“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” –Leonardo da Vinci
In May of 2017, I began my journey to get into the sky. I began training with Bryan West of Austin Paramotor (http://austinparamotor.com). Like so many people, I dreamed of flying when I was a kid. My father was in the US Air Force, and flew as a Weapons Systems Officer in the F-4 Phantom II. That plane is still one of my favorites ever. My grandfather flew after WWII, doing a lot of civil aviation for the state of California (I’m not sure how accurate this is about my Papa, unfortunately as a kid, I wasn’t around him much). A pencil drawing of the Wright Brothers flyer flying at Kitty Hawk that hung in my grandparent’s den now hangs in my livingroom. Flight has been in my family in one way or another for a bit.
Several years ago, I looked into hang gliding, which still looks awesome, but would be logistically tricky. I looked at learning how to fly a sailplane, but again, logistically tough. I knew about powered paragliding (PPG), but never realized how accessible PPG was, until in January of this year, YouTube decided to put a video by Tucker Gott into my suggested video feed, and I saw how easy it was (note – I mean to get into, not just to do it – always get proper training). I watched all of his videos… I watched all the videos I could about it. It was on. I had to get into this.
In March, I contacted Bryan at Austin Paramotor and got on the schedule to start training in late April or early May. Weather in Texas in the springtime is pretty dodgy, so there were delays… but on May 6, Bryan called and asked if I could make it out to the field that evening. I started that evening learning to ‘kite’ a paraglider.
After quite a few days of kiting, learning more, doing a ‘hang test’ and doing dry runs of what it’s like to get into and out of the paramotor’s seat, we did the toughest part – kiting a wing while wearing a 60lb motor on your back. Holy schnikies, that’s some work! Near the end of the second day of that, I attempted my first launch. It did not go well, not at all. I ran, applied throttle and tried to lean back (you have to try to get the thrust line of the prop angled a little downward), but my legs buckled and I fell on my ass. Broke both bottom sections of the motor frame, broke all three prop blades as they hit the frame, and two of the propeller tips shot directly upward through the glider! OUCH! I wasn’t hurt, and the parts of the motor are easily replaceable… I realized how tired and worn out I was that day. Unfortunately, this caused a bit of a mental block, a wall I had to get over.
It took me about another 4 days out at the field to try again, and I still had a lot of nervousness. Finally, on July 6, I got into the air!
Big thanks to Mark Timmons, who was training with me, for getting the video. It’s an unforgettable moment, and having a recording of it will be important to me for the rest of my life! Mark later had an incident where he suddenly turned on landing and was injured. I’m hoping he recovers and can fly again.
It took another couple weeks before I flew again, but I did. The nervousness faded with each launch. Being up in the air helped erase it as well. It’s unlike anything else… it’s flight!
If you’re thinking about learning to fly… Paramotoring is the most accessible way to get your feet off the ground. I’d highly recommend checking it out!