet importer Steve Galvin drove us 2500 kilometres up the coast to where conditions were much more favourable and where we achieved some intense and varied shots of places we didn’t even know existed and whose beauty rivals that of those iconic landmarks elsewhere in the country. Flying with several thousand swarming fruit bats is something that will never be forgotten. Thanks so much Steve, you were equally amazing!!

Instead of staying in the Southern Hemisphere and cruising back to Sylvestres homeland (Brazil) we first flew up to the grand old US of A and captured some epic landscape footage of the surreally vast canyons, monoliths and mountains that make up the states of Utah and Arizona. To top it off there was a beautiful new rapid Paramania GTX22 waiting for me there too, so it felt appropriate before we left, to get some shots of it and the Parajet Zenith in action at the well known Bonneville Salt Flats where so many speed records have been achieved over the years, albeit land based ones. Maybe foot-dragging the roof of the speeding rental van counts..?

The final destination was way up in the north of Brazil near the famous Amazon river. Sylvestre’s connections had put us in contact with a rancher that was curious about the ability to use the paramotors to help the cowboys round up the cattle and so we also saw it as an incredible opportunity to capture some amazing footage. The cowboys were really interested in the motors and were dead keen for me to stay on and teach them how to fly! It was also great to finish the project using the paramotors for a practical purpose other than as a magnificent filming platform too.

The Parajet Zenith’s with the TOP80 engine option were the perfect traveling paramotor being incredibly light and easy to assemble, break down and pack into suitcases! Additionally when I returned to Europe and needed more power for testing wings, I simply replaced the motor with the Polini 200 in about 30 minutes and was ready to go again!

‘Aerials’ will be shown on a Brazilian cable TV channel as a 12 part weekly series starting from the end January 2013 and will be available to view on the internet thereafter.

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Back in the harness

Its been a slow and longer than I expected recovery from the time I had my accident, but after nearly 4 and a half months off i’m finally flexible enough to fly again.

So whilst visiting Ali Al Hammadi last month in Dubai the opportunity presented itself. We had a perfect morning out in the desert with light laminar winds allowing the easiest of launches. So after a few quick blasts around the nearby Bedouin camps I landed and helped Ali setup his tandem trike so he could take up my wife Caroline. Once airborne on her maiden flight I launched again and we had a great 30 minutes all flying together over the dunes.

So after a great week in the sun we returned home to the cold English winter where I had chance to grab some early frosty morning flights. Its been a while since I did any XC flights but with the low misty morning fog the views were epic.

The following weekend myself and the rest of the British team were invited to the N.E.C to be recognised by the B.M.A.A and receive our awards. I took along my Zenith and as usual it was getting lots of attention, not least when I carried it from the car park and onto the shuttle bus!

Thats all for now…i’m off to a local fly in tomorrow, so more pictures to follow.

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October Highlights

October has produced quite a few great flying days here in the Pacific Northwest and given us the opportunity to do some free flying on the coast and both PG and PPG in the Columbia Gorge. We have been training using our tow system on the beach and doing some motor flying/training in a few different locations. Our newest motoring location is a spot that we just recently discovered and provides nice and easy conditions for the students, and great views of the Columbia River and Mt. St. Helen’s. Pretty cool to see lots of big ships moving by from so close up.

Some recent highlights have been working with two of our students, training them to fly their new Parajet machines. One of them just got a V2 Compact and the other one just received a Zenith V5 with the Bailey engine. The Zenith looks stunning with the red spars for sure. Both of the students were doing really well learning how to handle their new machines getting plenty of airtime. Everyone had lots of low passes, touch and goes, and take off and landing practice. Pretty sweet spot with really smooth winds and a nice sandy beach for a runway. Great fun to see so much progression in just a couple of days. Such an easy learning curve if you come prepared with the good ground handling skills and free flying experience that both of these guys had.

Another highlight was taking one of our students from about 8 years ago, and now taking him through his first tandem clinic. It’s such a privilege to take people on tandem flights and experience their first flight excitement, as I do almost daily during the summer months, but it was even more special to be able to work with our former student (and now good friend) as he is earning his tandem ratings. He’s got great skills and more importantly great judgement and his energy and passion for both PG and PPG flight is incredible. (He’ll be sporting a new Zenith 200 hopefully in just a couple more weeks!)

I’m very excited to have him be out there introducing people to our amazing sport very soon. Great fun and good experience to be in the passenger seat of the tandem for a change. Looking forward to flying with him again, and eventually sending students his way.

Looks like another great day for soaring the sand dunes out here at our local site and we’re going to go get a part of it.  Looking forward to some more mid-week motoring next week too!

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New Machine Arrives!!

It has been an exciting morning, opening the boxes of my new Parajet Volution 2 Custom and Polini Thor 200 engine.

The thing I love about the Volution 2 chassis is the speed at which it can be put together which meant I was able to get out onto the flying field and put it through its paces in no time at all. The Thor 200 engine gives plenty of power and the Parajet chassis is just amazing. Handling and in-flight manoeuvrability is just so responsive and it wasn’t long before I was throwing it into some tight low turns. Can’t wait to get back up in the air and fly it again.

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Exciting weekend flying the Columbia River Gorge

Just got home from a really fun and exciting weekend flying in the Columbia River Gorge on a combined motoring and free flying trip. Our students as well as myself got rewarded with plenty of airtime and some incredibly nice October weather. The site is on the desert side of the Gorge with some striking landscapes and really cool rock formations. I always love flying the coast, but it was very nice to have such a dramatic change of scenery.

It was great fun combining both motoring and free flying in such a beautiful location and witness some of our students have their first soaring flights and some great motor flights. Two students got their first ever mountain flights, four got their first ever top landings, and one had his longest and highest motor flight to date (He’s loving his Parajet V2 Macro!). Another one of our group launched early in his Parajet V2 Compact before there was enough wind to fly from the nearby mountain site. After flying around along the cliffs and in front of the giant wind turbines for a couple of hours in the light conditions he then transitioned to soaring the cliffs for a couple more hours, motor off, while more and more pilots showed up to join the ridge soaring party. It’s amazing fun watching and helping everyone spread their wings like that! Yeah, I’ve got to admit, my job’s really rough.

While waiting for students to shuttle back up from the LZ for their next flight, we hiked down from the normal launch area, put together my Zenith, and walked it over to the roadside cliff launch. It was great fun to do a PG style launch with a motor on my back. Even though it was a pretty tight little spot, it felt so easy and comfortable to launch my Zenith in such a location, since you can feel the glider so well and move around so easily with the Zenith, almost as if you’re just standing there with your free flying harness. Great fun. Actually enjoyed that launch a lot! It was nice being able to do some ridge soaring with our pilot friends and students for a bit, and then go motoring off to wherever looked interesting while watching the sun go down. (Thanks to Brad for keeping an eye on the students!)

Pretty incredible weekend with so many happy smiling pilots and loads of flying, both with and without power.

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World Fly Games Champion, Yes please!

Well it was a long way to go from the east coast of Spain to northern Quebec for a weekend competition but thankfully it all paid off splendidly. It started with an 8 hour drive from the Costa Brava in Spain with very little time to pack everything after a busy but very enjoyable week teaching Brazilian film producer Sylvestre Campe to fly.

