Writing & Photography of Jim Murtagh

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The Writings & Photography of Jim Murtagh

The Sky's the Limit

A gentle breeze disturbs the canopy lying on the grass, and then suddenly the multi-colored chute fills with air and pops into the sky. The control lines tighten, and the pilot begins to walk forward. Three quick steps, a slight hop, and then he is airborne. Suspended just a few feet above the ground, the pilot revs the throttle on the gasoline engine, and the fifty inch propeller, strapped to the harness on his back, races.

The pilot tilts backward. His legs dangle, as if he is sitting in a chair. He rises quickly into the air, and begins to gradually steer himself towards the coast. In just a few seconds, he is 150 feet above the ground and passing over the trees bordering the airport. From his vantage, he can scan the entire beach along Hammonasset State Park. His view is magnificent. The blue-bird sky allows him to see for miles, deep into Long Island Sound.

Meandering at an altitude of several hundred feet, the pilot returns to the airfield at Griswold Airport in Madison, after an hour of sight-seeing. The clear sky and slight breeze are ideal conditions for “powered paragliding” (PPG), so the pilot has some fun by performing a series of spiral drops before landing. By restricting the engine, the paraglider begins a controlled descent. He pulls on the chute’s control cords, causing it to bank steeply in a counter-clockwise direction. As he nears the ground, the engine revs, and the chute rises back into the air.

Reluctantly, the pilot must return his feet to solid ground. He slows the engine, drifts downward, and begins walking just before his feet touch the Earth. He controls his speed with the throttle, and appears to gracefully step out from the heavens. Cutting the engine, his forward momentum abates, and the deflated chute drops to the ground. The pilot turns himself about, and quickly reels in his chute before the wind can catch it. He rolls the chute into a ball, disconnects the harness, and carries the entire assembly back to his car. His cheeks are red, his eyes are wide open, and his gigantic smile tells the story.

On September 9 th and 10 th, the Fall Connecticut Yankee PPG Boogie will take place at Griswold Airport , most likely for its final time since the airfield is scheduled to permanently close. The Spring and Fall Boogies have historically brought together powered paragliders from throughout CT, as well as NY, MA, RI, ME, PA and even FL. The Connecticut Boogies have become the premier PPG event in the Northeast. If you are curious to see these flyers firsthand, you need to drop by and visit. For more information, go to: http://home.comcast.net/~d-m-hague/fly-in