Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Happiness and Liberation is Depressing

Because I have such a insatiable craving for life, intensity, and experiences, I've ended up doing incredible things. My "job" of giving people an adventure that they will remember for the rest of their life as a tandem paragliding instructor is amazing. Understanding that I was able to bootstrap myself to this point from $8 in my bank account and a significantly larger amount of credit card debt is empowering.  I feel more free and liberated now than I ever have. At the same time, it's this unrealistic desire to be living a constant state of this beautiful glow that makes me depressed because it's not possible.

Last night, I dreamt that it was raining. In the morning, I woke up to a Facebook post informing me that it's the last day of summer. This person welcomes the changing of the colors, but I felt disappointed. It's another reminder that I won't be able to hurl myself off a cliff and into a heightened state of esctacy and flow as much as I'd like to. I then rolled out of bed, opened the blinds, and noticed the most depressing thing I've seen in a long time. I saw layers of clouds that I hadn't seen since the last time it rained. Towards the end of an hour long business call, something even more depressing happened - rain. 

I will never consciously pull someone down in order to make myself feel better. I try to surround myself with people that are better than myself and then help others come up to my level. That's why I rarely express myself when I have a cloud over my head. Some people think I'm this unending beam of light and positivity. The reality of the situation is that I'm just like everyone else.

Like everyone else, I'm always craving more excitement, more money, more amazing experiences, however I'm slowly learning to be happy in the now. It's easy to get sucked into the trap that more equals happiness.

Jason Silva explains our malady beautifully.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Selecting Your First Paraglider - Why it Doesn't Matter

Paragliding has changed my life. It was the form of aviation that I discovered after I graduated high school and it's given me so much more compared to any other form of aviation that I tried. I became more confident, more social, it put me in better physical shape, and it completely changed what I had planned for my future. Three and a half years after I started learning it, I'm now a co-founder in a tandem paragliding company near San Francisco and Napa called Elite Paragliding where people can go on amazing tandem instructional flights in the Bay Area.

I entered the world of paragliding a bit differently than most people. I wouldn't recommend it. As a result of my unconventional and stubborn approach, I ended up buying three paragliders before I found one that actually works for me. This article is written for those that want to get into paragliding or is new at paragliding, so that they don't end up buying three paragliders like myself.

Your First Wing Doesn't Matter

There's more than 50 shades of paragliders. There's paragliders that's designed for cross country flying, coastal flying and acro flying. There's wings (wing=paraglider, paraglider=wing) that have a lot of brake travel when you give it input and there's wings where you hardly touch the brakes and you're already upside down. Every wing behaves a little differently in the air.
I've been asked what I think is the best paraglider for someone entering this sport. The important thing to understand there isn't such a thing as "the best paraglider." As I mentioned earlier, there's more than 50 shades of paragliders and each shade is a little better or a little worse for every individual's personality, purpose in paragliding, desire in handling, etc. On the other hand, there might be a "best paraglider" for you. What are your goals in paragliding? Do you want a paraglider that's great at making flat, efficient turns (you loose less altitude in flat turns) or do you want a paraglider that's easier to dive towards the ground? Are you hoping to cover distance or do you just want to fly around your local area? Will you have to hike miles before you fly? Do you want to go upside down or keep the wing right side up? There are a lot more of these questions, but what's more important than any of these questions is that your first wing doesn't matter!

This was my first paraglider. It was a awful!
The problem in finding the best paraglider for you is that most people don't know the answer to all of these questions. They might have an idea of what they want, but until they have experienced paragliding for a while, they don't know. There's a lot of sensations pilots experience in the air that they won't experience anywhere else. Certain wings are optimized to enhance sensations in one area while dampening other sensations. Until someone experiences these new sensations, there's no way to determine what sensations they like and what sensations the want to reduce. It's impossible to know these things, therefore it's impossible to find the the perfect paraglider for you. I see too many new pilots wasting too much mental effort on something they don't even have the answers to.

My Second Paraglider - Too Big (Photo: Meeks Digital Studios)
The best advice I can give to someone looking to purchase their first wing is to find something safe and solid that's designed for beginners. Avoid the paragliders made out of lighter materials. Often times these lightweig gliders are advertised as "hike and fly" paragliders. Your first glider is going to go through a lot of abuse as you learn to fly and a lighter paraglider will wear out faster and tear easier (from ground handling/kiting). If one can find a safe used paraglider, they should buy one. They'll need the guidance of an instructor or a pilot friend to determine if the glider is in a safe condition and if it fits their weight.

Paragliding instructors are most often dealers for a paraglider manufacture or two and hate me telling potential students to find used wings. Despite it usually costing between $1,500 and $1,700 per student for training, instructors don't make a lot of money. Top Ramen gets old after a while and if you really like your instructor, buying a new wing through them is a kind gesture of support. Additionally, they will be able to eat burgers for a while.

Third Time is a Charm (Photo: Meeks Digital Studios)

Most pilots upgrade to another paraglider with more performance after their first flying season. When they get to this point, they'll have a better understanding of what their goals are with paragliding and will be able to the best paraglider for them. Until people are able to know what they want in a paraglider, they should ask these two questions.

  1. Is it safe?
  2. Is it designed for beginners?
These are both questions that a knowledgeable instructor or an experienced pilot can answer. If you're that person, save yourself the mental effort and find someone that can guide you through these two questions. If all else fails, you are always welcome to contact me.

Friday, February 07, 2014

The Dirty Little Secret of Paragliding Manufactures

This place has been neglected. There are cobwebs in the corners and dust all over the place. Quite frankly, I don't have the free time that I used to. When I do have free time, I'd rather spend it flying. Long written posts will become more rare, but I'd like to continue to share photos and videos from my flying life.

This chapter of my flying life hasn't showed up on here, but I've learned to paraglide and have been doing it for the past few years. Paragliding is kind of like aviation crack in that it's highly addictive and more fun than any other sort of flying I've experienced, but you can't make a whole lot of money doing it. I credit Brian Thivierge and Jason Shapiro for giving me a free sample of the crack. I only knew Jason through Facebook until he eventually offered me a tandem flight. Why me? I have no idea, but he was compelled to share the magic on a clear January day in Coloma, CA. Brian and I were also Facebook friends. Eventually he offered to show me how to kite a paraglider (control the paraglider/wing/glider on the ground). Why? I have no idea either. I didn't realize that he was essentially teaching me how to fly a paraglider.

I've only been flying paragliders for a year and a half, but I've gone through five different wings in that time span. As a lightweight pilot, I've had to learn some things that my heavier friends don't really have to think about a whole lot. I hope that sharing this will help lightweight (under 150 lbs/68 kg) pilots so that they don't have to go through 5 different wings when they don't have to.

 First I had a vintage Swing/Wills Wing Mistral (the very first one) which was a training tool that taught me how to kite the wing on the ground. I ended up calling it Spaghetti because after kiting it (ground handling) after a few times, nine lines decided to snap and flop in the wind. When I got it, I was expecting to be able to fly it, but I quickly learned that it was a death trap. A slight twitch in the air would cause dramatic deflations.

