Frisco paraglider launches adaptive flights from Williams Peak
Charlie Martin flies 2 adaptive passengers in Project Airtime tandem wheelchair setup
From the top of Williams Peak at the northern tip of Summit County, Frisco’s Charlie Martin has officially launched a local adaptive paragliding program.
Under the Project Airtime umbrella, Martin took two passengers, Danelle Herra on Sept. 18 and Teri Walker on Sept. 25, up in the adaptive paragliding wheelchair he recently acquired.
Martin piloted the adaptive duo flights after he and fellow flier Dustin O’Hara, of Evergreen, trained on the chair with adaptive pilot and Project Airtime founder Chris Santacroce in August in Utah.
“In flight, everything is pretty simple,” Martin said. “You’re just flying with an extra 35 pounds.”
In recent years, Martin has become a passionate flier who loves to bring guests up in his tandem two-person setup. Following in the path of Santacroce, a former Red Bull athlete, Martin raised funds to help finance the adaptive chair and found an eager first flier in Herra, a paragliding pilot injured in an accident earlier in the summer.
“I wanted her to be the first one to fly in the chair because she understands all the ins and outs of paragliding,” Martin said.
A small crew of friends helped Martin and Herra launch the first flight, which he said was “near perfect” in ideal winds. After the friends helped Martin and Herra access the flat takeoff terrain above tree line on Williams Peak, the more involved launch process began.
Martin said it takes two people, one on each side, to hold the chair in place while Martin subsequently hooks into the wing and then the adaptive passenger.
“And while all of this is happening, I need to keep the wing overhead,” he said.
Once everything is dialed in, the group creeps toward the edge of the slope’s flat portion to a more steep grade where Martin counts down the helpers on each side of the chair. Martin times a “3, 2, 1, go” with an ideal wind cycle, at which time he and the helpers thrust Martin and the wheeled passenger into the sky.
“They run and push the chairs pretty much as long as they can to make sure we get off the hill safely,” Martin said. “And if the wing feels too light, we bring the wing down and start the whole process over.”
Martin said his launch helpers during the first two adaptive flights have been friends Teague Holmes, Sean Beinert, Dan Corley, Garrett Stowall and Jeff Pinkman.
As for the second flight, Martin said Walker found him after he posted in the local One Man’s Junk Summit County Facebook group. The flight gave Walker, who has multiple sclerosis, the feeling of what it’s like to fly.
This time, Martin and Walker weren’t flying solo, as they took off with a dozen fliers in the skies surrounding Green Mountain Reservoir.
“This one was a little different,” Martin said. “I had to strap her crutches to the side of the chair, which worked out perfectly. There was a nice little slot. It’s not meant for crutches, but it just worked and everything was super simple.”
Martin said his adaptive flying program will return in the spring once the snow melts up high in the neighborhood mountains.
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