The Obligatory New Year’s Post

Happy New Year 2020!

Wow, 2020.  Seems so futuristic.

Sealab 2020 (1972)

When I was a kid in the 1970’s 2020 seemed so far away with it’s underwater cities and moon bases.  Here it is and we don’t live underwater or on the moon.  Instead we’ve expanded to living in tents on sidewalks or under freeway overpasses.

But I’m not going to turn this into social commentary.  I am, however, going to take a look at the past 10 years and how much things have changed for my family.  Way back in 2010 I was building my second airplane with the help of my kids.  I did the majority of the work but they did help on many components.

We were attending church at Central Valley Presbyterian where I was a deacon.  Also, Cristy had to make an emergency trip back home to the Philippines because her father passed away. That’s how the decade began.

In 2011 I sold our pop-up tent trailer in which I had taken the family on several camping trips.  The most memorable of which was Zion Canyon National Park.  I also flew the Rans S6 to Oshkosh, WI for EAA Airventure.  My oldest graduated high school.

In 2012 we took a family trip to Maui.  Yep, all of us, mother-in-law included.  However, my daughter had broken her ankle just prior to the trip… and then came down with a cold!  She didn’t get to have much fun in Hawaii, poor thing.  But she made up for that later.

In 2013 life was pretty much on auto-pilot.  Going to work, going home.  Home-schooling our daughter was coming to an as we put her in a private school so she could get some socialization and a real-live high school diploma.  Two kittens named Jovie and Truffles showed up in my son’s pockets one day when he came home.  Truffles still lives with us.  Jovie moved on shortly after he came to live with us.  Cristy and I also took a trip to Oregon to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

   

In 2014 I was beginning to explore full-time RV living.  I started coming up with a plan to travel from property to property for my employer to do network work.  However 2015 would put an end to those dreams, temporarily.

2015 was a harbinger of change for our lives.  Our daughter graduated from high school and we changed churches.

2015 was also when I had an accident in my airplane.  I landed up in the Sierra Nevada foothills and took the landing gear off.  Hey, it could happen to anybody!  Unfortunately, it happened to me.  We got a big insurance settlement and everything was good.  I was putting the airplane up for sale anyway.  It was at this point Cristy and I were seriously looking at RV’s so I was looking for a more portable form of aviation.  I found it in the form of powered paragliding.

2016 was a gut punch.  I was told that my entire department would be laid off that year.  Also my son was going through some extreme behaviors.  It seemed like my life was about to hit rock bottom.  SEEMED.  We started putting my son in group homes which he kept getting kicked out of due to his behaviors.  But 2016 was the year God truly moved in our lives.  He found a home that was able to really work with my son.  And He found me a job.  This is when I started working at San Joaquin General Hospital.  To celebrate my getting a job we took a family road trip to SoCal.  I also got a Ham radio license so I could legally use a Ham radio on my powered-paraglider.

 

In 2017 life started getting somewhat better for us.  My son was living in a home only 5 miles from where I worked.  My daughter was getting very involved in church and starting college.  Cristy and I also celebrated our 30th anniversary in Hawaii.

 

 

 

 

 

Also, Angela finished the Spartan Race

By 2017 I had sold my powered paraglider and had bought my powered parachute.  Cristy and I had also started walking more, trying to get in shape.

2018 was another year that brought a lot of change.  Mostly in me.  Through walking and intermittent fasting I was able to lose about 50 lbs.

This is me just prior to losing weight…

And this is what I looked like post weight loss…

2019 was a sad year.  We lost my sister Sheila to cancer.  We lost my wife’s cousin Jaime to kidney disease.  I was diagnosed with invasive malignant melanoma.

2019 was a happy year because we became part of a small group at our new church.  We received a lot of support from them and they came along side us in prayer many times.  The doctors were able to remove all of the melanoma.  I also sold my powered parachute and began flying rental airplanes.  I got back into regular airplanes after a young man from my old church took me for a ride to pay me back for all those times I took him for rides when he was learning to fly.  Now we fly together whenever we can.

