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Ace Duffy Training Blog


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I started training at Morningside Flight Park in Charlestown, New Hampshire, USA two Sundays ago.  I spent a week there working the instructor, Heath Woods, and camping on site.  Heath's down to earth, knowledgeable, and careful. 

Since it's a hill that also trains hang gliders and paragliders, I got a few launches off the 150 foot hill, a few tows, and a fair amount of kiting.  The weather was uncooperative - they don't have a particularly large field, so if the wind's not in the right direction, no flying. 

To look at me, you'd think I was pretty athletic and coordinated for man approaching 50.  But I am feeling every one of my years.  My knees hurt, my back hurts, and I pulled my right hamstring something nasty during a tow launch.  The day before, I tripped on another tow launch and skidded a good 15 yards across the ground.  All of this without even a motor on my back yet. 

 But I'm heading back up for more this Sunday - weather permitting.  And assuming the hamstring heals acceptably.  Right now it's complaining that it didn't sign up for this flying thing.

 

Edited by Ace Duffy
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Thank you, Simon.

Drove up to New Hampshire again this weekend.  There are great people up at Morningside.  Not so much great weather, though.  Two days there and only about 2 hours of kiting.  With winter coming quickly, I think I'll be starting over in the spring.  So THAT's why they call it parawaiting.  

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  • 10 months later...

Back in March, just before Covid shut us down, my girlfriend Lisa and I traveled to Las Vegas to work with our instructor, Heath Woods, at the Jean Dry Lake bed just south of the city, because the weather there and terrain are normally conducive to good training.  

I have to admit that over the winter I had developed a fear of towing.  The previous October I had pulled a hamstring terribly on a tow, and another student broke her ankle on what appeared a gently landing in a slightly bumpy field just off the grass runway.  (It turns out she had bone deterioration and that ankle was probably doomed the next time she stepped of a curb hard).  That, with frustrating and squirrely winds for much of the week I spent at Morningside in New Hampshire, just kinda built up in the back of my psyche and I could feel a case of the yips building.

I let Heath know this on our first day at the lakebed, and he understood completely.  Lisa and I kited for an hour or two to get back in the feel.   I was a bit gobsmacked at the difference smooth laminar air makes for kiting.  I know, I know, it says so in all the books and videos - but boy howdie!  So much easier.  I suddenly understood why at some schools students are strapping on a motor by the second day - they get 8 hours of kiting in on the first instead of only 30 minutes!  

Sunset approached and Heath hooked me into the tow, with the express instruction that this was going to be easy, I'd probably need about three steps to get airborne as the atmosphere was "glassing off" - perfect conditions.  And it was just that easy.  A big long tow, maybe 700 feet up, with the sunset and desert rocks and air like goose down.  A lovely glide down, easy landing. Just what I needed to get my mojo back.  Then Lisa got her first tow, with similar smiles all around.  

And the next day it rained.  In Las Vegas.  In a dry lake bed.  Now, this isn't the first time I've brought water to the desert.  I did it in the high Syrian desert in western Iraq where it hadn't rained in years.  That time I actually brought snow and sleet with me on final approach in a C130.  But this time I was able to turn the Jean Dry Lake into the Jean Cement And Shit-Slick Mud Puddle.  We ended up not training for a full day and a half, then Heath suggested we pack it up and drive 6 hours south up and over the the Mojave desert to the Salton Sea for the rest of our week.  

Now, for those of you not in the US or familiar with the Salton Sea - you just have to Google it to appreciate its history.  Totally worth it.  And Salton City, ("City" is a delightful term for this particular location) is also the perfect place for paramotoring AND the perfect place to get a great post-apocalyptic feel as a world-wide pandemic slowly shut down the human race - this was mid March, 2020, mind you.  

So we made the drive, rented an RV at the RV park, and arrived to 25 knot winds.  No training that day, either.  

But the next morning was perfect, and I was able to get in a bunch of kitings, motor work, and practice taxiing.  Then the weather turned to crap again.  No more training, and only one day left, which also included a drive back to Las Vegas.  A this point, also, we were getting concerned that we might not be able to even get back home to the US east coast as the airports were beginning to shut down due to Covid.  My mood was awful.  I was feeling well and truly jinxed, had now spent several weeks trying to train, but thwarted by weather at nearly every opportunity.  I went to bed foul and deeply discouraged.

And the next day this happened:

 

SMD over the Salton Sea.jpg

Edited by Ace Duffy
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I got about 6 good flights in.  Probably a total of an hour in the air.

A lifelong dream come true.  Really.  I could not keep the grin off my face.  I nearly wept with... overwhelmingness.  Okay, I did weep a few of those cool manly tears you might see The Rock have at, like, at some special moment in the movie where the kid is reunited with his family.  I deny anything beyond that.  No pictures, no proof. 

Edited by Ace Duffy
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And then Covid hit and shut down the world.  It's been six months - but I'm headed back to Vegas in October to finish up my training, and hopefully get Lisa in the air, too.  I've got my order in for a Maverick with the Moster 185, and BGD Magic Motor wing.  (Let's not get into the mess that was the Ozone wing order we put in back in March - they appear to be struggling terribly with their Covid response and manufacturing process.)  I'm psyched about the BGD wing.  

Now, I work in commercial aerospace, and I really don't know how much longer I'll have a job, so I am struggling with the advisability of spending so much money on a motor and wing in such uncertain times.  But dammit - If I get laid off,  I may just take my motor and wing, my truck with 250k miles on it, and my tiny self-made camper trailer, and my home built canoe,  and disappear into the haze. 

Teardrop camper and Sassafras Canoe.jpg

(That's not my truck - that's Lisa's Subaru with 180k on it.  A young thing.)

 

Edited by Ace Duffy
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That's fantastic that you got the flights in. Great that you are now a PPG pilot 👍

I got two epic flights in with my flying buddy but now will have to wait many days for the weather to play ball again, same for all of us unfortunately.

Love the look of your camper trailer, keep us informed of your excursions.

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