The flying at a flyin, is sort of strange. Almost the sole purpose
is to be seen flying by other pilots and spectators. We, the NTHGA
crowd, were invited for that purpose. We were to fly hang gliders
and paragliders, and be seen by other people. This meant that
amongst other things we couldn't afford to screw up.
Loris Bacala and I went to the flyin on Friday afternoon to scope
the scene and set up the scooter tow rig. The first thing we noticed
was that the wind was from entirely the wrong direction. This
meant that we had to set the gliders up about 2000 ft. up the
runway from the ultralight area. This trend was disturbing since
the ultralight area was already 2000 ft. up the runway from everyone
else. Never-the-less, we set up the glider, my Pulse 11 meter,
and Loris prepared to tow. Since we were in the "can't afford
to screw up' area of the Twilight Zone already, I was not totally
reassured that Loris had never flown scooter tow or the Pulse
11 meter, before nor that it had been quite some time since he
had flown. Since I have a great deal of confidence in scooter
tow and the Pulse 11 meter, and in Loris' flying skills on tow,
I just told him to put the big wheels on and get ready. Loris,
the Pulse and scooter tow came through fine. The tow wasn't really
high, but Loris made the best of it and did a nice landing in
front of the Ultralight Coordinator, who was duly impressed. As
he was the only one there, the applause was sparse. I wasn't disappointed
by the lack of spectators, as I already knew that almost no-one
would come out on Friday and it would give us a chance to work
out the bugs.
The first bug was Loris' low tow. The way I arrange scooter tow,
is to run a length of towline out to a turn-around pulley and
back to the pilot who launches next to me. Between the turn-around
pulley and the scooter was a nicely mowed strip of Bermuda grass.
I soon realized that the rope was in a nice curve through the
Bermuda grass and wouldn't pull straight. The dense grass was
acting as a long rope guide which put a lot of extra drag on the
rope. We straightened out the rope and fixed that. Next Loris
towed me up on a paraglider. I immediately towed up to 500 ft.
Within minutes two different reporters from aviation publications
were there to interview me about scooter tow and paragliding.
That was what we were there for, publicity for hang gliding and
paragliding, so we stopped everything and gave interviews. I promoted
the USHGA, the club and our sport as hard as I could, setting
the example that hang gliding and paragliding was not just for
the young by pointing out that I am 53 and going strong in the
We finally completed 3 tows each, packed up leaving the scooter
tow system and the hang glider behind.
The game plan next morning was get to Lavon North at 7 in the
morning, departing with another ultralight to XC to Alliance Airport,
a distance of about 70 miles via the route we would take north
of Lake Lewisville. At 45 mph IAS, this would put Loris and I
at the airport about 8:30 AM, and ready to aerotow by 9 AM when
the flyin was supposed to open for the public. So go the plans
of mice and men. I was getting a helmet setup with earphones for
the flight, and the guys
who had it weren't up at 7:00 AM. Further, it was very hazy, and
I wasn't sure I had adequate visibility, nor could I find my map
of the TCA. By 8 AM, I had my helmet, gotten a glance at the other
ultralight's map, and got strapped into my Pterodactyl. I couldn't
wait around for the other ultralight, so I split. I had what I
thought was a very accurate magnetic compass and I left with a
heading calculated to take me over McKinney airport, but then
navigationally, I was on my own. I passed right over McKinney
airport, which wasn't hard, since on a clear day I could see it
from 2000 feet over Lavon North and continued at the same heading.
I sort of recognized the roads, from many hang glider flights
over the area and many bicycle rides through it, but I was used
to being at 0 feet AGL on the bike and at 5000 feet AGL on the hang
glider, so everything looked a little strange. I couldn't figure
out if I was looking at one road or another when I passed over
Aero Country Airport. This told me that the road I was over was
380 and I just had to follow it to Denton. I did this, holding
an altitude of about 2000 ft., when I was passed by the other
ultralight which was a two place with both seats taken and flying
at a much higher wing loading. I sped up, and began cursing at
Vne, 55 mph,, which I seldom do because of fuel consumption and
because of worrying about turbulence. Turbulence was no problem
at 8:30 in the morning, and I expected to have twice the fuel
I needed to make it to Alliance, in fact, being so confident that
I hadn't even started with totally full tanks. Hmmm, higher fuel
consumption, tanks not totally fuel. My brows wrinkled. "Dumb
guy alert, dumb guy alert." I looked under my armpit at the
gas tanks behind me. Opps, my harness wouldn't let me stretch
enough to see them. Oh well, I just needed to keep enough altitude
for an emergency landing if I needed one. The other ultralight
descended immediately. I decided to keep the high position and
slowed down to 50 mph. Not having a map and only having a 30
sec. glance at one before leaving, I expected to either follow
roads or the other ultralight to Alliance airport. Gradually the
other ultralight flew away from me, and about the time that I
passed Lake Lewisville, he vanished in the distance. I knew that
if I wanted to go the long way, I could go to Denton, fly the
outskirts to US 35W and follow it down to Alliance. Otherwise
I could trust my compass which was a geenuwine aviation compass
and just take a compass course of 235 knowing I would eventually
cross 35W and be able to find the airport by flying south, I hoped.
