Magic carpet ride
November 28, 2011 5:35 AM   Subscribe

Video: An Italian pilot flies a glider through the Alps for eleven hours (video highly condensed, obviously) at times coming agonizingly close to the mountains, not because he's reckless, but because that's what's keeping him aloft. Fullscreen viewing recommended.
posted by Horace Rumpole (25 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
not because he's reckless

And it's not reckless to fly any aircraft for 11 hours without a break? Didn't they put an end to these sort of endurance glider flights because pilots were falling asleep trying set new records?
posted by three blind mice at 5:49 AM on November 28, 2011


Yeah, I thought the same thing tbm mentioned: 11 hours is a hella long time to fly a glider. Spectacular achievement, though. Damn.

Godawful music on that clip, unfortunately. That's so often the case with stuff like this.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:05 AM on November 28, 2011


Godawful music on that clip, unfortunately. That's so often the case with stuff like this.

Hey, hey, hey. There's some Ennio Morricone starting at around 2:55. So you shut your filthy mouth. (The rest is, for the record, pretty godawful.)
posted by beaucoupkevin at 6:30 AM on November 28, 2011


Well, the duration record, set half a century ago, is 56 hours and change, so this wasn't a record attempt. Poking around on some soaring pages I was able to find numerous flight times in the high single digits, probably bespeaking recreational scheduling to make a day of it.
posted by dhartung at 6:45 AM on November 28, 2011


This is how you find a stranger in the Alps.
posted by D.C. at 6:49 AM on November 28, 2011 [16 favorites]


I'm curious about the navigation. The times I've gone flying in the mountains in a powered plane it was with a whole lot of careful planning to make sure I didn't fly into a blind canyon I couldn't climb or turn out of. This flight looks like he's just noodling around going where he felt like. Probably not. The article suggests he spent most of his time flying the windward side of the range, so maybe he could always turn to the south if he needed to descend? Then again being a glider pilot is all about reading the lift, maybe he really could just go where it felt best.
posted by Nelson at 6:53 AM on November 28, 2011


And it's not reckless to fly any aircraft for 11 hours without a break? Didn't they put an end to these sort of endurance glider flights because pilots were falling asleep trying set new records?

Eh, in the grand scheme of reckless things people do in vehicles, I think "trying to set glider records" is pretty low on the list, and it has a very high awesomeness to danger ratio.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:56 AM on November 28, 2011


Yeah, I jumped along the video as it was loading. Kind of redundant 13 minutes. Great view though.
posted by LoudMusic at 7:07 AM on November 28, 2011


So many piloting videos going around today.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:07 AM on November 28, 2011


I hope he went before he got strapped in, that's a long time to hold it in!
posted by asok at 7:13 AM on November 28, 2011


Pretty awesome scenery. There's a third way to stay up though, besides ridge running and thermal soaring. The mountain wave. We have a record setting pilot - Gordon Boettger - here in the US too, who has set distance records like an over 2000km flight this spring. Photos He flew up and down the spine of the Sierras in California, Nevada and... other states. He does flights up in "flight levels", above 18000', which requires a clearance & contact with ATC.
posted by sea at 7:18 AM on November 28, 2011


The Ventus 2ctx sailplane he's flying in this video has a small (15 KW) engine in the fuselage that the pilot can deploy by pulling a lever (it pops up from behind him). While the engine does not have enough power for this ship to self launch -- the reason he's towed up at the beginning of the video -- it can get him out of trouble if he loses lift / finds himself in lots of sink in the Alps. Adds a big margin of safety on this type of flight.

Flying a fixed wing glider (also called a sailplane) is one of the purest, most beautiful types of flying there is. I highly recommend taking a demo flight in one to all my fellow fans of the Blue. The Soaring Society of America is a great resource for info on this subject.
posted by Dean358 at 7:19 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Worse video (taken with an iPhone), but possibly better soundtrack.

