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A Walnut Creek man has achieved his lofty goal of piloting his motorized paraglider from coast to coast, having landed Monday morning on a beach in St. Augustine, Florida.
And now, Harley Milne hopes other pilots will try to improve on his time — 48 hours and 19 minutes of actual flight time, or measured another way, eight days, two hours and four minutes (both thus far unofficial).
“I think that, in a year or two, someone else will attempt this,” Milne said Tuesday morning from Florida. “For me personally, that would be the biggest form of flattery. We think we’ve started something new.”
Milne had departed the YMCA Camp Surf near San Diego on Sunday, Nov. 29, and at 11:51 a.m. eastern time on Monday, Dec. 7, landed for the final time at Crescent Beach Park in St. Augustine. That landing was the last of 22 Milne made during his 2,145-mile journey, in 22 separate flights, in what he believes is the first coast-to-coast trip by a pilot flying a “paramotor.”
That is a powered paraglider complete with an engine and propeller, a frame with harness and a fuel tank. Others have come close to going coast-to-coast, he said, but he thinks his trip was the first of its kind.
Flight had its challenges
Milne said he and his five-member team (staying on the ground, driving motor vehicles) ran into few significant problems along the way. On one harrowing day over Texas, Milne flew at high altitude in 17-degree weather. “It took me 30 minutes to warm up from that,” he said.
His traveling support team, which included a mechanic, was augmented by two who didn’t travel — a doctor based in Oklahoma, and a meteorologist based in Florida. Milne said those latter two were every bit as crucial in making his mission a success as those who were on the ground beneath him as he flew.
“I think that, in a year or two, someone else will attempt this. For me personally, that would be the biggest form of flattery. We think we’ve started something new.”Harley Milne
Milne is a former high-tech developer and technology director, and now owns a Walnut Creek-based aerial photography business. He is one of an estimated 40 members of the Bay Area Paramotor Group, who regularly fly for fun out of some of the region’s smaller airports.
After a short rest, Milne said, he will teach a simulated advanced maneuvers class based in Lake Wales, Florida. He and his crew are also scheduled to appear in the Dec. 13 “Our Paramotor Nation” podcast, at 6 p.m. Pacific time.
He also hopes others will follow in his wake.
“It would be absolutely amazing if multiple teams … raced across the country to beat each other,” Milne said. “I hope what I did is the beginning of something.”