 Then it was the Niviuk Hook 1 (26 square meters flat), which I quickly realized that even though I was inside of the certified weight range, it was too big for my weight. Unlike the Mistral, I did fly it, but I could barely penetrate into moderate winds. The way wings work is that in general, the heavier they are loaded, the faster the wing will move through the air. It's obviously a lot more complicated than just that, but that is a good general rule. I was worried that I'd eventually get blown back behind the ridge where nasty rotor would slap me out of the sky if the wind speed picked up while I was flying. It was a pretty wing, but was too big. I had two flights with it and accumulated less than 30 minutes of air time.

The next wing was the Paratoys Momentum Microlite (25 meters flat), which lasted me longer than the previous two wings. It was fun while it lasted, but I outgrew the wing after one flying season. I realized that it was still too large for me.  My fear of getting blown back still existed, but it was more manageable. More importantly, this wing taught me that speed is essential to being able to climb up and stay up. If I'm facing a strong headwind and in an area where the lift in the air is less than the sink rate of my paraglider, I'm going to loose altitude while not moving forward over the ground a whole lot. 

At the ridge soaring sites where I tend to spend a lot of time flying at, the lower you get, the lighter the winds are due to the wind gradient. Essentially, the lower you get, the weaker the lift is and the harder it is to climb up. If you loose enough altitude, you pass a point of no return and have no choice but to end your flight sooner than you intended. Being able to penetrate through the wind in order to get to areas of stronger lift is key.

After I grew out of the Momentum Microlite, I went from 25 square meters to 24 square meters on a higher performance wing, the Ozone Rush 3. The Rush was a huge contrast from the Momentum as it's design is ten years newer. After the switch, I was constantly overshooting my landings and felt like the wing was less likely to collapse in rough air (partially due to greater wing loading, partially due to newer wing design). I probably only put 20 hours on that wing because even though it was faster, had better glide performance, and a better sink rate than the Microlite, it still sucked at penetrating winds.

At this point, I was in the middle of the certified weight range, but my heavier friends with their larger wings, who were also in the middle of the weight range somehow were penetrating better. I was baffled by this for the longest time until Lauren Martins, a lightweight and more experienced pilot explained it to me. Paraglider manufactures send their smaller gliders to the certification agency excessively large because they fly slower and are easier to certify. They do not spend enough time optimizing the wing to be safe and efficient for smaller pilots because smaller pilots make up less of the market. Manufactures know that pilots associate certification with safety and even though this isn't entirely true, they sell wings to undereducated pilots that believe it is. When you sit down and look at the various sizes of a particular paraglider and divide the wing area by the certified median weight, you will discover that this is true.

The Ozone Rush 3 is gone. I'm now flying a LittleCloud Goose at 20.7 meters. I've lost 5.7 square meters of wing area and gained a few kilograms of weight with added equipment and sizzling sexy muscle (hehe). I finally feel like I'm at the wingloading that I'm supposed to be. Having said that, Thomas Bourdeau, the designer of the LittleCloud wings, tells me that I'd benefit being heavier loaded. LittleCloud has a design philosophy that I can get behind. They believe that you don't need to have big wings with a large aspect ratio in order to maintain performance while also preserving safety. My fear of getting blown back is gone, my ability to penetrate winds is great, and the maneuverability of this glider is incredible. I've gone from driving a bus to a sports car and am having more fun than I've ever had in the air.

Below is a video of my first flight on the Goose:

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Crazy Adrenaline Junkie Daredevil?

     A lot of people that know me personally think I'm crazy. This even includes people that I think are crazy themselves. These people think I fly "dangerous" flying contraptions. I see things a little differently. I would never own a motorcycle because I don't like the lack of protection around me. I also don't like the idea of skydiving because I'm not looking for an adrenaline thrill, I don't like the fatality rate, and the sport tends to attract a number of wacky people (probably the reason why the fatality rate is so high). Having said that some of my motorcycle and skydiving friends think that I'm a crazy daredevil taking on dangerous activities.

     Our world is filled with amazing experiences. I'm all about watching the sunset from an ocean cliff, eating nothing but tacos for dinner at a taco bar in San Francisco, going on 20 mile bike rides that winds along a river, camping on a sand dune, and sailing in a zippy little Laser sailboat. These are all things I've done. It's about experiencing life and exploring the world and there's no special qualifications for you to do the exact same things. These are things that people don't generally consider dangerous, but there are inherent dangers in all of these activities. You can fall off the cliff, get a poisoned taco, crash into another biker, get bit by a scorpion, and drown under the sail of the Laser after a gust of wind capsizes the boat. The reason why we aren't afraid of doing these sorts of things is because we all understand how to manage these risks.

     Eating, biking, watching the sunset and these sorts of things is a poor analogy to flying because people understand the risks involved. On the contrary, most people don't even understand how aircraft even flies, not to mention the actual risks involved. They don't understand how to manage the risks associated with flying like they know how to manage the risk of going on a bike ride. Knowledge is power - without it, how can anyone assess how dangerous something is? Their thoughts about it is only a projection of their perception.

     I enjoy the many different flavors of flying. Whether I'm cruising to lunch in a Cessna 150, soaring along the steep ocean cliffs in Pacifica in a paraglider, doing loops and rolls in an RV-7 (future plane), or exploring the area in a Pterodactyl Ascender, I'm addicted to flying. I don't jump off cliffs with the paraglider, but fly off them (many times you will begin flying before reaching the edge). I have never lost control while doing acro and although it's possible, regaining control is not life or death when you are at least 3 mistakes over the ground. It's impossible to randomly fall out of the sky for no reason when flying the Cessna and lastly, the Pterodactyl Ascender has flown for over 30 years and has proven itself to not randomly disintegrate while flying along.

     I will admit that it's really frustrating when people think that flying is appealing only for the adrenaline rush. Quite frankly, the last time I felt an adrenaline rush was when I was flying with a former friend who seriously messed up, which led to several life threatening situations. I'm not doing a good job proving my point by sharing that example, but over the many, many countless hours where risk was managed properly, flying is relaxing, euphoric, adventurous, and tremendously rewarding. How do I prove my point? Unless I sit down with them for the hours it takes to educate them on how it all works and how the risk is minimized, there is no simple way for me to show them how it really is. The only quick and easy thing I can do is refer them to this post ;)

 Watching the sunset in Dave Frobe's Ascender

The Preflight Nazzi

Thursday, May 03, 2012

New Twists, New Turns, More Adventures

Life for me these days has become like a plate spinning routine. I've got at least 8 plates spinning at the moment and my time is spent running around keeping the plates spun up while circus music is playing in the background. It's crazy, it's hectic, and this blog is being put on the back burner. Having said that, a lot has happened since I last chimed in.

