Episode 52- Pal Takats X-Alps, Acro, and what you can do to stay safe

Pal Takats (HUN) performs during the Red Bull X-Alps in Lermoos, Austria on July 6th, 2017

Pal Takats began flying 16 years ago in the flatlands of Budapest, Hungary and has since created a career any pilot would envy. One of the first Red Bull acro pilots and the man responsible for many of the current and modern acro combinations (the Joker, Cowboy, Esfera, etc.) Pal does paramotor demos for Red Bull at air races around the world, base jumps in his free time, founded JustAcro.com, flies speed wings, has twice competed in the Red Bull X-Alps (he was 8th in 2009 and 7th in 2017), is an exceptional cross country and World Cup competition pilot but it hasn’t all been a walk in the park to get there. In 2012 Pal had an accident flying a 6M speed wing that put him in a coma and nearly ended his life. Later the same year he demolished his knee cap making a poor decision on landing after a base jump. What can the rest of us learn from his mistakes and how can we eliminate a huge, huge percentage of accidents in our sport? How paragliding schools are missing out on the foundational stuff, the importance of ground handling and how this is leading to way too many accidents. This talk covers a lot of ground. A fascinating discussion with a fascinating, passionate individual.

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Show Notes:

  • Brief history of Pal’s many, many accomplishments
  • Pal breaks the Tandem Infinity Record
  • Moving from caving to flying- the inception
  • Becoming a professional pilot and making a living from flying
  • How not getting into University became a blessing
  • Transition from Acro to Cross Country and getting disillusioned with Acro and judging
  • Pal’s accidents in 2012, coming back from a coma and the takeaways
  • Becoming a Red Bull athlete
  • How does media, sponsors and making films affect decision making? What are the bad and good sides?
  • How to avoid bad situations and the IMPORTANCE of training
  • The IMPORTANCE of groundhandling and where the schools fall short and why the basics are being skipped and how this is failing new pilots
  • Where to learn acro, and what wing to start on
  • When to move up to a higher aspect wing? Beware!
  • How paragliding doesn’t have structured rules across the board and why that’s bad for our safety and our sport
  • Highs and lows of the 2017 Red Bull X-Alps

 

Mentioned in this episode: Nik Hawks, Red Bull Media House, Reelwater Productions, JustAcro.com, Sidetracked Magazine, Squash Falconer, Will Gadd, paragliding schools, Theo Le Blic, Cody Mittanck

 

Pal in the air during the Red Bull X-Alps

Episode 51- Sailplane radness, the Perlan Project, Imagining the Possibilities

The Perlan project hopes to get to 90,000 feet

Imagine an engineless airplane reaching the edge of space. Crazy? Impossible? In this episode of the Cloudbase Mayhem Kevin Brooker, a passionate sailplane pilot takes us through the long history of sailplanes to the stuff that is at the far edge of what the imagination can even grasp. Just recently the altitude record was broken (52,000 feet!)- without an engine flying in wave in the Andes. But that’s just the beginning. The Perlan Project is shooting for 90,000 feet- their mission is to “explore the science of giant mountain waves that help create the ozone hole and change global climate models. This will require the engineering of a spacecraft with glider wings that can fly in less than 3% of normal air density and at temperatures of minus 70 degrees C, conditions approximating the surface of Mars.” How can paragliders and hang gliders use what the sailplane community is doing to improve our distance? How do they forecast wave, and is it possible for us to tap into this potential? This conversation was one of the most fascinating I’ve had on the show. I promise, this stuff will blow your mind.

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Show Notes:

  • Kevin gives us an abbreviated history of sailplanes. The smile of the interviewer begins:)
  • How wave was discovered and how it’s being utilized
  • What is Wave?
  • The science of lift and speed.
  • How to enter Wave with a sailplane and where and how it can kick your ass.
  • Flying 3,000km in a single day
  • The math of the Perlan Project
  • Dealing with high altitude decompression sickness in sailplanes/high altitude flight (the Bends).
  • Risk in Sailplanes vs paragliding / hang gliding
  • Hypoxia, Hydration and doubt
  • The advent of motor gliders

