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!