Private Pilot
Cessna 150 Super in Action!
Thanks to my incredible success with Apple stock and my gracious instructors, I can finally afford my private pilot certificate. I'm flying in what I call the Cessna 150 Super! It has an 150 hp Lycoming O-320 instead of a quaint 100 hp O-200. As one of my A&P (airframe and powerplant for aircraft) instructors once said, "If more is better, then way too much is just about adequate."

Because I've had a lot of experience at the controls thanks to all of my pilot friends, simulator time, and Pterodactyl solo flights thanks to Dave Froble, it hardly took me any time until I soloed the red and white Super Cessna. At first, I found that flying the plane was easier than taxing it. I have all my night requirements out of the way, and most of my solo cross country requirements finished. At the moment, I have somewhere around 23 logged hours (40 hours is required) and not a whole lot of requirements left. Why is it going so well for me? I'm not so sure, but I'll take it!

Many years ago, I fell in love with the idea of paragliding. You can have a flying rig that easily fits in the truck of a small car, drive to a nearby mountain or cliff, clip in, run forward, and join the birds in a thermal, soar along beautiful ocean cliffs, float by puffy, white clouds, and more. If you don't want to drive to a good launching hill, you can hook into a paramotor and use it's thrust to propel you into the air. No part of this description is an exaggeration. 
Jason Shapiro takes me and my crazy hair for a flight!

When people dream about flying, this is what they're dreaming about. To be brutally honest, this is way more fun than flying the Cessna 150. The old farts that at the airport that passionately insist that their kind of flying is the "real" kind of flying have no idea what their missing. You might plow through some turbulence with a "real" airplane, but you will never feel the wing lifting you off the ground, sucking you into a thermal or rocking you through a rotor. Flying a paraglider will force you to have a better understanding of what the air is doing and sadly, most "real" pilots are clueless in this department.

In the process of learning about paragliding and powered paragliding, I came across convicted criminal, liar, narcissist, and reckless powered paragliding pilot, Dell Schanze. Not knowing any better, I listened to him and believed his ridiculous claims. I built a website for him, in hope to help him start up a better and new powered paragliding organization, the WPPGA (World Powered Paragliding Association). 

Not bad, considering most jail photos.
The deal he made with me is that if I did that for him, he would give me lessons and equipment. After a while, I realized that all the horrific thing's that Schanze is responsible for is indeed true. I started to understand more about him and figured out what makes him tick and it was wrong. The man is faced with a mental illness, but he will go to extreme and radical lengths to deny it. I reluctantly continued to work on the website because I wanted gear and instruction and I didn't want all the time I spent on the website to go to waste. Then, Dell illegally jumped off a historical landmark in a small quiet town in Astoria Oregon with his speed wing, caused all sorts of havoc, and closed down their beach for paragliding. Adding insult in injury, I left Schanze in a hurry. Luckily, that website went to hell after I left. Expect to hear more about Schanze and how he is a threat to the entire aviation community in the future. 

There is so much more I have to talk about my experiences with paragliding, including but not limited to my tandem flight from Jason Shapiro (, kiting lessons with my good buddy Brian Thivierge, and the para-mentality. Expect more soon!

The Pterodactyl 
Yeah, yeah,'s not finished yet. For a while, I was waiting for parts to arrive. Now I have all I need to get it airborne, but not another plate to spin. Hopefully it will show some progress when I have more time this summer, but until then, it's patiently waiting on the shelves in the back of a hangar. One thing is certain, it WILL fly! I just don't know when.

That's all for now. Remember, time spent flying is not deducted from your lifespan! Just don't do anything stupid because then your lifespan can be dramatically reduced. Dell Schanze, that rule applies to you to!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Evolution of the Dream

If you're an aviator, you'll know that aviation is like a virus. To simplify things, we'll call it avitus. I suspect that my body was first introduced to the virus during the first few years of my life while visiting my grandparents. My grandfather was a pilot, a flight engineer towards the end of WWII, and a mechanic at Pan Am. Many years after my first introduction to avitus, I was exposed to it in a more potent dose! My friend's dad began building a kitplane (Velocity XL) and his glowing enthusiasm for the project sparked my curiosity.

I was thirteen when I started this blog. At that point, the dream was for me to have my own plane and have the capability to fly whenever I felt like it. This is why I originally named this blog "Flying Dreams." The name was rather vague and at the time, the dream itself was rather vague. After I discovered the Pterodactyl and bought a Pterodactyl project, I renamed it to pFlying Dreams. My Pterodactyl is getting closer and closer to completion and with my original dream almost accomplished, I now realize that this dream is in a constant state of evolution and that the blog's original title probably best suits the blog as there is no limit as to what I can do in aviation.

I'm currently working on getting my A&P certificate (think of it as a license to work on aircraft) through a college program. Next, I know that I'll need a Private Pilot License, followed by an instrument rating, followed by a commercial rating, followed by my first flying job (maybe banner towing?). Of course, I'll also need to get four year degree if I want to go anywhere in this industry. From here, I'm not sure where I'd like to take my life. I'm not the least bit worried about this either. Who really knows exactly what they want to be doing decades later in life, when they just turned 20? One thing is absolutely certain; I will never forget to follow my dreams!

"Those who dream by night, in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible." - T.S. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)

Friday, December 03, 2010

Article Written for Light Plane World

I was fortunate to have an article published in EAA's Light Plane World newsletter. I wrote about my experience with Dave Froble at DFE Ultralights. Give it a read:

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Learning to Fly (Day 3)

Day three of learning to fly was at Mt. Pleasant Airport again. The sun was low and the wind wasn't noticeable. It was a great time to be flying.

I started out practicing what I had done the day before. After flying a few feet off the ground down the runway twice, Dave called me over for a talk. We chatted for 7 or 8 minutes about the next step. That next step was a big one; flying around the pattern. "Was I really ready after three days," I thought. I knew how to take off, land, and stay straight over the runway. I knew how to do all of that and was able to do it very well, so I was ready. Having thought it over, I had the skills to do it and the confidence to do it.

An Aeronca was taking off as I was taxing up the side of the runway. I taxied up the runway slowly to allow the wingtip vortices coming off the heavier aircraft to dissipate. This also gave me time to think about what I'd be doing. Then it came time for me to actually do it. I was at the end of the runway, on top of a slight hill and I applied power. In no time, I was flying.

I remember looking at the hangars below once I crossed the intersection where the two runways meet. The picture I saw will probably stay in my head for my entire life. As I was looking down, I wondered if I was dreaming. Could I really be flying? Am I now living the dream?

After flying the pattern, the wheels touched down exactly where I wanted it to. It couldn't have been a better landing. Dave came over and my first words were "I like this a lot better than the Rans," referring to another plane that I had gotten a ride in after my first flight lesson. It took everything I had in me to keep from getting out of the plane, jumping up and down while yelling at the top of my lungs like a little kid. That kind of behavior might not grant me a few more trips around the pattern, but I felt good! It was a moment that I have been waiting for as long as I can remember.

