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Paraglider flies into the record books

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: December 20, 2013


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A British paraglider has soared into the record books after flying non-stop for nine-and-a-half hours – and nearly 230 miles.

Dedicated Alex Coltman, 44, set a new UK distance landmark for unpowered flight with his endurance feat in north-east Brazil.

He took off just before 8am at Quixada in Ceara state and reached heights of 9,000ft on his epic journey landed 369km away – just under 229 miles – at 5.48pm.

Alex, of Clifton Wood, Bristol, set the record for the longest flight by a UK paraglider.

He said: "Flying in Quixada was very different from anywhere else I have flown. It was a punishing schedule with breakfast at sunrise and leaving for the take-off hill by 6am.

"On the record day it took an hour before the wind dropped enough for a safe take-off. I eventually left take-off at just past 8am."

Alex took to the skies on November 19 in a UP Trango XC2 and averaged just under 30mph on his flight.

His achievement smashed the previous record of 210 miles set by Simon Headford in South Africa in 2006.

Alex, a design/prototype engineer, said his flight took him over sparsely inhabited land where the birds birds had little fear of humans.

He said: "It was an amazing experience to fly with them, sharing their element.

"On the record flight, at the start of the day the clouds were at 3,500ft.

"But at the end of the day I was climbing to more than 9,000ft."

Alex, who has been flying since 1997, said he especially enjoyed his time among the Brazilian people.

He added: "The Brazilian people really embrace the idea of free flying. I found their generosity humbling.

"Some of these people are just managing to scratch a living from the land and yet when you land they surround you with smiles and welcomes, especially the children.

"They want to help you pack your glider and talk to you about where you have flown and what it is like – they are truly lovely people."

His flight was monitored online by friends from the Avon Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club as Alex carried a personal GPS tracker which updated a webpage every ten minutes.

He said that the key to flying distance on a paraglider is to find a thermal – a column of warm rising air – and to circle and climb in this column while drifting with the wind.

He said: "Once at the cloud the pilot glides with the wind and tries to find another thermal.

"Finding and staying in the thermals is the tricky part, but I had help here as he could see large numbers of black vultures, known as Urubu, which use the same thermals as I was looking for," he added.

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