Whatís that up in the north Kalispell sky?
Itís not a bird. And itís not a plane.
Itís just Dennis Boultinghouse out flying his powered paraglider again, proving everyday people can fly if they really want.
Thatís not to say Boultinghouse doesnít feel like Superman as he motors through the air ó because thatís exactly how he does feel.
ďYou canít believe youíre doing what youíre doing,Ē Boultinghouse said of his toe-dangling flights. ďYou just have that big Kool-Aid smile on your face.Ē
People might have seen Boultinghouse flying over fields at Kidsports athletic complex. Or around the track before a car race at Montana Raceway Park.
He tries to fly at least twice a week. †††
Sometimes heís out following a river, cruising just above the waterís surface. Other times he flies up to Big Mountain and back or tours lakes and waterfalls in the scenic Mission Mountains.
Boultinghouse flies year-round as wind and weather allow.
He was out at Kidsports on a calm but frosty Thanksgiving Day, dressed in his snowmobile suit and heated socks, gloves and jacket.
ďIn the valley you can fly quite a bit. Even during winter we have beautiful days. Itís a little cool. But itís gorgeous,Ē Boultinghouse said.
ďA little coolĒ might be an understatement. Even some of his paragliding friends from Canada refuse to go up in the winter.
Boultinghouse has been engaged in powered paragliding for just two years. He started off by taking an intensive, nine-day training program in Monterey, Calif. Formal training is something he stresses everyone needs before trying the sport.
ďDo not try to learn this on your own,Ē Boultinghouse said. ďYou will either get maimed or you will die.Ē
Boultinghouse had followed the sport for two decades.
He ďgot the nerveĒ to try it several years after his grown children had moved out of the house and he had retired from the California Department of Corrections and moved to Kalispell.
ďI figured if Iím going to do this, thereís no better time,Ē he said.
Powered paragliding is the stuff of dreams.
Geared up for a flight, Boultinghouse takes off with a short trot. The nylon paraglider wing laid out behind him billows and rises from the ground. As he continues to trot, he throttles up. Two hundred pounds of thrust from the two-stroke paramotor and caged propeller strapped to his back carry him up, up and away.
From there, he relaxes into a comfortable sling seat. Expansive views unfold. Heís as free as any bird, free to slowly float inches above the ground or to ascend thousands of feet into the clouds.
With just a few gallons of gasoline, he can fly for hours.
ďItís pretty limitless with this little unit. Itís the most fun youíre ever going to have in your entire life,Ē Boultinghouse said.
POWERED paragliding is the easiest, safest, most affordable and least-regulated form of recreational flying, Boultinghouse said. For some reason, itís just not that common in this part of the country.
ďIn Northwest Montana itís just not something you really see, although I canít understand why. Itís such a beautiful area to fly in,Ē he said.
The parawing and the paramotor set up and break down in less than five minutes. They can fit in the bed of a pickup truck or even in the trunk of a car.
His equipment is rated for several hundred pounds, so he can take along fishing gear, a tent or extra fuel.
ďItís the safest form of flying that Iím aware of on this planet,Ē Boultinghouse said. ďBecause you canít even get off the ground unless the wing is already flying.Ē
Once up in the air, his parawing has a 10-to-1 glide ratio.
ďSo if youíre at 1,000 feet and the engine quits and you canít restart it, you can glide 10,000 feet before your feet will touch the ground. And if you canít find a spot to land within two miles thatís only as big as you are, you shouldnít be up there,Ē Boultinghouse said, adding that he wears a reserve parachute on every flight, just in case.
Training and all new gear that will get someone up in the air for years to come will cost $10,000 to $12,000.
Used gear can be found for less. But thatís pretty cheap entertainment as far as flying goes.
ďGo do it. Itís a blast,Ē Boultinghouse said of the sport. ďIf youíve ever wanted to fly, which I think all people look at the birds and go, ĎGod, I wish I could do that,í you can do it.Ē
Boultinghouse said heís happy to help people learn more about powered paragliding. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporter Tom Lotshaw may be reached at 758-4483 or by email at email@example.com.