Dave told me to fly the pattern three more times, taking off from where I was. At the moment, I was probably a fourth of the way down the runway, so I gave it more throttle from my last takeoff. As soon as I leaped into the air, I was shocked at how much I was climbing. It was like a bat out of hell. I must have been pitched up forty degrees and I wasn't even using half throttle.

I realized that I was too high on my second approach, so I gave it some power and climbed back up and went back around. I made sure to start descending before I did the time before and it resulted in another good landing. After that, I made one more trip around the pattern and called it a day.

A few hours later, I was back inside cooking up some dinner. As I was stirring some pasta together, Dave walked behind me to go to the refrigerator...or maybe not. Sure enough, that slight suspicion was correct. In no time, my shirt tail was cut. My name and the date was written on the shirt square.

I am now tailless; just like the Pterodactyl. It was a dream yesterday, but I'm now living the dream. I'm now a pilot!

Learning to Fly (Day 1 and 2)

As I spend time in Pennsylvania with Dave Froble of DFE Ultralights, I've been learning to fly. Since regulations have made it difficult to get dual instruction in an ultralight trainer, there I would have to learn the old fashion way. Jack McCornack, the designer of the Pterodactyl line of ultralights, developed a training syllabus back in the early 80s. Since the ultralight training exception doesn't exist, that's the way I've been learning. It's just me and the airplane with Dave watching to give me advice.

During the first day of training, we took the airplane to a closed runway at Connelsville Airport. I started off learning how to taxi. First it was a slow taxi straight down the runway. I eventually worked my way up to a fast taxi (15 mph airspeed) while doing s-turns down the runway using wingtip rudders only. At this speed, the ground begins to feel fluid. It felt like I was skating on top of smooth marble.

There was a decent bump going across the runway. I had gone across this bump many times and it was never a problem, so I stopped worrying about it. I shouldn't have stopped worrying about it because as I was doing one of my fast taxi runs, I must have hit a steeper segment of the bump. All three wheels left the ground for a brief moment. As this happened, I immediately pulled the throttle back to keep it from flying further than I wanted it to and it settled back on the ground. The hop got me by surprise and my heart rate backs up that statement.

For lesson two, we went to Mt. Pleasant airport. This is a better location because there's less traffic and grass runways. Grass is more forgiving than pavement and since I would be crow hopping (short hops), I might need it. I started off making short hops down the runway. As soon as it lifted off the ground, I killed the engine and landed. Eventually, I was doing hops all the way down the length of the runway.

Lifting off the ground is an amazing feeling. Landing exactly the way you wanted it to is even better! I'm very close to flying the traffic pattern. That's when I'll call myself a pilot!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Internship at DFE Ultralights

There have been a lot of questions as to how I was going to get my Pterodactyl flying. The more I worked on my project, the more parts I found that needed to be replaced. With every part that would need to be replaced comes a cost. Then there was questions as to how I would learn to fly in such a unique and unusual aircraft now that the FAA got rid of the ultralight training exception. All of these problems were accumulating over time and I wasn't sure if I would ever have my Pterodactyl flying. Now, all of these problems have a remedy.

Last April, Dave Froble, the man at DFE Ultraligts who supplies parts and kits for Pterodactyls, send me an email asking me what I was going to be doing during my summer break. I replied and he then offered me an internship at his place in Pennsylvania. I would learn how to work on Pterodactyls, how to determine if parts are airworthy or not, and how to fly. In addition, Dave would give me a place to stay and food to eat. After consulting with the authorities (parents), we bought a plane ticket and I packed my bags.

As I am working (If you would even call it work) in Pennsylvania, I'll keep this place updated.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Why Always Fly Blue Side Up?

This morning, went through one of the most thrilling, exciting, and amazing moments in my life! I always knew that flying was fun, but never realized how much better it could get.

This morning, Scott was kind enough to give me a ride to Colombia for breakfast in his Cessna 210. It was a quick, pleasant flight which concluded with pigs in a blanket at the Colombia Airport. The Rancho Murieta pilots fly out to breakfast practically every Sunday (it's our church), so this wasn't an uncommon event. For the flight back Dave threw out the idea of flying me back in his red RV-7. Since I had never been in an RV-7, I thought it would be a nice experience, but I didn't realize that I was about to have the time of my life.

The first thing you realize once you lift off the ground is how fast the plane is going. Our climb speed was 120 mph which is just as fast as the cruising speed of a lot of the other planes I've flown in. Then, I realized that we were climbing at 1,500 feet per minute. Dave told me it can climb at a greater rate, but he tones it down because if he climbs to fast, his ears begin to hurt. Simply put, the RV-7 is a rocket with a cockpit attached to it.

After Dave gave me some stick time, he offered to show me some acro. I had never been upside down in an airplane before, so I didn't know what to expect. It turns out that aerobatics in an airplane is probably the funnest and most thrilling thing you can do on earth. If you've never gone upside down in an airplane, you don't know what your missing. Words cannot explain the feeling you get when flying upside down.

I was giddy for hours after I made it back on the ground. This was my greatest flight of all time! I'm going to have to build a Vans RV-7! It's pure magic!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Profiting From Ultralight Bias

Talk to almost any general aviation pilot about ultralights and they will most likely condemn them. They believe that ultralights are draggy, unsafe, and have poor performance. In some cases, they would be correct but it is clear that they don't know how unique some ultralights are. Ask these folks if they've flown in a modern ultralight and most likely they haven't. In fact, I would bet that most of them don't even know what a modern ultralight is because there aren't a lot of ultralights around.

The Skypup has a 12:1 glide radio (or L/D) which I guarantee will beat a Cessna 150, 152 170, 172, 182 and many other GA aircraft. Of course, the Skypup is a special bird. My Pterodactyl will be a special bird as well and that's all I'm going to say as I'm going to profit from ultralight bias!

Be forewarned, I'm coming!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

EAA Chapter 1476

I have been part of an EAA chapter for several months now. It has been one of the greatest decisions I've ever made and don't know what took me so long. I've been able to connect with some of the brightest, most knowledgeable and generous aviators people that I've ever met. They have flown me all over the place, taken me to breakfast, paid for my breakfast (thank you Mike), given me advice, shared their war stories and much more. I am very lucky to be surrounded with such great people and I'm not sure if there's a place anywhere else where I can find people like the people at EAA chapter 1476.

Here are some photos and videos of some of the flying I'm lucky to be a part of:

Friday, December 18, 2009

My Training Situation Figured Out

As of last post, I had no idea where I was going to get training so I would have the skills and confidence to fly my Pterodactyl . I have spent many painstaking hours sorting this out in my brain and I've finally come to my conclusion. Since I would like to be a full, FAA approved Certified Flight Instructor (and possibly a CFII), why not start training towards my private pilot rating? My plan before this decision was to get this training once I was in college. I realize that I'll have more work and more distractions in college, so why make things any more difficult for myself.

