Since 1995, Larry Speed has been enjoying much of his free time flying through the air above the sprawling fields of central Iowa. Speed owns a Buckeye Powered Parachute, a lightweight, one-person aircraft that is small enough to fit in his garage. For most of the year, the parachute stays in the garage where he and his wife of 48 years, Georgia, live in West Des Moines.
While serving in Vietnam, Speed learned how to parachute out of jets and helicopters at low altitudes. Though he remembers the beauty in the scenery and excitement of gliding to the earth, he also was disappointed in how short-lived the descents to the ground were.
It wasn’t until December of 1995 that Speed heard a radio commercial about the powered parachute located at a dealer west of Des Moines on I-80. He and his wife traveled to the dealer and took a trial ride for the first time that month.
“It was everything and more than what I expected it to be,” Speed says.
Conveniently enough, the dealer even had a newly assembled model in the showroom, which he quickly purchased.
The machine has a small motor attached and flies a large parachute behind it and is steered by using one’s feet. Speed learned how to properly fly the parachute safely and it quickly became a favorite pastime. The sensation of gliding through the air in his powered parachute is truly a unique one.
“It’s wide open. You don’t have any surroundings. You’re just out there. To your left, to your right and below you its open air. It’s a unique adventure,” says Speed.
During his adventures, Speed has traveled up and down the Raccoon and Mississippi Rivers and across central Iowa. He’s seen farms, fields, forests and has traveled to Winterset for an aerial view of the bridges of Madison County.
Speed usually flies the aircraft at a speed of 26 mph, 500 feet above ground. It’s an easy-going, steady flight, and Speed can enjoy all the sites Iowa has to offer. He has even taken the craft to 4,000 feet in the air and coasted in the atmosphere.
“Everything is quiet, very quiet. Just the flutter of the parachute,” says Speed.
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