My butt was falling asleep. The choice was made. Compass heading
of 235. After a while, I passed a BIG highway. What was that?
Could that be 35W? Just before I would have decided to follow
it south, I suddenly realized that it had to be 35E which joins
35W at Denton. Big shudder. I realized that I was still some way
from Alliance. I droned along, passing various roads and housing
developments and faithfully holding my compass heading of 235.
Eventually, I noticed that I was almost paralleling another BIG
highway, and I could see an airport runway on the wrong side of
it. Just before I would have landed to ask directions, I noticed
a sign, A__o Vall_y on the roof. Oh, this must be Aero Valley
Airport. NEVER HEARD of it. The runway markings indicated that
my heading was substantially correct, so I peered out into the
distance through the haze, and was sure I saw some very big buildings
in the distance. Sure enough, they soon resolved themselves into
Alliance Airport and I started my descent into the 500 foot ultralight
pattern. I quickly noted that the wind socks were hanging straight
down, and that people were flying the reverse of the pattern of
the day before. I zoomed in, landed, got out of the plane, kissed
the ground 3 times, and then stretched and relaxed. The other
ultralight from Lavon North seemed to have just taxied to a stop.
I didn't see it in the pattern, but concluded that they must have
arrived only minutes before.
"Did you see the EMU ranch?" They said. "The EMUs
scattered every which way when we passed over." I concluded
that they had much more confidence in their engine and fuel supply
than I did and had been flying "Nap of the Earth", perhaps
trying to avoid enemy radar.
All of the people who were there to help and fly, Dan Mauk, Doug
Wenger, Tre' Groschell and Glider Babe, (Opps, I'm a sexist pig!)
I mean, Linda Wacht, were standing and waiting. I explained why
I was late, lying and claiming that the tower had put me on hold
and I had been circling for hours. "Well, lets get the show
on the road.", I said, looking around for my truck and Loris.
I had lost radio contact with Loris almost seconds after I took
off. Loris was driving the truck and supposed to be following
me. I expected him to beat me there, but he hadn't made it. I
had forgotten to give Loris precise directions on how to get to
the airport, and I had visions of him arriving in Decatur or Oklahoma
City and asking where the airport was. Dan called Loris on the
cellular phone in the truck, and Loris assured us that he was
only 10 minutes away.
About 30 minutes later, he actually arrived, and we unloaded. The air was already hot, and the Dac was not running totally smoothly, so we put off doing aerotows and decided to focus on scooter tow. We soon noticed that the predicted winds were from the north, so we moved the previous nights setup around to the opposite direction, and started towing. The first thing we noticed was that with no wind, the paraglider was hard to inflate and launch. After several launch failures, I figured I needed to be wind dummy, and tried a launch myself. No luck, the canopy wouldn't come up. I mumbled something about needing winds, then thought. I was sure we were doing something different than we had previously. Sure enough, light throttle pressure until the pilot got the canopy straight overhead was all it took and Linda and I immediately got several successful tows. We got the hang glider going and got a few tows in with it as well. Pretty soon, we had a number of spectators and other pilots standing around asking questions.
Almost immediately, a HG pilot walked up who was from Seattle,
now living near Fort Worth. He told me that he didn't know that
it was possible to hang glide in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Immediately
we towed up another pilot, just to prove it was possible. Next,
up walked two of my former students, a father and son, who had
tried paragliding and were ready to try again. Mean-while, the
father had bought a trike and was flying it. We had visitors like
this all day, people who had never hang glided and wanted to try,
and those who had started once and wanted to try again. A common
story, "I took a lesson in '86' but I didn't think that there
was much way to fly around here so I didn't keep going."
All, in all, we were getting as much attention as the ultralights.