Obviously, there is a HUGE difference between a four seat, 1,620 lb, enclosed cockpit, 160 hp, Cessna 172 and a single seat, 200 lb, open cockpit, 30 hp, Pterodactyl Ascender II. I will not be one of those general aviation folks who believes that ultralights are toy airplanes compared to their Cessnas so they automatically have the skills to fly them. That is a mindset which has killed and continues to kill many and I would like to stay alive longer so I'll have even more time to fly.

I was concerned a while back about the FAA's decision to essentially end all training in ultralight-like, experimental light sport aircraft. Since then, the Experimental Aircraft Association has worked with the FAA to establish a set of guidelines so that training in these types of aircraft can continue. I will definitely will need to get some sort of transition training so I'll have the skills to fly my low inertia, light wing loading, high performance ultralight. Because of the EAA/FAA arrangements, I'm not worried about finding a safe place to get instruction. For now, Rainbow Aviation (the same folks who have written "A Professional Approach to Ultralights") appears to be the place for me to get my transition training.

If in the unlikely event that I can't find a place to get instruction, I'll find or make a friend with the right equipment and go flying with them. If even that doesn't work out, I'll have to revert back to the way people learned how to fly ultralights in the 1980's and self teach myself. Jack McCornack, the man who designed the Pterodactyl line of aircraft wrote a self training guide and amazingly, those who actually followed the guide step by step had very little problems.

Some people have told me to simply follow the self training guide and not worry about getting training in a dual seat machine but I will learn to fly my Pterodactyl in the most comfortable way that I see fit. I'm all about flying safely so I can continue flying for years and years to come.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Training: Oh where, oh where?

It is 1:33 in the morning right now and I'm unable get myself to sleep. You would think that 17 years of experience (18 on the 18th of this month) would make me very good at it but obviously not. A lot is going through my head right now and my mind is unable to slow down to stop analyzing for the night.

Redrive washers, aviation instructors, and tomorrow's government test is what's keeping my mind from relaxing. I don't see any three of these topics to be a problem any more, yet my mind keeps on whirling.

The biggest thing that I've been thinking about is the flight instruction that I'll be getting so I can fly my Pterodactyl safely. The word safely is key. My plans to get proper ultralight training have been dramatically altered after learning the horrifying truth about certain things. I value my life and would like to live longer so I can spend more time flying. Therefore my plans have been altered to reflect just that.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Negative Parts of the Journey

I started this blog to share my experiences as I reach towards my goal of flight. I need to make it clear that there is a lot of the story that's missing. There are a few negative experiences that I've had and I kept those experiences off of here. I do not want to hurt anyone's feelings and I certainly don't want anyone mad at me. That being said, I've started to change my thoughts on that.

I've learned a ton from the negative experiences that I've been through. There is a lot to take away from these experiences and those experiences will make me a better and safer pilot once I am one. For now, these experiences will keep me alive and pain free for much longer. When you think about it that way, why am I not sharing these experiences?

There is still the problem of having people upset but I've come up with a simple solution. I'll simply not mention any names. If the people associated with my negative experiences end up reading this blog, they'll know that I'm talking about them, but their name won't be mentioned. There is still a possibility that they get upset, but I hope they respond in a mature and reasonable way. I hope they will take my thoughts as constructive criticism and that they will consider changing their behavior and habits to better themselves and the people around them.

With all of this in mind, be prepared to hear a few more stories coming through the pipe.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Friday, October 09, 2009


After listening to some encouraging words, I have decided to keep my Pterodactyl project and keep on building. I've done the math and I'm about $850 from it being complete. To be safe, we'll say it's $1,000 from being complete. I have about $250 of that $1,000 right now, so I have $750 to go. A lot has happened since my last update on the Dac so expect a video or something of the sort soon.

Training is a whole other issue that I'll have to address. It looks like the FAA, who always emphasizes safety when in public, isn't allowing folks full access to safe ultralight flying. We are back to the 80's when people were dying left and right due to the lack of proper training.

Friday, October 02, 2009

There's a Twist

Just when you think you can predict how things are going to end up, I make a change in plans.

As you might know, the FAA doesn't always make logical decisions. This lack of logic has impacted me this time. After January 31, 2010, the FAA is not allowing any Sport Pilot training to be done in Experimental Light Sport Aircraft (ELSA). Instead, you are only allowed to get training in Special Light Sport Aircraft (SLSA). Why is this a problem? Well, there is absolutely no SLSA aircraft in the entire state of California that flys like a Pterodactyl Ascender.

Unfortunately, my Pterodactyl project turned out to be a bigger project than I expected. I know that I won't be able to have it ready to fly with enough time to get training before the deadline. With that in mind, I've run into a dead end. I am aware of a place where I can get semi-proper training illegally, however the hours spent there won't be able to go towards any Sport Pilot or Private Pilot ratings and that's a waste of money.

I could certainly get training in a Sportstar, Remos, CTLS, etc, however they are all enclosed cockpit, slick, fast, heavy, and higher inertia aircraft. Flying ultralights requires a certain skill that's not obtainable in these planes. Some GA (General Aviation) guys think that their all superior private pilot ticket means that they can fly an ultralight without any specialized training. With that mindset, they decide to fly one and quickly realize that they are wrong when their body hits the ground dead. I'm not going to be that guy.

At the dead end I've arrived at, I have no choice but to sell my Pterodactyl project. Now the letter "P" in has become irrelevant...or has it?

The Pterodactyl Ascender is an absolutely great airplane. It is safe given that you fly it within its limitations, it's fun, it will climb like the space shuttle, and it is by far one of the most unique ultralights out there. It has a place in my heart which is here to stay. I will fly a Pterodactyl one day, but it won't be anytime soon.

With all of that in mind, what am I going to do now? I'll give you a hint: the silent "P" in won't be silent for much longer.

To be continued...

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Breaking News

Today was an extreme and radical day. Over the course of five hours, so much has happened. At this time, I don't know where to start and I don't know where to end. That's why I will not be sharing this news with you today.

Is this good news or bad news? To be honest, I don't know the answer. It's going to be a hard night to get to sleep.

Expect to learn more soon...

Monday, March 02, 2009

New Progress, New Problems

It's long past due for an update, so here we go!

For the most part, my Pterodactyl hasn't changed very much. It has been sitting in the garage with the nose wheel off waiting for parts for months. Dave Froble, the man who supplies Pterodactyl parts is REALLY slow at getting orders sent out. He's waiting for his side of the country to warm up since his shop is in his barn. I've since told him to forget my order for now. I'll get as many of the parts I can find elsewhere purchased from places where the wait isn't 6+ months long.

In the mean time, I've been keeping myself busy with other projects. One of which is a recently rebuilt Cuyuna 430. I got it at an amazing price and along with it came two mufflers and a box full of Rotax, Cuyuna, redrive and other engine related parts. Most of these parts will be sold off, but there's some really good pulleys which might be useful for a redrive.