Mentioned in this episode: Honza Rejmanek, Alas Del Hombre, Miguel Gutierrez, Matt Wilkes, Perlan Project, Dick Butler, Steve Fawcett, Bob Harris,

 

Episode 50- Dave Snowden and turning talent into Wins

The race begins, World Championships, Italy 2017

Episode 50 is all about competitions. From flying psychology to training David Snowden has taken 25 years of flying passion into figuring out how to take a country (Australia) with plenty of talent but with few of the resources that France, Germany, and Switzerland (for example) have to be a serious player on the world stage. In this podcast Dave sheds light on their journey from not even having a team in 2015 and being ranked in 38th place in the world to breaking the top 15 and sending a strong, competitive team to the Worlds this summer in Italy. How did they do it? What can all of learn from their journey? How to foster a team attitude in such an independent sport? Can paragliding become an Olympic sport? Dave is quick to point out that the Australian Paragliding squad development has had a lot of people contribute to its success, but their path is one that anyone could (and should!) follow.

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Show Notes:

  • Dave talks about how he developed a keen eye for competition in his 25 years of flying
  • The British Championshiops, mentors, dealing with weather and developing a competition structure in Britain in the 90’s.
  • Hosting a PWC in Bright, Australia after 3 years of effort
  • Economics of competitions and how they can be funded more efficiently
  • Mentoring and coaching and developing the Australian Paragliding squad
  • Going from 38th in the National Rankings to the top 15- how they did it
  • Using local comps and proper advertising to improve their own pilots internationally
  • How to foster a team attitude
  • The Olympics and the East Asia Games

Mentioned in this episode: Miguel Gutierrez, Brian Webb, Alas Del Hombre, Jon Mallinson, Bob Drury, John Pendry, Robbie Whittall, Bruce Goldsmith, Jocky Sanderson, North of Known, Kari Ellis, Mike Pfau, Aaron Durogati, Ondrej Prochazca

Episode 49- Honza Rejmanek and Understanding the Invisible

Honza makes goal in Monaco, 2015 Red Bull X-Alps

Honza Rejmanek competed in the Red Bull X-Alps five times. He finished in 3rd place in 2009 and made goal in Monaco in his last campaign in 2015. Many of our listeners will also know Honza from his regular weather column in Cross Country Magazine. Honza makes a living as a meteorologist and in this episode we tap into his vast knowledge of the invisible world we operate in and how to understand how it works and how to use this knowledge to fly farther and fly safer. Honza’s passion for flying and for weather are obvious from the first word of the show- consider this a masters class in understanding the sky! Gust fronts, blue holes, wave, cloud streets, water vapor, energy, thunderstorms, stagnation zones, the difference between desert air and humid air (ie the Rockies vs Europe), catabatic and anabatic winds, the three levels of weather you need to understand before launching, where to potentially land in a super strong wind scenario (this will surprise you!) and a LOT more. This is an important episode- get out your note pads!

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Show Notes:

  • Honza discusses flying in Wave in the 2015 X-Alps
  • A full discussion on how air moves and how terrain affects the air- think rivers
  • Stagnation zones
  • Thermal strengths, thunder storms, assessing gust fronts, how air moves…
  • Hail and hoovering- how strong is too strong?
  • Visibility and humidity of air and how it affects gust fronts- think avalanche or burst dam
  • Escape Routes and landing options when it goes big
  • How important is location on the hill- thermal cycles vs wind?
  • How to assess and deal with Gust Fronts
  • Weather tools and forecasting tools- the importance of understanding Skew-T
  • The importance of local knowledge
  • Water vapor and energy- without water vapor our weather would be very boring!
  • Catabatic and Anabatic winds- geographical differences to understand
  • Dew point and temperatures and what it means for energy
  • Cloudstreets and blue holes
  • How to develop a mental model of the weather and making good judgements. Using the little things-  how to use cloud shadows, etc.
  • The three kinds of weather and how to think about them- synoptic (ie the forecasts), local (ie geographical), and thermic (short term, heated faces, draws, valley flows, etc.).
  • Convergence
  • Safest place to land in a major wind scenario. This will surprise you!
  • Low saves- where does that energy come from?
  • Developing intuition
  • GROUNDHANDLING!

