During the night the winds continued to grow stronger and the camper rocked. The news from Dave (Weather Man) indicated that if we could make it 50-80 miles from where we were, we would have a chance of getting the wind behind us again and pick up the next wave to push us to the east coast.
Though a beautiful clear day, the morning winds remained high at 12mph and gusting 20mph and were far exceeding the highest winds I had attempted to launch in. I recall flying the 18m Dudek Snake with 8-12mph winds for a reporter in Memphis Tennessee and how I said I wouldn’t do that again.
Once again, with the help of the team (all hands on deck), we started the process of setting up and hoped I could pull it off. This was the Dudek Hadron 3 22m and a much bigger glider to handle than my Snake. Immediately I was getting pulled as the wing opened and it was clear I was going to have a lot of trouble controlling it on the ground, let alone in the air. The biggest concern was that I could be blown miles south towards the Mexican border where ground support would be difficult at best.
In hindsight, I don’t know why I didn’t immediately consider flying the Snake. I had hundreds of hours on it and it was safe but it was not a cross-country wing.
After a few attempts and struggling to stay on my feet just opening the wing I asked Ray to help brace me as I attempted to bring the wing up. Big Mistake and that did not go as we planned. I was quickly spun and went down hard into the dirt and of course, more damage to the hoop on the same side that I damaged two days earlier landing at the Airforce base.
It was soon clear this wasn’t going to happen and we would wait for a lull in the wind and for Ray to do some makeshift repairs.
I was visibly frustrated!
The previous day had been a huge success making 365 miles. Knowing that had we made quicker turnarounds on the refuel stops I could have made another 40-80 miles and not be in the situation we were in frustrated me further.
I could see the team was also not happy. However, what struck me was we didn’t just sit around hoping the wind would change. We all went to work and took care of things. Greg edited material for social media and a video I needed for Blackhawk. Cynthia moved up my press interview and Ray and Tom set about working on my machine, while I called Blackhawk Paramotors to see what spares could be sent ahead to Texas for pick up in a day or so.
As you all know I was Flying the Kestrel Elite Pro. Production models hadn’t come in yet, and there was only one other demo frame “The Rainbow Frame” that Mike hadn’t wanted to part with. Reluctantly, Mike shipped it immediately.
Due to the dust storm created by the wind and the dropping temperatures we huddled inside the camper as Ray straightened the buckled hoop and with Duct Tape, smoothed up the rough edges in the hope we could get it to hold another couple of days to replace it with parts going to Austin Texas at least a one day of flying away.
I also took a moment to rally the team and set my frustration aside and recognize the hard work the team was doing. The trip had already proven much more eventful than anyone of us had imagined. Greg by comparison was giddy with all the footage and it was quickly becoming apparent we would need to produce a full-length documentary to tell the story blow by blow.
Everyone was able to follow our progress in real time from the updates posted through the Garmin InReach satellite tracker. We knew from comments that many followed hour by hour or minute by minute and could see how fast and high I was, but they didn’t have live insights. So we decided it was a good time to do a Live Cast for our fans, followers, and sponsors giving them an update on our progress and the situation.
After talking to the fans Greg assisted me with a video about the Blackhawk Kestrel Elite frame and the Off-Grid Aviation Cruise Control Throttle that by now had proven how crucial it was to the success of the trip in the 21 hours I had spent in the air.
The team continued through the rest of the day to work on our respective tasks with frequent checks of the weather. Ray and Tom cleaned up the equipment trailer which also doubled as their sleeping quarters. They affectionately referred to the daily occurrence of the road trip throwing anything that wasn’t tied down as a ‘Yard Sale’. I don’t know how they coped, and I was in awe of how they handled the chaos. I think they even drove 80 miles round trip to get some laundry done at the next nearest town.
The temperatures were dropping by nightfall and we cooked up a hearty meal before hitting our racks for an early night. Well, with the exception of Greg who almost never stopped working on capturing, editing, and backing up content.