Great flight for two hours on a beautiful morning today. Took off over mist-shrouded fields and landed 82km and two hours later back at the Altona airstrip to find a large group of PPG and microlight pilots chatting in the sunshine… and offering me a fresh up of coffee. Can it get better?
My good mate Ant of The Aerial Perspective was very kind to invite me along to Greyton, where he needed to take some pictures. We cruised out there in the Vito early this morning to find the town dead still (wind and street-life) with heavy dew on the ground, and so we stopped at a local coffee shop for tea and toast. Greyton is as pleasantly bucolic as I remember, albeit somewhat more developed these days.
After completing consumption of our comestibles we went looking for a launch area. The Greyton Sports Club had a nice field, but it was still very wet and surrounded on three sides by trees. A foray down the other end of town was more fruitful…well, too fruitful, in fact. Not only did we find a great little field, which was slightly raised and offered a puff of wind, but it was also downwind of the dump and sewage settlement ponds. To complete the scene, a large herd of splendidly flatulent bovines stood contemplating us from over the fence. Perfect. Although the field was small and the ponds large, the light wind was conveniently blowing across the corners, offering a decent run and space to climb out. We rigged quickly, and then I helped Ant launch so that he could get the photography done quickly. I was rapidly ready to go, and then in my enthusiasm flooded my engine and had to take if off to get it restarted. By that stage, the wind had almost disappeared, and what little remained was now blowing directly over the ponds, across the short axis of the already short field. Eish.
I have been nose-to-grindstone for quite some time, but the experience has been incredibly rich, with a number of firsts. Some of those stories will follow, I hope, but the blog takes a back seat at these times. Unfortunately, the flying has also been exceptionally sparse. In the absence of my own escapades, I stumbled across this video. It captures much of the essence of PPG in South Africa. Enjoy.
En septembre 2012, Cyril et moi sommes allés en Afrique du Sud pour visiter au sol, mais surtout pour survoler en paramoteur ce magnifique pays. Nous y avons rencontré des pilotes ayant un haut niveau de maîtrise de notre sport. Ces derniers nous ont grandement facilité la tache au cours de notre voyage et nous en sommes reconnaissant. L’Afrique du Sud est un pays offrant des paysages et une faune unique. Ce petit vidéo sans prétention relate quelques vols que nous y avons fait. C’était mon premier voyage dans cette région du monde et je ne souhaite qu’une chose, c’est d’y retourner.
In September 2012, Cyril and I went to South Africa to visit the country from the ground but also to fly with our paramotor over some magnificant places. We have met pilots with high skill level who help us along our trip through the country and we thank them. South Africa has a unique wildlife and landscapes to offer. This unpretentious little video present some flights that we have done. It was my first trip to this part of the world and the only thing I wish is to go back.
Avid blog-readers who have already realised that I will likely name my future children after paraglider brands will also know that I’ve recently completely refreshed my stable. The wonderful and capable Swing Mistral 4 that has served me since 2006 went into hibernation last year when I acquired a MacPara Eden 4 for paramotoring, which (embarrassingly) outperformed the former glider in unpowered flight as well – no doubt due to a 5-year advantage in newer technology. The Eden is a great wing, and deserves its accolades as an ideal single wing for flying with and without power, but over the course of a year of paramotoring I came to realise that (like in free flying) I love long cross-countries and exploration, and the reflex paramotor wing technology has proven itself to be ideal for fast, stable, efficient flying. I began to research PPG wings, and test-fly everything I could. My desires: a wing capable of good top speeds (65km/h or more), which is still easy enough to launch that I can get away at altitude (5000’) carrying a full fuel load, DSLR camera and emergency supplies, and is fuel efficient. If possible, I wanted a wing that can be flown free (without motor) on occasion, so that I only have to take one wing on trips where packing space is an issue.
After more than a week of desperately wanting to fly my brand new Ozone Speedster paramotor wing, I finally got the chance! Fitted in an evening soaring free flight (sans motor) at Signal Hill last yesterday and then a great motorized flight at Muizenberg today, made more special by the fact that I could fly with a friend who also owns a Speedster.
The stories will follow soon – I’m on call at the moment – but here’s a teaser picture to whet your appetite…
…in an initiative/competition run by Garmin. They are looking for stories of how people “Live Beyond” in various categories – outdoor, fitness, automotive, marine and aviation. I’ve entered our Cape Point paramotor flight in the aviation category, and now need votes. Click here to visit and vote for my entry at LiveBeyond.co.za
To date, only two people had ever done it: a powered paraglider flight around Cape Point, the “Fairest Cape of them all”, the Cape of Good Hope: the Cape of Storms. Today, that number was doubled. The Flying Ant (one of the original two) escorted Neil and I in a gentle, cold but perfectly smooth north-westernly on the flight down the peninsula to the very south-western tip of Africa. It’s a long way – the entire tip forms Cape Point National Park, meaning we have to launch north of the boundary and then fly at least 2500ft and offshore all the way – and the weather has to be perfect, but the incredible sights make it all worthwhile. A detailed story and many more photographs to follow, but here are some to whet your appetite:
It’s been quite a while since the flying that generated this footage, but I finally set aside a rainy Saturday and cut together a rough montage. The story can be found in the blog archive, so I won’t repeat it here. In essence: some magic crack-of-doom flying in the middle of summer, when the sun rises early enough for me to get a flip in before I have to be at the hospital. Not many better ways to start the day. Watch it on high quality if you can or come round and see it in 1080p HD at my place over a cup of coffee!
I went on a lovely post-call aerial meander today. While I caught up on sleep during the morning the wind turned light north-west; cold sea air began to replace the more boisterous south-easter and most of the PPG fraternity were congregated at Dolphin Beach. I joined the crowd around three o’clock and was airborne shortly thereafter with a vague plan to join a group flying up to Melkbosstrand along the coast. Unfortunately, a stubborn pressure-knot in my lines forced a quick circuit back to the field to sort it out, so I ended up chasing after them on full bar and open trims, idly watching the surfers below. By the time I caught up they had passed Big Bay and encountered a bank of sea fog just making landfall. The group turned back.
My natural wanderlust extends to airborne endeavours, and I knew that I’d be frustrated flying around Dolphin Beach until the mist arrived there and shut things down completely, so I decided to fly over to Blouberg Hill and survey the options from there. The hill peaks at about 700ft and features some old military ramparts, which are now being converted into nature reserve accommodation. I used some ridge lift on the NW side for a free ride to the top and examined the options. The sea fog looked as if it was thinning out to the north, and experience has taught me that while the sun shines if rarely makes much progress inland. I’d already discovered (to my surprise) that there was very little turbulence over the hill. I decided to venture a little further into the farmlands, make a big loop to which ever side felt good, and try my luck later with the fog at the beach – there are always plenty of landing options elsewhere for a PPG.