Rob took off next. Fran had disappeared. "She ran out of time," said Shellington. Since Jeff was set to go last, I was scheduled to fly after Rob. Suddenly, my palms were moist. I felt as if I had swallowed a cantaloupe.
Rob, too, landed well. He handed me the helmet. Somebody helped me strap on a watch-style altimeter. Before I knew it, I was harnessed into the seat. I took a couple of deep breaths.
"John, give me a wave if you can hear me," said Femia over the radio. He was standing 100 yards or so down the runway. "Big wave, big exaggerated wave. That's better. O.K., here we go.
"Add a little power now. Power up. Power up. Good. Steer toward me a little. Reduce power just a bit. Toward me. Come on, push the pedal. Power up. And full power...."
I was off the ground. My left hand was on the throttle. My right hand was between my legs, squeezing the seat.
"Nice takeoff, buddy. That was great."
Thank god for Femia's voice. And thank god my helmet didn't have its mike hooked up. I wasn't sure I would want anybody to hear what I might have to say. Such as "Get me down!" Already, I was several hundred feet in the air. I could hear the engines. I knew there was a parachute above me. But I wished I could see wings on either side of me.
"I want you to steer to the right a little bit," Femia said. "Fly straight into the wind. You're rising, rising, rising.
"Now throttle back just a little bit. Little more. Perfect. Now steer left and come on downwind. You'll feel yourself getting whipped around."
The foot lever was hard to push, but once I got the hang of it and the ParaPlane responded, I felt better. Flying with the wind now, a bit more in control, I began to look around—down on a farmer plowing his field, up at sky divers descending under their colorful chutes, and to my right at the twin cooling towers of the nearby Limerick nuclear power plant.