The Icarus X: Dean Kelly's Tale of Adventure

Here's the latest blog from Katy Willings, Icarus Trophy Event Manager. She's the centre for logistics and updates during the race and provider of Clare-Baldingesque commentary on the Trophy from the mobile HQ:

Hopefully, you're enjoying following along, and getting caught up in the majesty and badassery of what these pilots are attempting. It does seem the naked eye, and the more you know about the sport of paramotoring, the more ambitious the Icarus Trophy seems to be. Most elite pilots don't fancy the look of it; any fool can be uncomfortable, why sign up to fly outside your comfort zone, with lots of gear attached, possibly for 12 days straight? And some of those take-off elevations are testing even for them.

Dean Kelly is proving, so far, how it pays to be ambitious, and how much fun there is to be had in Adventure Class. He is by some distance the least experienced pilot in the group and he is nailing it so far. Every time he lands we get messages from him describing how that last flight was the highest, the coldest, and most turbulent and challenging, the most beautiful, the most memorable and sometimes, the most arousing of his life. He is reaping the rewards.

Dean is a student of Dave Wainwright and competed in the Icarus X Australia in July. This was his first long-distance cross-country flight and at that point he had no ambition to take on the full Icarus Trophy. However he had such a good time and learned so much on the ITX, that he decided to take the plunge. He's a great example of an Adventurist type progressing from learning to fly, dipping a toe in the kid of flying involved on the Icarus Trophy, and then just grasping the nettle and going for it. 

Here are the risk management factors he is employing, and we are providing as the organisers, which make this an Odyssean, rather than a kamikaze, challenge.

1. He's flying Adventure Division. This means he can progress forward by means other than flight. If there is a stretch that he doesn't like the look of, or doesn't feel up to, he is encouraged to go by land, or sit out the weather until conditions are more favourable, and try again. We keep track of how far he has flown, and we know his main ambition for the Trophy is to fly as much of the course as possible. With this in mind we can help him make those calls and succeed according to his own race plan.

2. He's supported. Travis is on the road with him for direct and moral support. They are raising hell whenever ground-dwelling, and he is getting proper rest between flights. As evidenced by all the unscheduled nudity and high trans-fat meal choices. (NB Travis must try harder) 

Travis also has Dean's spare parts, which removes the headache of breaking a prop or damaging your wing and needing to get to the support vehicles to get yourself out of trouble again.  The most likely thing you'll damage if you screw up a launch and face-plant. It's also most common thing to screw up when you are a newer pilot. Dean wisely bought two and has used them both already.

We have multiple lines of communication with him. As with all the pilots we check that the route plan he described to us during his pilot briefing 1:1 is still valid, and if his plans change he knows to tell us, and we know to check his actual path vs. his intended route. We know, in some cases before the pilots do, whether he's on track or getting into sketchy territory.

He's flying in a team. #JamesDean is a thing, and for much of the time, Trey is teaming up too. #JamesDeanGerman. Their route plan is sensible for their experience level, using airports rather than fuel stations in towns. FAR103 regulations ban flying over populated areas so you need to be a pretty kick-ass pilot to land that accurately close to roads and towns and power lines. Plus they have a party to greet them every time they stop. They must think they are goddamn rock stars or something. Fair. You do too, probably.