Among the ultralights, my Pterodactyl attracted it's share. People
would walk over and say, "That looks like something the Wright
Bros. flew", or "I can see why it's called a Pterodactyl,
sure looks old" or just "This sure is a weird looking
aircraft" Among the cognoscenti, the Pterodactyl got some
respect, as they knew that it was a 15 year old design which had
won the ultralight national championship the last two years running.
There, the questions centered around the Cuyuna engine which had
a totally undeserved reputation for unreliability. I told them
how I was using it for aerotow and they walked away impressed.
We planned to do an aerotow demonstration that evening, but a
storm was building off in the distance, and strangely, it rained
heavily in the exposition area while we only received a few drops
just a few hundred yards away. We decided to put off the aerotow
until the next day, and finished off the day with scooter tow.
The next morning, Loris and I arrived at 8 AM, ready to do an
aerotow, but no one was there. I wasn't going to do a tow with
an inexperienced pilot, so we were waiting for Doug to show. Finally,
he did show up, and we set up and did one aerotow. The flyin rules
restricted us to a maximum of 500 ft. and besides, I could see
by the rpm of the engine that my reduction drive was slipping
so we didn't do another. I just restricted myself to flying the
Dac solo around the pattern just to prove to people that such
an ungainly looking aircraft could never-the-less fly well.
Gary Sheer showed up, and helped for most of the day. I finished
off the day by towing Gary twice on my Pulse 11 meter. Been a
while for him too. Oh well, them H4/instructor types never forget.
I didn't look forward to flying back to Lavon North in the middle
of the day, but I put on my new safety harness, checked the count
of safety rings, about 29 on the Pterodactyl Ptug, did a radio
check, and blasted off. I was soon at 800 ft. and winging my way
back. I couldn't hear Loris on the radio. I called and called,
but no Loris. I flew to the northeast, and which showed a compass
heading of 300 degrees. I didn't think much about it as I knew
exactly where I was going. I could see Aero Valley in the distance,
and I planned to fly there then turn right to go straight east.
When I did, the compass showed west???? Hmmm, I must need to compensate
it a little. Oh, well, I was flying by pilotage anyway. I could
see Lake Lavon, and knew I needed to fly north of Lake Lavon to
Lewisville. At Lewisville, I could clearly see the dam of Lake
Lewisville, an old time hang glider site. There, I knew, the TCA
was down to 2000 ft. MSL. Not to worry. I was flying at 1600 MSL
which put me about 800 ft. high. I got a nice view of every swimming
pool around and was strongly tempted to land and hit the pool.
I wondered what the Lewisville Country Club would have thought
of THAT? Probably would think I was a Hell's Angel of the Sky
and throw me out. I kept looking for Loris below and occasionally
transmitting on my radio. Eventually I unhooked the radio from
the harness and looked at the display. I was transmitting continuously.
Opps, my vox was on. I fixed that, but my battery was so low that
I could now only receive.
The most noticeable thing about the flight was the thermal activity.
I wonder why a thermal is so much more welcome on a hang glider
than an ultralight, and so much harder to find. I guess that passing
through a thermal at 50 mph does give it a little more of a KICK.
I kept wondering if vital parts of my plane might fall off. Flying
a Pterodactyl has it's moments, not the least of which is that
from the pilot's seat there are at least a dozen safety rings
in view, any of which are all that stand between you and immediate
use of your reserve. Even more unnerving is that there are another
15 or so out of your sight with the same sort of importance. Every
time I gave the plane full throttle, the belts would slip for
a while, the engine would turn 7000 RPM and the plane would vibrate
like crazy. I wondered if safety rings could vibrate loose. Oh
well, I had my new Quantum parachute equipped Second Chantz Air
Rocket which I was sure was full of fresh nitrogen, wasn't it.
Did I check that? Yeah, I did, last week. Hope it doesn't have
a slow leak.
Fortunately, I had seen the light, and topped off my gas tanks
at Alliance, so fuel worries didn't bother me. I knew that I shouldn't
need more than a half tank if I didn't get lost. I kept flying
down 121 towards McKinney, and eventually passed near my training
site. I started hearing plaintive calls from Loris asking where
I was, and more significantly where Lavon North Air Port was.
I tried calling him, but the radio refused to transmit with a
As I approached McKinney Municipal Airport, I suddenly remembered that pattern height was 800 ft. AGL which was about my altitude. I throttled up, and shot up another 800 ft. As there wasn't another plane to be seen, the precaution was probably not necessary, but by the book is better than catch as catch can, and being mowed down by a Cessna 210 would probably make everyone involved REALLY mad.
Once at McKinney Municipal Airport, I knew the way to North Lavon Airport, so I
climbed to cross Lake Lavon.