Great video of the ‘Perfect’ Mont Blanc day

Earlier this month rare but ideal conditions allowed more than 50 paraglider pilot – including some of our local South Africans who were on a tour – to fly above Mont Blanc and topland.  This has only been done by a few pilots in the past, but improved understanding of the weather, more accurate predictions and a wealth of social media to spread the news resulted in this incredible feat.  It looked more like the launch at a busy competition than the peak of one of the highest mountains in Europe.  This is the nicest video I’ve come across, documenting the special magic of completing this bucket-list flight.  Well done, Gaël Lafond.

The Perfect Day – Mass top landing on Mont-Blanc summit on August 19th, 2012 from Gaël Lafond on Vimeo.

“On 19th August 2012, the weather was perfect, and for the first time in paragliding history, about 50 pilots landed on top of the Mont-Blanc after taking off over Chamonix, almost 10.000 feet below… The first paragliding top landing occurred in 2003, and since, only a very few pilots had managed it.Le 19 août 2012, les conditions météo étaient parfaites, et pour la première fois de l’histoire du parapente, une cinquantaine de pilotes on atterri au sommet du Mont-Blanc après avoir décollé de Planpraz, au dessus de Chamonix, presque 3000m plus bas… Le premier posé au sommet du Mont-Blanc a eu lieu en 2003 et depuis, seuls un petit nombre de pilotes y étaient parvenus.”

Winter soaring bliss updated…

…extensively!  I’ve turned it into an impromptu tour of flying the Twelve Apostles.  Scroll down to the original entry or click here to see the new content.  I’ve also loaded my tracklog to Leonardo – click here to view it and see an interactive map of the route.  Last photo to enjoy:

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Paragliding in the media

Both free flying and powered paragliding have made an appearance in the popular media this month, with an article on PPG featuring SA team captain Tony Gibson in the latest edition of Popular Mechanics and some emotive text and beautiful visuals by Ant Allen in Full Circle Magazine.  Followers of the blog will recognise some of the shots and the orange/yellow PPG over Cape Point…  Well done to both for informative articles that will raise public awareness, appreciation and participation in our sports.

Winter soaring bliss

Long Pete on the Aspen 4 overhead Judas Peak
Long Pete on the Gradient Aspen 4 overhead Judas Peak

UPDATED:  This time of the year (late August through to October) is one of the best for soaring flights along the Cape Peninsula and surrounding mountains.  As the frontal systems make their march to the south for the summer, the cold fronts lessen in intensity, with more more moderate prefrontal north-westerlies and lingering postfrontal conditions.  The air is cold and moist but the sun begins to reappear, leading to beautifully smooth soaring interspersed with the promise of good instability and thermal flying.  It is certainly the ‘high’ season for the Cape pilot’s classic route:  Signal Hill/Lion’s Head across to Table Mountain, southerly along the Twelve Apostles, and then back for sundowners or onwards into the lesser-flown for the brave (and those with dedicated retrieve drivers!).  For many years this route was more frequented by the hang-glider pilots with their better glide and speed range (the NW can exhibit a strong wind gradient as one climbs), but as paraglider technology has improved it is now achievable by pilots on almost any wing.  Come along on a tour, illustrated with my photos from today…

Continue reading Winter soaring bliss

Goedverwacht Paramotoring

Goedverwacht Microlight Air Strip on the fringe of Durbanville – between our hang-gliding ‘home hill’ (Rondebossie/Haystacks) and Fisantekraal airfield – was the focus of an informal ‘Fly & Braai’ for local paramotor pilots yesterday.  The strip is privately owned and used by a few microlights, but the farmer/owner generously made it and the clubhouse available for us ‘floppy wing’ pilots for the day – and a perfect day it was, too.  Everyone with an aircraft of any description anywhere in the Cape was out flying, if the airwaves and local airspace was anything to go on.  It was a challenge for paramotor pilots, though:  with nil to very little wind all morning and a waterlogged runway, takeoffs were not easy.


Once in the air, however, it was bliss:  Countryside a patchwork of yellow and deep green, dams and streams full to overflowing after the recent rain, birds and buck frolicing in the patches of wildflowers beginning to blossom in the uncultivated land, dark distant  mountains capped with sparkling snow under a cobalt sky.  Couldn’t be much better 🙂

Snow-capped Du Toits mountains

A fun challenge for the day set by our local guru – navigation without GPS (logging in a sealed pocket) around several turnpoints in the farmlands.  Before setting out, an estimation of leg and total times as well as fuel consumption had to be logged.  The fickle and unpredictable wind made the time estimation tricky, test-flying a wing (a Paramania Fusion) for the first time and leaving my cue-card on the ground didn’t help, but the task was still great fun and the views snatched between scanning the ground for my turnpoints and intermediate waypoints were beautiful.