Speaking of redrives, I've been trying to remove these hex bolts off the redrive attached to my older Cuyuna engine and I've have had no luck. A ratchet and a hammer doesn't work. I've tried using penetrating lubricants such as WD40 and Liquid Wrench as well, but still; no luck. I guess my last option is to find someone with a torch. and heat it off. Hopefully that will actually work.

The last worthwhile thing to mention is that I now have a CHT gauge, Tiny Tach, Ratio Right (helps measure out the correct amount of two stroke oil to mix with the fuel) , RPM gauge, Cuyuna service manual, voltage regulator (now I have two), an Icom A3 headset adapter, a Pterodactyl rib tip tool (used to pull the trailing edge of the wing over rib tips), Fram G1 fuel filter, fuel line and two old Pterodactyl pins. I have no use for the extra RPM gauge and voltage regulator, so I'll be selling those. The Key West regulator (thanks to Gary Orpe) and the Tiny Tach will stay.


Stay tuned for more updates. I have an instrument panel to build, a 3 blade Ultra Prop to buy, the Pterodactyl to finish restoring and training to get done. Things are getting unbelievably exciting as I get closer to flying.

Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Latest Update

Hello folks,

My Pterodactyl is coming along. By the end of this month it should no longer be a Pterodactyl Fledge, but a Pterodactyl Ascender. I have just about all the work that can be done with what I have right now before I get my latest order of parts. Once I get these parts I'll be able to put on the noseboom and replace the wheels, get new fiberglass gear, new sling seat, fuel tank and more.

Earlier today I opened up the wing and replaced some rusty rivets in the spar. At the same time I was pleasantly surprised that I won't have to replace the flying wires.

Just a quick update from me. The winter is around the corner and at least I'll have something to keep me occupied.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Pterodactyl Update

I wanted to inform you with a quick update of the status of my Pterodactyl Fledge.

The two fuel tanks attached to my aircraft were split down the sides so they had to go. I've decided that the landing gear wires, wheels, sling/seat, and a lot of rusty hardware needs to be replaced as well. I could probably get away with keeping the old tires, but I would like my aircraft to look sharp and crisp. At the moment, the tires are faded and ugly.

I've decided to get steerable nosegear which will make taxing much easier. I understand the risk that it holds, but I'm willing to take reasonable actions to manage that particular risk. I've thought about creating a mechanism which locks the nosewheel for takeoff and landing, but am not really sure about how that would work.

Despite the temptation to keep one of the two engines that came with my place, I will soon put them up for sale. That's as soon as I figure out how to remove the massive bolts (suggestions appreciated) which cling on to the engine mount. I will be replacing those Cayuna engines with a Rotax 277.

I've built, covered, and painted the canard. One of my friends asked me if he could touch it because the paint still looked wet. I took that as a compliment as that's exactly what I wanted it to look like. After painting I had difficulty finding the control post hole, but thanks to the Pterodactyl
Yahoo group, I was able to locate it. At this moment, the canard is one-hundred percent complete.

Currently, I've been working on adding the noseboom, changing the control stick and attaching the canard to the airframe. Much more news to come. Perhaps even a video. At the moment, my Pterodactyl is still a Fledge, but soon it will be transformed into an Ascender!

Cody Nelson's First Time Into The Air

I would like to share a story with you that I'm sure you'll enjoy. It's a story about how a little bit of effort and motivation can change someones life. This is the story of Cody Nelson who contacted me after watching my Youtube videos. He was interested in flight, but didn't know where to go. After I pointed out that his local airport had a flight school that would be happy to take him up for an introductory flight, he quickly signed the dotted line. Cody didn't realize that his signature in this instance would change him forever.

The following is directly from Cody. I hope you enjoy it:

"This year so far has been a year of firsts. But they are all good in one way or another.
I’ve never been so nervous in my life when I climbed into a Cessna 172 for the time of my flying career. With airplanes it seems like seeing is believing. My instructor and I fought our selves into the cockpit with our big winter coats on because after all it was January after all. The cold winter air made it hard for the old girl to start up. After pre-flight we started the plane up and radioed in our clearance for our taxi to our runway, “Cessna three eight one ready for taxi for straight out departure on runway two four” after a while we got the reply “Cessna three eight one, you are clear for taxi on general aviation taxi way, taxi to and hold short of runway two four”. After all the radio work was done for a while we got in line for our departure. After doing another pre-flight we radioed into the tower, “Ann Arbor Tower this is Cessna three eight one ready for take off at runway two four”, then after a few seconds we passed “Cessna three one eight you are cleared for take off on runway two four”, then the fun began.
We ram the throttle into the dash for full throttle on the old girl. Then right when we hit sixty eight miles an hour and we both pulled back on the yoke and we were off. I didn’t notice or realize how much of my fear of heights was until we got up into our altitude of one thousand eight hundred feet and began to look around some. I couldn’t see my house but I did find my high school and when I say that it wasn’t bad for its view. But since I was afraid of heights I actually focused on the plane a lot more than view. But after flying for an hour we were ready to take back down. Before I knew it we were radioing our transmissions “Cessna three eight one cleared for full stop lading on runway two four, Ann Arbor Tower”. After a nice and soft lading we taxied back to the lady’s (the plane’s) hangar while I was saying thanks to the tower for a great afternoon flight in the sky.
You know I find it like it’s magic that an invisible force that we all breathe everyday and every minuet of the day and make a one thousand three hundred ninety six pound aircraft fly into the wind like it’s weightless."

Cody has plans to become a hang glider pilot next year. After that I have no doubt that he will move into powered ultralights, Light Sport Aircraft, and then General Aviation aircraft. His career might even involve aviation.

My work was simple. I only answered his questions and pointed him in the right direction. By doing those two simple things I converted a landlubber into a future pilot. We need more pilots and If you do those two simple things I am confident that the pilot population will expand. Creating a pilot is not only good for the aviation industry, but is great for the individual person. That person will be changed forever.

Go out to the airport, find those people who have their fingers in the airport fence and change their lives! We need more pilots.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

It's Here

The full story to come.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Domain Name Purchased

In the past, you would have to type in "" in order to get to my blog. Now all you have to do is go to I'm amazed that was still available.

Before, you had to type in twenty characters before the .com. Now you only have to type in seven!

The Pterodactyl will arrive this weekend(8/9-10/08) if all goes well. I'm amazingly excited.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pterodactyl Pre-Purchase Inspection and More

Greetings aviators and enthusiasts,

Not too long ago I traveled up to Red Bluff to do a pre-purchase inspection on a Pterodactyl. The ride there was very quick and crop dusters kept my head on a swivel. I think I counted four of them on the way up there.

As planned, Bob and his wife Cynthia were waiting outside of the gate. They swept their card and the gate opened up. Bob pointed us (my mom and I) towards his hangar and sure enough it looked like there was a Pterodactyl in there. Out on the hangar driveway was Bob's 80 hp Sonex. It had bullet holes and rip marks stickered on. I thought it added a lot to the plane.

