Cool videos let you fly like a bird over scenic Minnesota


Steve Russell is a former Navy pilot and retired law-enforcement officer from Apple Valley. His taste for adventure lives on with his hobby of flying a powered parachute over some of Minnesota’s most scenic landscapes.

He shoots video of his flights with an HD camera mounted on the aircraft. Then he does a fine job editing his video into flyover highlights that are perfect for vicarious sightseeing.

When I first saw a picture of Russell in his flying contraption, my first thought was, “I’d never go up in that thing.”

But Russell, who has logged 1,400 hundred hours piloting Navy jets, said the powered parachute is a safe, dummy-proof aircraft. It takes off, flies and lands at 30 mph.

It’s almost impossible for a pilot to cause a stall, he said. And even in a crisis (like engine failure or pilot medical emergency), the aircraft will glide to the ground.

Russell, 66, said he fell in love with low-and-slow flying years ago.

“This is as close as you can get to seeing what a bird sees,” he said. “It’s just an awesome experience.”

Russell’s bird of choice is a Gemini Star powered by a Rotax 503 50-horsepower engine. His camera is a Sony HDR-SR11.

Check out a few of his videos below. He’s got more on his ‘photoguy73’ YouTube channel.

FYI – The first video features Enya in the soundtrack. The second one gives you an upbeat Johnny and the Hurricanes song.

UPDATE 2:17 p.m.: Can’t believe I missed this the first time through, but my MPR colleague Drew Geraets noticed in the 2nd video (‘Explore Minnesota v5’) that Russell has some fun flying over deer. The animals appear a bit spooked by the low-flying machine. Jump to the 1:14 mark to see the deer scamper.

UPDATE 8:05 a.m. Friday: Steve Russell got in touch with me to make clear he wasn’t “chasing” the deer. He’s right that it’s hard to say he’s chasing them, so I offered my apology for posting my colleague’s tweet as part of this post.

Here’s Steve’s message:

I do not set out to “chase” deer. I love wildlife of all types. I like to show deer in my videos as part of the beauty I see from the air. Sometimes I see them below me. Sometimes I turn to put them in the center of the frame. I do not pursue them other than to try to get them in the frame. And it is never for more than a few seconds. Deer scamper away from everything, it is their nature. They would scamper away from you if you walked out into a field where they are feeding. I don’t appreciate your implication.

Video – Minnesota man chases deer from powered parachute: (via @mntoday)less than a minute ago via web

Friends, flying and fog combined to make this revisit to Rushford, Minnesota a memorable experience.

Explore the ruggedly beautiful limestone ridges and ravines of Houston County in far southeastern Minnesota. Filmed over a 2 day period at the end of July, this video shows some of the hidden places of one of Minnesota’s most interesting counties.