Meet the Martins.
At 18 and 20 years of age, the Martin brothers are the youngest pilots yet to grace the ranks of Icarus pilots.
The brothers elected to fly in the race class, and had high hopes of finishing the course in one day, thereby avoiding some nasty weather forecasted to close in later in the week. Both were flying Skycruise paramotors and Dudek HadronXX wings with Minari engines. Doran and Adriel were the first in the air on Thursday morning, taking off just after sunrise nailing some flawless launches.
The first fuel stop was planned to be the Buffalo Guest ranch, but shortly after takeoff the brothers experienced some stiff headwinds aloft - and they had to aim for fuel at the Poteau airport. Adriel unfortunately suffered a torn drive belt, and needed to make a precautionary landing in a farm field just 20 miles south of the start line.
Volunteers at the Endless Footdrag brought Adriel a replacement belt while he got to know the locals, and he was quickly back in the air and on his way to rendezvous with Doran at Poteau airport.
Winds picked up a bit after the fuel stop, making the trek to Buffalo Creek nearly impossible. As they passed Wister lake, Adriel once again started having some tuning issues with his paramotor which hadn’t quite become accustomed to the airplane-specific AVGAS. Yes! Imagine that, armchair pundits. Fuel from an airport isn't the same as fuel from a carport. Garage. Servo. Whatever. It matters what you put in that little fuel tank....
Adriel landed out in yet another farmer’s field to re-tune and adjust his engine while Doran circled, buzzard-like, above. While re-launching, Adriel had some trouble while dodging some nasty bushes and Eastern-Oklahoma tick grass - unfortunately his throttle cable twisted into the prop severing it and damaging the prop - making the paramotor unflyable. That's three equipment failures in one morning. Ouch.
Circling above, Doran decided to try to push on at this point; but as he climbed higher trying to push into a pre-frontal turbulent headwind he was unable to make much forward progress. He noted at one point on full speedbar he felt like he was flying backward. The tracking team noted groundspeeds of 19mph, meaning the winds were likely around 30mph. The air was incredibly turbulent as it rolled off the mountains ahead, and Doran reported having several small collapses on his wing. That's when you start falling out of the sky. It was clear to him that this just wasn’t the right day to try the mountain crossing down to Buffalo Creek.
Doran decided to call it quits and re-evaluate, pulling off a miraculous approach and landing into a small LZ surrounded by trees up in the foothills south of Wister lake.
After that pants-browning second flight, and seeing that his brother could no longer continue with him; Doran opted out of flying for the day and hitched a ride back to the start line to regroup with his brother.
Adriel had fantastic luck after his gear mishap and hitched a ride to a tasty American eatery in the nearby town of Wister, where he reportedly enjoyed a ham & cheese melt.
Both brothers fetched a ride from a shirtless pilot, Kyle, at the fly-in, and were eager to get their issues sorted out and return to their respective spots - but Ardriel was unable to source the correct parts to make his paramotor reliable again.
After the foul weather on Friday, Doran returned to a suitable take-off spot, approximately 17 miles behind his furthest point, to try again. Saturday’s weather at least provided some higher ceilings and lower winds, but there was still some pretty sporty turbulence crossing the pass into Buffalo Creek Valley. Doran made the 35-mile trek to Buffalo Creek guest ranch, but upon landing realized that his pull-starter had broken (second time this week) and his belt was wearing through quickly. He knew that the next crossings could potentially be bad, and he didn’t want to continue having to hand-prop his motor to start.
Doran got a ride back to the fly-in with his dad and brother on Saturday. Although they weren’t able to get an official finish, they had some great experiences with new friends - we’re sure they’ll be back next year. Well done chaps.