I decided to try to beat the heat this morning by getting an early morning flight in. I hitched up the trailer to the truck the night before and had everything ready for an early morning departure. At 04:30 I crawled out of bed and by 04:45 I was on the road. It was already 79 degrees F.
I rolled into New Jerusalem Airport at about 05:20 and began setting up. I first noticed the gnats when I got out to unlock the gate. There was a huge swarm just hanging out where I needed to open my door. I got past them and through the gate. I got to the north end of the field and started setting up. More gnats! Yikes! I started warming up my engine and walked around and stood in the wind created by the propeller to keep them off me.
I drove my PPC to the spot that seemed the best situated and laid out my chute. The weather was PERFECT.
I advanced the throttle and plowed through the gnats into the warm sky. Climbing out I was free of the gnats and was treated to buttery-smooth air. As I climbed out I saw a truck at the far end of the field. I actually saw it before I took off but I thought it was the local farmer checking his pumps like he does every morning. As I flew down the runway I could see it was a powered paraglider. As I got closer I could see it was a friend of mine, Jeff Erck, a super-nice fellow flyer and fellow believer in Christ.
He was just laying his wing out and getting ready to go. By the time I turned he had already taken off and tucked in just behind and to one side of me. I only had my air band radio so I wasn’t able to talk to him so I just flew off over the river and he followed.
I was somewhat worried that my engine temps would be high but as I cruised along they stayed right where I wanted them. After surveying the river for a bit time began to catch up with me. I turned back toward the airport and flew a few approaches.
I committed to landing on the last approach and then got a hair-brained idea… “Why don’t I just roll off onto the dirt in between the runway and taxiway so my chute doesn’t drag on the pavement?” The dirt will be far gentler to the chute; this is true. So after I made a less-than-stellar landing I let my eager craft roll into the dirt and the parachute gently drifted to the ground… And disturbed no less than 800,529 gnats. All of whom came to visit me personally. Many of them also gave me “love bites.” They were very affectionate, all trying to get in my eyes, my nose, my ears, and my mouth!
It took over 30 minutes to put my chute away (should only take 15 minutes tops if I’m being slow and careful). All the swatting must have looked very comical to Jeff who flew by several times. I finally got the chute carefully folded and put back in it’s stowage bag and then fired up the PPC and drove as fast as I could back to the trailer!
All in all it was the most wonderful flight I’ve had yet, gnats gnot withstanding. I will end this entry with a short video I recorded on my phone while I was flying over the river.