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XPONENTIAL Innovation Preview -- www.allthingsunmanned.com

Tue, Aug 03, 2004

Flying The Swinging Lawn Chair

All The Way From Wash to Osh

By ANN Contributor John Ballantyne

A lot of us come to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh (WI) in long, silver tubes with United, US Airways or some other such commercial logo on the tail. Others come in four-wheeled, ground-bound vehicles across interstates. The luckiest ones fly their own little airplanes. But only a very few get to arrive in swinging lawn chairs suspended by butterfly-like wings in that "Great Ocean of Air."

Scott Johnson and Carl "the Rider" Ryder mounted their Airborne XTS 912 ultralight trike in eastern Washington state, determined to make it to Oshkosh. They navigated across the mountains of Idaho, into Montana and South Dakota, sometimes topping out at 10,000 feet.

"The first day we flew over the Black Hills of South Dakota and dropped into Custer where we got pictures of the new carved monument of Crazy House, then made it into Sioux Falls (SD) that night," said Johnson in an interview with ANN. "The second day we made it into a casino about 53 miles short of Oshkosh (WI). I had lunch in the casino while Carl lost two quarters."

In less than three days, they swung into the ultralight traffic pattern of the largest aviation event in the world, EAA AirVenture.

"It was a beautiful flight. God kinda split the weather and said 'take this path, kids' so we did," said Johnson.

"I'd say the word was uneventful," Ryder agreed. "Awesome beyond belief."

"We found that we could gain permission by radio to fly into any airport, and we were always welcome, even at the international airports. The GARMIN 196 GPS is amazing with lists of airports, their frequencies, facilities and more," Johnson said. "For lunch we'd try to find airports with a restaurant nearby."

Ryder started out wanting to fly paragliders before he made his first trike flight with Johnson in an Airborne Classic. Carl couldn't sleep after that first trike flight. He lay awake trying to decide between powered paragliders and trikes. His final decision: do both!

"The trike is definitely easier than powered paragliding," said Ryder. "It always takes off, where paraglider wings are sometimes difficult to get properly inflated during take off. Yet powered paragliders are so wonderfully basic, he said. "They are easy to transport. Powering a paraglider is safer than simple paragliding because you can take off from flat ground instead of having to deal with mountain launch conditions."

Ryder ended up taking trike lessons from "Oly" Olson at the Arlington Airport (WA), even as he continued powered paragliding lessons. Soon he was the owner of an Airborne Classic trike with two wings, the Wizard and Streak. The student is now a teacher. Ryder is now a Basic Flight Instructor.

Scott Johnson runs US Airborne Sport Aviation Center. It is a full service ultralight, paramotor, paragliding, hang gliding and kite surfing center. He offers beginner to advanced training in ultralight trikes, paramotors and paragliding as well as aero towing hang gliders. Scott Johnson is an Advanced Flight Instructor in trikes, paramotors, and paragliders.

Now that AirVenture has wrapped up, both say they're looking forward to the trike flight home from Oshkosh (WI) to Asotin (WA).

FMI www.usairborne.com

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