The video is from a 4-hour long flight starting in Hood River, where ridge lift (from the wind bowing through the Columbia River Gorge) was used to get high enough to enter wave lift, which eventually brought us to 13,500' behind Mt. Hood.

The pilot in command is Gary Boggs, who holds a number of state altitude records.
posted by coeruleus at 7:34 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


And it's not reckless to fly any aircraft for 11 hours without a break? Didn't they put an end to these sort of endurance glider flights because pilots were falling asleep trying set new records?

Counter point. Reckless? Perhaps, dangerous for sure, but the risk is pretty much isolated to the pilot, and if somehow the practice was banned, how would you stop them?
posted by chambers at 7:43 AM on November 28, 2011


nauseating sound track.
and yes, why do "watch me pilot" type clips always sport this kind of music?
as far as the call of nature is concerned: male pilots typically piss into plastic baggies filled with some absorbent (pampers, e.g.) material. girl pilots are at a disadvantage here - nature is cruel that way.
posted by oxidizer at 8:06 AM on November 28, 2011


pretty much isolated to the pilot

On behalf of bighorn sheep and mountain goats everywhere, I must protest.
posted by spitbull at 8:07 AM on November 28, 2011


There is a whole class of model airplanes called "slope gliders" specifically for taking advantage of these conditions: wind blows across some sort of flat plain (often the ocean) and up the side of a hill, and you fly your airplane along the hill. I have a couple of these planes and they're fun to fly, but I crash them way too often to try anything like that in a plane that I was actually sitting in.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:21 AM on November 28, 2011


So, Larry, this is what happens when you fly a glider through the Alps.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:24 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Based on the music, this is actually a Civilization IV mod.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:54 AM on November 28, 2011


Yeah, it's good and all, but it's not flying in formation with two Albatross fighter jets.
posted by fight or flight at 9:50 AM on November 28, 2011


Chambers: …if somehow the practice was banned, how would you stop them [from trying to set glider endurance records]?

Rather than banning the practice, you could stop keeping records of "longest flights," reducing the incentive for record-setting-endurance.
posted by JiBB at 11:29 AM on November 28, 2011


For those of you that want a *very* realistic simulation of this, Condor is a cheap but immersive sim that's available as a download. It simulates towing, ridge lift, thermals and everything else you'd expect, and the clouds are absolutely gorgeous. I've spent countless hours with a pilot friend of mine soaring virtually through Europe hopping from airport to airport and we always kind of got lost in what we were doing. Highly recommended.
posted by Awakened at 1:22 PM on November 28, 2011


Maybe he stayed up because well, it can be pretty hard to land even in the Prealps with an engine.
posted by unliteral at 4:59 PM on November 28, 2011


Yeah, it's good and all, but it's not flying in formation with two Albatross fighter jets.
How can jet airplanes go that slow?
posted by MtDewd at 9:01 AM on November 29, 2011


Glider pilots don't try for endurance records. The only things we work on are distance (whether closed loop or point-to-point) and altitude. Soaring contests are usually best time around a closed loop.

Someone has already mentioned Gordon Boettger and Hugh Bennett and their record-breaking flight (1400 miles at over 100 mph!). I saw him do a presentation on the flight a couple of weeks ago -- the preparation that goes into something like that is amazing. (For one thing, keep in mind that they're flying in an unpressurized unheated cabin at 25,000'.)

The coolest recent glider flight is know of is this San Francisco Bay Tour by Ramy Yanetz and Buzz Graves -- they took off in their gliders from Byron and flew to the Golden Gate by going under the SFO airspace! At one point they were at 2000' above the bay a couple of miles off Berkeley trying to find lift... I would have required new underpants after that. (There are only a couple of days each year where a glider can do something like that.)

And to answer a common question: glider pilots either wear adult diapers or a catheter that connects to a tube that goes outside the glider. Do not try to pee into a plastic bag while in a glider!
posted by phliar at 1:32 PM on November 29, 2011


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