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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?
Watch in HD if you can!
Yesterday yielded the opportunity to do one of the premier Cape powered paraglider flights – Cape Point. The PPG is an incredibly portable and versatile aircraft, but with a cruising speed of only around 25 knots and maximum sustainable speed peaking at 37 knots for the fastest XC wings, we need ideal wind conditions to attempt routes such as these. We have specifically been watching for forecast conditions that would allow a new first – flying around the peninsula, down one side and back up the other. To date all flights (only 4-5 other occasions that the flight has been successfully completed) have been exclusively along the western side. 30 April 2013 had a forecast for light ESE in the morning with light to moderate SW in the afternoon. As all pilots know, forecasts are completely trustworthy… or not.
We launched in the late morning from Hout Bay in a very light breeze; anything helps when you are foot-launching with a full tank of fuel. Climbing over the neck between Noordhoek and Chapman’s Peaks, we climbed steadily to 2000ft, and then overflew FAR139 (the controlled airspace around the Simonstown Naval Base) with pre-arranged permission. The views flying south along the coast were beautiful; False Bay at peace with the encircling mountains hazy in the distance.
The hands-off flying was rudely interrupted when we reached the end of the Klaasjagersberg ridge, however: an increasingly strong north-west breeze threw turbulent air off the peak and caused a few minutes of tachycardia. Flying closer to Cape Point, it was apparent that the wind was persistently NW, and strong enough to cause pause for reassessment. Prevented from flying lower by the restricted arispace over Cape P0int Nature Reserve, we crossed high from Diaz Cross to Diaz Beach to Diaz Point. Feeling that discretion was better than a long lonely swim, we didn’t fly beyond the point in the northwest wind.
A long and slow but beautiful flight back up the western side of the peninsula followed; only beyond the reserve could we dip down below the inversion at 1000ft and find the forecast southerly. Climbing again from Kommetjie, we bypassed the long white sands of Noordhoek Beach and routed directly into Hout Bay with dwindling fuel supplies. The breeze in Hout Bay on the ground was still SE and brisk enough to allow a three perfect landings on the doorstep of Dunes, where we were welcomed for a celebratory cold drink.
A little over two hours flying, 75km distance covered, a fuel consumption of 9, 10 and 12 liters for the three paramotors = priceless new experience.
Track log on Leonardo. More images below – click on a thumbnail to go to the slideshow.
Regular blog readers may recall that we travelled up to the Augrabies area on the Namibian border some weeks ago to take part in a shoot for the new Mazda BT-50 TV commercial. It was a long distance made oh-so-worthwhile by the chance to fly in and over the spectacular Riemvasmaak desert and through the Kai Garib gorge. After a long day of waiting, conditions finally allowed a launch about 2 hours before sunset, and we flew every last minute we could, generating hordes of footage… of which about 3 seconds makes it into the ad 😉
This is the ‘Making Of…’ video, which gives a good feel for the vibe, and features the commercial at the end. Would I do it again? Of course… you only live once 😉
Some photographs from the first PPG flight in the Witteberg Private Nature Reserve. I sneaked in the flight at sunset as the gusty daytime winds died off. By the time it came to launch, there was not a breath of wind. This was a serious test for my new Ozone Speedster – zero wind reverse launch at 3000ft ASL. The pictures tell the story. Credit to John Roos for the shots of me flying:
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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…
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…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
While you’re at it, why not add your own?
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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: