Brad is strapped in and ready for flight. Hank and Brad start to taxi down the run way.
Carole and Hank unfold the chute and lay it out in the grass. Then Hank puts the pedal to the floor as the chute comes up and they take flight. Are those trees ahead?
Hank kills the engine to give Brad an idea of how quiet flight can be. Then he fires it up again for a few passes overhead before coming down to Earth. "Pop" as the chute hits the ground and Brad's family gather around.
Hank gives a quick flight report and then a look at the gauges and engine.
Hank is the pilot at Shelby Paraflite. Here's what Hank had to say about Brad's flight.
Typically once our passengers are strapped in, I try to brief them as to what they might expect based on the speed of the wind etc. Normally most passengers are quite nervous. Immediately after takeoff, we usually circle the field so the friends and relatives can snap a picture before we head off for the dunes. We usually keep the altitude down to 400 ft. because that altitude (or less) is more comforting. I might say, that you we not my average passenger. Not because of your disability, but you were obviously very enthusiastic about the flight and demonstrated no fear of any kind. It's my opinion that we could communicate quite well based on the input you gave me.
I'm don't recall where we went first. (Maybe Stony Lake) But I know that you enjoyed the flight over the Silver Lake Dunes. It's really great to watch all the dune buggies racing around the dunes and the brave ones trying to "top" the high dunes.
(It often takes them several tries to make it to the top) Flying along the beach is always exciting. We often get a surprise from people (who think they are alone) sun tanning along the way! I know, it's a tough job, but somebody has to do the flying!
We usually see quite a variety of wild life (besides the sun seekers) along the way.
Included are deer, sand hill cranes, ducks, egrets, mergansers, eagles, ospreys, red tailed hawks, an occasional coyotes and fox. I have never spotted a bear on these flights. We can also identify fish from the powerchute which include, salmon species, schools of perch, gar pike and carp. I hate to see "junk" fish in Lake Michigan, but it seems that there are more of them each year. On the way home and our customers are more secure with flight, (no problem with you, Brad) we climb slowly to around 1,500 feet giving us a 50 mile view in clear air. Normally we can see from Grand Haven to Manistee on the clearest days. When we get over our field, it is normal to turn the engine off and glide down for several quite and peaceful minutes. (We don't normally tell our passengers this beforehand so they don't worry about the pending experience. Gliding down is always a highlight of the trip. (We often extend our arms outward to feel the wind (35 mph) and try to guess what it would be like to be a bird. It's a wonderful experience! Just prior to landing, we restart the engine and make another low (photo) pass for the audience. (I remember this on our flight because we flew across to another field and saw a few deer as we flew right over them!) After the low pass, we circle again for the landing. (some are smooth touchdowns and others are not so smooth, based on the wind)
Thanks again for allowing us the opportunity to fly with you!
It was an enjoyable experience meeting you!
-Hank & Carole Austin
Hank later added this:
Hi Again Brad-
Yes, I do remember our touchdown...
As we were nearing the shoreline, (the dunes were filled with dunebuggies of all types running all around) I noticed an empty area right aligned with the wind. We don't normally land in areas where other vehicles are nearby for safety reasons. In fact we rarely land in that area at all because we don't have ORV stickers on our machines and we don't want to get into trouble with Park officials. But this time it was a perfect combination wind and clear zone for our touchdown. Believe me, a lot of eyes were on us! On the approach, I set up a normal decent rate which was easy due to the steady wind off the lake. I did have to be careful not to hit the many puddles of water from recent rains. That was a bit of a trick, but things were progressing well. Just prior to touchdown I added a little more power to flatten out our approach angle while adding a bit of "flare" with the chute which I do with my feet. Just as the wheels skimmed the sand I went to full power so our "ground time" would be minimal. Thereupon we were on the ground for approximately twenty feet prior to our abrupt climbout. Then we turned out over the water for the rest of our climb heading toward the shipwreck offshore.
The "Novadoc" is a 253 ft. freighter that ran aground in 1940 with a crew of 19 sailors. The storm of November 11, 1940 sunk around 17 ships that one night!
The Novadoc was battered by high winds and freezing temperatures for two and a half days while the crew huddled without power in a small cabin. Two men died from the intense cold. 17 were eventually saved by a boat from Pentwater on the third day. The wind stopped blowing and the temperature soared to 70 degrees on the third day! My neighbor witnessed the event as a young child from the sand.
We enjoy showing the old wreck to our customers. Most people have no knowledge that such a wreck exists so near to the shore. Now all that's left is the hull of the ship, some of the holds and the capstans on the bow in about 12 feet of water. In the early years, the ship was still visible above the water, but ice and wind have taken their toll through all these years.
Thanks for the note, Brad. If I can be of more help. Please let me know.