|Juhtumisi laias maailmas...
|1. leht 1-st|
|Autor:||Heino [ Neljapäev Juul 17, 2014 4:46 pm ]|
|Teema pealkiri:||Juhtumisi laias maailmas...|
Eks juhtub nii mõndagi, kopeeritud tekst, mõnus lugemine :
Many people look up at PPG pilots as we fly overhead, or watch us launch and land our graceful little aircraft and think we're crazy and this sport is exceptionally dangerous. While it is true that the sport does have its hazards, we all do what we can to mitigate the hazards and reduce the risks to acceptable levels. There are, however, some forms of danger that you just CANNOT prepare for.
And with that preamble, my little PPG tale begins...
It was a beautiful early summer day. I was at my favorite launch area, a large open field maybe 1,200 feet by 2,000 feet near a large church in rural western Kentucky. The field belongs to the church (I believe) and is well cared for and regularly mowed. At the west end of the field running north/south is about 1/3 of a mile of abandoned four lane road that is closed off to traffic but gets a fair amount of use as a runway by RC aircraft users. Across the abandoned road is cropland (corn) for about 1/2 a mile. At the east end of the field is a line of trees maybe 30 to 40 feet high, separating my LZ field from a farmer's hay field.
It was about 6:30pm and I was preparing to launch from the field. The sky was clear, there were no RC planes flying, no other PPG'ers, and the wind was almost nil. Maybe 1-3mph from the west. You couldn't ask for much better conditions for an nice evening flight.
I was set up near the tree line facing west into the slight breeze. My 28m2 Velocity Edge wing was laid out perfectly about 25-30 feet from the tree line, giving me about 1,170 feet of open field as a runway before I would get to the abandoned road - much more than I would need even in nil wind. I strapped into my Blackhawk 125 Kestrel Pro and went through my process: Right leg strap on and secure. Left leg strap on and secure. Belly strap on and secure. Chest strap on and secure. The engine started on the first pull and I did my test run-up. Perfect! That's when I realized I had left my cell phone in the truck. I took off the paramotor and went to get the phone.
A few short minutes later I was strapped back in with my check process complete, and cell phone in my right harness pouch. I clipped into my wing for a forward launch. It was about as close to textbook perfect as I imagine a launch could be. The canopy came up straight and even and I was off the ground in maybe 15-20 steps. There were no wing oscillations as I flew smoothly over the abandoned road and into the airspace over the cornfield. The air was silky smooth and there wasn't a bump to be felt, even with my low hang point weight shift Blackhawk unit. "Wow", I thought to myself, "how much more perfect could a flight be"?
I didn't know it at the time, but I was about to find out how fast a flight could go from heavenly to hellish.
The first indication that something was amiss was when I looked up at my wing. It was flying smooth and stable, but about 1/3 of the way from the left wingtip and about 1/3 of the way from the trailing edge of the wing I could see a dark spot on the wing. A silhouette. It looked like I had scooped something up into one of the cells. Maybe some leaves or a mat of grass from the launch field? I wracked my brain as to how that happened because I checked the wing when I laid it out. I doubt I would have missed that. Yet there it was. Oh well. I was flying with no problem, so I'd remove whatever it was when I landed.
A few minutes later, cruising around over the fields at about 300 feet, I looked at the wing again. The grass/leaves silhouette was now back near the trailing edge. I was thinking to myself, "I guess the wind entering the wing worked it back there. I'll have no problem remov...."
I said it out loud, although no one could have heard my inquiry. And certainly no one could have imagined the correct answer. No one.
As I was looking up at the silhouette of whatever was in the cell of my wing, it rapidly moved from the training edge of the wing towards the front, stopping at about 12 inches from the cell opening. It didn't make any sense. I was flying level at about 25mph. The wind entering the cells at the leading edge should not allow any debris in the cells to move forward. It should move it towards the rear. Right? Now I wasn't sure. The inside of the cells were pressurized. The wind wasn't blowing through..... but still...
The silhouette moved up to the cell opening. As I watched, I saw something begin to emerge from the cell opening. My mouth dropped open as I looked up at what was looking back down at me. Sticking out of the cell opening on my wing, wide-eyed and looking absolutely terrified, was the head of a grey squirrel. Little bastard must have crawled in there when I was off getting my cell phone.
My mind raced. "Let's see... the PPG bible... what does it say about wildlife stowing away in the wing cells?" I couldn't remember seeing that in any chapter. "Risk & Reward?" Nope. I didn't recall anything there about this either. "Damn it, Jeff Goin! Why didn't you cover this part? What the hell do I do now?!" I had no idea. Leave the squirrel alone? Land and let him escape from the wing? What if he started to destroy the wing? He had claws and teeth, after all. "Holy shit!!!"
I decided that the thing to do was just to land and let the squirrel escape from the wing. Partly because there wasn't much else I could do. Ok. No problem. That's what I'd do. I would just need to fly a short distance, turn up wind, and land back on the LZ field. If only it could have been that easy. Looking back at it now, this is the point where I made my first in-flight mistake.
I looked up at my furry passenger to see what he was doing. He was still at the leading edge, looking down at me with what I swear was unbridled hate burning in his eyes. He reminded me of one of Will Smith's zombie rats from the movie "I Am Legend". His eyes were fixed on me and his mouth was opening and closing. Was he screaming at me? I couldn't hear over the Blackhawk's HE125 engine. I wanted to hear if he was making a noise, and I needed to burn off some altitude anyway, so I let off the throttle. Suddenly. I didn't mean to release it so quickly. I don't normally do that, but I was a bit distracted by the screaming, glaring zombie squirrel hanging a few meters over my head. That sudden throttle release was the mistake.
