If you enjoyed the stories about Adventure Wingman 2022 that covered 1000 miles in 10 days, then your gonna love this story covering nearly 2000 miles in just 6 days. This story’s journey started almost two years earlier having completed the 50 State Paramotor Tour and the Coast to Coast of the USA in just 8 days in 2020. If you haven’t read the two previous posts, consider starting there as it sets the stage.
It’s now June 2022 and just 6 weeks to finish preparing for the most difficult paramotor adventure I’ve ever attempted on a Foot Launch Paramotor. Like most big adventures lots goes into getting ready. Planning, Logistics, Fitness, Continengies, Finance, Media, and a string of other things. I’m known for my planning and preparation of these XC adventures, but this one required an extra level of consideration as this was Unsupported and involved not 1, but 2 10,000-foot mount ranges and summer thermals to keep me actively piloting most of the time.
Sonoma to Oshkosh Information Website
- Trip Information & Trip Details
- Route Map & Live Track Following
- News Articles & Charity Support
- Equipment Donations
One significant requirement for this adventure was Fitness. I would be carrying more fuel and equipment than I had ever before, and there was nobody to carry it out to an area where I could launch from. To address this I wore a scuba weight belt and the paramotor and actively walked a quarter mile three times a day and even did pushups with all the equipment so that in the event I fell over, I would have the strength to get up with all the equipment. Mental fitness was also an essential aspect of training—this included getting all my personal affairs in order in case I made a mistake and it was catastrophic. It was a tough conversation to have with friends, family, and business associates, but I was ready.
Route / Food & Water / Fuel & Power / Sleep
The route was mostly finalized, but a little fine-tuning and alternate airports still required planning. Each day had a target number of miles to complete with a destination that would enable the ability to get food, and have suitable accommodation at the airport or nearby hotel. I would need fuel, food & water, and power to recharge the batteries that ran iPhone, GPS, radio, ADS-B, strobes, and more. As testing with the Wing, Motor, and equipment load progressed additional tweaks to the route and equipment supplies were made.
Extensive Wing testing was done. I had settled on the Davinci Disco 18m which had excellent speed and handling characteristics. I opted for a small wing as I expected to have thermic high-wind launches in the afternoons and this would be easier to handle. The downside would be the high altitude/density altitude launches with a lot of weight which would require a fast-long run to get off the ground.
I took the testing a step further and intentionally flew in mid-afternoon thermic weather to see how well it would handle and when it might collapse or if it did, how well it recovered—an SIV of sorts that also built my bump tolerance for rough air.
Though I knew the engine could handle high altitudes over 12, 000 feet from the Coast to Coast trip, testing how well my Corsair Black Devil Motor which now had over 150 hours on it was important. I would be using aviation fuel (AV-GAS) for this trip instead of conventual car fuel and fine-tuning the carburetor settings would be critical to make sure it could still push me to 12,000 feet MSL to achieve safe passage over the mountains. In total 3 high elevation launches (Mount Shasta) were made with climbs to 10, 000 feet loaded with expected take-off weights. The thrust of the Helix 3-Blade Prop remained impressive. Sadly the 18m was too small, but I couldn’t get a 20 meter and I didn’t want to run a 22m as on the Coast to Coast, given I knew it was hard to handle in high winds. I would have to sacrifice some equipment and hope for some upslope winds to get me over the mountains.
New equipment included an ADS-B beacon from uAvionix that enabled ATC and other aircraft to see me and a long aviation radio antenna – Mark Ingman’s Invention that was strung up the wing lines. Previously I had struggled with engine ignition system noise and so I hoped with the new insulation and an antenna positioned further away, my communications would be better. I also verified my MicroAvionics headset from Wisconsin Flight Sports worked. Testing included Flying around Tavis Airforce base and flying into Napa Airport Class D airspace and communicating with the towers effectively – an excellent range of 10 miles was achieved. Additionally, a strobe system from Hunter Strobes that had a HUGE BATTERY and could run up to 12 hours was added. These were essential to enhance safety especially since I would also be flying at night using the FAA Waiver I hoped to obtain.
Watch the video at the bottom of the page which shows all the equipment.
The weather was especially a concern for this trip. It was the middle of summer, the thermals would kick off early and it would get hot making evening flights tough. Once again I consulted with Coast to Coast Meteorologist Dave Wert who was able to provide some insight into the historic weather of previous years. This was helpful to set expectations, but it didn’t solve what the weather would be on the week I would go, and it wasn’t like I could shift my departure more than a couple of days given the target to arrive while AirVenture was underway. This created a dangerous external pressure that made this trip especially risky. I also wouldn’t have the benefit of Dave actively tracking my progress and providing updates before each flight.
Fortunately, as the week before my departure approached the weather looked like it would shape up, but I would still need to catch and ride the wave if I were to get those tailwinds.
Success would require long days —at least 6-8 hours of flying per day, doing at least 40 mph to make mileage of 300+ miles, and a planned final destination for each day. That’s a tall order when your fuel range is 3 hours and your glider typically does about 32-37 mph. That’s only part of the story when you consider the preparation each morning before flights, the turnaround time between flights, and the unflyable time between the morning and afternoon when it’s too thermic. Each day was estimated to run 18-20 hours so you had to get your sleep partially at night and partially in the afternoon which made for an added level of fatigue. If that wasn’t enough several of the flights would either take off or require landing at night and the moon cycle wasn’t perfect either—that would have required leaving several days earlier which wasn’t going to happen.
The plan was to leave Sonoma on July 18th, and hopefully arrive at Oshkosh on July 25th. The first 4 days were going to be critical, or more specifically, days 1, 3, and 4. The first day required a night flight from Sonoma immediately followed by a flight to get over Lake Tahoe mountains and then still make it to Winnamacca that night where I would sleep. Day 3 would involve getting over the Utah mountains and day 4 involved the majority of the high-altitude launches. I would definitely need some tailwinds to make it in 6-7 days.
The anticipated daily stops are as follows;
- Gnoss Field – Winnamacca
- Winnnamacca – Salt Lake City
- Salt Lake City – Lamie (Most difficult day – high altitude launches 7000 MSL)
- Lamie – Lee Bird Regional Airport
- North Platte – Sioux City
- Sioux City – La Crosse Regional Airport
- La Crosse – Oshkosh
Ready to Go
All the planning, training, and preparation had gone well. I was feeling prepared and strong although I wished I had trained a little harder. The FAA Waiver had been received just a day before which was a big relief. Everyone could monitor my progress with the Live Tracker. Greg Anthony Harris and Ray Pearce would keep an eye out online and would know what to do if something happened and arrangements were made for a myriad of logistical steps. READY TO GO!