Mentioned in this episode: Ben French, Trey Hackney, Rodrigo Cidad, Cedar Wright, Nick Neynens, Tom De Dorlodot, Berkhard Martens, Chrigel Maurer, Denis Pagen, Will Gadd, Dave Turner

Honza takes to the air near Lake Tahoe, Nevada during the Sierras Expedition, 2012, Photo Jody MacDonald

Episode 47- Max Fanderl and a lifetime of flight

Max Fanderl in the X-Alps

Max Fanderl began flying paragliders and then hang gliders in the late 80’s. A few months after his first flight he quit his job to become an instructor and decided flying would be his new life. In addition to instructing Max became a test pilot in the 90’s in Europe but then he discovered the epic flying in Canada and in Max style- once again never looked back. He opened a school, competed in the Red Bull X-Alps four times, flies sailplanes and ultralights and well- you get the point. This dude digs flying. When Max first moved to Canada he met Willi and Chris Mueller, two legends in the sport- but most people don’t know that Max taught them both to fly paragliders. In this episode we explore how Max learned how to fly into the wind and why all flying should be approached with mindful training; where most new pilots make mistakes; why getting into flying too fast leads to many people getting scared and leaving the sport; how to maintain a solid margin and understanding to know when NOT to go; how to develop respect instead of fear; the importance of SIV and how you should approach it; how learning to fly properly should be focused on all the little pieces- micrometeorogy, understanding the wing, groundhandling, etc. rather than being bold. Get out your note pads, this one is loaded!

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Show Notes:

  • Max discusses getting into flying in the late 80’s and how the addiction took hold right away
  • Canada becomes home and we discuss the flying differences between Europe and the Rockies
  • Max talks about the terrible tragedies of the Chris and Willi Mueller and his own accident and creating his 20% rule
  • Mistakes most people make when they learn
  • The importance of learning the small things and taking each of the foundational steps
  • Why learning fast is the wrong way to learn flying
  • Knowledge before ratings
  • Why groundhandling leads to success in the air
  • How to become one with a wing through learning the “feel” of the flying
  • We talk the X-Alps and Max’s four campaigns and what is magical about the race- and how it has changed over the years
  • Max relates his lowest and highest moments in the race and how sharing the adventure with his family and his wife Penny, who was his supporter in all four campaigns is one of his most cherished memories.

Mentioned in this episode: Will Gadd, Chris and Willi Mueller, Tom De Dorlodot, Juergen Kraus, Chrigel Maurer, Tobias Dimmler, Aaron Durogati, Ondrej Prochazka

 

Max and his family in the 2013 X-Alps

Episode 46- Reavis Sutphin-Gray and increasing your toolkit

 

Reavis performs a perfect launch in Southern California. Photo Gavin Fridlund

Last year on big potential day but with definite OD probability in Sun Valley early in the flight out towards the Big Lost Range some big cumulus were getting a little too big for my comfort level. When it started to rain lightly I decided to land. Reavis was just ahead of me and decided he could safely outrun the cell using a combination of in-flight weather tools that I didn’t even know existed, and from the thorough analysis of the day that he’d done before we flew. A couple weeks later we were both involved in a successful rescue of a good friend of ours who crashed in very remote terrain and again I learned some invaluable lessons from what Reavis carries with him every time he flies (see the podcast with Matt Wilkes for a lot more on safety and rescue protocols). Reavis learned to fly a decade ago and to this day has a pretty unusual experience with being in the air- he doesn’t experience fear. But he had a very firm understanding of the risks and wanted to be a safe pilot and took his progression and learning seriously and conservatively. This approach has given Reavis, who is now one of the pilots who regularly sends huge lines in North America a unique flying toolbox to help decipher the weather and more. Reavis is a software engineer and lives on the road chasing flying hours year-round (and BTW he answers the most common question I get from our listeners- how do you change your life so you can fly more?). His analytical mind and passion for flight will help you develop a totally different set of skills that will increase your potential as an XC pilot.

 

Enjoy!