From Madrid to Montreal we had to transit through Frankfurt where, unbeknown to me, my fuel tank had been confiscated as a ‘hazardous item.’ Those bloody officious Germans!

Apart from that though it was a pretty smooth journey to Mont Joli in Quebec where all of the pilots participating in the event were very warmly received in the airport by the Paramotop.tv crew with a wonderful welcoming party complete with food and beverages!

The first couple of days we were given some relaxation time and also for all the regulations and permissions for us to fly to be finalised which gave us time for activities such as Go-Karting which we were all excited about and a round of golf which didn’t sound so interesting at first but turned out to be such a laugh. Hopefully there was some grass left on the course after all our failed hits!

The testing started on the Thursday for this very special event, the first of it’s kind in North America and also the first pylon race to be setup completely over water. I was a little apprehensive at first as I had a borrowed fuel tank from one of the Canadian spectators (thanks Daniel!) strapped and taped onto my Parajet Zenith and also a motor that was only performing on full throttle so I was busy on the ground fettling for the most part while others got some good practice in.

On the Friday I had made a few engine tweaks and felt a little more confident in my engine despite having a few issues and so switched from my bigger Paramania GTR20 down to the more speedy 18m size and felt pretty good on it despite still not having great performance from my motor.

So it came time for race day on the Saturday and after all the build up it started to rain right when we were ready for take off. An hour spent packing away and waiting for the showers to finish and we were ready to go again. As soon as we were all in the air the rain came again but we decided to persevere this time and completed 3 tasks before the conditions became worse and we were forced to land. Unfortunately this was to be the end of the competition as the next day, Sunday, was completely blown out and wet. However, with 3 tasks completed we had a valid competition and as I had completed each task in 1st place(!!) then gained the top spot of the podium. Of course it would have been great to win with more tasks finished but no one would have turned down the position I was in and someone has to win so I feel good being the Champion! With the highest ever prize in a paramotor competition of 5000 Canadian dollars too, it was doubly sweet!

It’s going to be a rapid return journey now to Spain and then a day of driving to St. Hilaire du Touvet for the Coup Icare flying festival where I’ll be attending the Icarobatix slalom race against some of my great friends from this last weekend and also some other great pilots from around the world. I’m ready and comfortable and hope to do another good job. Maybe see you there..?!

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On the mend….

Following my recent little incident you will all be pleased to hear that I’m healing up quite well. With 6 weeks in plaster and confined to a wheelchair you’d think that i’d be house bound and bored out my mind. Well it just shows when routine changes you just have to make the most of the opportunity.

So in the last 2 months, I have mastered the basics of various different video editing software, cheered on team GB in the Olympics, watched loads of brilliant series and documentaries, got a tan, learnt to wheelie a NHS wheelchair, went camping for 4 nights and raced an electric mobility scooter around a muddy field.

I can’t thank my wife, family and friends enough for all the help they have given me, it’s been an interesting summer.

Now the casts are off and I’m starting to get more mobile so it won’t be long before it’ll all be back to normal. In fact I’m off to my favorite flying festival next week in St Hilaire France to catch up with the rest of the team.

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Slalom comp in Canada

It’s been a fairly interesting start to the trip out here to Mont Joli in Quebec for the Fly Games World slalom competition. It all started at Montreal airport where we had to pick up our bags and clear customs before the short flight out to Mont Joli. Unfortunately I discovered that the fuel tank of my Parajet Zenith had been confiscated during transit in Frankfurt so an alternative had to be found. Thankfully there are some wonderfully helpful Parajet/Paramania pilots out here in Canada that have helped me ‘retro’ fit a tank from a different machine with cable ties, straps and pop-rivets!

We’ve had a few days to relax and soak up a little of the local culture and hospitality, going go-karting etc and yesterday afternoon was the first time that we had authorisation to get in the air and test our machines. Unfortunately I had a few fuelling issues so spent the majority of the testing time on the ground fettling my carburettor. Eventually I found a setting that worked but it was sunset by then and I only had a short time in the air. Thankfully though my ‘new’ fuel tank stayed on and worked perfectly! We’ll keep our fingers crossed on the final day of testing today that everything works good so we can be in good shape for race days on Saturday and Sunday..

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Paramania wing testing with the Zenith

After a very successful Paramania testing session in the south of France with the new GTR22 wing, I hopped over the Pyrenees to continue testing at altitude with my great friends the Guerra family (Paco Sr. Paco Jr. and Javi.) All were very impressed with the new Zenith 200 which they hadn’t seen in the flesh before.

So all this preparation and testing is ahead of the World Championships in Marugan, Spain, just an hour north of Madrid which is where I am now. It’s high up here (3000+ feet), hot and very windy in the mid part of the day. However, all the recent flying activity has paid off with this mornings test flights in varying conditions going superbly with everything functioning well and feeling very ‘complete.’ Just a few minor tweaks to make this evening and then I’m all set. Problem is, there’s still another 4 days afterwards before the competition kicks off and I’m ready NOW!!

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Podium finish at Slalomania

Well, after missing out on the podium at the last Slalomania event by just 2 points after a silly mistake at the end, my focus for the latest round was consistency throughout and this certainly paid off with me gaining the 3rd spot this time!

I had a few hours of practice around the pylons the day before the comp started and was quite comfortable with all the same equipment used at the British Open so using my beautiful Parajet Zenith with the Polini 200 and my 20m Paramania GTR instead of the 18m that I had used at the previous round. There were a few hot-headed manoeuvres by some of the younger participants in the early stages, resulting in penalties so my strategy was already paying off. By the second day and midway through, I was up to fourth and not too far off 3rd but Mathieu was pulling away from me slightly with aggressive flying. Unfortunately for him, on the Saturday morning, he had a small accident handing me 3rd and with no time for any more tasks, the podium spot. I feel very sorry for him as he was attacking for the 2nd position but it reinforced my style for this event to be smooth and not make mistakes. It’s now time for training for the upcoming World Championship ‘classic’ style competition in Spain later in the month and we’ll see if our new found form keeps momentum there too..

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Stop off at Cochise Stronghold

Cochise Stronghold is located to the west of Sunsites, Arizona in the Dragoon Mountains at an elevation of 5,000 ft. This beautiful woodland area lies in a protective rampart of granite domes and sheer cliffs which were once the refuge of the great Apache Chief, Cochise, and his people.

This rugged natural fortress was, for some 15 years, the home and base of operations for the famed Chiricahua Apache Chief, Cochise. Cochise and about 1,000 of his followers, of whom some 250 were warriors, located here. Sentinels, constantly on watch from the towering pinnacles of rock, could spot their enemies in the valley below and sweep down without warning in destructive raids. No man, woman or child within a hundred miles was safe from these attacks.