Bob asked me how I "got bit" and I explained how I fell in love. He shared his love story as well and before we had much time to chat, he looked at my mom and said something like "Before it gets too hot, would you mind If I took mark up in my plane." This completely knocked me off my feet. I hadn't expected this at all. Bob said something like "You had to have known." I guess I came blindfolded.

In all the other planes I'd flown in, I had memorized all the v-speeds. I do this so that if my pilot were to become unable to fly I would have a better idea how to land. This time I'd be leaving the ground without that information.

We taxied to the hold short line of runway 15 and did the pre-takeoff checklist. Both mags were good, carburetor heat was working and everything else told us that it was time to fly. I was dying from the heat that the bubble canopy was giving us so I was very eager to get airborne. We then checked for traffic, made our radio call and crept out onto the runway. Bob brought up the flaps and applied full power ahead.

Soon enough we were moving into the third dimension and my flying withdrawals were overcome. I was amazed at how it handled in the air. No Cessna will ever be like it. If I was blindfolded and put into this plane, I would have guessed that I was flying in an Extra 300. We were doing 40 degree turns, descending turns, sharp climbs, etc. I'd never felt as much G in my entire life.

When Bob handed me the controls at first, I was amazed at how responsive the plane was. No wonder why it felt like an Extra 300. After a second or two, I was able to hold altitude while turning but it certainly wasn't as easy as it was in the two Quicksilvers I'd flown in. Since I didn't have all the v-speeds memorized, I asked if I could stall it and Bob had no problems with that. At least I knew the stall speed.

If everyone had the chance to fly in a Sonex, we'd all have one and airport congestion would actually be a problem for the General Aviation and Sport Pilot guys. Flying faster than a Cessna 150 and burning only 4 gallons per hour is impressive. At 8,000 feet it gets 37.5 miles to the gallon. At sea level it gets 32.5 miles to the gallon. People, this thing probably gets better fuel economy than your car!!! Why aren't you flying!!!

Sonex is probably really happy with me right now and since I'm not getting payed, I'll stop giving them a free advertisement. The flight was amazing to say the least.

After getting out Bob and I checked out the Piper Cub that had just landed from a flight. It was beautifully maintained. I'd probably say that it was in better condition than the day it rolled out of Piper's factory. I'll have to get myself a ride in one of those one day. The pilot had flown ultralights back in the 80s, so we had something to relate to. The Cub was another thing that I hadn't expected to see that day.

We finally moved over towards the Pterodactyl. I was amazed at how light the hang cage was. I could easily lift it. Granted, the wing wasn't attached but it was still impressive. Bob immediately pointed out that it would need new gas tanks and new wheels. Overall, it was in better condition than I expected it to be. I noticed a few rusty nuts here and there, but there were no major surprises. What a contrast from the last Pterodactyl I looked at.

Bob and I got out the wing and unzipped and unrolled it from it's bag. The bag had seen it's time, but the wing was beautifully colorful. I attempted to push a hole through the fabric and did a good job of hurting my finger. The sails were in fantastic condition. There were some mud dauber nests in the bag, but they had done no damage to the sail. Bob explained that they appeared during his possession. The previous owner, a Pterodactyl dealer, had kept it in it's bag, inside a heated room.

Oh...and did I forget to tell you? Bob's throwing in a pair of floats! They do need some repair work though. The flight with Dennis and his Quicksilver was nothing but pure fun! Eventually I'll probably get some extra training and do some float flying! I'm not really sure where I will fly it though. The only two places I can think of is the delta where I flew with Dennis and Folsom Lake.

After putting the wing back away, Bob and I spent about an hour sitting down going through the manuals, receipts, float information, etc. He wanted to make sure I knew what I'll be getting myself into if I decide to take on this project. We also went through a box full of extra stuff which contained a strange altimeter, tie downs, the float hardware, a control stick, bicycle brakes, a throttle, and some other miscellaneous hardware.

Bob gave me a leather briefcase full of Pterodactyl information, a box full of aviation magazines, and the large box of extra stuff to go through. He told me to go through it and get a good understanding of what I need to do to it before it's flyable. He doesn't want me to end up with a project that I'll get lost in the middle of, resulting in discouragement in aviation.

It's been a week since my visit and I've spent all my time going through every word of every document relating to the Pterodactyl. What's my final decision? You'll have to find out next time on the hyperbole channel.

Safe, fun flying folks,
Mark Zinkel

Monday, June 16, 2008


I've recently fallen in love with the Pterodactyl line of ultralights. I've always loved canard aircraft, so it's only natural that I'd find a Pterodactyl. About a month ago I traveled out to purchase a Pterodactyl. I cannot believe the amount of money I have saved up over five years. Now is the time to find a plane!

I had written a whole post about my experience spending 11 hours on the road with an ultralight in "excelent condition" on my mind. I deleted it because it offended the seller (sorry seller). To put things short, I went back home with a $150 dent in my back pocket.

Here's a picture of the Pterodactyl Ascender in "excelent condition."

There is hope though. When I was digging up information trying to find design flaws, weak parts, and flying characteristics, I came across a man who was wanting to get rid of his Pterodactyl. It's not an Ascender, but he has the canard kit which will make it one. My plans with it is to install the canard, add brakes and a steerable nosegear. There are steerable nosegear kits available these days, so I'll definitely purchase one of those. Someone else has engineered a really lightweight brake setup, so I think I'll copy them with that. The canard kit should be a breeze since all you have to do is follow the directions and use common sense.

Lightweight Brake Setup

The seller has sent me some pictures earlier today and it looks like it's in very nice condition. Right now, I'm getting zero red flags from this guy. He sounds like he's a really honest guy. We probably spent a half hour to an hour on the phone hangar flying. Most of that chat wasn't even about his sale. The only thing that I'm a bit worried about is the wing. If I remember correctly, the guy hasn't opened it up himself. We will zip it out of it's bag and open it up together next Saturday and see how it looks.

The Pterodactyl Without Wing

If all goes well, I might have myself my first airplane!

"Find out next time on the hyperbole channel!"
-Scott P. Fletcher

Happy Flying,
Mark Zinkel

Friday, February 22, 2008

Money Makes the World Go Around

"Money makes the world go around." It's true. The more and more I become involved in light aviation, the more I get excited. I'm constantly surrounded by people who want an airplane that does everything. I agree that a Quicksilver with a Rotax 912, brakes, fairings, wheel pants and a windshield is amazing. At the end of the day though, all those accessories are unneeded.

I've realized that you will never get everything you want because what you want never ends. It's like a highway to death. At the same time, you should be allowed to follow your passions and discover where they take you. There's a significant difference between getting what you want and following your dreams. The vector which takes you towards your passion points to happiness, while getting what you want leads people to a state of ignorance.