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Show Notes:Reavis has given us some awesome resources. Here they are in no particular order:

 

 

Episode 45- Chrigel Maurer and becoming an Eagle

Chrigel launches during the 2017 Red Bull X-Alps

Chrigel Maurer is the undisputed king of paragliding and after his 5th straight X-Alps win I get the feeling that he’s just getting started. Chrigel was the World Cup champion 3 times, is an acro champion, test pilot for Advance, two times winner of the X-Pyr, regularly dominates the Swiss League and just simply wins- over, and over and over again. Everyone has heard of Chrigel’s famous training (ground handling in VERY strong wind, flying in the lee of cornices…) but most don’t know the extent of how hard and specifically he trains. How much is talent versus persistence? How does Chrigel justify the risk? How does he approach safety? How is getting older affecting his decisions? How important is physical fitness to good flying? Is the X-Alps even risky for Chrigel? His sons, aged 6 and 9 are beginning to fly- does this make him nervous? Where does he get his motivation from? In this episode we dive into what makes Chrigel…an Eagle. How does he fly so straight? What mistakes do other pilots make? What separates him from the rest of the pilots in the race? How does he make his decisions? How does planning and calculated decision making happen in the air and how much is intuition? Does he have weaknesses and if so how does he resolve them? How Chrigel reduces risk and how other pilots can be much safer. The power of optimism and the need for gambling (safely).

For me this was an opportunity of a lifetime, to sit down with someone who consistently shows us what is possible with a glider and makes us dream of the possibilities.

Stay tuned for bonus material we recorded for our Patreon supporters!

Enjoy!

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Show Notes:

  • Chrigel talks about his training, what goes into the lead-up to the X-Alps and other adventure races?
  • Mental vs physical training and what sets him apart from the others
  • Is there more pressure on Chrigel now?
  • How does Chrigel make his amazing route decisions in the race?
  • How he trains mentally and visualizes winning.
  • Finding magic lines
  • Using the lee
  • Analyzing mistakes
  • How he eliminates or reduces risk and how pilots can be much safer
  • Balancing the risk and reward and how you need to gamble…but smartly
  • The power of optimism
  • How to fly more efficiently and how to gauge the day- planning in flight
  • How to fly straight instead of thermalling and gliding
  • How hard to push?
  • What would Chrigel do differently if he could rewind the clock?
  • What is the most important thing to improve? How to optimize what you do to achieve your personal goals?
  • Mentioned in this episode: Ben French, Pal Takats, Skywalk, Advance, Gaspard Petiot, Sebastien Huber, Benoit Outters, Michael Maurer,

The dominator

 

 

2017 Red Bull X-Alps: A Race of Extremes

2017Xalps- A race of Extremes from Offshore Odysseys on Vimeo.

The 2017 Red Bull X-Alps was the hardest yet- a very difficult course and extremely poor flying weather. 5 athletes were eliminated and 7 withdrew due to exhaustion or injury and only two made it to Monaco. The race ended after 11 days and 23 hours. Here are some clips from Day 8, 9, and 10 that highlight how amazing the journey can be, and some of the crazy situations you find yourself dealing with (like landing in a tree!). On Day 8 I launched early near Merano heading towards the Brenta Dolomites and Turnpoint 5 at Lake Garda. A lot of low cloud and high cirrus made for tricky flying but I pieced together 5 or 6 short flights, top landing repeatedly to wait for more sun, finishing the day with a long climb up to Madonna Campiglio, waiting out a strong storm and then gliding down to Pinzolo. Day 9 began with a 1700 meter, 17 km climb to launch above Tione Di Trento, then a short and very technical flight to a slope land above Malcesine near Garda lake. Then a 1300 meter climb to the turnpoint on Mount Baldo, then a glide across the lake in strong wind, landing in the trees; then a 20 km walk and further 1600 meter (nearly 17,000 feet of climbing this day!) climb to a final launch and glide. Day 10 was the 2nd day of the race that had good flying conditions and I tried to make the most of it by flying from a lake below Adamello peak across to Bellinzona, Switzerland in three magnificent flights (130 km), ending just in front of Rick Brezina (Team Canada 1) to secure 14th place, but only after running 3.5 hours that night, and a full marathon the next day to stay in front! While we didn’t finish as well as we’d hoped, it was an incredible journey filled with laughter and smiles and an experience to be relished. If I decide to do it again, please someone put me in touch with a psychotherapist!