2019 ended with my son being removed from a bad living situation in the group home he was in.  He now lives back in town with us, which, he has been asking for quite some time.  My daughter also bought a poodle this year.

It’s been a tumultuous decade.  We’ve covered a lot of territory in the last 10 years.  Who knows where we’ll be 10 years from now.  Not sure but I sure like where we are now.  I wouldn’t trade a second of the last 10 years for anything.  I’ve seen God’s faithfulness and Providence countless times.  I see God’s love in those around me every day.  I don’t expect that to change much.  I’ll keep doing what I can to reflect God’s love to those around me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aeronautical Contact

It’s been somewhat breezy in California’s vast Central Valley this past week but the winds died down this past Sunday evening and I took advantage.  I loaded up my powered parachute and high-tailed it out to New Jerusalem Airport.  I got off the ground at about 6pm.  The winds near the ground were mildly rowdy, and I mean mildly.  As I climbed up through 300 feet MSL ( above mean sea level), the air became silky and warm.

I brought along my Icom VX-6R Ham radio HT (handi-talkie) to try to make an aeronautical contact.  I was circling the field and called out on the SARA repeater frequency.  I got an immediate call back from KM6MHT.  A gentleman by the name of Mike whom I talk to on the radio every now and again on my commute home.  He said I was pretty scratchy but readable but since we both heard each other we can log it.  Since the radio was so heard to hear I decided to just put it away and enjoy the evening flight.

I flew around the New Jerusalem area (just southeast of Tracy, California) and enjoyed the sunset.  The air was perfect, there was no traffic, it was so peaceful.  I shot three landings for practice and then decided to put my PPC away before it got dark.  It was then that I found the only flaw in my day… the mosquitoes!  I put my PPC away in record time and jumped into my pickup truck to escape the onslaught.  It was a perfect end to the weekend.img_20190331_185446

Aeronautical Contact

Image result for yaesu vx-6rFor quite some time I’ve been trying to join up my hobbies of aviation and Ham radio.  Every time I tried to call someone they either didn’t respond or if they did they said I was unreadable.  Well, today I figured out there was a 9 volt battery in my headset that has been there probably since the thing was made.  I changed out the battery yesterday and tried it with my Yaesu VX-6 today.  I unloaded my powered parachute and warmed up the engine.  While it was warming up I tried to make contact with any station from the ground using my headset.  I stood at a good distance from the running powered parachute to minimize both ambient and electrical noise.  I got a call back saying that I was loud and clear!  So my next step was to sit in the seat with the engine running and make another call.  I shut my engine off and rolled the craft onto the runway and got it all set up.  I sat down, strapped in, fired up the engine and made another call as N6SVA-AERONAUTICAL.  The local hams knew what was up by now so I got a couple of call backs all of which said I was perfectly readable even with my engine running.  Next step, pour the coals to my powered parachute and get it up in the air!

I climbed up to only about 100 feet or so and made another call.  This time appending AERONAUTICAL to my callsign. The first ham operator to respond was Gary from Manteca, WA6UXA.  He said he could definitely hear my engine but I was completely understandable.  Success!  I thanked him for the reply and then got my second aeronautical contact from Roy, KK6OQP.  It was actually quite thermally so I went ahead and landed counting my morning as completely successful.  Then I got another call from a gentleman in Sacramento trying to make an aeronautical contact.  He was a little crestfallen when he found out I was back on the ground already.  Well, this was just a test after all.

My next goal is to try to be airborne for the next Parachute Mobile event.  I’ll be calling a ham operator who has jumped out of a plane and is descending in a parachute while I’m ASCENDING in a powered parachute!  Nerdy aviation, I love it!