Airborne over the canola

I guesstimated my leg times at 11, 10, 16 and 14 minutes respectively, and then flew 11, 9, 14 and 14 – not bad for a rank amateur.  (Click here for the tracklog on Leonardo).  In the end, between the trouble launching and the attraction of sight-seeing, no-one else took on the challenge of the 32km course, leaving me to win the small prize sponsored by Xplorer Ultraflight by default.  Oh well 😉  Much kudo’s to Keith/Xplorer for the trouble of arranging the task – it certainly made me appreciate the challenges faced by our national PPG team, currently on their way to Spain for the World Championship.

PPG Challenge turnpoint 3 - wind turbines

While some pilots who had been flying from early in the morning retired to build a fire and get the braaivleis sizzling, a few others decided to fly across the valley to Paardeberg to visit a friend.  I decided that the latter option sounded like fun, and I had another glider to test-fly – the MacPara MacJet.  After an aborted takeoff attempt featuring a switching thermal wind and an argument with the fence that left my ego and pants in tatters, I got off nicely and chased off after the group.  Unfortunately, despite the speed of the MacJet, by the time I reached the area they were inside having refreshments without a radio, and I had very vague directions and no GPS location.  Unable to spot them from the air, I went on a wandering XC tour of the countryside, with an equally vague plan of creating a triangle in the light northerly wind.  The wind, however, had other plans, and after experimenting with a southerly became quite fresh from the west.  Worried that it might become stronger and result in fuel issues, I worked crosswind back to Goedverwacht.  With the air so busy, I spent most of the flight below 600ft ASL and often less than 100ft AGL, enjoying the rich pastoral scenes interspersed with swollen streams, patches of wild flowers, small wild buck and countless birds.  Sometimes I followed the streams to see where they led; elsewhere I cruised just above the crops through the biggest fields I could find, dodging farmhouses and turbulence-inducing trees.  Magic.

Canola fields with Table Mountain in the distance

Even though it was well into the heat of the mid-day with notable thermal activity, I flew most of the way with the trims wide open in great comfort – kudo’s on this round to MacPara for a fast and stable reflex wing, which is a pleasure to fly.  I was surprised to land with a fuel burn of only 6 liters after 90 minutes in the air.  Imagine my added pleasure when MaxPunkte spat out a 52km FAI triangle  – another first.   Leonardo tracklog here.

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Wonderful wild windy weather

The current storm crossing SA has brough with it some impressive weather – all sorts of warning and alerts are out for strong winds and 10+m swells. Close to home, Signal Hill on the NW side of Table Mountain is a favourite flying site for the north-westerlies, but not today. Note the 110km/h gust 😉

Real-time weather data for Signal Hill courtesy of, accesed 2012_0811 at 14h15. For current values, click the image.

Perspectives on why we fly PPG

Robbie Whittall is very well know in paragliding circles, and has been a world champion and record holder.  In this short video essay, he describes what makes him love powered paragliding.  The visuals are lovely, and I agree with the sentiments so wholeheartedly that I have to share it.  Enjoy.

Surreal Perspectives from White Cloud Productions NZ on Vimeo.

Fly alongside Rob Whittall as he soars above New Zealand’s West Coast with his Paramotor, in search of a little soul satisfaction. White Cloud Productions NZ joined forces with Rob to capture stunning images of Raglan and the surrounding area…presenting Surreal Perspectives.

Patience rewarded

Earl over launch at Wolfgat

Yesterday, though the forecast was very strong, when I had a look at the real time wind strengths at the airport and Muizenberg, I suspected that it would be flyable at Wolfgat (AKA Macassar).  I headed down there after alerting the lists, and was very pleasantly surprised to have Earl Valentine call me and come to join me.  It was quite special to have Earl along, as the last time he properly flew his glider was the day we were flying together at Dasklip, and he crashed with spinal injuries requiring a rescue, surgery and rehab.  We arrived to find it too strong (40-45km/h on the traditional launch; 38km/h at the beach), and so I took the dog for a walk and grabbed a nearby geocache.  After some intense parawaiting and talking rubbish (as we do), the wind began to drop.  By 17h15 it was 28km/h and very steady on the dunes, and 18km/h on the beach, so I volunteered to launch the Gradient Avax XC3 from the beach, walk it up the dune and see how things felt.  I was immediately flying, and soon joined by Earl on his Sol Synergy.

Continue reading Patience rewarded

Winter Flying – Kings of Llandudno

One of the Cape’s least appreciated but most consistent winter flying sites sits above the up-market coastal ‘suburb’ of Llandudno, on the western seaboard.  Launch is from the slopes of Little Lion’s Head, and offers beautiful soaring and some interesting XC technical opportunities – I’ve flown 20km in either direction, which is a fun challenge.  It’s a place to go soar with the laminar per-frontal nor’westerly, smell the damp fynbos, and play with the orographic clouds.  Despite its raw beauty, most pilots shun Llandudno for the more convenient Signal Hill locked in the city, and so I’ve been campaigning for years to get more pilots to fly here.  My mate and fellow wanderer put together this great little video showing what Llandudno can deliver.  Enjoy 🙂

The Kings of Llandudno from MARX Films on Vimeo.