Hot on the heels of Parafest, some two weeks previously, the PMC Summer Fly-in took place near Newbury between 14 - 16th July. Like Parafest, the weather forecast was not looking good.
But, in the usual PMC mysterious and unearthly manner, decent weather was provided. Friday proved to be a very flyable evening and those that had the good fortune to have got there on day one had fabulous conditions. Saturday morning was less flyable but a few gave it a go. After that, the weekend became a delicious feast of friendly company, good beer, fireworks and fun. But no more flying.
One of the great things about smaller fly-ins, this one being about 200 strong, is that you can’t walk ten paces without seeing someone or being spotted by someone. When I arrived I parked up on the far side of the camp site and thought I’d walk to the bar. I didn’t get there. Having been accosted three times for hellos and general fly-in friendliness, I eventually settled into a ring of seats where I was promptly handed a beer and fell into talking parabollocks, cavingbollocks and generalbollocks with some wonderful people - some I knew well and others I'd never met before. It was a fabulous start to the weekend and one reflected many times over during the event.
Saturday afternoon and evening became a textbook example of how these events should work; As the hours passed, it became clear that this was one of the best PMC fly-ins to date - despite nobody flying by this point - the friendly atmosphere pervaded every encampment, the fire pit, the bar and every space in between where people congregated. One strange thing did occur though - having got back home after the weekend, I discovered my camera memory cards had been infected with the Clive Mason Photobomb bug. It seems that if I took a photograph of a paramotor, the end picture had Clive Mason in it. If I took a photograph of a pilot, Clive Mason was in it. It’s a strange phenomenon.
At some point, someone (who could it have been ...?) came up with the idea of lining up Parajet machines in a row on the flying field. This provided some great photo opportunities for everyone, including the drone pilot Paul Taylor who got some excellent footage from above.
This was followed by creating a circle of the machines, which looked not unlike a ParajetHenge! Seeing all of the various machine together with their differing colour options, I decided that my favourite for the day was Steve Lobie’s Zenith with black cage ring, silver spars and red arms. Although in reality there wasn’t really anything in second place, they all looked awesome.
The weather remained overcast but warm and the straw bales in the main arena remained full of people who were kept supplied by the bar, the pizza wagon and the food trailer.
Eventually, the PMC pyromania technicians skulked off and could be seen scratching their heads, walking in circles and falling over each other as they laid out the intricate truck load of high explosives which Simon had obtained for the evening fireworks display. It was encouraging when every now and then it appeared that someone knew what they were doing.
Finally, Simon walked around the site with his megaphone, announcing that the fireworks would be starting shortly. Clearly overcome by gunpowder fumes and adrenaline, he used the megaphone whether he was sixty feet or six inches away from people, but everyone got the message loud and clear and drifted over to the take-off field - which was now acting as a blank canvas for Simon’s pending explosive creation.
And it started with a bang ... continued with non-stop bangs and explosions ... and finished with even more bangs. The philosophy of ‘everything louder and bigger than everything else’ worked well and it was a truly impressive display. Again, Paul Taylor put his drone in the air and parked it while the display took place - no doubt most people have now seen that footage on YouTube and Facebook.
And it was over. But it wasn’t - as people applauded and started to wander back to the party, it all kicked off again for a second finale. An unplanned sequel, but impressive.
Then it was back to the party for real, and it went on into the night, as you’d expect. Although not everything was expected - it's not every day that you encounter something like Jamie Bartholomew's subtle tattoo on his back - an obvious indication of the passion he has for his wing!
There was one thing which you can guarantee everyone was very happy about - and that was the free bar. I’ll say that again - there was a free bar ... if you were a PMC member. Originally it was intended to begin serving free drinks after the fireworks had finished but Simon made an on the spot decision earlier in the evening and announced free beer starting there and then, which included ale, lager and cocktails.
The free beer lasted longer than I expected, and the ale was the first to run out. The lager lasted a little longer. I’ve heard that £1000 went within the first hour and the bar owner had suggested that with 200 people present she would have expected this to have lasted closer to four hours, based on her experience at past events. Well done to the PMC on their performance - it's just as well our paramotors have milder consumption rates.
As the night went on the food suppliers kept everyone fed - even when it got late and fewer people were awake you could still go and get a snack.
Special mention should be made about the posh toilets, something which is becoming routine at PMC fly-ins. They were spotlessly clean and, apart from the taps packing up, didn’t get broken this time and remained in a half-decent state by the end of the event.
Come Sunday morning, it was evidently not going to be a flyable day but spirits were high and the canteen was open for breakfast. Slowly the campsite reduced in size as over the hours people said their goodbyes and drifted off, looking forward to the next bash.
As well as a big thank you to Simon for putting the event together (again), a special thanks needs to be made to George Brown - the landowner - without whom the fly-in would not have taken place. He was generous and supportive and I’m using this platform to pass on sincere thanks to him on behalf of us all.
See you at the next one!
Scroll down for a huge collection of pics taken during the weekend. If you want a high res copy of any of them (for posterity, evidence, etc.) drop me line.
Watch out for the Clive Mason Photobomb bug though.