MT. VERNON - Flying high. Floating on air. Getting a bird's eye view. That's the feeling people can get while riding on a powered parachute.
Dave Traylor of Mt. Vernon and his buddy, Bob Johnson of Blanco, Texas, purchased ultralights in the mid-1990s. Since then they've been enjoying the freedom of flying and have shared the experience with local folks as well as many others.
At Quartzite, Ariz., for several years they have provided numerous instructional flights (as many as four take-offs/landings per hour) for curious folks. Some people do it to get over the fear of flying, they said. Traylor estimated the number of high fliers he's accompanied at 1,500; Johnson at about 2,600. Their flight partners include all types of people from B29 pilots to 95-year-old retired school teachers. Others seeking a view from above are domestic and foreign photographers; ranchers, who appraise cattle locations before setting out to round them up for the season; or hunters scouting for wildlife. One local rancher uses an ultralight for spotting livestock and has his machine rigged with releases to drop salt blocks at select locations. In Traylor's experience, most ultralight owners are middle-age persons who have desired to fly, but can't afford conventional flying. "They are the type of people who don't want to finish their days in a rocking chair," he said.
Ultralight pilots need no aviation certificate, no registration, no license and no medical certificate. Pilots have a basic flight instructor rating, therefore each passenger gets a lesson in the mechanics of an ultralight.
In late August, Traylor and his friends, Bob Johnson and Bob Horn got together to fly their Sixchuters. It's an annual event. They were joined by passengers Hugh and Colby Farrell, and Cord Johnson, who assists his grandfather, Bob Johnson. The day was perfect - sunny and clear and most importantly, no wind. Early morning is often the best time to fly.
Ultralight two-seaters usually have 65 hp motors; some experimental models have been known to test 100 hp motors and a single seater most often operates with 45 hp. The engines have been known to run for 1,000 hours without an overhaul. Travel speeds range from 25 to 30 mph. Six Chuter parachutes are rectangular in design and cover 500 to 550 square feet. Traylor compared that to a skydiving parachute, which averages 150 square feet.
Because the ultralight frame is suspended below the parachute, it act like a pendulum. Basically the machine will turn left or right, go up or down. "As long as air dynamics continue to work," which Traylor says is pretty much a given, "they can't be made to roll, spin or dive." One hazard to be aware of, he warned, are power lines. The average altitude at which to fly around Grant County is 500-1,000 feet, but an altitude record of 17,200 feet was established by a fellow in Alaska, Traylor said. He noted that they are remarkably safe if operated correctly and given proper maintenance. Traylor is a dealer for the ultralight Six Chuter which is manufactured in Yakima, Wash. Nationwide, they are becoming quite popular.
During the Sept. 7 Fly In sponsored by the Grant County Air Search at Grant County Regional Airport, Traylor will demonstrate his Six Chuter. He'll be the one flying the colors of the huge American flag.
The Fly In begins Saturday with a breakfast served from 7-10:30 a.m. All types of aircraft, including model airplanes, will be on display for the day. There will also be demonstrations by sky divers and Forest Service rappellers.
Air Search sponsors Fly In activities
JOHN DAY - The annual Fly In at Grant County Regional Airport will be held Saturday, Sept. 7.
Sponsored by the Grant County Air Search, a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, ham and beverages will be offered from 7-10:30 a.m. Cost is $5 per plate.
Aircraft will be on display throughout the day, including Air Life and model airplanes. Other activities will include demonstrations in skydiving, Forest Service rappelling and retardant drops, and the "Sixchuter" powered parachute demo. Helicopter rides for youth and free airplane rides are planned.
Grant County Air Search will offer T-shirts for sale. Overnight camping at the airport is permissible.
For more information, call Warren and Kay Friedrich at 932-4789 or Mary Jo Higgins at 575-1563.