Saturday Flying

My good weather flying streak has moved into it’s second day.  I got up early this morning and drove out to New Jerusalem for another morning of flying.  I got out to New J around 7am and was off the ground by 7:30am.  I flew south along the San Joaquin river initially.  I was noting how high it’s running and looking at the fog that had formed over it.  It was quite beautiful in the early morning hours.

Then I flew west along Highway 132, my old commute to work.  Then I turned northward and flew up Highway 33 towards Tracy.  As I came upon Kasson road I turned back east and flew around the airport for a while.  I only spent about an hour in the air but it was very enjoyable.

 

 

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Don’t tell the cops I ran a red light!

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Different almond varieties all planted in neat rows.  Note how some are flowering and others are in various stages of budding.  This farmer must harvest all year long!

I had an adventure on the way home and didn’t even know.  As I pulled up in front of my house I noticed that the battery that run’s my utility trailer’s winch was dragging along the ground.  It was attached to the trailer only by the two battery cables!  Both sides of the batter were scuffed up pretty badly and the top casing of the battery was chipped, however, the battery still worked!  I’ll be replacing the battery but it’s amazing how tough this little battery is!  FYI it’s a ExpertPower 12 Volt 18 Ah Rechargeable Battery (EXP12180).

 

I’ve secured the battery a little better so I’m ready to head out again!  More pictures from the next flight.

EDIT:  Forgot to add video from today’s flight.

Parachute Mobile Mission MISSED!

I drove out to New Jerusalem this morning on a mission to attempt to make contact on my ham radio with another ham.  He was to be coming down in his parachute while I was going up in mine.  Sadly it didn’t work out that way.  My radio was unreadable… AGAIN.  So I contented myself with merely enjoying the beautiful scenery.

After all the storms today was just stunning.  It was a perfect Spring day.  I could smell the almond blossoms and alfalfa from 400 feet up.  I’m afraid I’m going to have to do this all over again tomorrow.

Enjoy a little raw video footage:

 

Parachute Mobile Mission 34: March 16, 2019

Going to try to participate in Parachute Mobile tomorrow morning but I’m going to try to take it one step father. I’m going to try to contact a parachute from a parachute, a powered parachute that is.

More info about parachute mobile is available on their website:

https://wp.me/p1po2b-tD

Finally Back At New Jerusalem

Had a fantastic afternoon today.  The winds were calm and there was a high overcast layer meaning there would be no thermal activity today.  Temperature was about 60 degrees.  It was perfect flying weather.IMG_20190126_153750

My wife wanted to get out of the house so she tagged along.  She packed some water and some snacks and her book and she just chilled in the truck while I flew around.  At one point she came out and took some pictures of me while I was flying around.  I flew in circles around her a few times and then flew out to look for coyotes and jackrabbits.

 

“Cristy, you look like an ant from up here!”

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Finally here is some video I shot during the flight.  Enjoy!

 

Flying At Oakdale Again

This past Saturday I towed my powered parachute out to Oakdale Municipal Airport for our EAA Chapter 90 meeting.  The plan was merely to give the trailer an extensive road test.  However, once I arrived at Oakdale the conditions were perfect for a PPC flight.  As I had not flown for over 3 months I jumped at the chance to give it a go.

After warming up I taxied down to the blastway on the runway 10 end of the field.  This would be the extreme west end.  I laid out my chute and strapped in.  Moments later as I advanced the throttle and lurched forward I noticed that a small crowd had gathered to watch me fly.   I’ve flown out of that field probably more times in 26 years than most of the other club members.  Now that I fly out of New Jerusalem so much it’s kind of a rare event to see me flying there.  There were plenty of cameras to gather documentary evidence.  My friend Les Homan was kind enough to supply the following pictures and video.

 

First the takeoff…

 

And the landing…

 

It felt very good to fly the pattern at Oakdale again.  As well as catch up with old friends.

Speaking of Trailers

So recently I sold the cargo trailer that I used to haul my powered parachute around.  It was nice in that it had lots of storage and was convenient to sleep in when I went to fly-ins but it was a bear to tow.   Because of its high profile it was very susceptible to wind and the faster I drove, the worse my gas mileage got due to the wind resistence of the trailer.