Right now, I'm looking for a safe, used, and cheep ultralight. Progress of the Skypup has stopped for now. Again, another deadline is coming up and this time I'm not going to put myself at risk of making poor decisions (thanks to everyone who let me know last time). This deadline is the ELSA training deadline which doesn't allow training in ELSA aircraft after January 31, 2010 unless you own the aircraft. I understand that there are ways around the rule (by design), but why allow more problems to fall through the holes.

The Skypup will continue, but for now I'm looking for something that won't take 500 hours to put together. I'm completely willing to buy an airplane without an engine or something that's a little bit damaged. Ultralights are simple and easy to fix. For now, I'll be happy with what I get. It will be a significant step towards my passion and with that, I'm happy.

Money doesn't have to make the world go around,
Mark Zinkel

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Foam, Foam, Everywhere

Most people freak when they hear me talking about building a Styrofoam airplane. I typically get responses like "Are you talking about a real airplane?" When I reply, I'll typically get responses like "I wouldn't get in an airplane made of Styrofoam." I even had one guy who told me that I'm sixteen years old, with no flying experience, no building experience, and certainly no airplane building experience and because of those ridiculous reasons I'm building a flying coffin. It's hard not to laugh at these poorly informed people. It's really discouraging the way mainstream media like FOX and CNN spins everything in a way that keeps them making money and the people entertained. Where's the responsibility?

I've noticed that If I use the term "high density foam," people don't ask questions. That's why I don't use the term. Keeping people excited and a tad bit shocked of the pure magic of the Skypup is what I like doing.

Anyways, all of the above is just a rant. What I really came here to talk about is that I finally got myself blue dow Styrofoam! The Skypup mainly consists of that stuff, so therefore, having access to this stuff is major progress. I've been searching around for several months thinking that it was safest to purchase the foam in the thicknesses called out in the plans. Boy was I wrong. I've found that it's actually perfectly safe to get thick sheets, then splice it down into smaller sheets when needed. In most aspects, it's more convenient since there's less surface area to get damaged in storage.

I called a 50 mile radius from my house, looking for foam in the 3/4 inch thickness. In the end, the place where I purchased my foam wasn't even two miles away! I ended up purchasing the thickest stuff that Dow makes for my desired sheet size (2x8). Oh the joys of being properly informed!

I just saved a lot of money from switching my foam thickness to four inches! I'm a happy man!

(Pictures to come!)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Another Trike Flight!

Well, my birthday has passed and I got another hour flight in Doug's trike! It has been an entire year since I've flown and it was great to finally be flying again. Unfortunately flying is like a drug; the more you fly (NOT on the airlines), the more you want it. Flying on the airlines does the exact opposite and makes you want to kill yourself.

I'd lost the antenna on my Icom A-3 transceiver while biking to the local airport one day. I was hoping that my mom could listen to my radio during the flight to listen to us depart and arrive back at the airport. Another birthday gift given to me was the antenna, but it was still in the mail. Literally five minutes before we left to go to the airport, a package arrived and it just happened to be the antenna! It was like magic! As if it was supposed to happen.

About fifty minutes later, the car was parked just outside the Southwest most hangar. The energy inside me was at the boiling temperature. I shook Doug's hand and he had a genuine smile on his face.

After attaching my camera to a neckband, so it wouldn't accidentally fall out (and through the prop) I got strapped in with Doug's assistance. He pushed the trike out of the hangar, warmed up the engine, and off we taxied towards the runway.

After doing a 360 on the ground looking for traffic flying the wrong side of the pattern (idiot traffic), I heard a click through my helmet. "Lodi traffic, Weight Shift something, something, something, I don't remember is taking off runway three-zero for Southwest departure." We taxied onto the runway and the Rotax 552 (blue) melodically hummed (the fat, ignorant people on the ground that sit on their couch watching the Sopranos all day will complain that it screams). While the trike was rolling (not very long), Doug was explaining how the trike will take off by itself. He didn't give the bar a push or do anything to get flying earlier, he just let the trike do it all by itself while placing his hand just an inch or two away from the control bar. Soon enough, I was no longer shackled on the ground.

About twenty feet above the ground, reality set in. I realized that I was flying! Actually flying! The left side of my brain (the mathematical and systematic side) knew that we were going to fly and was not shocked when we did, but my right side of my brain (creative side) was surprised. There was a definite feeling relief at that moment. It's the feeling of all your worries and stress being left behind.

We climbed even further then made our left turnout. It was a little hazy, so we decided to climb above it and get a clear view of mount Diablo. Along the way we discovered an inversion layer. At 1,400 feet we were above the haze and saw Diablo quite clearly as we headed towards it. To our left was the city of Lodi.

When passing Kindon Airpark a multi engine aircraft took off and it made me realize how slow we were actually going. He rocketed away as we putted along at 42 mph. He can enjoy his speed because we were having so much more fun than he was. Those general aviation guys just don't understand what ultralights are all about. I know that a general aviation guy (or gal) is probably reading this right now, and therefore I challenge you to find an ultralight instructor and get a flight in a Challenger, Quicksilver, trike of any sort, Kolb, etc. Just be warned, you'll soon be purchasing one shortly after.

Soon enough, we were flying over the delta (at a safe altitude of course). This is the place where I've been to many times...on boat and even by air with Dennis. Ahead of us was Lost Isle. After Doug pointed it out, I informed him that that's where all the crazy parties happen.

The rest of the trip was a bit of a blur. I remember seeing all sorts of boats and birds. At one point of the trip, Doug took back control of the trike and I took out my camera and started taking pictures. This was also the time when my body started shivering. Here (below) are those pictures that I took. You can click on any of the pictures, then click on the "all sizes button" to get a high res version. I give you personal permission to use any or all of them for any purpose including commercial uses as long as you let me know what you're doing beforehand to answer my curiosity.

2007-11-21 Mark trike flight 010

2007-11-21 Mark trike flight 009

2007-11-21 Mark trike flight 008

2007-11-21 Mark trike flight 007

2007-11-21 Mark trike flight 006

2007-11-21 Mark trike flight 005
This last picture is my favorite out of them all and I have it hanging on my wall to remind me of the flight.

After leaving the delta, we did some low flight (about 20 feet AGL) over a road in the middle of a massive field. As we gained some altitude when the road made a 90 degree turn, there was a bunch of fake rubber birds to our right in the field. We had a feeling the ducks were used for hunting of some sort. Flying low in a hunting field doesn't give you the best of feelings.

The aiport was near and the flight was almost over. As usual we entered on the 45 into downwind. On the fourty five there was a multi engine airplane (a Baron I believe) departed the airport and flew about 200 feet away and above from us. He took some military guys from Iraq to visit their families in Lodi. As we turned onto downwind there was some idiot (he wasn't flying the idiot pattern though) in a single seat Quicksilver who took off runway 26 and flew in front of us and all over the pattern. Doug felt uneasy and took back control. Once we were on short final we both had control and made our landing pushout on the control bar.
Despite that it got a little cold, it was still a fantastic flight. I can't wait to go again. If you're a pilot and in the Northern Califonia area leave me a comment! Hehe.