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Three Wheels, One Big Sky

Aerotrekking, a form of flying that involves a tricycle aircraft and has been popular in Europe for some time now, is beginning to catch on in the United States. Among the places in the United States where aerotrekking is popular is Spokane, Wash., where aerotrekking aficionados have formed the Backcountry Aerosports Club at an airstrip outside the city. When the whether is good, the club's members take to the skies in their "trikes," a type of powered hang glider in which the aircraft's wing is coupled to a propeller-powered, three-wheeled undercarriage. The aircraft--which are steered when the pilot shifts his weight--can fly at speeds of between 40 and 60 mph, and have a range of roughly 200 miles. Although the aircraft sound low-tech, they are not like the flying machines daredevils made in the 1970s by tying lawnmower engines and large homemade wings to aluminum lawn chairs, said Denny Reed, an aerotrekking devotee and the owner of the airfield where the Backcountry Aerosports Club meets. He noted that today's trikes are built with materials such as titanium, Kevlar, and carbon fiber, and are ultra light weight. In addition, trikes have safety gear, navigation, and communication systems, Reed said. But Reed noted that aerotrekking is not risk free, despite the innovations that have been made. He said he also uses a GPS unit, a heated suit when necessary, and an intercom to make his trips even more safe.

October 17, 2008

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