Showing posts with label Aircraft. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Aircraft. Show all posts

Video: Watch a Helicopter Pilot Land on the Summit of Everest

Back in 2005, French helicopter pilot Didier Delsalle did something that most people thought was impossible – he landed a helicopter on the summit of Mt. Everest. And when people questioned if he was actually able to pull of that stunt, he did it again for good measure. In this video, we see one of those landings, in footage that I hadn't ever come across before. Considering the fact that most helicopters won't go much higher than Base Camp, this remains an impressive bit of flying indeed.

Meet the First Men to Fly Over Everest

If you've seen the big Hollywood film Everest that came out last year, you probably heard one of the characters deliver a line about how the team would be climbing at the same altitude as a commercial jetliner. Today, aircraft fly over or around the mountain on a regular basis, and no one thinks twice about it, but back in 1933 that still seemed like an impossible height to take an aircraft, particularly in an age when pressurized cabins were not necessarily the norm just yet. But two daring pilots made that flight, and lived to tell the tale. And they did so in a biplane that is down right ancient when compared to modern aircraft.

Mashable recently posted a story and some great  photos from that epic adventure that was called the Houston Everest Expedition because it was sponsored by a wealthy British philanthropist known as Lady Houston. She put up the money that allowed RAF pilot Douglas Douglas-Hamilton (aka Lord Clydesdale) and Colonel Stewart Blacker to attempt to fly a Westland PV-3 biplane over the top of the world's highest mountain, something that seemed incredibly dangerous at the time.

The two men took off from an airstrip near Purnea, India on the morning of April 3, 1933. They were accompanied by a second aircraft flown by Flight Lieutenant David McIntyre and a photographer named S.R. Bonnett. The second plane was there to record the event for posterity and get some fantastic images of this daring flight. The photographer did not disappoint.

As it turns out, the mission was a test for both pilots and aircraft, as there was indeed no pressurized cabins. The four men who were aboard the two planes had to rely on oxygen masks to keep their wits about them and help them breathe at such an altitude. On top of that, it was rare for any airplane to fly at such heights at that point in history, and the small biplane struggled in the thin air just as much as her crew.

When the two planes approached Everest, high winds caused even more problems, forcing the planes to drop 1500 feet (457 meters). But in the end, they were able to climb back up to 29,029 feet (8848 meters) and pass over the top of the summit for the very first time. All four men were given high accolades with Lord Clydesdale earning the Air Force Cross for his leadership. Bonnett's photos and video footage were also used to create an Academy Award winning film called Wings Over Everest as well. You can watch that film below.

The story of this expedition is an amazing one. Today we take it for granted that we fly at such a height, but back in 1933 it was almost as if they were trying to go to the moon. Fortunately, they proved that aircraft are sturdier than was believed and that man can go to higher heights that was previously believed. It would be 20 years before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay would actually climb to the summit, but this intrepid crew helped lead the way.

Video: Exploring Alaska from Above with Paraglider Paul Guschlbauer

Paul Guschlbauer is an Austrian paraglider who traveled to Alaska – one of the world's last great frontiers – to explore the region from above. What he found there was an epic wilderness that remains remote and untamed, even in the 21st century. Paul flew across this amazing place in a 60-year old airplane, finding beautiful landscapes and amazing adventures along the way. This short video takes us along for the ride, and will leave you wanting more. See Alaska the way the famous bush pilots do, and marvel and just how spectacularly beautiful the state truly is.

Did Amelia Earhart Survive Her Crash in the Pacific?

One of the most compelling missing person's stories of the 20th century may have just gotten even more interesting. A member of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) now claims that aviator Amelia Earhart not only survived her crash in South Pacific back in 1937, but she lived for days on a remote island, where she continuously called for help from her aircraft's radio, with those calls being picked up by amateur radio operators all over the world at the time. 

In recent years, TIGHAR has put considerable effort into searching for the remains of Earhart, her navigator Fred Noonan, and their aircraft. The group has made several expeditions to islands in the Pacific searching for evidence of what may have happened to her. They have found some compelling clues, but nothing that definitively says whether or not she or Noonan survived the crash, or even made it to one of the sites they have examined at all. 

But according to Ric Gillespie, a member of TIGHAR, Earhart's calls for help were heard by a woman in Melbourne, Australia; a housewife in Texas who claims to have recognized her voice, and perhaps most intriguing of all – a teenager in Florida. 

