Coast to Coast Day By Day – Day 7

I woke up to find that most of the swelling had subsided and I wasn’t too stiff to move around. A few more pills would hopefully keep things under control as the day progressed.

Getting Ready to go

The weather briefing looked like another good day, but we needed to keep moving to stay ahead of the weather which was quickly approaching from the South. Florida was in sight (figuratively) and if we pushed really hard and turned our fuel stops quickly, we could make Florida by nightfall.

We decided the only way to achieve this was to split the vehicles. Send Tom & Cynthia to our next projected airport and Ray & Greg would try and keep up or immediately head on to the next location if I was airborne before they could reach the location.

The topography had quickly changed from arid dry landscape to plush green. Soon seeing water everywhere, I approached the great Mississippi and all its tributaries.

The great Mississippi

It was a beautiful sight as I crossed over the low clouds and fog. I continued to focus my thoughts on higher altitudes to catch more wind speed and to have options to land in the event there was a problem.

Approaching the Mississippi River by Paramotor

As I approached 10, 000 feet ground speed reached nearly 60mph. The engine complained about the fuel being too rich and so I gradually allowed myself to descend over the next 45 mins. However, I noted that occasionally I would still feel the motor rpm rise and fall at which time I looked at my fuel. Aghast, I discovered it was critically low. I still had 15 miles to reach my destination with at least 5 miles to clear the waterways and there was dense vegetation and road infrastructure everywhere – not a place to get stuck.

Quickly texting Ray, I let him know the situation and started scouting an alternative emergency landing zone (ELZ). Soon settling on a Park just north of St Francisville just 8 miles short of the planned airport.

Urgent Landing due to Low Fuel!

Staying above the park, I circled the area so I could maintain communication with the team as long as possible. Tom who was closer and changed course for my location, while Ray still had another 20-minute drive to reach me. While I could have landed under power, I waited until the motor died and then headed in for a quick landing.

Beautiful Louisiana by Paramotor north of Baton Rouge

My next flight to Poplarville-Pearl River County Airport went off without a hitch and became one of the least eventful flights of the trip. The following flight however needed more planning in the hope I could refuel in Mobile Alabama before making the leap across the water into Florida just north of Pensacola.

My initial plan was to fly a short hop to Dean Griffin Memorial (M24) Alabama and then make another flight to Atmore Municipal (0R1) Florida. I was however concerned that I could run out of sunlight or fuel crossing the Tensaw River.

As I approached Dean Griffin I decided to press on but knew I wouldn’t have the fuel to get past Mobile and worked on another location to land. From a race perspective, I’m not sure I made the right decision, but it did lead to one of my favorite photographs of the whole trip. Also, yet another surprise meetup with one of the infamous Paramotor Podcast show hosts!

The airspace was about to get more complicated and busy too. I didn’t want to go all the way into Mobile Regional Airport which I felt was too busy with a big Class D airspace ring. I opted for a small private airport I had scouted in my route planning but had hoped not to use. Requesting permission from private airports in advance can be challenging and a lengthy process.

I sent the location via text to Ray and pushed on arriving above the airport a short while before him. Since I didn’t have permission to land I asked Ray to go ask. I also kept an eye out for some alternatives during my descent hoping I would also be able to launch from them.

The radio soon sparked to life again and we had a green light to land!

Harley and the next generation of pilot!

We were met by an adorable young lady and her mom before being joined by the owner of the airfield who lived in an adjacent home. As was the experience with almost every other private airfield I’ve been to, we were eagerly embraced and exchanged aviation stories. A small request and we were permitted to remain and camp at the airfield overnight.

A short while later, none other than Dave Ruff (Trike Flyer) of After Dark showed up and spent the evening with us for Dinner and watched how we operated. Even the following morning he also joined us for the usual weather call. He was in awe and amazed at how well oiled and professional the team was. It was a proud moment for us to be recognized this way, especially with how far we had come. The end now in striking distance of a day!

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