By James P. White
“You bet!” The words were out of my mouth before I realized what I was saying. What was I thinking? I’d never flown in an ultralight aircraft before… heck, I don’t even ride go-carts, let alone one that flies. But there I was, jumping into the experience with both trembling feet.
I had just spent the past hour listening to Ralf Sertkol explain in great detail how ultralight aircraft work, how safe they are, and what a thrilling experience it is to fly in one (yeah, right). So I had some knowledge (he’s flown more than 10,000 flights) and a bit of confidence that it wasn’t quite the death-defying act I had always assumed ultralight flying to be.
My fear in check (not), we headed out to the runway… well, actually a driveway that backs up to an open sandy stretch of land. Ralf gave me the few brief passenger instructions — keep your butt seated, your belt buckled, your pockets empty and your ear protectors on, and enjoy the ride!
Before I knew it, I was strapped into the tandem seat just behind the Ralf, my ear protectors firmly in place and sunglasses on to ward off the wind. With a thumbs-up signal, Ralf revved the engine (a good idea those ear protectors) and eased the throttle forward. Quickly picking up speed (and my heart rate), the ultralight’s large inflatable tires rumbled across the desert sand. Faster and faster we went, a few bounces and suddenly we were airborne.
We left terra firma and my stomach several hundred feet below, as we sliced through the air on a delta-shaped wing, a propeller, and a small engine. It WAS exhilarating. The air whipped all around us. The engine throbbed. And the view! A smooth bank to the right and the aqua blue San Felipe bay was presented to us as if ready for inspection. Another bank to the right and the San Pedro de Martir mountains rose up to salute us.
Coming about in a sweeping circle we straightened out, dipped low and began a fly-over of the broad, white-sand beach. Beachgoers looking up and giving us a wave, Ralf signaled back with a tip of the wing and we zoomed up to resume our aerial tour of San Felipe.
Our 15-minute air ride done, Ralf eased back the throttle and our tubular-chassis aircraft began a quick, smooth descent, landing easily and cruising to a stop where the adventure had begun. Ralf turned and asked, “So whadjya think?”. My sand-encrusted smile said it all: “Ultralight – the ONLY way to fly!”
Ralf can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or reached by calling in Mexico, 686-116-2933.
Ultra-cool experiences are everywhere in Baja! Take the ultralight flight and maybe send us your best photo!
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