Planning an ultralight gathering when the temperatures are
likely to be in the nineties would seem a bit crazy, however,
as ultralighters are often described as such, July seems to be
as good a time as any to host the largest gathering of crazy people
in the Midwest.
This year marks the third time the Annual Nebraska Ultralight
Gathering (ANUG) has taken place, and it was bigger and better
than ever. David City, Nebraska was the venue as in previous years,
and the local ultralighting clubs all banded together and worked
with the David City airport, Chamber of Commerce, Fire Department
and many other local organizations to make it so.
As in previous years, most of the planning was done via the
Internet, using an open communication list. Any interested parties
could log on and ask questions, voice opinions and make constructive
suggestions. It worked just as successfully as in previous years.
By the time my wife Anne and I drove in on Friday afternoon (my
excuse for not flying in was that we were promoting our newly
formed custom sheet metal cutting business, and needed the trailer
to haul in our samples), there were already around 20 3-axis machines,
a trike and several powered parachutes parked for the night, and
several more enjoying the beautiful conditions.
The air was warm and the thermals were dying off as the sun
sank towards the western horizon, encouraging several of the pilots
to go off and play, or join in a flight around the town, as requested
by the David City townsfolk.
Friday evening, safety officer Bob Harvey called a meeting
to brief everyone on safe practices and procedures. He repeated
the briefings on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Each pilot was
given a hospital-type wristband to prove that they had attended
the safety briefing. Not having a wristband meant not being allowed
to fly, so all the "outpatients" could be seen wandering
around the town sporting their washable wristbands over the weekend.
If found wandering aimlessly, they could be shepherded back to
the airfield on the shuttle bus provided by the city, and manned
by volunteers from the local ultralighting clubs.
Probably the group making the greatest effort to attend the
event were from Colorado. Five machines, supported by a great
ground crew consisting of wives, girlfriends, families and friends
made the mini epic adventure an unforgettable one, both for themselves
and for all the new friends they made over the weekend.
Dean Spencer flew his GT 400, Cole Hanscome flew his MXL II,
Chuck Ashbaugh piloted his modified Kolb fitted with a 750cc BMW
engine, Barney Fletcher piloted his distinctive yellow T-Bird,
and Michael Flannery flew his FireStar.
Setting out at sunrise on July 4, three machines from Longmont,
Colorado and five ground support vehicles converged on Hanscome's
farm in Greeley, Colorado to fly and drive out together.
The group had worked out a clever leapfrog ground crew system
where vehicles carrying spare fuel and supplies would spread out
along the route. The first vehicle would report to the others
how many and when the ultralights left the ground. The next vehicle
would then report when and how many landed, and once refueled,
how many departed. In this way, it was possible to keep a close
watch over the pilots. If any ultralight needed maintenance, there
was always ground support at every landing point. Flannery, who
modestly described the group's epic flight to me, said the pilots
would not have been able to make it to ANUG without the fantastic
efforts of their ground crew.
Flannery had his own exciting moment when he nosed the FireStar
over at Curtis, Nebraska following a flat tire problem on takeoff.
The ground crew and other pilots were able to quickly sort out
both the blown tire and a bent Pitot tube, and get Flannery airborne
once more, without wasting much time. The pilots mentioned rough
flying conditions at times, but battled on to achieve their goal.
One of the ground crew vehicles had its own exciting moment,
when it caught fire from a leaky muffler. Swift action prevented
the fire from doing serious damage, and they were able to continue
All the pilots and ground crew met with incredibly friendly
and helpful hospitality along the route, which brought them through
Sterling, Curtis and Minden, Nebraska. They overnighted at Minden,
shared a potluck dinner, and set off at sunrise on Friday, July
5, to fly into Aurora, Nebraska, where Dean Sombke flying
a white Challenger joined up with them to fly the last leg
to David City. A strong tailwind helped all the pilots.
They were not the first to arrive, however. Ed Burt from Osborne,
Kansas reportedly got there first. Many of those who flew in the
previous year came back again. On Saturday morning with more than
30 aircraft already on the ground and several more playing in
the warm air, the spectators had plenty to look at. Ed Casey had
trailered in from Red Oak, Iowa, and took no time at all to assemble
his Fun Racer trike and get into the air. Casey spent most of
the day flying around, practicing engine-off landings and showing
everyone what triking is all about.