Born in present-day Arizona, Cochise led the Chiricahua band of the Apache tribe during a period of violent social upheaval. In 1850, the United States took control over the territory that today comprises Arizona and New Mexico. Not hostile to the whites at first, he kept peace with the Anglo-Americans until 1861, when he became their implacable foe because of the blunder of a young U.S. Army officer, Lt. George Bascom.  In that year, Cochise and several of his relatives had gone to an encampment of soldiers in order to deny the accusation that they had abducted a child from a ranch. The boy was later proved to have been kidnapped by another band of Apaches. During the parley, Cochise and his followers were ordered held as hostages by Bascom, but Cochise managed to escape almost immediately by cutting a hole in a tent. Bascom later ordered the other Apache hostages hanged, and the embittered Cochise joined forces with Mangas Coloradas, his father-in-law, in a guerrilla struggle against the American army and settlers. The capture and murder of Mangas Coloradas in 1863 left Cochise as the Apache war chief.  The U.S. Army captured him in 1871 and prepared to transfer the Chiricahua to a reservation hundreds of miles away, but he escaped again and renewed the resistance campaign. The following year after negotiating a new treaty with the help of Thomas Jeffords, his only white friend the band was allowed to stay in their homeland.

Cochise is reputed to have been a master strategist and leader who was never conquered in battle.  For ten years Cochise and his warriors harassed the whites by raiding lonely ranches and attacking stagecoaches and miners.  Cochise retired.  He died peacefully on the newly formed Chiricahua reservation in 1874.  His son, Taza succeeded him as chief.  Upon his death, he was secretly buried somewhere in or near his impregnable fortress.

The exact location has never been revealed or determined.

 

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Bad timing!

Well for anyone that hasn’t seen Facebook or heard on the grapevine, things took a bit of a turn for the worse over the weekend.

I’d only flown twice in nearly 4 weeks and I was desperate to get training for the upcoming Slalomania events in France and the World championships in Spain. So when we suddenly had the improvement in the weather I was straight out there. The biggest problem was all the fields round by me had grass up to my knees so it took me a while to find a suitable take off site and somewhere to set up the pylons. This meant that I wasn’t ready to start flying until near midday which meant the risk of thermic air, this turned out to be my biggest mistake.
I had only done about 6 turns around the pylons when just as I came out of a turn and onto the speedbar I took a 30-40% right asymmetric collapse. I was only 5 or 6 meters up so had no time to recover and ended up crashing in hard on both feet. Thankfully I had a spectator so help was straight there. I unclipped from the harness and just lay on my back hoping that I was unhurt, but as soon as I tried to stand up I new I was in trouble. I got a lift back home and then straight to A&E to get checked out. Maybe I was trying to kid myself but I just though it’s only a bad sprain and I’ll be fine. Anyway 1 hour later after x-rays it turns out I have fractured my left and right talus (ankle bone) and right tibia. I couldn’t believe it, with only 4 weeks to the Worlds and 1 week to Slalomania I had just thrown all this years hard work away…Gutted!

Well, after 3 rather unpleasant nights in hospital I’m home. Both legs are in plaster below the knee and I can’t put any weight on them for 6 weeks. So it’s a wheelchair for transport, sleeping downstairs and lots of sitting around, not really something I’m used to doing.

So whilst I’m laid up writing this here is my advice.

Don’t get carried away when the weather suddenly improves, think is it really a good time to fly now, are the conditions safe? Should I wait till later in the day?

If you have a pair of decent supportive boots wear them! I always fly in trainers because they are comfortable, but thankfully the grass was wet that day so I went back and put on my Hanwags. I can say for sure that without these my injuries would of been a lot worse.

Fly safe fellow pilots, enjoy the summer and I’ll see you I the air as soon as I can walk again!

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Para-Camping

Despite a great collaborative effort with the guys at the Parajet factory to get my engine fixed and running, it just so happened that the timing was perfect timing because I don’t have that many flights before I head off to Afghanistan with the United States Army.

The past couple of days have been amazing with my new cylinder and piston, the new piston made all the difference in the world.  Temperatures are good and power is abundant.  Compression is crazy and the flash starter makes for a one-pull start every single time. 

Yesterday I flew the border between the USA and Mexico along the Rio Grande, just next to the most dangerous city in the world, Juarez.  Additionally, last night I flew about 30 miles and landed at the bottom of an ancient volcanic sink hole and para-camped!

I strapped everything to the Zenith… a rifle, food, water, sleeping pad, sleeping bag… it was amazing being out in the middle of nowhere - no cell phone reception, no radio contact, NOTHING but me and the stars and a few howling coyotes that woke me up a few times.

This was a perfect way to end before 6 months of no flying. Thanks to everyone at Parajet HQ, it has been a real blast and can’t wait to get the Zenith out of its box on my return.

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Still raining in UK

It’s still raining here in the UK but in between the showers we’re still up in the air whenever it’s possible!

Here I’m on the Zenith Polini 200 taking my brothers American girlfriend up for a cruise around the ‘lush’ Dorset countryside. Later today I’m off to the Belgian Open competition in Cerfontaine, right near the French border. Hopefully the weather will be a little more favourable there so that we can try and add to our trophy collection….

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Festival of 1000 bikes

Well it seems like the UK ‘monsoon’ continues through into July but that hasn’t stopped us attending events and jumping on any available opportunity for flying activities, sometimes needing to be up at some un-Godly hour of the morning or waiting for that calm little session to be available half an hour before a very late sunset.

In fact, on days that have been forecast to be completely miserable I’ve managed to get new pilots into the air, conduct tandem flights and even been able to get in some personal training and testing. Last weekend I attended the wonderful ‘Festival of 1000 bikes’ at Mallory racetrack with Tom and Dan from Parajet and the weekend before we were exhibiting at the equally fabulous Goodwood Festival of Speed. At each event we were very warmly received by the intruigued public, some of whom, hopefully we’ll be training to be competent pilots in the very near future. Here’s to the sun eventually poking through the clouds…

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A busy but fun couple of weeks

It’s been a really busy and fun couple of weeks with lots of tandem flights, student training, some ridge soaring on our local sand dunes and some really great motor flights as well. Pretty exciting and rewarding to be responsible for people’s first paragliding flights, either solo and tandem and to see all those huge smiles. Makes you feel pretty lucky for sure.

We did take some time to go explore some really great scenery along the Oregon Coast. Takeoff and landing is still not permitted from the beaches at this point, but we’re working on getting that fixed and we’re using some alternate areas for launching and landing in the meantime. Great fun to enjoy all those stunning views with the motor that you wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.

Tried the sporty Octane FLX with my sporty Zenith and it was amazing! It’s so responsive, it’s incredible! You can do some really big weight shift only turns that way. Comes in pretty handy if you need to use your hands working a camera. Still got a big smile on my face just thinking how fun this motor moves through the air. I’m loving every minute with it!

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Basse Ham - Another weekend, another road trip!

Last weekend was the Mondial Paramoteur (Global Paramotor) event held at Basse Ham, a small village in north eastern France. I’d been looking forward to this event for quite a while as it only happens every two years and I was relishing the thought of lots of flying and a great social without the stress and worry of a big competition.

Arriving midday Friday the show was in full swing with every major paramotor manufacturer from all over the world present along with all their demo machines, I was like a kid in a sweet shop!

Saturday morning was a late start as the Belgians had been showing their amazing hospitality by giving away free beer into the early hours. So when I finally got to the launch deck there were lots of pilots flying. During the afternoon I tried the new Dudek Hadron 18, Diego’s new fuel injected Top 80 engine and Paul Baileys prototype fuel injected V5. Both engines were amazing and the Top 80 will probably be going in my Zenith as soon as one is available!