To remedy this I purchased and built up a Harbor Freight trailer.  I built it pretty much standard as it comes out of the box.  I put a 3/4 inch plywood deck on the top of it and then got it registered and licensed.  As a side note there was a problem registering Harbor Freight trailers for a short while but that issue has been straightened out.  Registration was pretty easy though a little time consuming.  The process is basically:

  1. Complete an Application for Title of Registration (Form REG 343).  This is available for download from the California DMV website.
  2. Bring the form along with the trailer’s title California DMV office.  Harbor Freight will give you a title when they sell the trailer kit to you.
  3. Bring documentation of sale price of the trailer (the receipt from Harbor Freight)

I suggest making a reservation at the DMV office rather than just showing up.  You’ll still have to wait but it won’t be as long a wait. Once it was my turn, they checked out the trailer (mostly just making sure the VIN number matched what was on the paperwork) and then handed me the license plates before I even left the office.  The official registration was mailed to me later.

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Since the trailer is too narrow for the wheelbase of the PPC, I added some outriggers on the rear of the trailer and cut a section from a loading ramp and bolted it across the outriggers.  This became the platform for the rear wheels.  I mounted it upside down to keep the wheels from sliding off the edges.  I also placed a heavy duty floor mat on this platform to keep the metal from cutting into the PPC’s tires.  The remainder of the cut up loading ramps were used as… you guessed it… loading ramps.  They will be finished off with ATV straps (not shown in these photos) that will hold the tires down on the platforms.

My PPC isn’t all that heavy but pulling it up the ramps has to be done slowly and carefully so that the wheels don’t fall off the sides of the ramps.  To make that a more precise operation I mounted a winch in the front of the trailer.  It is remotely operated so I can stand in front of the PPC and guide it carefully onto the trailer while the winch does the pulling.  I also added a battery to operate the winch rather than run it off my truck power.  I’ll just put the battery on a charger every month or so and it should be fine.

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Now I just have to wait for the weather to clear up so I can give the trailer a test and drive it out to New Jerusalem and do some flying!

Here’s a bonus video of me describing the trailer.

High Sierra Flyin 2018

I finally got to return to the High Sierra Fly-in this year after missing last year due to having my parachute repaired and inspected.  The High Sierra Fly-in or HSF was started by a group of guys who liked to land their airplanes at off airport airstrips and in out of the way places.  I joined them a few years in my Rans S6ES.  That was why I built it in the first place.  Even after I had exchanged my fixed wing for my powered paraglider I still went to HSF.  This year will probably be my last but I’ll get to that later.

HSF is held on Flanagan Dry Lake which we call Dead Cow Lake.  That’s because the first time our organizer, Kevin Quinn, landed there he came across a dead cow and so the place was called that.  Dead Cow is roughly 2 miles wide by 4 miles long.  It has lots of room to maneuver and park airplanes.   Lots of camping space too.  A few of our group purchased property on the northwest shoreline of the dry lake and this is where we camp.  The rest of the lakebed is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and is open to the public for recreational use.

 

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I left on Thursday morning and made the 5 hour drive to Dead Cow.  I took the long way which is on mostly paved roads.  There is a shorter route that is pretty heavily washboarded and rutted.  I elected to spare my trailer this abuse.  It was only about 30 minutes longer to drive the northern route anyway.

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The last part of the drive was across deeply rutted roads piled almost a foot deep of fine dust the consistency of talcum powder.  I was really nervous about this last portion of the drive even though it’s only two miles or so.  My truck doesn’t have 4 wheel drive so I was a little concerned about getting stuck but the truck, even pulling a cargo trailer, did just fine and I made it out on the the playa of the lakebed.  The lakebed itself is as hard as concrete and almost as smooth.

