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Ultralight aircraft offers farmer breathing room

Producer also owns a drone but says he gets a better picture of his fields in his mind when he checks them in person.
Corey Doerksen’s ultralight is built for safety, powered with an air-rated contingency system that comprises a three-bladed fan on a snowmobile engine with two carburetors, two sets of ignitions and two sets of plugs.

EYEBROW, Sask. — Corey Doerksen loves flying.

During calm summer evenings, neighbours and a few photographers have spotted Doerksen flying his powered parachute over the gentle rolling countryside north of Eyebrow, Sask.

“If I hadn’t been a farmer, I would have been a pilot because I love being up in the air,” he said.

“So many people think that ‘oh, that’s so scary and I’d never do it,’ but it doesn’t bother me. I’ve often said to my wife that I’m going out flying so I can relax.”

Doerksen has another good excuse to fly the ultralight from his on-farm grassy air field.

“I go out and crop check my fields (peas, lentils, canola, wheat), especially when it comes time to spray. I’ll zoom along the ground and try to get a handle on what I’ve got for weeds and then fly up high enough to look at the whole field and kind of base it on whether 30 percent needs spraying, 50 percent, this side, that side,” he said.

The family owns a drone, but Doerksen said he gets a better picture in his mind by looking at the fields himself.

“I was checking hoppers the other night and flew low because I wanted to see how bad they were hopping. They see the thing (ultralight) coming and start hopping, so you can see just how busy it is on the ground when you fly over,” he said.

Built for safety, Doerksen’s ultralight is powered with an air rated contingency system, basically a three-bladed fan on a snowmobile engine with two carburetors, two sets of ignitions and two sets of plugs.

If one quits, the other one takes over,” he said.

The 700 sq. foot parachute also has built-in security with two sets of wires.

“One is tight and if that one breaks the one beside it takes over right away so there’s a lot of backup systems on it.”

In fact, he said the ultralight is so easy and safe to operate that many pilots will practice their power-out controlled landings by turning off the motor, pointing into the wind and parachuting down.

“For instance, last night I was just flying along and the motor quit. Oh, no big deal. I just turned it into the wind and landed beside a wheat field. Backed it up and took it home,” he said.

“I’ve done that before (when) coming in for a landing. If there’s enough wind I’ll cut the engine and drift in. Just because you don’t have a motor doesn’t mean you’re crashing.

“I just come to a rolling stop. Then I fold up the parachute, stuff it in the bag and drive it to my shop. Pretty simple.”

Flying with his powered parachute is his passion and Doerksen has never considered skydiving.

“I’ve never parachuted before. See, that’s funny. I don’t mind driving this thing but it doesn’t interest me to jump out of a perfectly good airplane,” he said.

“I leave with a parachute up and I come back with the parachute up and that makes me feel safe.”

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