What makes the Florida teen's story so fascinating is that she scribbled notes based on what she was hearing, transcribing what was allegedly Earhart's broadcast. The teen wrote several times "New York, New York," seemingly referencing the city. But Gillespie believes that Earhart was actually saying "SS Norwich City," which was a ship that was abandoned on Nikumaroro island in 1929, the place that  TIGHAR believes the aviator set down. 

Today, we take flying around the world for granted, as thousands of aircraft take off from airports all over the globe each day. But back in 1937, it was still difficult to imagine circumnavigating the globe in a small aircraft. That was exactly what Earhart and Noonan were trying to do when they went missing. The pilot and navigator had set out from Lae Airfield in New Guinea the plan was to fly to Howland Island. But somewhere along the way they got off track, and couldn't find their destination. 

Eventually they ran out of fuel and crashed somewhere int he Pacific, but exactly where has long been a mystery. After examining the flight plan, listening to radio broadcasts, and plotting potential courses, TIGHAR has come to believe that Earhart and Noonan landed in a shallow bay off the shore of Nikumaroro, which has been the subject of their searches in recent years. So far, they've come up with nothing, but they hope to return next July – the 80th anniversary of Earhart's disappearance – to look for her Electra aircraft. The group believes that the tide has carried it out to sea, and that they'll be able to find it using a submersible.
Over the years, here at The Adventure Blog we've followed various attempts to locate the missing aircraft that Earhart was flying when she went missing. So far, it has remained elusive, as finding an 80 year old aircraft in the middle of the Pacific is not going to be easy. But, I have to admit TIGHAR has made some interesting finds over the years, including a piece of scrap metal that has been positively linked to the aircraft she was flying. Will they be able to finally substantiate their claims? We'll just have to wait until next summer to find out. 

Travel Channel Announces Six-Part Mini-Series Focused on Everest Rescue Operations (Updated!)

Everest will once again be the center of attention for an upcoming documentary television series set to air this fall. Yesterday, the Travel Channel announced that it will begin airing Everest Air on Wednesday, October 26 at 10:00 PM EST/9:00 PM CST. The show will be an hour in length and run for six weeks.

Everest Air will reportedly take a look at what it takes to climb the highest mountain on the planet, as viewers meet the men and women who traveled to Nepal this past spring to make an attempt on the summit. But beyond that, the show will focus on a high altitude emergency response team called Alpine Rescue Service that led by Jeff Evans, who is described as "an Everest expert mountaineer, adventurer and medic." Evans and his team conducted a number of rescues on the mountain this past spring, some on foot, but most through the use of a helicopter.

The show promises to provide viewers with awesome views of the Himalaya and Everest in particular, while giving them an inside look at expedition climbing in Nepal. But the main focus will be on Evans and his team of helicopter pilots and rescue Sherpas who work on the mountain. Over the course of the six episodes, I'm sure there will be no shortage of drama as the crew goes about rescuing stranded, sick, and injured climbers.

I've spoken to several people personally who were on Everest this past spring, and two who had to be helicoptered off the mountain from Camp 1. Both indicated that when they were loaded onto a helicopter to be brought down to lower altitude they had cameras shoved in their face with someone asking if it was okay to interview them. Neither was in a really good mood to be interviewed at that point, and indicated as much to the television crew. Obviously others were more than willing to share their stories however, as the show has enough footage and content for its six-episode run.

We're still about two months from the show hitting the air, so I'm sure we'll learn a lot more about it the closer we get to its debut. On the one hand, I'm curious as to how the producers of Everest Air handle the mountaineer aspects of the program, while on the other I'm a bit dismayed that the focus is on rescuing those who were unable to complete the climb. All too often the mainstream media takes an alarmist/extremist view of Everest, playing up the danger their for ratings. In reality, the mountain is indeed a dangerous and difficult climb, but it is one that hundreds of people do successfully in any given year. Usually, the general public only hears about the climbers who die during that attempt. Will this show alter that approach in any way? We'll have to wait to see, but at the moment I remain dubious.

Update: I've heard from several people that wanted to clarify that the camera crew that was so invasive on Everest this past spring was actually from the Discovery Channel and not the Travel Channel. I'm told that Everest Air will indeed be a legitimate, and well made, show that isn't as sensationalistic as I have feared. Hopefully that will be the case. We'll find out in October.