The wing surged forward a bit, changing its angle so that the leading edge was lowered. Zombie squirrel was not prepared for that. I watched as he fell out of the cell. I remember instantly thinking "he might survive the fall. It's 300 feet but he's light and he'll land in a corn field. He could make it. The corn could break his fall". And survive he did, but not for the reasons I had imagined.
I don't know how he did it, but as he fell, he somehow changed the trajectory of his fall. Either he moved back towards the glider lines, or I moved forwards towards him, or both, but he managed to get a furious little paw around one of my A lines and save himself. And of course he didn't stay there. Oh, no. He slid or climbed right down towards me.
The squirrel zipped right down the A line to my risers, down the risers to my J bar, and promptly into my lap. He didn't spend much time there though. He looked me right in the eye, screamed (I heard him this time) what was probably squirrelese for "Die you kidnapping SOB!!!", and jumped up onto my chest. Instantly, he set upon me. To me it seemed that he had the strength of 20 squirrels because of the ferocity of the attack.
Snarling, hissing, and tearing at my clothes and harness, he was a frenzy of activity. As I was dressed only in a light T-shirt, thin fabric gloves, and jeans, this was a bit of a cause for concern. This furry little tornado was doing some damage!
Now picture a guy flying a paramotor, dressed in jeans, a T-shirt, and fabric gloves, zipping along at 25mph, 250 feet over a quiet cornfield, and in the fight of his life with a squirrel.
And losing that fight...
I grabbed for him with my right hand. After a few misses, I finally managed to snag his tail. With all my strength, I flung the evil zombie rodent off to the right side of the PPG, weight-shifting to the left and causing a slight left turn as I did so. That should have done it. The matter should have ended right there.
It really should have. The squirrel could have sailed down into the corn field and either died from impact, or gone on about his squirrely business. And I could have headed back to my LZ. No one would have been the wiser. But this was no ordinary squirrel. This was not even an ordinary angry squirrel. This was an EVIL MUTANT ZOMBIE ATTACK SQUIRREL OF DEATH! Pure fur-clad compressed evil.
Somehow the evil demon caught my gloved finger with one of his little hands and, with the force of my throw, swung around and with a resounding thump and an amazing impact, landed squarely on my right shoulder. There he immediately resumed his rather anti-social and extremely distracting activities. He also managed to take my right glove with him! The situation was not improved. No sir. Not improved at all.
His attacks were continuing, and now I could not reach him as he had moved between my neck and the cage netting. I was startled, to say the least. The combination of the force of the throw, the squirrel's painful attack, and my jerking back unfortunately put a healthy squeeze through my left hand and into the throttle. A healthy squeeze on the throttle of a Blackhawk 125 can have only one result.
This is what the Blackhawk is made for, and she is very, very good at it.
The engine roared, the glider angled back and upwards.
The squirrel screamed in anger.
The Blackhawk screamed in ecstasy.
I screamed in ... well... I just plain screamed.
Now picture a guy flying a paramotor, dressed in jeans, a squirrel-torn T-shirt, wearing only one fabric glove, at 250 feet and climbing at maybe 300 fpm over a quiet corn field with a demonic squirrel of death on his shoulder. The man and the squirrel are both screaming bloody murder.
I remembered that I needed to land. I eased off the throttle again and took hold of the brake toggles. I began a slow spiral and began descending. This was leaving the mutant squirrel to his own devices, but I really did not want to crash into somebody's corn, tree, house, or farm equipment. About this time, the squirrel decided I was not paying sufficient attention to this very serious battle (maybe he was an evil mutant zombie NAZI attack squirrel of death), and he came around my neck and got INSIDE my full-face helmet with me.
As the faceplate closed part way, he began hissing in my face. I am quite sure my screaming changed intensity. It had little effect on the squirrel, however.
Now picture a guy flying a paramotor, dressed in jeans, a very raggedly torn T-shirt, wearing only one fabric glove, now at about 175 feet over a quiet hay field, with a large, puffy squirrel's tail sticking out of the mostly closed full-face helmet. By now the screams are probably getting a little hoarse.
Soon, however, I got the upper hand ... I managed to grab his tail again, pulled him out of my helmet, and slung him to the right as hard as I could. This time it worked ... sort of.
Spectacularly sort-of, so to speak.
Picture a new scene. You are a farmer. You are peacefully bush hogging your field on a quiet comfortable evening. Suddenly a guy flying a paramotor, dressed in jeans, a torn T-shirt flapping in the breeze, wearing only one fabric glove, and screaming bloody murder glides by about 75 feet over your head, and with all his strength throws a live, screaming squirrel grenade directly down into your lap.
I heard screams. From 75 feet up and with my hearing protection on, I heard screams.
This time they weren't mine...
I leveled off the Blackhawk and headed towards the tree line that separated this unfortunate farmer's field from my LZ field. I then descended and landed perfectly into my LZ field. I would have returned to 'fess up to the unfortunate and innocent farmer. I really would have.
Really...Except for two things.
First, the farmer did not seem interested or the slightest bit concerned about me when I last saw him. When I looked back, just before hopping over the tree line, he had abandoned his tractor and was on his back, doing a crab walk across the hay field, quickly moving away from the tractor. The look of pure terror on his face was at once horrific and comical.
So, no, the farmer was not interested in me.
That was one thing. The other?
Well, I could also clearly see shredded and flying pieces of foam and plastic from the tractor's seat. But I could also swear I saw the squirrel standing on the seat, shaking his little fist at me. That is one dangerous squirrel. And now he has a tractor and a bush hog. A somewhat shredded tractor...but it was all his.
I took a deep breath, gathered up my wing and started walking towards my truck. I decided it was best to just leave it alone, write off the T-shirt, buy myself a new pair of gloves, and a whole lot of Band-Aids.
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