As usual there were door and raffle prizes, many donated by
ultralight organizations or suppliers. Ray Abbruzzese, an
ultralighter known to many USUA members both locally and nationally,
donated a GPS. Ray is recovering from throat cancer, and I know
that we all wish him a speedy recovery.
The strong thermal conditions that developed throughout the
morning did not prevent Karl Fricke, Steve Tweedt and Guy Stayner
from flying in around noon from the Council Bluffs, Iowa area.
Fricke was piloting his T-Bird, Tweedt a Quantum 912 trike, and
Stayner an Aerotrike.
As J.D. Stewart continued to give introductory flights to students
in his Challenger, the rest of us sought shelter from the sun
and enjoyed slices of melon provided once again by the Dragon
Fliers Club from Omaha, Nebraska.
Scott Dubsky from Schuyler, Nebraska entertained spectators
with his superb radio-controlled aero models. A member of the
Norfolk & Columbus Radio-Control club, Dubsky had picked up
the radio-controlled model obsession from his father almost 20
years ago, and for the last 4 years had been flying almost every
week of the year. Dubsky had brought along a P-51, a Lightning
P-38, a Zero, and a Russian Yak, plus a tank. Dubsky loves to
fly his models off snow and also off water, and says a beginner
could start flying radio-controlled models for about $400, but
that the obsession could lead to flying models costing more than
One ultralight aircraft landed out with an engine problem.
The pilot was able to fix the problem and flew back to the airfield
a short time later.
In the evening, some pilots joined in a bean bag accuracy event.
By this time, we were all watching the cumulonimbus clouds pumping
up in the south and west. The other precision tasks had to be
cancelled as thunderstorms started to sound off. About 10 minutes
after everyone had tied everything down we were subjected to more
rain than we had seen in several weeks.
J.D. Stewart sent the following item to include in this article:
"Saturday evening, I had two introductory flights left. It
was clouding over, and I thought we'd have enough time to get
at least one student flown in my Challenger II. After taking off
and flying over to the student's parents' farm, we started heading
west towards David City. Seeing the rainstorm heading towards
the airport, I made the decision to fly around it and follow it
in, since we still had a lot of time left on the intro flight.
We could see clearing conditions directly west and north of us.
"As we headed west, we caught the edge of the storm, and
it got pretty turbulent. A 700-fpm bumpy updraft made me decide
to head northwest to get farther away from the storm. We found
a 1/2-mile hayfield that had just been mowed, with a long section
where there were no bales. We set down nicely and yakked about
airplanes while we waited for the storm to pass.
"Sure enough, a half-hour later a state patrol officer
and sheriff showed up to survey what they thought was a crash.
After telling them the situation, they called the airport to let
everyone there know we were okay. Our spouses were certainly worried
"The rain and winds started, so we moved the plane next
to some trees for a windbreak. We didn't quite miss the storm,
but only got 20 minutes of rain and wind.
"We saddled up around 8:45, with me in the front seat
this time, and taxied to the north end of the field, noting rough
spots along the way. With wet, 5-inch grass and 450 pounds of
passengers, I knew it would take a lot of the field to get out
of there, and it did. We flew directly south until we were west
of the airport, and headed in. At about 2 miles from the field,
we started to get a little mist from the back end of the rain.
By the time we landed, it had passed, and everyone at the field
greeted us. My student was excited with this adventure, and the
next morning I took his wife up for her intro flight, giving
her some extra time for her previous night's worry."
A town not much further to the west of us received a 10-inch
deluge, which washed away parts of Interstate 80 and left many
homes flooded. For us, the storms passed in time to allow David
City to have their fireworks display, held off from the 4th to
fit in with ANUG and other city activities.
On Sunday, five more ultralights flew in, and there were still
plenty of machines on the airfield and sampling the air for spectators
to see. Ultralights continued to fly around in the very muggy,
Chief organizers Harold Ostler and Dave Nissen were delighted
with the event and it looks like we'll all be back again next
year. I intend to be flying my trike in too the business
will have to take second place for ANUG weekend.
- Report filed by Kevin Rutland