The Airborne Planet Expedition
By Kris Coppieters
The Airborne Planet Expedition Series, a Prelude:
The seed of this year-long round-the-world expedition was planted in my head during a voyage through the Andes in 2002. At the time, I was a new pilot with only one month’s experience from a course in New Zealand and was traveling from Southern Patagonia to central Peru with my trusty Ozone Atom DHV 1. Looking back, the situations I put myself in were often times a bit insane, but during this seven month adventure I accumulated hundreds of hours of airtime in the high Andes of Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru. The local pilots along the way were very helpful and my progression was fast and, quite fortunately, injury free. It was on this trip that I realized paragliding is the perfect vehicle for me to see the world from, and I can no longer imagine traveling without it.
After landing in small mountain villages and meeting the kind and enthusiastic native people in the Andes, I promised myself that one day I would return with a tandem paraglider so I could share the joy of flight with these people who wanted so badly to fly with me then. With this promise, the Airborne Planet Expedition was born!
I joined forces with Aude Piercy of France and Kym Fielke of Australia, and we rallied support from a great team of sponsors for our twelve month adventure around the world. Our plan was to travel around the world, from Europe in a westerly direction, visiting native people in tropical countries and sharing paragliding with them.
Ozone outfitted us with four new gliders- the Geo (Lightweight DHV 1-2), Buzz (DHV 1-2), Rush (Performance DHV 1-2) and the McDaddy Tandem. SupAir supplied us with harnesses and reserve parachutes, and IceBreaker set us up with a great range of clothing. With our bags full of shiny new gear and our bloodstreams rich with Champagne from the night before, we boarded our first international flight: Our first destination, Columbia.
Understandably, our friends and family were not fond of the idea of us beginning our journey in Bogota, which is considered one of the more dangerous cities in the world. And, to be honest, we were a bit apprehensive as well until we heard about the Pre-World Cup at Roldanillo; surely if there was an international comp there then it would be safe enough, right? Suddenly optimistic, we decided to head for the Valle de Cauca and begin the adventure.
There are flying sites all over the world, in many exotic and faraway locations. However, the vast majority of pilots who travel do so with a specific and well known destination in mind. Sometimes these destinations are so overrun with pilots that they can only be described as soulless and predictable…
We start our paragliding journey at Panajachel, one of the few official paragliding sites. There we get some nice flights above the lake with views of the volcanoes…