Darkhorse 450 pt. 8

Dropping in to Jamestown Oct5 2019

Launch at 0945

If you’ve ever used a GoPro you know how finicky and battery hungry they can be. Mine started having problems in Smithville so I didn’t get any footage going into Jamestown.

That’s disappointing because the terrain started to get more rugged and it was beautiful. Climbing out of Smithville the air had really started to get active. Until I broke through 2500′ the wind was not in my favor and I had some doubts about making the 56 miles to Jamestown. That changed pretty quick.

My average speed was 38mph, 52 at the highest. My youngest loves the Pixar movie “Planes”. Ok, I love the Pixar movie “Planes”. In it our hero, Dusty Crophopper, has to overcome his fear of heights and get up into the fast moving jetstream to gain time and win the big race. This felt kind of like that. It felt like breaking through a wall in the sky, a rough, slow slog through a few hundred feet of trashy air. Then I could see the terrain starting to slide by faster and my ground speed shot from 15-40 in just a few seconds.

After that I knew I’d make it. I spent most of the next hour at around 4000′. An altitude that used to make me very uncomfortable, but I needed it to get the speed and make the most of the day.

Even up that high it was not smooth air. The thermals weren’t quite as sharp and the wind was pretty consistent but I didn’t have much opportunity to sit back and relax.

Coming into Jamestown the wind at ground level had picked up to 10-15 which made the landing super soft. I just parked about one foot off the ground and stepped down. For a few seconds I had to fight my wing to stop flying but it came down, finally.

This is where I met a young man named Neil. I hope I’m spelling that right. For anyone worried about the capabilities of the current crop of young people, Neil swings the average hard to the positive side.

He was working in a hanger when he saw me walking my motor over to the fuel farm. Immediately he jumped up and came out to introduce himself. He is a high school student and trusted to run the whole place by himself some days, this being one. It didn’t take long to see why.

Neil was a big help at Jamestown.

As I searched for the wallet I lost in my pocket(it was a long morning), Neil pulled out the fuel hose and grounded my motor, then went through the process of activating the fuel pump while I measured oil to mix my fuel.

He saved me time , but more importantly, effort. Afterwards he gave us a quick tour of Jamestown airport. And showed us a very cool two-place powered parachute.

Powered Parachute, a different animal than a Paramotor.

Then it was time to pack up and head out. The ground team started out before I launched hoping to be at Scott for the landing.

Neil helped me carry gear out to big grass island he suggested as a launch area, and I got strapped in. The air had gotten more intense as the day advanced and thermal activity had really started to pick up.

My first attempt was a forward launch, I didn’t think the air was steady enough to pull a reverse.

I got a cravat(wing tip tucked under the lines) on the left side during inflation and I couldn’t shake it out, so I aborted. In the process the wing flipped over as I turned to face it and kite it down. Neil started jogging over to help.

I had practiced this situation kiting several times and really did not want to drop gear, reset the wing, and strap in again. So I snatched the brakes hard, inflated the wing inverted, let the breeze clear the cravat, then pulled left brake until the wing flipped over into a reverse launch configuration. I was pretty proud of that move(yes I’m still a rookie, I can say things like that). Then I grabbed the A’s and pulled off a decent reverse launch.

I got snatched into the air, turned East and promptly had the scariest flight to date. It was just past noon, the thermals were strong and sharp, and there was almost a 90 degree crosswind blowing 15-20 at altitude.

26 miles to go.

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