Ethan Hunt? No! Ethan Vance! Ethan has 5 years paragliding experience, but didn't strap a motor to his back until only 18 months ago when he moved to infamously flat Atlanta, Georgia and needed a new way to fly. With some tutorage courtesy of our own Shane Denherder, he’s been enjoying paramotoring his cross-country classic paraglider regularly and especially likes “assisted soaring.” He carries the distinct advantage of a strong beard too.
So what happened to Ethan out on the Icarus X? Commencing yarn....
It was quite the most inauspicious of starts for Ethan on the first morning.
Ethan was lucky enough to be able to wrangle a nice racy reflex wing (Ozone Viper3) the night before the IcarusX. Says Ozone: it's "a totally new design that features several key technological innovations never seen before in the paramotor world including the patented OZONE SharkNose Technology which has brought an entirely new level of performance to our sport. In addition, a newly designed riser system with ball bearing pulleys and a new wing tip steering system bring speed, efficiency, and precision together in a whole new way."
A shark nose! Who knew!
Anyway, he had a bit of time to try it out, but unfortunately launch conditions were tougher on the start line in the morning. After blowing his first launch attempt, it only got worse from there. Heavy morning dew on the grass soaked his glider turning it into something that resembled not a high-tech kite, but more like a giant white-and-blue jellyfish out of water. Now his untested wing was soaked, weighed a ton, and each launch he blew made it tougher and tougher.
Two or three fails might have been embarrassing, but by this point he had tallied around twenty launch attempts and it was becoming painful to watch. Everyone awake at the fly-in was either out helping shake the water off his wing, or praying from the sidelines for a miracle launch. Ethan was starting to have trouble standing up with all the extra weight - but the man isn’t short of persistence, which got the whole fly-in rooting for him.
When he finally got the wing overhead his engine had “loaded up” quite a bit so he had a truly agonising 100m sprint while milking the throttle to burn the carbon out and get full power.
All that launching and resetting led to a bit of a brake line tangle as he took off - as he struggled to get untangled and get back on course, onlookers cheered him on still. Luckily he managed to resolve it, but many would say he would have won the award for the least aesthetically pleasing departure on the Icarus X-Series.
Once aloft and sorted out Ethan made some great mileage until after the first checkpoint when he turned south into the now increasing southerly winds aloft. High turbulence a slow ground speeds meant that Ethan would not be able to make the 55-mile leg to Buffalo Creek in the first crack - so he landed at Poteau airport for a quick refuel with the rest of the racers.
Ethan had the clever idea of storing some synthetic two-stroke oil in a 16oz water bottle and carried it in his chest pack - but all those launch attempts and pressure on the bottle caused it to leak a significant bit of red oil all over his bag and clothing. When he landed at Poteau, he showed up looking a bit like a homeless butcher of some sort - good thing he didn’t have to charm anyone out of fuel.
Since the Martin brothers were waiting to rendezvous after Adriel’s mishap, Ethan ended up making up for the time he lost dragging his jellyfish wing all over the sod farm earlier, and he managed to depart just after the Martins.
Ethan linked up with his pals Ian and Trey for the next leg as they attempted to cross the mountain pass going to Talahina and Buffalo Creek valley. Low ceilings and higher winds made it pretty much impossible for anyone to safely/legally make the crossing, so he ended up landing with the others in a small field near Summerfield to evaluate options.
After a 15 minute stop, they figured the winds had calmed down and it was worth another go. Ethan took the “wind dummy” role and went up for a quick flight to check it out - the jellyfish had dried out at this point so he had no trouble launching out of the tall grass this time. Now late in the morning he was immediately having some tuning issues with his Thor190 that could only be attributed to the change to AVGAS after the first stop. Ethan decided to land back in the field to make a quick adjustment to his engine.
This is where the morning's launch attempts finally caught up with Ethan. While attempting to launch for the second time in the confined, tall-grass field, Ethan’s legs gave out at a full sprint and he face-planted damaging his prop. If it hadn’t been for the tuning issue with his engine, he may have had the energy to get the prop fixed and press on - but alas, he wasn’t comfortable flying the next segments with a finicky motor and a repaired prop. Sounds like a smart move Ethan.
Some neighbours helped Ethan with some good company as he broke down his motor and awaited a ride.
It was an excellent run for Ethan, truly tenacious - but he only had a limited time to complete the race before departing Saturday morning and didn’t have the energy to make the push.
Friday’s weather allowed little flying so Ethan departed the fly-in early to visit his dear granddad in rural Oklahoma.
Tune in for some equally Odyssean race reports for the remaining pilots, Ian, Trey and Britton, in the coming days. If this sounds like your cup of tea you can sign up for the UK edition of the Icarus X, somewhere else on this website.