Sunday heralded an early start as Deano and myself wanted to fly with Andy Campbell with his new Parajet trike and film him for his current Pushing the limits trip. So at 7 we all launched into early morning still air and had a great flight around the local French countryside. This flight was even more fun for me as I was flying Deanos Polini 200 Zenith which has more thrust than my body weight!

After a great long weekend it was time to go, I’d caught up with lots of friends and made many new at a great event. Bring on Basse Ham 2014!

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The winning combination

Being in a similar situation to Dean after only having one short flight on my newly assembled Zenith, I heading off to the British Open. The forecast wasn’t looking good so we knew we’d be flying in between gaps in the weather, thankfully I had great faith in my kit.

After a wet and windy start the clouds lifted and we we’re off on task 1, Pure Navigation. We had 90 minutes from receiving the map to plan and fly a route through as many preset turn points. This was where the aerodynamics of the Zenith chassis really started to show. With only a Top 80 engine I was easily able to fly full speed bar on my Hadron 20 without using full power. Task 2 was a spot landing on return about an hour before sunset.
Next morning we had perfect slalom conditions so task 3 was a personal favorite, double figure of 8 rounding pylons and kicking a stick in the centre.  Task 4 was an economy triangle with speed leg. On receiving the map we had to fly the first leg as fast as possible then the other 2 legs as economically as we could. The triangle size and direction was set by the pilot with the only constraints being we couldn’t leave the map and we had to be back in 90 minutes. I ended up flying to the furthest corners of the map covering the second largest area but my economy was excellent so I won the task. This was a great result as I was the only pilot all weekend to win a task from the all conquering Pascal Vallèe.

Task 5 was a tricky cloverleaf slalom in a moderate wind which was later annulled due to briefing issues and pilots entering the course in different directions. And finally task 6, a five skittle landing. So at 500’ cut your engine over the skittles lined up 2 meters apart and glide in knocking them all over before touching the ground. This task is really good fun swooping fast at the ground and made even nicer with the Top 80 Zenith, as it only weighs 21kg so there isn’t suddenly 30+kgs of motor to send you off balance.

So after a short but sweet 6 tasks the results were out….

British Paramotor Champion 2012.. Dean Eldridge, Parajet Zenith Polini 200, Paramania GTR
Second place.. Phil jennings, Parajet Zenith Top 80, Dudek Hadron
Third .. Michel Carnet, Nirvana, Dudek Nucleon

The Open was won by French Pilot Pascal Vallée, with Dean second and myself third.

Dean and myself are so pleased with the Zenith and can’t wait to be representing the UK in the World Paramotor Championships held in Spain this August.

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British PPG Comp 2012

Having just built a fresh Parajet Zenith 200 just a few days before and without having any time to test with it due to our inclement British weather, I arrived at the 2012 British Paramotor Competition with a little bit of trepidation.

Rule of thumb, ‘don’t change anything right before a competition!’ However, having the same geometry as my prototype Zenith but with just the bigger Polini 200 motor I had some idea that things would be OK.

As expected, all my equipment performed superbly and it was great to be able to throw my Paramania GTR20 wing around with the additional power, so it was just up to me to put the effort in. With a break in the weather on the Saturday evening we started the comp with the points gained from the previous 2 league events where I was in 2nd place and Phil in 3rd. Consistency through tasks is the name of the game for a good result in a championship and that was my focus, to do well in each task and not do anything silly. Unfortunately for others, they pushed too far and got penalised where myself and Phil got a good solid result and were elevated to 1st and 2nd where we stayed for the rest of the competition by continuing our good form and consistency.

So a Parajet 1st and 2nd and a first British Championship title for me! Whoohoo! Job done for the weekend and fired up now for the forthcoming competitions on the continent throughout the summer. Watch this space, there’s more to come…

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Glenn nails his Safety Course

Just got back from my safety course with Chris Santacroce…

Just got back from my safety course with Chris Santacroce... it was an amazing learning experience that will give me much more confidence in my glider and what I can and cant do. Check out Glenns video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeFuSHAdcdI

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Oregon Coast flying

Went to go flying yesterday at a place just inland of the Oregon Coast and had such a great time with a group of five of us all flying Parajet motors!

Went to go flying yesterday at a place just inland of the Oregon Coast and had such a great time with a group of five of us all flying Parajet motors! Nice breeze blowing and absolutely incredible scenery, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and some really stunning cliffs. On a calmer day we’ll be able to fly these cliffs for miles and miles. Can’t wait to make it back there. I’m just loving flying my motor and checking out all those cool places that most people don’t ever get to see.  We flew pretty much all day long with some little breaks in between. At the end of the day there were 5 really happy tired pilots feeling incredibly lucky about such a fun day.  Even did a bit of ridge soaring some sand dunes with the motor idling.  You can catch up with Maren at http://www.discoverparagliding.com and learn from the best.  Check out the pictures on http://www.facebook.com/parajet

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Double the fun!

Last week was the French Open held this year near Moulins in central France. I arrived midday on the Saturday to find fellow team pilot Deano had saved me a good pitch as near to the airfield as possible so hopefully less walking for us and the other 5 British pilots that had made the trip out.

With the weather in the mid twenties everyday and a week long competition we had plenty of time to do lots of great tasks.

Task 1 was an Eco-distance where you have to go as far as you dare along 3 legs but on limited fuel. These are then multiplied so ideally you want 3 legs all similar lengths. This task is all about knowing your consumption and making good decisions in the air.

Task 2 was a slalom with timed start gate, sticks and pylons… Great fun!

Task 3 was a Navigation with a constant speed leg and spot landing

Task 4 was pure economy. You were weighed before and after flight and fuel usage was worked out against time spent in the air.

Once we had done the first four tasks the ‘cut’ was made. This means the top 15 French pilots and any non French among them go through to the Elite and as I’d had a few good results I was in 7th out of 46. The four tasks are then normalised to one task and the competition carries on.

Task 5 was another slalom which I had a great run round and ended up 4th.

Task 6 was a speed turn point hunt. We were given a map with various turn points and the furthest ones being worth more points and an hour and a half to score as much as possible.

Task 7 A simple spot landing….that I slipped on and scored low. This task cost me 4 places.

Task 8, A photo navigation task with slow fast at altitude. This really tested you as you were given a track to follow on the map along with 4 photos to try and spot, these had to be marked precisely on the track to score. Also there was a section to be flown as slow as possible but in a corridor of 50m width and 100m height and another section as fast as possible, all this whilst still looking for photos!

Task 9 Slalom 3 again another fast run coming in 4th. This had to be done straight before task 10 without landing so more difficult as you have a giant map board on your lap.

Task 10 a nine photo hunt with curved navigation and hidden turn points. Fly a set track looking for photos, when you find a certain picture you then draw a line to another track and continue, also not all pictures are used.

So after 10 challenging tasks I ended up a respectable joint 9th place and took home the 2nd place in the Open.

Then things got even better, as on my return to the UK I heard that my Zenith chassis was ready so I called into the factory.

WOW.. although I had flown several prototypes and been to the factory many times this was amazing. The engineering and finish was stunning, and I couldn’t wait to get it home, build it up and go flying. The following day I had the chance and I’m overjoyed with it.

It is so light with my Top 80 engine that you don’t need to take it off and find yourself wandering around setting the wing with it still on your back. In the air the aerodynamic frame really shows with reduced drag and lower cruising rpm, plus the weightshifting is even nicer.

