Hodges Field taken over by a bunch of “Bad Apples”

Published 5:28 pm Friday, May 19, 2023

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ANDERSONVILLE – A little over 300 pilots from around the country and even some from overseas descended upon Hodges Field this past weekend for the sixth annual Bad Apples Hodges Field Fly In. What type of flying were they doing? Foot launching power paragliding.

“We are flying paramotors,” said paragliding pilot Mark Ingman, who is one of the many Bad Apples that participate in the sport. “A paramotor is a backpack fan, a big fan warn on the back with somewhere between 80 and 250 CC engines and a parachute similar wing will be laid out on the ground by the pilot and then the pilot starts running. The running brings the wing up over the pilot’s head, then the pilot hits the gas and keeps running and eventually will take off and be flying,” Ingman continued.

Why are these ambitious, air-loving pilots called “Bad Apples”, one may ask? According to Ingram, they are probably the most well organized paragliding group in the country, but the name “Bad Apples” came from a group of paragliders from Atlanta who were down in Florida one day flying with some other people who were also from Florida. “Somebody in that group did something really screwy or that they shouldn’t have done,” Ingman said. “One of the Florida people pointed over there and said ‘Oh that’s just a bunch of people from Atlanta. They’re just bad apples’. That showed up in a newspaper article at some point.” Ingram went on to say that the Atlanta-based paragliders weren’t even the ones who caused the trouble, but that name stuck and that’s the name the group has been known as ever since.

“Over the years, people have come and gone through the group, but it has always been a homogenous group of people that like to do this and they enjoy life. That’s the best way to describe it,” Ingman said. “They enjoy being out here. I’m a member of the Bad Apples. I’m one of the Bad Apples. I’ve been flying for about five years.”

This is another picture of a power paraglider flying over Hodges Field.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Ingman went on to say that when he first came to Hodges Field and saw the conditions, he was extremely pleased because the Bad Apples have had a lot of problems finding places to launch from. “Our ideal launch field is a huge, smooth, grassy field where there are almost no trees and a lot of space with freedom to run and nobody cares that we go out there and make noise,” Ingman said. “This field (Hodges Field) meets that application perfectly and when I first saw this field, I’m gonna have a bunch of guys come down and fly over this thing. I don’t know how it’s going to work, but I’m gonna do it,” Ingman continued.

Ingman went on to say that they started about five or six years ago doing these flying events, but had to call it off one year because of the COVID Pandemic. He also stated that there are not only flyers from around the country, but from places overseas such as Germany and Italy.

This is a picture of one of the Bad Apples lifting off the ground and into the air at Hodges Field.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

According to Tim Gaskins, another member of the Bad Apples, the paragliders are not in this to make money and they are not really a club, but just a bunch of guys that enjoy fellowship and friendship. “We’re just a bunch of guys that got together that people started calling bad apples,” Gaskins said. “We said, ‘If we are going to do this, We’re going to give it back to the community. We’re going to help people. There is no reason to keep money. We don’t need it. Let’s give it back to the community. We will give it to veterans who are hurting.” Gaskins went on to say that there is also a paragliding organization for women that tries to get the ladies to participate in the sport and he said that the group wants to give money to organizations to help with scholarships for kids in high school. “Everything we do, we give back to charity. We don’t keep any of the money,” Gaskins said. “

While this is a fun, exhilarating sport, it is by no means cheap. According to Ingram, it costs $7,000 at least just for the engine and then a wing, which would cost $3,500.00 to $4,500.00. The training is about $2,000.00 to $3,000.00. “Some trainers will often offer a package deal that’s less than the some total of those three items,” Ingman said. “Once you have the gear, the only continuing costs are fuel and repairs when you break things and maintenance.”

A paraglider enjoys his flight over Hodges Field right below some dark clouds.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

There are many different ages of people involved in the sport, but the oldest Bad Apple out there is Don Jordan, who is 87 years old. He began paragliding when he was 62. “Sometimes, they have competition, but most of the times, like this event, it’s free flying. You just go out and you have fun,” Jordan said. “You don’t need a license or certification, so you don’t have to go through training. There are people that have watched videos, youtubes and train themselves, but it’s not the usual route because there are so many tricks to the trade that if you don’t have an instructor to show you those, it can make your experience a lot more longer and harder,” Jordan continued.

For Ingman, the main reason that he flies is for the view, especially seeing the sunset from the air. ‘I love to see the sunsets. I love to see the cloud formations,” Ingman said. “Part of why some of us fly is the roller coaster affect, the feeling of being able to hit the gas and pull the lines to make it turn. It feels maybe like a snowboard. Part of why we fly is the feeling of running and being suddenly lifted off the ground like Superman and part of it is just the weirdness of it all. At no time in history has man been able to set up and walk and go into the air simply based on equipment that they have on their back.”

This is a photo of a sunset taken by Bad Apple paraglider Mark Ingman as he is flying through the air.
Photo by Mark Ingman

For more information on the Bad Apples power paragliders, go to www.badappleshodgesfieldflyin.com.