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Chutist Is Just Hanging Out

On clear nights, Westporter Richard Ruggles can be seen in his daring flying machine soaring in the skies over Wilton.

"It's the closest form of flying known to man," said the 53-year-old Ruggles, who formerly lived in Wilton and uses Allen's Meadows in Wilton as his airfield.

Though he is new to power parachutes, having logged only about 23 hours, he is an experienced pilot and has flown commercial helicopters since 1987. Ruggles said power parachuting is not only the safest form of flight, according to the FAA, it's also the easiest.

"Once you get the hang of it, you are kind of bored," Ruggles said of floating 1,500 feet in the air.

The amazing flying machines may be common in the South or West, but not in Wilton, and when Ruggles goes up, he draws a crowd. While those who came out one day last week to watch him take off used such words as "amazing" and "fantastic," not everyone feels that way. The Wilton police usually receive noise complaints when Ruggles flies.

The veteran pilot says he is not breaking any laws, however, and has made sure of it by contacting the FAA. Lt. Donald Wakeman of the Wilton PD confirmed this and said the police have left it up to the Parks and Recreation Department to decide what to do.

"I am not going to blemish a perfectly good record for this," said Ruggles, who would be willing to fly elsewhere if Wilton outlaws powered parachutes.

Although he flies helicopters commercially, Ruggles works as a tower crane operator in New York because it is less hectic for him and the pay is better. However, flying is his love, and when the weather allows it he takes to the air.

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