Its the British Open this weekend and I can’t wait to show off this machine, i’m sure its going to get lots of attention!

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Great fun along the Columbia River

Got several really great flights in this afternoon. Launching and landing in a field by the mouth of the Columbia River, overlooking not only the Columbia, but also the coastline a few miles away and Astoria in the background.

Stunning skies with the most beautiful cumulus clouds present. Such great lighting! We even got bumped around in thermals quite a bit and I was climbing for a while just idling. Great fun with the Zenith. You can really feel the air well with the low sporty hang points. I really think that this machine is going to be very appreciated by free flying pilots, it allows you to move through the air in such a fun way. Can’t wait for more!

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Morning flight with the Zenith

Got a nice motor flight in this morning just a little ways inland from the coast. Really pretty flying over all these yellow patches with the scotch broom blooming bright yellow.

Launching the Zenith with a little wind is such a piece of cake, you almost don’t feel it’s there. I love it! With the low hang points you can feel the glider so well while running. We hauled the unit out mostly, but not completely taken apart, with cage and spars disconnected, but the gas tank still connected. This made it really easy to transport it in the back of the Element and we didn’t have to worry about disconnecting/ reconnecting the gas hose. It took us about 5 minutes to put it together and three minutes to take it apart again after the flight. Nice!!!

Unfortunately we forgot the camera and only had a Go Pro along and didn’t get any good footage with that. Tomorrow and Sunday we’ll be busy with students, but Monday we’ll get to play with the motors some more and will work on some nice pics.

  

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Two weeks of greatness!

With another flyable weekend forecast, I headed off early to catch up with Deano who was busy training TV adventurer Charlie Boorman at Parajet HQ. The day ended up being very thermic and wasn’t ideal for Charlie’s first flight so he had to make do with ground handing and soaking up the summer rays.

I decided to go and do some economy training which turned into one of my best thermic flights for a long time. I killed the engine at 300’ and took lift up to 2000’ in quite strong conditions - all this on a 20m wing! After calling in the Fox and Hounds for an early bite to eat we returned for a mad blast around the bright yellow oil seed rape fields till dark.

This week one of my local farming friends has silaged all his fields and after a quick phone call I had acres of super short grass to play with… So bring out the pylons! It’s amazing to think that you can get 2 pylons, 2 leaf blowers, windsock, fuel cans, exercise ball, cage pieces, paramotor and wing in a 2 door Golf!

Next week it’s the French Open so on the road again.

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A break in the weather

Despite the recent chilly, wet and windy weather, we’ve still managed to find mornings or afternoons favourable for conducting ground training and getting people in the air safely. Saturday morning we had Charlie Boorman down for his second training session and is now ready to take to the skies on his next trip down to see us. Phil Jennings also arrived on Saturday and brought some great weather with him so, with some local pilots and some of the Parajet crew we had around 10 Parajet pilots together zooming around the Dorset countryside in the evening before all heading to the pub!

Phil and I managed some time to perfect some advanced moves in preparation for demonstrations in the summer including syncro-spirals and wing-walking! Watch out when we have the ribbons and smoke systems going!! Have been spending all my time on my prototype Zenith and just love it more and more with every flight I make on it. Can’t wait for my new anodised one to come off the production line so I can fit my sparkly new Polini 200 to it. Then we’ll be rocking!!

Check out this video filmed and edited by David, an ex-student of mine who’s now beautifully flown the nest!

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On Tupper the World at Beach Blast

Beachblast is in full swing, today is Thursday and loads of people should arrive.  There are already at least 100 pilots here and the Parajet and Paramania team have been having a literal blast showing off our stuff.  Once the crew was assembled it was game time, Pascal, Paco, and myself have been putting on shows for the onlookers as well as for the local news channel.

I brought along my 700 foot long streamer and had a great time spiraling with it while Pascal and Paco chased the tail.  Tuesday the brand new Parajet Zenith arrived.  The excitement of opening the box and assembling the frame for the first time was astounding.  What was even more astounding was getting the Zenith up in the air.  The same engine, Thor 100, going from the volution custom to the Zenith was like flying a cargo aircraft and then jumping into a fighter jet.  In the air she feels so slick, the lightness combined with the aerodynamics reduced my need for power for level flight by at least 15-20 percent.  That is not the best thing however, the swing arms are incomparable to anything I have ever flown.  Like on a motorcycle if you just think you want to turn left the bike turns, the same with the Zenith.  This will prove to be priceless for my aerial photography as I can focus on getting the shot and turn with weight shift to make adjustments for setting up the perfect shot!!!  Four more days left of fun in the sun here in Panama City Beach Florida with the Parajet and Paramania team!!!  Representing the BRAND!!! Stay tuned for more action and excitement!!

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Success at British Nationals

Well it looks like all the recent scoffing of Yorkshire puddings and pies paid off in Boston last weekend as I was able to pull off the fastest times in the speed/precision tasks and ended up winning the weekend competition!

My economy didn’t seem to be compromised by my extra pounds gained in York but my spot landings could do with a little brush-up. All in all though a great weekend with some fierce competition from the other guys there.

Had the pleasure of conducting some training for Charlie Boorman on my return to the Parajet factory and looks like we’ll soon have him in the air when the weather cheers up this weekend.

Eagerly waiting the arrival of my new Polini 200 motor and Zenith chassis so that I can get out testing ahead of the forthcoming competitions in France and back here in the UK.

Fired up and ready for the next one!

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Maren hits Beach Blast

Day 1 - Zenith Arrives
I couldn’t be happier. I got my Zenith delivered at Beach Blast today and it was amazing to see how small it all packed down. Great looking machine that is quick and easy to assemble and very light weight. Had so many pilots come to check it out and be very pleased with the design and the weight of the unit. I think it’s going to be a great success! Got it all tuned up in the evening and it’s ready to go now. Looking forward to putting lots of airtime on it today. Can’t wait!!

Day 2 - Zenith First Flight
Had a great flight on the motor today and loved loved loved it. Flew it with a glider though that didn’t really like to turn. But even with that I could tell that the motor allows really great weight shift and feels nicely sporty. Very pleased. Can’t wait to take it up again tomorrow on a couple different gliders that are smaller and sportier. No flights in the afternoon. Had a pretty good storm moving through.

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The best at Boston!

After a hectic week at work it was time to load up the van and head of for the second leg of the British Paramotor League at Boston, Lincolnshire. The weather forecast was a mixed bag and arriving Friday I was surprised to find unpredicted flyable conditions. I made the most of this and got in several short flights allowing me to get some quality airtime after the constant April showers that had plagued the last few weeks.

We lost Saturday with strong gusts all day but used the time and briefed ready for Sunday mornings Figure 8 precision task and skittle landing. Next was a complex 60km curved navigation in strong crosswinds, this had to be pre-planned and times declared to the second for 5 gates before flying it. This was made even more difficult as the conditions kept changing and I had to recalculate all the legs 3 times before finally taking off. After a fairly stressful hour and a half navigating round the flat featureless Lincolnshire countryside whilst constantly altering trim speed and course we returned for a spot landing.