I drove around a while looking for familiar faces or a good place to camp.  I finally ran across some other PPC’ers at the extreme southern end of the camping area.  There was a small “bay” in the dry lake that was a perfect place to launch PPCs.  I pulled in next to them and set up camp.

 

 

I got done just as the sun was about to set.  My windsock indicated that there was ZERO wind and it was 73 degrees.  Perfect time to go fly.  So the evening I arrived I got to take my first flight at HSF 2018.  It was about as perfect a flight as you can get.  The only problem I had was I had to run full throttle to stay airborne.  After landing I realized I hadn’t changed the mixture in the carburetor but I was now operating at 4000 feet above sea level.  I changed to a leaner jet in the carburetor and this seemed to solve my problem.

 

I flew for a short time with one of the guys I was camped next to, Ryan.  He has the exact same PPC as I do, a Six Chuter P3 Lite. (sorry for the blurry photo)

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After landing and putting my parachute away I broke out an MRE, heated it up, and had a nice dinner under the stars.  There were no clouds and only a half moon so the stars were pretty bright.  I had my propane heater on the ground in front of me keeping me warm since temperatures in the desert drop rapidly after the sun goes down.  That’s no joke.  It was 73 degrees at sunset, by sunrise the next morning it was only 23 degrees!

At sunrise I got up and took care of business.  I saw Ryan getting his P3 ready so I decided to go fly too.  It was around 8:00am by this time and it had warmed up to about 35 degrees.  I had my thermal layer on, a thick fleece, my North Face jacket, and some ski pants on and they were just enough to keep me warm while flying.  My nose was freezing though!  35 degrees air temperature and a 35 MPH wind equals about 20 degrees with the wind chill factor.  Still it was another great flight.  So great that I flew 3 more times that morning!  I made several passes over the main part of the camping area to the north.  Even though the even did not begin until Saturday, it’s amazing how many planes and campers were already there Friday morning!

 

All in all on Friday I flew 5 times, two more times in the evening plus the three flights that morning.   Here’s a short clip of me flying over the campsites.

 

I didn’t stay for the entire event however.  As Saturday morning progressed more and more airplanes arrived and there was more and more activity over the lakebed.  I didn’t feel safe flying my parachute in the area any longer.  There were a few other guys there with PPCs but they tended not to wait around for me.  I didn’t want to fly alone away from the lakebed very far and I didn’t feel safe flying in the lakebed so I decided to pack it up and head home.

The most worrisome part of getting home was the access road to the lakebed.  It was full of that deep powder only this time I was driving uphill to get out.  I was afraid my two-wheel drive pickup and cargo trailer would get stuck.  However, they did just fine and I was soon out on the main road.  Four hours later I was pulling in front of my house.

I really enjoyed this year’s High Sierra Fly in, however, I think this will be the last year I attend.  For a few reasons.  First and foremost, it is DUSTY!  The alkali dust doesn’t bother me too much but I worry about what it does to my machine and parachute.  I intend to clean both but still… it’s not good for the machine.  The second reason I’m not returning is the same thing that makes the event so awesome… the sheer number of aircraft attending.  It’s a crazy awesome mix of Oshkosh and Burning Man.  I know a lot of pilots bristle when I say that but that’s exactly what it is.  The more aircraft that attend the more chance we have of attracting those who don’t operate their aircraft as safely as we do.  If I had a fixed wing airplane still I wouldn’t hesitate to go, however, my slow plodding PPC just doesn’t mix well with the other aircraft.  Could it be done safely?  Yes.  Is it worth the risk?  Not to me.  Not at this point in my life.

We finish old chapters and start new chapters in life.  Doors close.  Doors open.  It’s not like I’m giving up flying.  There are still some really nice (and smaller) fly ins closer to home that are more conducive to my type of flying.  I’ll stick to these from now on.  I wish the organizers of the High Sierra Fly in all the best and sincerely hope everyone operates as safely as possible.

Fly safe.