Shatner & Powered Paragliding
July 6, 2006
At 72 years old, it seemed a
bit of a stretch that this accomplished actor would want to make a cross
country powered paraglider flight in a strange place with people he didn't
know. But, in September of 2002, that is precisely what he did.
Naturally, I was a bit surprised when he called me. To be fair, it was
half expected because we had already made some plans (you know--his
people, my people--me).
1. Nick Scholtes prepares to
Jeff Goin and Ed Mondek get ready to pull for the assist.
Photo is an excerpt from footage
shot by Phil Russman who came in from LA
to help with camera work.
Standing on the flight deck of "my" 737 a half-hour before
departure I got the call. "Hello, is this Jeff?" It sounded
familiar but still took me a second. "Yes" I replied. "This
is William Shatner." I'll admit to being a bit surprised, all I could
muster was "Well fancy meeting you here!" To which he replied
"fancy meeting you here!"
And so the gelling of plans began. Eventually we did the paramotor
flight. He also flew my helicopter (he performed quite admirably at that)
to the practice field and we got to chat ever so briefly about flying. He
was not arrogant in any way or aloof. How could he be? He was subjecting
himself to a sport that we all know is most unforgiving of any bafoonery
and then going to go crawl around playing paintball for 6 hours. Gotta
hand it to the guy!
The December 2002 Powered Sport Flying magazine had a more complete story with pictures of the
flight. Late August, 2002 the call came in: William Shatner was looking
for help getting a PPG flight into a charity event that he would be the
main draw. His original limited training came from Francesco DeSantis and
Greg Andersen in California but he hadn't flown in some time. This would
be an interesting proposition.
Nick Scholtes agreed to help me with the task.
Mr. Shatner was
completely up front about his skills and expectations. He
explained that it had been a while since he'd flown, that he only had 12
flights and that few of those wound up on his feet. But that is why he
contacted us in the first place.
On Saturday morning the
winds were fickle. Nick flew over to where we were setting up to get us to
move further from a neighbor with horses. He landed into a steady 6 mph
breeze and then I launched Mr. Shatner's gear to test the air and
reposition it (beats carrying!). By the time I landed in the new
location, the winds had switched 180 degrees...Nick couldn't get airborne
with the now-tailwind.
When Bill Shatner
arrived we were considering abandoning the effort but time allowed one try
and he was willing. At the third location in the hay field the wind
finally cooperated and picked up to 3 mph out of the NE.
With Nick on the radio,
we tugged, the wing came up straight and he throttled up. The RDM kicked
in forcefully and he bound into the air. A slight swing to the left barely
missed our cameraman who dove out of the way.
He listened well to
instructions and handled the flying well...we enjoyed a peaceful 35 minute
flight over to the park.
Thanks to Jim Jackson of ParaliteUSA (no longer in business) for
providing the motor.