El Mirage Dry Lake, July 2006

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I was out at El Mirage on July 10 and 11 with Jerry Frost, Randy Pate, and Chad Bastian and his stable of trikes and motors. By the time I left, I had soloed twice on Chad's Simonini-equipped Flash trike.

Bruce Kirk, one of Chad’s instructors was there, as well as a Greek dude named Paul, Adam--a triker with a temporarily busted motor, and Greg Jacobsen, another Fly Above All student like me.

Bruce and Chad were in the air when I arrived at 6AM on Monday, which was good, since I had no idea where they were on the huge lakebed, and the flying wings marked the campsite. Within 10 minutes of parking the car, Bruce took me up as a passenger on his second ever tandem trike flight. Jerry was enjoying his self-modified Flash and flying with his son. Randy looked like he was doing pretty well with his new Flyke. He had no botched launches that I saw.

Adam tried valiantly all day and into the night to switch out his starter and get his rig into the air, but no dice. His backup plan was to try and work a deal with Chad for a trade-in. He never got into the air, and I felt sorry for him. He wins the El Mirage parawaiting competition for this month.

When the winds picked up at about 10 AM, everyone landed to wait out what became the rest of the day. A small dust devil passed by a few hours later while we fiddled with the motors. It looked like a ghostly snake contolled by some invisible charmer writhing about 30 feet into the sky. A huge devil passed by camp later, populated with twigs and tumbleweed. I walked along beside it and studied the anatomy of a visible thermal, until it disappeared hundreds of feet above. Greg J. ran through it and ate a mouthful of grit.

As we sat in the dwindling shade of the motorhome, I saw a strange aircraft high above us. I thought it was a sailplane, but someone pointed out that it was black and had an upside down “V” tail. It was a Predator UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) followed by a chase plane, most likely monitoring it for tests. It was up for hours, all day in fact. Douglas Aircraft's semi-secrret “Plant 42” is just a few miles west of El Mirage, along with other more hidden facilities.
The combination of 100-degree heat and the friction of taxiing around on the sizzling lakebed melted the plastic bearings on the wheels of one of the trikes. They oozed out from the hubs in a black, tarry paste.

Chad turned up the A/C in his motorhome, and all went inside to watch Ozone product promos and another DVD entitled "The Never Ending Thermal” which followed the exploits of a couple of guys with no apparent or reliable source of income who travel the world flying beautiful sites with brand new wings and other equipment. After sunset, Chad conducted an impromptu class with another video of an SIV clinic. Don't try this at home, at least not without at least 1000 feet of altitude between you and a lake.

As it got dark, I unpacked my telescope and we looked at the mountains and seas of the moon before passing out. A small, dark, catlike thing woke me in the middle of the night digging at a trash bag which I had left on the ground next to the car.

The alarm at 6AM was the sound of an idling Simonini. After a quick caffiene injection, Chad sat me down in the Flash and I took two seemingly perfect flights. On the third takeoff, I felt and saw the wing oscillate badly just as I took off. If I continued to throttle up, I realized that I might slam into the lakebed from 10 feet up or more. Thinking that would rather slide than slam, I cut the engine and wing pulled me over on the left side as I came back to the ground. Chad came running up in his bare feet and turned me vertical again. I didn't mind ending my first triking day on a "negative!"
Chad bought a used Flyke and Fresh Breeze Monster engine over the weekend. He spent about an hour putting it through its paces. I noticed that the motor allows the pilot to make turns with little or no loss in altitude.

Fresh Breeze is shipping me, Greg J. and Chad a set of new Simoninis. Since Greg's wing is black and white, he wanted a black frame, so of course we all ordered black. Black is cool.

Greg Bishop