Greg Lynnes, Pelican Rapids, ready to lift off with flight instructor Adam Roering, Paramotor Central, Little Falls.
Surprisingly, the hobby of para-aircraft is really no more expensive than snowmobiling. For about $10,000 or less, including training, you can be airborne.
Tip for those interested: Pay for the training. Don’t take up the hobby by YouTube video on the internet.
Power parachute flight instructor Adam Roering, Little Falls--feet on the ground at the Pelican Rapids airport, testing his parachute for a later flight.
Lake Lida resident Jeff Schoenack organized the Pelican Rapids Fly-In for motorized parachute flight enthusiasts, July 19-20. Pictured with the backpack motor and propeller, which is hitched to a parachute for flights he takes around the area. His local flights from the Pelican airport can take him about 50 miles, from Cormorant to Erhard and around.
His goal--if the autumn weather ever cooperates--is to shoot the glory of Maplewood State Park during Fall Leaf Days.
Kevin Johnson, rural Erhard, flew to the Pelican Rapids airport aboard his one-seat gyro-copter. Parachute crafts do not require a pilot’s license--but these miniature helicopters do. Johnson has been a pilot since about 1976.
Coming in for a landing at the Pelican Rapids Municipal Airport, during the parachute aircraft Fly-In July19-20.
Highway 34 from above. Note Tamarac Lake in the background.

Motorized parachute crafts take to the air at Fly-In at Pelican Rapids airport

By Louis Hoglund

Precarious and dangerous as it may appear from ground, parachute aviation is as easy and harmless as riding a bicycle.  

True. Sort of.

“It’s the safest form of aviation,” said Jeff Schoenack, a Lake Lida seasonal resident since 1971–full-time for the past few years. When he’s not on land or out on the water, he takes to the air in motorized parachutes. 

“We’re just a bunch of knuckleheads who like to fly,” laughed Schoenack, as  about a dozen of his similarly-inclined friends unraveled immense sheets of parachute fabric at the Pelican Rapids Airport July 19-20.  It was the first annual “Fly-In” event for those who pilot parachute jalopies classified by the Federal Aviation Administration as “experimental aircraft.”

Despite off and on rain and overcast skies, Schoenack was pleased with the turnout of more than 15 pilots, and he plans to host a second Pelican “Para-Fly-In” next year. 

Even for a land-lubber like myself, the appeal of the hobby is obvious–when you glide over the beauty of the Pelican Rapids area.  Tamarac Lake to the northeast; the Scambler Cemetery below, rows of July corn everywhere; Grove Lake to the west–all from a bird’s eye view. 

“When you’re up there, it just seems like the only place to be,” said Schoenack.  “Peaceful, relaxing…It’s like a drug.”

Grinning cheekbone-to-cheekbone, like a Doolittle Raider returning safely after striking airborne blows against the Japanese empire during World War II; Greg Lynnes understands the narcotic comparison. 

“I can see how it is addicting,” said Lynnes, Pelican Rapids, who flew a fixed-wing aircraft about 30 hours as a younger man, before he decided flying was a more expensive hobby than he could justify. 

“When I got the offer to go up with them, I said ‘heck yeah,’” exclaimed Lynnes, one of several local curiosity-seekers who came out to the Fly-In. 

“Awesome!” said Lynnes, smiling deliriously as he unboarded from his air cruise. “Way too much fun!”

Another “local” visiting the event was Kevin Johnson, Tonseth Township east of Erhard, who has flown since 1976, and bases out of the Barnesville airport. He flew in on a gyro-copter, which unlike the parachute craft, requires a pilot’s license.  

From Duluth came Whitney Horky, who with her husband James are among the very few married-couple para-flyers around. She flew in about 10 different states during one vacation, spanning 12 states. 

From St. Cloud, Leon Wacker, who turned a hobby into a business, manufacturing two-stroke and four stroke parachute craft. 

From Leonard, North Dakota, Wade Stine–who owns a pyro-technical and audio-visual production company–also loves the adventure of flying 

From Little Falls, the hometown of famous American pilot Charles Lindberg, was Adam Roering.  He also transformed his passion into a small business: Paramotor Central.  

It was Roering who trained Pelican’s Schoenack. 

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”  That’s Roering, whose high-flying adventures started at about age 15–when he jumped off a railroad bridge into the Mississipi.  “People live their lives wishing they did this or that…” 

Schoenack himself recalls dreams, ever since he was a kid, of “flapping his wings” to try and make an exit from a peculiar or frightening dream. He’d wake up in a sweat from all the mental exertion.

“Funny–but ever since I started para flying, those dreams ended,” said Schoenack. He served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps, attached to the Navy.  No shortage of adventure there

And that’s what all these flyers have in common: a sense of adventure.  Along with flying parachutes around the countryside, they variously: ride motorcycles; sky-dive, cliff-dive, scuba dive, pedal bicycles across the nation and travel whenever possible. 

“It really comes down to finances at this point–life isn’t limiting–only the checkbook is,” said Roering. 

Also–flying is just plain addicting.  

Trust me.  

I know. 

I was up there with them, a couple hundred feet in the air–with a Crow’s-Eye view of Lake Olaf in Norwegian Grove Township. 

…Hoping I would never return to earth.