By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
It’s always nice to have a hobby … some sort of activity that takes us away from the mundane work routine and provides enjoyment.
Sporting activities are popular hobbies – golfing, biking, jogging, etc. Others may whet their appetite surfing, rock climbing, or race car driving! But one local man has truly become passionate about getting ‘up, up and away’ from it all to find a distraction from his ordinary days.
Chris Egress of Fairmont has an electrical business called eSolutions. He says he began his career as a power lineman and always liked being in the air. Over the years that “like” hasn’t changed, but now he “loves” being in the air – as a sporting activity! And it’s one he is more than just a little enthusiastic about.
It all got started when he and six of his friends from Mannington got together and decided they should all try sky-diving. It sounded unique! However, Chris really became a fan and was the only one to back for more. In fact, he is now a sky-diving instructor with 1,600 sky-dives under his belt.
He also does power parachuting and paramotoring. If you live in the Shinnston area, you may have seen him soaring above Shinnston from time to time.
“I have both a power parachute (2-seater) and a paramotor that I lodge at both the Fairmont Municipal Airport and at Maley’s Airstrip near Shinnston and I fly from both places. I get up in the air as often as I can,” he said. “It has really become a passion of mine and just about as far from electrical work as you can get!”
Most often you’ll find him doing paramotoring, and he explained what it entails. Essentially, it is a canopy hooked onto a backpack motor. Its engine is similar to what a small dirt bike would have. It uses gasoline and its fuel tank, which holds close to three gallons of fuel, is also on his back!
“It weighs about 60 pounds, and with three gallons of fuel, I can fly for about two hours. The paramotor goes about 20-25 miles per hour and aviation restrictions limit you to going only about 1,200 feet above the ground. This sport does involve a two-week training program, and I can tell you that it’s very expensive!” he said. “There are no training schools in this area, but they do it in Florida. You buy all your gear and they teach you with a radio. During flying, you learn a lot, but I had somewhat of an advantage being a sky-diving instructor.”
Chris noted that you do have to be very physically fit to launch a paramotor because you have to run very fast to get it off the ground. Taking off is the hardest part, he said. And you don’t necessarily have to utilize an airport; if your yard is large enough to provide enough room to get a good running start, you can actually launch a paramotor from your yard!
“I guess you could say that I’ve become a geek for checking out the weather,” he confessed. “Whether I am in a power parachute or using my paramotor, they are both very weather dependent. Naturally it isn’t something you can do if there is a threat of a storm, but there must also be ZERO wind. So the weather is an important factor when it comes to how often I can fly.”
This sporting activity is an adventure that offers a spectacular view of what is below you. Chris says that flying is hard to beat, and “Paramotoring is the closest you can get to being a bird”!
Apparently, the soaring gene runs in his blood and is not limited to just him. Both his mother and his grandmother have flown with him! About a month ago, in fact, he took his 76-year old grandmother sky-diving … and his wife has gone on several sky-dives with him!
Using a GoPro compact action camera has enabled him to capture photos and videos from above and its wide lens increases the amount of scenery that can be captured in the frame.
Chris is excited to announce his newest venture. He and two others (one a sky-diver and another a pilot) are involved and starting a business that they hope will entice many who may have sky-diving on their bucket list! The company is called Skydive Mountaineer and it will be “getting off the ground” in about a month.
“There are several places about three hours away where you can do this, but nothing locally. Woody Maley is allowing us to use his field, and the FAA has approved it. It will offer the experience of a lifetime, but nothing crazy,” he continued. “We will take people on tandem sky-dives, giving them a great opportunity to experience flying. We’ll go about 11,000 feet above ground … no more than 120 miles an hour. We’ll be under a canopy for 5-7 minutes and free fall for about 40 seconds. I’ve been sky-diving for 12 years now, and I’m very eager to get rolling on this and give people a thrilling experience and a view they will never forget,” he concluded.
To learn more, visit their website at skydivemountaineer.com.