A 5.30 getup on the Monday saw us ready to launch at 6 straight into a slalom Anglaise, a task with just one stick that must be kicked 5 times as fast as possible. This left us time to squeeze in one final task which was a minimum 45 minute pure economy .

After 6 tasks and a great weekend I was delighted to finish second. Looking forward to competing in the French Open in a few weeks followed by the British Open straight after.

Bring on the summer!

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Becoming a Yorkshire Pudding!

There’s been a mixed bag of weather this last week up in Yorkshire, but have still found little weather windows to enable us getting new people in the air and to do some personal training and equipment preparation for the forthcoming competition in Boston, Lincs this weekend.

I’m staying on the farm of my friend Mickey Fletcher whose soon to be the proud owner of a new Parajet Volution Thor and whose wonderful girlfriend, Becks, keeps us extremely well fed with all the local dishes. The only thing is I think I may have put on a few extra pounds which won’t do much for the economy tasks but means I’ll be flying a little faster… watch out!!

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Beautiful Colorado

This weekend I took it easy and went exploring the local area of Colorado Springs… While I was exploring I took the time to start expirimenting with my DSLR Canon 5D.

If you read some of my previous blog posts you may have seen I had the opportunity to work with Devin Graham in one of his videos. After watching him and his friends work I really felt inspired to get out and shoot some video, it has always been a passion of mine ever since I was a kid, but I think there is no better time than now to get serious about it. The following are three videos that I shot and edited in three days. I am really just trying to explore what works best, what kind of shots look great, how to pan and tilt to really draw the eye. I know I have a lot of work to go, but I will never learn unless I get out there and do it. In the end all I really want to do is inspire people to do the same, get out and enjoy life.

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A Dream Come True

Somehow I was invited this past weekend to take part in one of the craziest, fun filled, epic events that has ever gone down in the history of extreme paintball wars. If you don’t know who Devin Graham is by now, you must be living under a rock.

Devin is a youtube video producer of the most blockbuster kinds. I have been following his videos ever since he started producing, before he was well known. I admire his work and his cinematography. Anyone can pick up a DSLR camera that takes 1080p video and shoot, but this guy takes things to a whole other artistic level. Watching his videos is inspiring but being there and seeing him think about every shot, setting everything up, making the world his 3D canvas was truly inspirational. I can’t thank him enough for trusting me in this shoot to put on a good show, allowing me to be a part of the video and giving me some great tips that I hope to use in some of my future videos. The title says, “A Dream Come True” because Devin made me feel like I was some sort of Hollywood action hero on set and that is something we all dream about when growing up watching our favorite action movies.

A little more about the shoot; I showed up thinking I was going to provide a few aerial shots, shoot some pictures from my aerial platform called a paramotor, maybe get some film with my Canon 5D Mark II, but that is definitely not what went down. Devin had something else in mind, he wanted me to be a huge part of the film, flying with a paintball gun and shooting people from the air. The extra aspect in my opinion added just one more depth of field to the action. In addition to the people running around, jeeps with mounted guns and electronic triggers, smoking hot paint covered females hanging off an 800 horsepower NITRO CIRCUS baja race truck, dirt bikes with gun touting operators, and mountain boarders… there was also a fighter pilot paramotor buzzing people’s heads raining down a barrage of green paint. It was truly a sight to see and I am pretty sure that I had the best viewpoint of all the action. Flying around low with a paintball gun required immense flying coordination, I was constantly making adjustments with my breaks and switching back to the gun for some low pass strafes, weight shift was key as well. It was difficult but hopefully the video that Devin produces will show some crazy paramotor scenes. With a bit of luck this video may put paramotor a little more into the mainstream as well. The possibilities are endless here with this sport; the type of flying we can do is just like no other aviation aircraft in the world.

Besides all the crazy flying action, it was so awesome to see such a huge group of people passionate about what they do. After all, in life if you have no passion about something, nothing really matters. From Devin and his crew all the way down to the mountain boarders, every single person was passionate about what they were doing. Everyone was ecstatic just to be a part of what Devin and his crew had organized, smiles everywhere and with the sun shining bright over Salt Lake City, it was a couple of days that made you sit back and say, “This is what life is all about.”

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A day at Gadget Show Live

After hearing that Parajet were having a stand at this years Gadget Show Live and only living 30 minutes away I thought it would be great to lend a hand, so I booked the Tuesday off work and headed to the NEC.

I found the stand and met Tom the new sales manager for the first time. I thought we would have plenty of time during the day to find out more about each others flying experiance but I was very wrong! This was the first day of 6 that the show was on for and with over 120,000 visitors expected I was constantly busy answering questions from a steady stream of interested people. We had visits from Dragons Den researchers, BBC newsbeat, MSN bloggers and hundreds of the general public. With the new Zenith anodised in gold no one bypassed the stand without stopping to look and once they saw the film shot in Namibia they wanted to know more. The minutes turned to hours and before we knew it the day was gone. We packed up and walked to the carpark and then I realised that it was the first time that Tom and I finally had a good chance to chat! Well it was a very different day from usual for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it, roll on next years show.

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Pikes Peak; First Descent by Paramotor

Lately, every time I see an iconic landmark I want to conquer it by flying over it. This thought process was no different for the iconic Pikes Peak which every day the entire population of Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA wake up and look at on their way to work.

It really is a unique mountain, standing alone and towering at an altitude 14,115 feet (4,302 m); this would be no easy task. The winds at the top are general ferocious with only a few days out of the year having calm enough winds to even think about launching a paraglider off the summit, let alone a powered paraglider. With my luck with weather lately I knew the wind would be fine on this particular Saturday morning, March 24th 2012, my first full day of being 28 years old. And sure enough, the winds were fine at altitude, coming at a steady 10mph from the Northeast but reports of gusting as high as 25mph in Colorado Springs were something to worry about. It was time to fly though, after releasing some balloons to see the wind pattern and asking the park ranger if he cared about my launching off the summit, “I just won’t watch” was his reply, it was time to launch. Jerry Kerr, a local paramotor pilot assisted me in the planning and launch, at the edge he cleared the spectators and gave me a thumbs up, I throttled up and went for it, launching from the highest altitudes I have ever even flown. The sight was spectacular; I could see most of the state of Colorado.  At that altitude and not being acclimated I was feeling a bit dizzy before launch but as soon as that adrenaline started pumping when I took my first step towards the edge the feeling of overwhelming excitement engulfed my blood stream in the place of oxygen. The wing and motor that I chose to use was the Parajet Volution Custom Thor 100 and the Paramania Fusion 26. A perfect combination for what I was trying to do, reliability of the Parajet and the solidity of the Fusion. The terrain was inhospitable at that altitude and should I have experienced an engine out I would have been climbing out of a tree and spending the night while I attempted to hike out.  This was the first time ever in history that a paramotor had launched off the summit, doing something that no one has ever done before.  When I finally reached the bottom landing at a high school football field in Manitou Springs at an elevation of 6000 feet, looking back up at that giant mountain, I shouted for joy and really couldn’t believe what I had just done. Was it crazy? Maybe a little…

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Spring days weave a magic spell

With this amazing spell of sunny spring days it has been great to finally start racking up the hours. Last weekend we had a small gathering near Parajet HQ so the British squad could get together and start preparation for the upcoming World Championships in Spain.

