November 12, 2020. The original plan for this morning was to conduct our next long cross country from Ak Chin, to Gila Bend. Once the group of pilots realized where we were, a change in plans was made. Instead of heading west to Gila Bend, the pilots wanted to head south east to the Eye of Grande. This is an out of commission copper mine that is simply a gigantic circular hole in the ground. Reports online state that the Eye of Grande is over 3’000’ wide and 1,000’ deep. Given this spectacle, the group of pilots were much more interested in flying over this enormous hole, rather than spend a couple hours flying over flat desert. So, the plan was changed, and we made a morning trip a few short miles to the Eye of Grande. It was impressive to see the mine from the air; it was even more impressive seeing the pilots as they tested their courage and reliability of their motors flying in proximity to the mine. Upon everyone’s return from the flight the consensus was that the flight was truly amazing and the decision to change plans was well worth it.
As we were all able to come down from the emotional high of the flight, we packed up our vehicles and began the movement to the next location. We arrived in Yuma Arizona in midafternoon. After the requisite need to pull a passenger van out of soft deep sand, we were ready for some evening flying. The location that Scott Ritchie had found for us was another homerun. It was an open sandy launch site that to the due east was a huge open desert playground that led to the base of an incredible mountain range. It allowed for some amazing and fun low slalom flying among the brush and cactus. Just to the north of the landing area was a very active railroad track. This provided an incredible opportunity for some of the pilots to get great footage of American industry moving across the country via rail.
This evening would also have us witness one of the best moments of the adventure. Ben Pechacek is a walking paraplegic. This means that he is neurologically paralyzed in his lower extremities. Through years of therapy he has learned to walk again. He still does not have feeling or full function in his legs, but it is as if he is walking on prosthetics, so he is able to stand and walk with some difficulty. During this trip, he had been using his quad wheeled paramotor to fly. This evening in Yuma he had the desire to try to see if he could foot launch. With the support and encouragement of everyone there, he achieved an unbelievable goal of running into the air. He successfully returned to the sky via foot launch. To say that we were all excited for him would be an understatement. We were all ecstatic. The smiles and laughter around the campfires were a bit bigger that evening.