Use of Helicopters on Everest Rises Dramatically

If you followed the spring climbing season on Everest with any regularity this year, it was evident that the use of helicopters on the mountain had risen dramatically. But a new report gives us an even closer look at the numbers, that now show not just a surprising number of flights to the mountain, but that many of them were unauthorized. 

According to this story from The Himalayan Times, there were more than 150 helicopter flights conducted to Everest Base Camp and higher during the spring 2016 climbing season. Sources at the Tenzing Hillary Airport in Lukla say that six companies operated at least 151 flights above 5000 meters (16,404 ft) in April and May without properly reporting their activities to Nepal's Civil Aviation Authority. Of those, about 30% (roughly 45 flights) were to locations above Base Camp, most notably Camp 1 and Camp 2 on Everest.

Regulations state that helicopter flights are to go no higher than BC unless they are conducting emergency rescue operations. Those types of flights are monitored closely by Aviation officials, but it seems in this case many pilots were indicating that they were flying to Base Camp, only to go higher up the mountain later on. Authorities say that by going to higher altitudes the pilots are risking their own lives and those of their passengers, warning that there could be a fatal accident if such operations continue.

Representatives of the six companies that conduct the flights insist that they only went to the higher camps to rescue climbers who requested assistance and that they weren't doing anything outside of the regulations. The fact that so many of those flights went unreported however would suggest otherwise. If all of the flights were conducted above board, there would be no need to not report them. 

The cost of a flight to Everest is not cheap. Most companies charge $5000 for a trip to Base Camp, $7500 to go up to Camp 1, and as much as $10,000 to reach Camp 2. Some of the costs of those flights are covered by the insurance companies for climbers who do have to be rescued, but one has to wonder just who is paying for the other flights. 

There have been some suggestions of increasing the use of helicopters on Everest to help shuttle gear up from BC to the higher camps. This could potentially reduce the number of trips that climbers – and more importantly Sherpas – would have to make through the dangerous Khumbu Icefall. This is the section of the climb just above Base Camp that is widely considered the most dangerous section of the mountain. In 2014, the collapse of an ice serac on this section of the climb killed 16 porters who were carrying gear to Camp 1. 

By using helicopters to do that work instead, it would help alleviate those dangers, but there has been no official go-ahead to begin doing that on a large scale. It seems that some of these flights were being made to ease the process of moving gear, even if no one is necessarily admitting it. 

Will the trend of using helicopters on Everest continue to rise in the years ahead? Almost certainly. Will it make things safer? Possibly. Only time will tell. All I know is, that is a lot of unregulated flights to dangerous altitudes, which seems like a recipe for disaster in and of itself. 

Video: GoPro Camera Captures Hyperlapse Images of Solar Impulse Flight

Yesterday I posted a story about the Solar Impulse aircraft completing its round-the-world journey using nothing but the rays of the sun to power the flight. Today, I have a great video that was captured by GoPro camera throughout the expedition. The short clip is a hyperlapse of final legs of the excursion, giving us some impressive views of the trip as seen from atop the plane itself. This was a wonderful achievement to say the least, and this video helps to put the accomplishment in perspective.

Risky Antarctic Rescue Mission Completed Successfully

Before I left for Utah last week, one of the stories that we were watching closely was a daring and risky evacuation flight to the South Pole. At the time, all we knew was that a staff member at the Amundsen-Scott research facility had taken ill, and the situation was so desperate that two Twin Otter Aircraft has been scrambled from Kenn Borek Air in Canada to evacuate them. While it took some time to complete, that rescue operation did go off successfully, with everyone involved making it back safely.

Due to the fact that it is currently winter in the Southern Hemisphere, the flight was an incredibly risk one. Weather conditions are unpredictable and very dangerous in that part of the world this time of year, making it risky to come and go from the South Pole. Typically that means that anyone at the South Pole research station has to stay there until spring arrives in November. But in this case, the medical situation was so dire that it was deemed necessary to take the risk to bring out the patient.

That's exactly what happened last week, with the flight carrying not one, but two, South Pole staffers arrived back in Punta Arenas, Chile on Wednesday. That successful return followed several very long day, during which the pilots flew from Canada to South America, than crossed the Southern Ocean to reach the British Rothera Research Station, than continued on to the South Pole, and back again.

Two aircraft were required to complete the rescue with one making the full fight to the Pole, while the other stood by to lend a hand if needed. Fortunately, the entire mission came off without a significant hitch, and the two sick workers are now receiving medical attention. Their names and afflictions haven't been announced.

