So, I know this blog started as a way to document my ultralight flying adventures (hence the name), but for the last two to three years I've been tied up with some personal junk in my life. I've been building a house, not contracting it out, but building it myself. Until you get to a certain point with a house, it is the ONLY priority you can have, especially since my accommodations were less than comfortable and convenient. I still don't have a kitchen or even a stove, but I get by just fine. Even though the house is a long way from being finished, I'm at a point where I can take a bit of time off and enjoy different events. Mark Smith's fly-in is one of those events that I've missed for the last two years, but made it a point to go this year!
Many of you who read this blog know Mark Smith, many of you don't. If you ever get the chance to meet him, you will find that he's a "tell it how you see it" kind of guy. I respect this in a person. He's also a wealth of information about ultralight aircraft, especially Quicksilver ultralights and copies. As I found out this past weekend, he's also a pioneer in the realm of powered hang-gliding. These underpowered regallo wings eventually evolved into the many different types of ultralights we find in the world today.
Mark was one of the first and largest Quicksilver dealers in the 80's and 90's. Now he is an independent ultralight designer, builder and parts source for many ultralight fliers who benefit from his improved aftermarket parts and modifications. His airport, the Posey Patch, consists of two large hangars and two grass runways with a water runway nestled between them. Located in the bottoms of the Ohio river near Evansville, Indiana, It is an ultralight fliers paradise! This time of year the crops are low and there are thousands of acres all around his place. You can fly low over fields for miles at a time, popping up over hedgerows and tree lines from time-to-time, then back down over the crops and meadows. It's great flying!
My trip up to southern Indiana this year was as great as every other year that I've been. At the busiest time of the fly-in, there were at least twelve aircraft on the ground, possibly a few more in the air flying around. I'd estimate 40-50 different people attended at one point or another. I think there were eight or so people who camped on the premises for a day or more. I stayed in a tent for three nights.
Ultralight fliers are a different sort of people. Most of them have great flying stories, usually about mistakes or close calls that others have made. Once in a while, you will find them honest enough to tell you about the mistakes they have made and the emotional, physical and monetary cost associated with the mistake. The best thing about them though is the fact that they love to laugh! I laughed more this weekend than I have in the past 6 months total! I wouldn't doubt that some of them actually practice comedy routines for that once in a lifetime possibility that somebody might offer them an actual audience. I won't mentions any names...oh...well, yeah, I will....Norm and Jeff! The bottom line is this, everybody that I spoke with whether they were friends I have met previously or friends that I met for the first time...All were pleasant and friendly. I just can't emphasize that enough!
The aircraft assortment ranged from several CGS Hawks in different configurations, A couple of Quicksilver GT500 planes, a few GT400 planes, MX's, Sports, Sprints and of course, Mark's modified Quick-alikes, the Gray Navy and Navette. I fell in love with flying Navette. It is plane that will fly almost as slow as the slowest Quicksilver and will almost keep up with the GT400 planes if you give it enough throttle! I would estimate that speed range to be 25 to 55. All of us ultralight pilots know that true ultralights NEVER exceed 55MPH in level flight. That would be against the rules, wouldn't it!
I flew two different airplanes while I was at the fly-in. Mark is gracious enough to rent his airplanes to individuals that he knows are able to fly well enough not to bend them up. One of the airplanes, the "Gray Navy" I flew in two different configurations, with wheels and with floats. I didn't do much float flying. Because of the heat and my heavy body weight, it just didn't climb well and in my older (wiser) age, I don't like to push the envelope. After all, the plane itself is over 100 pounds heavier with the floats attached. When I was taking off, I barely made it out of the canal with only about 20 feet to spare. I would have preferred 100 feet or so. As I was attempting to climb out, altitude wasn't coming easily and instead of just feeling the plane and it's attitude, I had to actually watch the airspeed indicator and adjust the elevator before I was able to get over 100 feet of altitude. For those who don't fly, this might sound dramatic and scary, but it all takes place in a period of 5 to 10 seconds after leaving the surface and it's quite automatic. I'm just used to flying Mark's planes that have plenty of power to climb however you want and I neglected this when flying with the floats. In any case, I immediately set up the approach to land and nailed a landing and that was enough flying for me. Andrew, the airline transport pilot weights about 40 pounds less than I and he didn't have any difficulty with the floats at all. He flew with the floats every chance he could get!
I spent the majority of my time flying "Navette". In fact, after I landed from my first flight in Navette, I asked Mark if we could work up a trade-in deal where I would end up with Navette. I was serious, but he just smiled and never answered. I assumed the answer was "no way!" Of course I spent some time in Gray Navy without the floats. It's a great flying plane as well. I practiced cross-wind landings in it on Sunday Morning when the clouds were out and the breeze was blowing the streamers straight out on the wind indicator. Probably over 10MPH or so. My plane doesn't have ailerons (yet) so it was great to be able to cross-control and approach parallel before landing. The spoilers on my plane work pretty well, but not nearly as well as ailerons.
All of the pictures of the Fly-in that are posted here were taken by either John Jones, Dan Umbarger, or Enrique Londono. This is because when I pulled my camera out to take some shots, I discovered that I left the CF card at home. If I would have checked before I went to Wal-Mart to get batteries, I could have picked up a card, but alas, I didn't and it was too hot and too far to go back to Evansville.
I reluctantly left Sunday morning about 11AM. I knew I had to be back at work on Monday and I wanted to arrive home early enough to unpack and settle-in and get a good night sleep. I got home about 6:30PM and was in bed asleep by 9:00. I plan on going again next summer. Mark also has another fly-in in October, but I think that will be too cold for me to attend. I've become quite used to the heat living in Alabama and I get cold really easy. 60 degrees with a wind chill of 40MPH while flying doesn't really qualify as fun to me so I'll have to wait for another year!
John, Dan and Enrique took great pictures so here they are:
The cockpit of Navette.
Jeff Austin cooking the meat! It was delicious!
Anticipating the start of the feast. Click on image for a larger picture.
The feast begins!
Installing the floats on Gray Navy. I'm supervising of course! Nahh, it was a team effort involving Jeff, Enrique, Andrew (well, he was there) and Bill.
Jerad Barrett posing on Gray Navy with floats.
Andrew landing Gray Navy (obvously on floats). Click on image for a larger picture.
A good shot of Mark's Posey Patch from the air. Click on image for a larger picture.
Landing at the Patch. Click on image for a larger picture.
Typical scenery at Mark's taken from Jeff Austins MXII. It's for sale if anybody is interested! Click on image for a larger picture.