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Everest Microlight/Hang-Glider team: What it takes just getting off the ground
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May 4, 2004 18: 26 EST
We don’t hear from these guys too often so in case you don’t remember them, this is the team that plans to tow a glider with a microlight over the summit of Everest. “We have struggled with customs, CAA and other bureaucracies, got our oxygen supplies, more or less got our fuel supply and now have all our permissions and are, astonishingly, more or less ready to go as scheduled. The main problem has been our marvelous sat comms which have so far completely refused to work, hence no updates on our website. Hopefully a working system will be delivered to us in the next week or so.”

Since arriving in Nepal these guys have been busy putting together the monstrous task of getting all of the gear ready for the flight, even refilling their own oxygen bottles in Kathmandu:

“We spent the day today filling our oxygen bottles. There is only one place in Kathmandu you can do this, the Shankar Oxygen Gas (Pvt) Ltd. It took us a while to find their place as it was heavily disguised as a derelict building, but once inside it is quite a modern plant, they will even supply liquid oxygen if you want. I tested the oxygen quality with our Paramina supplied gizmo, it showed 99.4% purity - good enough. The only problem was the pressure; it took four 47 liter bottles to fill our four 10 liter bottles to around 200 bar - a lot of pumping.

Our most intractable problem has been fuel. Regular Nepali fuel is of highly questionable quality and could easily damage the 914 engine. Both the police and army maintain their own petrol stations throughout Nepal which is of reputedly better quality. So which is better, Police or Army? It would seem Army.

Tomorrow I will extract the trike from its huge crate and put it back on its wheels ready for transportation to Lukla in the helicopter. Why not fly it? Well, the glider wings and all our spares and kit are going in the helicopter so why take the risk? This expedition is to fly over Everest, not crash on the way there.

We have a Nepali CAA permission 'to fly in the Everest region' for two weeks, apparently extendible so long as we don't make a fool of ourselves. We loaded everything into a huge MI-17 helicopter last night, the policy seems to be to fill them until they are full, luckily they have a capacity of 4 tons as all our kit plus fuel and oxygen was squashed in with bags of rice, drums of kerosene and of all things, cement! The thing has three or four crew, on this occasion, four; Russian Pilot, Nepali co-pilot and Russian flight engineer and loadmaster. There was standing room for one passenger, me.”

The team is now in Lukla and should be at EBC very soon.

This spring we will see a European duo fly over Everest, one guy in a Microlight pulling the other in a hang glider. The pilot of the Microlight will be Richard Meredith-Hardy (RMH), from the UK. Sicilian Angelo D’Arrigo will be the man in tow; Richard has previously pulled him on other flights. This Everest expedition also involves a study of the migratory route of the Steppe Eagles (Aquila Nealensis). Where the duo will be flying is on the line of the bird’s migratory route.

Image of RMH and friend flying the microlight over Pokhara courtesy of the team.

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