I'd love to hear more about this story and find out all the details behind it. Hopefully someone will do an in-depth article about what this adventure was like for the pilots. I'm sure there is quite a story to be told.

Solar Impulse 2 Resumes Round--the-World Flight

Its journey around the world may have been delayed for 10 months, but the historic flight of the Solar Impulse 2 has resumed at long last. The solar powered aircraft took off from Oahu in Hawaii yesterday, and is now flying towards California on what is arguably the most dangerous leg of the entire project.

The innovative plane features a wingspan as large as a 747, yet it has a very small and cramped cockpit. Most of those large winds are covered in solar panels, with large batteries onboard that cover the rays of the sun into energy and store it for use while inflight. The aircraft carries absolutely no fuel, which is why flying it around the world is such a major achievement.

The Solar Impulse 2 took off from Abu Dhabi in March of last year, flying on to China with few problems. Once there however, poor weather kept the plane on the ground for several weeks, and when it did take off it was forced to land in Japan, where it suffered damage on the ground. The crew repaired that damage, and Swiss adventurer/pilot Bertrand Piccard pressed on to Hawaii.

But while on that leg of the journey, the plane's batteries overheated, damaging the electrical system en route. Safely on the ground in Hawaii, the team reviewed the issue and discovered that it would take some time to repair the Solar Impulse and get it back in the air. The aircraft needed two new batteries and an improved cooling system, which took some time to get in place. It remained in Hawaii until yesterday, when a weather window opened that allowed the plane to take off and resume its journey at long last.

Over the next few days the solar-powered aircraft will make its way to San Francisco, before continuing across the U.S., making several stops along the way. From there, it'll fly across the North Atlantic, visit Europe and North Africa, before proceeding back to Abu Dhabi sometime in the summer. If successful, the Solar Impulse will be the first aircraft to circumnavigate the globe using nothing but solar power.

Hopefully this is the last of the delays, and the airplane can now continue along on its journey without any further delays. There is still a long way to go, and it is far from out of danger, but the team behind this project is happy to see its aircraft back in the air once again.

Video: Meet The Bush Pilots of Ketchikan

Even in the 21st century there are plenty of places in Alaska that remain cut-off from the rest of the world. The wild and expansive landscapes of that state makes it impossible to build a road system that can accommodate everyone. That's why so many people own airplanes there and use them to fly between destinations. In this video, we meet some of the bush pilots of Ketchikan, which have a reputation for being able to fly anywhere, anytime, and do it with style. This short documentary tells their story, and offers some amazing looks at the great scenery that is so common in Alaska. Get comfortable for this one, you're going to want to watch it all the way through.

Ketchikan: The Bush Pilots from Ketchikan Visitors Bureau on Vimeo.

Exploring Southern Africa by Bush Plane

Southern Africa remains one of the most wild, and remote, destinations on the planet, with beautiful landscapes, wondrous wildlife, and a dizzying array of destinations to explore. Recently, adventure travel legend Richard Bangs made a fantastic journey through the region aboard a tiny aircraft known as a BushCat, which gave him an up close, and very personal, look at a part of the world that many never get the chance to see. His travels took him from South Africa into Namibia, a country that offers as much opportunity of adventure as any place on Earth.

Richard has recounted his experiences in a wonderful piece that he wrote for the Huffington Post. In the article, he shares the tale of a group of adventure travelers zipping off by BushCat to roam the wild African landscapes. Their journey takes them over expansive deserts, past dazzling waterfalls, through deep gorges, and into abandoned diamond minds. They also manage to find time to visit a remote vineyard, as well as a number of other off-the-beaten path locations, including the famed Skeleton Coast.

As the expedition continues, the travelers are able to spot wildlife from the air, turning their journey into an airborne safari of sorts. Elephants, zebras, giraffes, and all manner of African animals are on display. But not content to just look at the animals from the safety of their aircraft, they also visit a conservation area, where they can track collard cheetahs in the wild. Elsewhere, they go in search of the elusive desert elephants that are known to inhabit the Namib.

The story is a long one, but it is a great read, and an indication of just what kinds of unique adventures can be found in southern Africa. I particularly enjoy the angle of this story, with much of the travel being done in the small BushCat aircraft. These tough little planes are capable of a lot of things, and they are being employed across the continent to help authorities hunt for poachers, while aiding in animal conservation efforts as well. Using one to explore these amazing landscapes sounds like an amazing experience to me, and this article will make you feel like you're along for the journey yourself.