With great weather all weekend we were able to do precision tasks mornings and evenings, and speed navigation tasks during the day. The great combination of my fast efficient Dudek Hadron and Parajet Volution Custom Top 80 allowed me to set some great times round the figure of eight slalom. We even managed to find time to show the rest of the squad around the Parajet factory, and many a comment was made on the amazing facilities and quality of the in house machining. As British Summer Time has finally arrived it also allows for more evening training so with perfect conditions this week I got out to my field and set new personal bests on the cloverleaf and Japanese slalom.

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UK team visit Parajet HQ

More fantastic weather in the south of the UK enabled members of the UK Paramotor squad to come and join us for a training weekend near the Parajet factory to blast away the winter rust and get some competition style training done. With the superb handling of my Polini-powered Volution Custom coupled with the speed and agility of my Paramania GTR20 wing, we topped the timesheets in all the slalom style tasks and I had to slow down on the ‘declared-speed-navigation-task’ as I was quite a bit faster than I had anticipated. Phil Jennings also looked very impressive and smooth on his Top80 Volution Custom too and will be a force to be reckoned with when the comps begin. We also conducted a Parajet factory tour for those participating in the weekend to give an insight into our paramotor manufacturing and assembly facility, and also some of the specialist projects we are also involved with. We were joined by Gilo and his Cyclone, land owner James on his Volution2 and I even had the privilege of taking Steve Edmondson (father of Parajet MD, Jim) for a tandem flight while Jim buzzed around us on his Volution2. All in all a wonderfully positive weekend for everyone, looking forward to plenty more…

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Flying my new GTR Stealth

Last weekend I was given the opportunity to take a break from work and drove back home to El Paso, Texas. It was a much needed break, I had a brand new GTR 20 Stealth waiting for me. I showed up to the local flying field and began to take my wing out of the bag for the very first time, I couldn’t believe how small it was. Eager to get into the air, I quickly started my Parajet Volution Custom fitted with the Polini engine and blew up some practice pylons. The 20 meter GTR popped up over my head with ease and quickness and soon I was dashing through the air faster than I ever had. All the wings I had flown before felt like boats compared to this lightning bolt. You really have to stay out front as we say in the aviation world, thinking of what you need to do 10 steps ahead of where you are is a must in this wing.

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Testing and Training in Dorset

After a superb week of testing various motors and wings down at Parajet HQ in Dorset, we were blessed with an unbelievable weekend of weather to enable four new Parajet/Paramania customers to gain their ‘wings’ on their new equipment. On the Sunday we were joined in the field by most of the Parajet staff and their families where all manner of flying was to be observed and undertaken from folks taking their first solo flight, heading off on cross-countries or for some low level precision demonstrations by Parajet MD Jim Edmondson and your’s truly. Travelled straight up to York on the Sunday night and have had another two glorious days meeting and flying with old students and helping get new ones in the air to share our wonderful experiences. It’s only Tuesday, what has the rest of the week in store..!?

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A Perfect Day to Remember

Tuesday 6th March 2012 will be remembered as one of the most perfect days I have ever had flying and it was in the UK!! Not only did I have 2 Parajet/Polini prototypes to test but also different sized Paramania GTR wings, glorious weather conditions and a 20 acre field all to myself! All thermalling, speed, navigation and precision tasks were possible to test and I was able to finish off the day with an hour or so of kicking-stick practice before the diminishing sun stopped play. Four and a half hours flying in total, bring on the competitions, I’m ready….

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A Great Week of Flying

The weather has been perfect and as a result I have had an excellent intense week of flying around Parajet HQ, with lots of testing of the prototype Zenith paramotor that is now so near to production. From Friday to Friday it was flyable all day everyday, and I even tempted down my buddy Mike Fletcher from York to join in on the fun, who subsequently now will probably be the first customer of the new Zenith after trying it out and not wanting to give it back! We even got out some pylons for a bit of slalom practice which was enjoyed not just by the local pilots flying in for a bit of fun but also the people passing by in their cars to see what all the fuss was about! A cracking good week.

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With a little help from my friends

They say this is God’s Country. The Colorado landscape is breathtaking, I think God spent a little more time crafting here and it shows. Recently I was sent here for work but spent some time with some of the local pilots. It’s an amazing thing when someone you barely know entrusts you with one of their most prized possessions; their paramotor. That says a lot for what a great sport we take partake in, the kindness and consideration that we all share, the desire to see all of our fellow aviators take to the air. Mike Bennett and Alex Donaghy were kind enough to lend me their engines and it was almost as if their joy came from seeing me, a lone pilot so far away from home with no wings to get into the air. They, like so many others, know what it means for all of us to leave the ground and I can’t thank them and all the pilots from Denver, the FRF Paramotor Squadron and the boys from Pikes Peak PPG Club enough for taking me in and showing me once again the amazing camaraderie this sport has to offer. Blue Skies my friends!

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Holy Smoke! Testing Some New Modifications

With a high pressure forecast, the weekend was looking good for flying. I had made a number of modifications to my Volution Custom Top80 and was eager to get testing as well as needing to get some competition practice in. The least important of my mods, but most exciting, was my new smoke sytem that I had just made and fitted. It seemed to work well and after pulling a few spirals you could see a lovely twist of dense white smoke in the air that followed my every move. I grabbed a few stills with the GoPro mounted on a new frame mount that I had made. This is fixed onto the top of cage section and allows forward or rear pictures and video, although I found it to be unsuitable for reverse launching as it catches the lines.

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A Flying Visit, Old School Style!

What an awesome weekend. Took a flying visit back to my home town on Exmoor and got the chance to do some tandem flying with some old school friends, taking them up over our old stomping ground. It was really great to give them a unique and different perspective of somewhere so familiar, and to share that experience. With some of the highest sea cliffs in the UK, we were able to switch off the engine and ridge-soar with the Kestrals. Brilliant! I love to fly over new and exciting places but I find that I never loose interest flying over this area that we all know so well. I think my friends and I have pretty much explored every aspect and used so many different forms of transport; from bicycles to off road motorbike, to horses and just walking. However, seeing these places from the air adds another dimension.

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Flying the new 18m GTR wing

Another 6am start as the winds were predicted to come in strong later this morning. Definitely paid off though as it was possible to fly the 15km into wind to get a birds eye view of the incomplete ‘Palm’ here in Dubai before conditions became stronger. Flying a new 18m Paramania GTR wing also made things easy as did the Polini 200 engine bolted into my beautifully crafted Parajet Volution Custom chassis. A couple of low flying military helicopters kept me on my toes too…

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Great Start to the New Year!

The weeks before Christmas had been very windy and coupled with the short days I’d not done any flying. So after having a fantastic Honeymoon over the festive holiday in New Zealand with the promise of “no disappearing of flying” I was eager to get some airtime.

As we landed back in Birmingham after travelling for 39 hours I was amazed to find such mild weather. The prospect of getting back up into the air was too much, and even before the bags were unpacked I was throwing my new Volution Custom fitted with the Top80 into the car and heading out for an hour’s blast around the field.

More recently, I was invited down to Parajet HQ to give the new Zenith paramotor a test flight. Wow! What a machine. This machine promises to be the ultimate lightweight competition machine when launched, I can’t wait!

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Flying the Sand Dunes!

