For many years our ninja pilot, Seiko Fukuoka, has been taking free flight to a new level. What you might not know about Seiko is that she is part of a partnership with someone who is not only a great pilot, but also a source of great support and encouragement for planet Earth’s most accomplished female pilot. Seiko’s other half, and her life partner, so to speak, is a pioneer in French paragliding: Pierre Naville.
During their last visit to Australia, Pierre, as usual, was taking care of ground details to ensure that everything went well and Seiko had the best chance of breaking her own records. After a few days down under, it was Pierre’s turn to relax and get towed first. This story finished 440 km later.
Pierre shares his experience:
“On thursday we drove to Wilkannia, a small aboriginal village in the outback with a catchy slogan “The Midlle of Nowhere but The Center of Everywhere”, well now I knew what to report where I landed: I am in the middle of the center of…
We took off from a dirt road with the help of the towing, once I got in the air I was lucky enough to climb with the morning thermals and found myself at 1000m AGL. The wind was coming from the North and there was not a single cloud in the sky yet. I follow the road down wind to be sure that if I landed it was in an easy spot to be retrieved. After 30 km flying down wind the first difficult decision arrived – I had to cross a huge forest with only a single small landing, I didn’t hesitate and committed to this crossing. On my transition I finally started to see small cumulus forming at 1800 to 2000 meters above the ground, conditions started to improve and now I have many possibilities ahead of me.
I keep flying trying to keep the dirt road on visual and four hours later I arrived to Ivanhoe a small town 180 km from my take off. At this point cloud base is at its best 3500 m but i just climbed to 3000 m to respect the Australian rule that requires Oxigen after 3000 m of altitude.
Now something happened, I started to witness the first perfect cloud streets I have ever seen in Australia! Now I can see my route for the next several kilometers. With the help of this beautiful white street I crossed two of the biggest flooded spots in the area where landing would be lethal unless you were Crocodile Dundee! This crossing takes time but after the 280 km mark I felt more comfortable and start to see more options for landing, I increased my pace and got in sync with the conditions.
I took a moment to absorb the beautiful terrain around, checked my numbers and the feeling of a 400 km flight hit me: “hard to believe but I think I will make it, I may even go farther”. Suddenly a big cirrus showed up, all my long distance dreams started to vanish and, I got on my survival mode and changed my tactic. It is time to use every bit of lift to stay in the air and keep moving forward, I pushed against the wind now between 1000 to 2000 m above the ground for a few hours and after 9h and 17m and 440 km I decided to land close to a village in the middle of nowhere but the center of everywhere.
After 30 years of flying I have to say that I was happy to have the Zeno on this flight. It is by far the best glider I have ever flown.
It is funny how things happened, this day Seiko wasn’t feeling good and Charles had some issues with the tow… I am sure that if they were in the air, they would have broken the 500 km mark…
Merci beaucoup Australia, until next time!”
Congrats Pierre, for such an amazing flight, from all the Team at Ozone. We’re happy that your Zeno is treating you well!