A 5am start paid dividends this morning as it meant that Ali and I got out into the sand dunes in neighbouring Sharjah with enough time to get all our kit ready just as the sun came up. An amazing few hours were had carving the dunes and chasing some of the other early morning risers out in the desert on their motor bikes and sand buggies. Even though it was Friday the 13th (I suddenly remembered in the air!) we had no issues in fact it was one of the most memorable and enjoyable flights to date. Roll on tomorrow when we’re going to be flying the ‘Palm..!’

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Performance Testing in Dubai

Due to some strong winds these last few days (not from me strangely enough) it hasn’t been the best for flying here in Dubai but it all changed this morning so an early start was had. I chose to concentrate on some performance testing of the Polini 200/GTR20 combination as there have been some big claims made recently. I couldn’t quite match Polini’s Oscar doing 70kph on just 4 litres of fuel (he is only 68 kilos) but I did average 3.5 litres an hour flying at 50kph which is quite incredible for a 200cc engine, 20m wing and a 78 kilo pilot. Just think what we could achieve with the lighter, more efficient Parajet Zenith chassis..?!?

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Arrived in Dubai

After a relaxing 7 hour flight topped off with a plethora of pharmaceuticals (not the ones you are thinking of), wasn’t enough to shake off those nasty winter germs so most of the first two days in Dubai have been spent in bed. After switching to a more natural remedy though things are starting to look up and I’m glad to get the news that my Volution Custom has finally turned up in Dubai! Whoohee! Nothing was missing, broken or damaged thanks to the wonderful packing job that the guys in the Parajet factory helped me with. It even started first time too! Have a few obligations to attend to on the laptop today unfortunately but everything ready to go for morning flying tomorrow. I’m going to concentrate on some performance figures with the Polini200/GTR20 combination first as we have huge, open expanses of flat land here to do speed/economy testing. Not that we need to worry about economy so much here in Dubai, fuel is only 20p a litre! Costs more to put the oil in!

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Fly Games World Championship - Day Four

A Whole book could be written on the final day of Fly Games World but here’s a summary of how it all went. For the first two posts of this event go here and here

The morning started with Pascal V, Emi, Grzegorz, Alex, Laurent (Lolo) and myself getting a penalty for illegal early practice only for this to be revoked half an hour later! My current 3rd place wouldn’t have been affected though thankfully.

First, in a great series of events was the 5 slowest pilots in a shootout for two places to join the top 10 to make a 12 pilot quarter-final. Dhiego unfortunately sucked a line from his Revo2 into his propeller on launch taking it down to four with Emi and Raul getting through.

We then had some dramatic action during the next two tasks of the semi-final with Grzegorz catching and breaking his little finger in the propeller on launch but still finishing the first task but unfortunately not able to continue from there.

Alex had a big, downwind collapse and had to land, sadly breaking a propeller and ending his task prematurely.

Lolo and I both flew fast and smooth with my result taking me into first place!!

The wind then picked up quite strong with the pylons dancing around and collapsing all over the place and there was word that the competition was valid at this stage and could be stopped with the top five pilots taking the podium positions and me being the winner.

Needless to say I was hoping and praying that it would not continue but it was decided after 20 minutes that it would go on.

I flew the first part of the task well but made an error coming downwind that put me too close to the last pylon. This sent me beyond where I wanted to be to slingshot myself to the finish and possibly the win.

The miscalculation cost me vital seconds and allowed 3 of the other pilots to make better times giving me 4th overall.

Laurent, flew the perfect head-to-head race with Alex, flooring him down the straights with the speed of his GTR18 and covering the corners well. It was very close at the end though with Alex making some aggressive tight turns to close on some of the distance but by the end of the race Lolo was there in front, a fairytale ending for him as he hadn’t received his engine until Friday night and got just a 10 minute practice in the dark!!

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Fly Games World Championship - Day Three

After waiting for the rain to subside all day yesterday and this morning, we were finally granted a window of opportunity to get out and practice some tasks before lunch, despite quite strong and changeable winds. Most of the time the wind was drawing offshore so was not the best, with some rotor coming off the back of highrise buildings; but flyable none the less.

I had a trial ‘head-to-head’ run with Grzegorz Krzyzanowski from Poland around the pylons this afternoon which was fun and exciting, both swapping the lead and having some overtaking maneuvers.
There’s definitely a difference in styles out there between the paraglider pilots and their acro wings and most of us Europeans with our reflex paramotor wings. Both my Parajet Polini200 motor and Paramania GTR20 wing are performing faultlessly with just a little tweak here and there to set things up for the conditions.

Training is now over and much shorter than anticipated but there’s not much that can be done when the weather doesn’t play ball. At least the forecast is favourable for the weekend event.

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Fly Games World Championship - Day Two

As the organizers have been waiting for everyone to turn up and everything to be fair, the briefings were not until today and the flying will start early tomorrow morning.

Thankfully everything arrived in one piece and I had no problems with customs, unlike a few others.

We are now all chomping at the bit to get in the air after chomping on the local delicacies the past day and a half, less eating more flying!!

Tomorrow will just be a shakedown test, no testing of tasks although we now know them all inside out after lengthy but very informative briefings. The organizers have obviously done their homework, have setup an amazing course right on the beach outside the hotel and have covered most eventualities with logistics and weather conditions, should that arise.

It’s really going to be a wonderful, visual spectacle for the people of Santos!

Friday will be a more intense day with timings of the actual tasks but in a practice scenario should there be the necessity to change anything.

Some of the tasks involve two pilots racing together at the same time, I am up against Grzegorz Krzyżanowski from Poland..! Then all hell breaks loose at the weekend with two frantic days of racing.

The scoring system seems very fair and is in a knockout style. 17 of us will be whittled down to 12, the top 10 plus the best 2 of the 7 remaining in a separate shootout. Sounds strange but is actually very fair. The 12 will then go down to the last 5 on the Sunday and then it’s an actual race between the top 2 of the 5 pilots, head-to-head for the final. All very interesting!

I am desperate to get out there fresh tomorrow and strut my stuff so will now catch up on some much needed sleep.

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Fly Games World Championship - Day One

A bleary-eyed Monday morning started quite spectacularly at 4:30am with the KLM check-in staff saying that the box with my Parajet Volution Custom cage and Paramania GTR wing was too big. After 5 minutes of reapeatedly re-measuring, it was found to be within 2mm of the required legal maximum to take on the flight!… Phew.

The carefully packed bag with the Volution chassis - unfortunately though - went over the weight limit and cost a few quid. I had to get special security clearance to take the equipment, then my motor had to be visually inspected as the box was too big to go in the X-ray machine.

All in all, a funny experience and I was the last to get on the flight after running through the terminal!

After a brief transfer in Amsterdam it was then a 10.5 hour flight to Sao Paulo where I was greeted by my two wonderfully preserved excess-sized pieces of luggage and some customs people wanting to ask a few questions! After explaining why I was there and a quick inspection, they wished me well on my way with some good luck for the competition!

A short, arranged taxi ride with a superbly friendly organizer of Fly Games World to a superb hotel on the beach completed a day that I thought was not going to be so smooth! Breakfast on the beach and a familiarisation stroll around the area, meeting the wonderful locals and I’m ready to get on with building my equipment together now.

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