WHEN YOU THINK about flying solo you probably think about piloting a small two-seater plane maybe.
It’s unlikely you think of strapping the equivalent of a lawnmower engine and a parachute to your back and then gliding along at a height of 500 feet.
Well, such things do exist, and an Irish man is to pilot one all the way to Africa in the name of charity. Specifically, Oisín Creagh is flying to raise funds for drought-ravaged Ethiopia.
A 52-year-old architect from Dublin (though living in Cork), Creagh has been flying paramotors (as they are known) for the last ten years.
If you want an equivalent to this strange pastime think parasailing (in which a parachute is towed by a boat – a truly relaxing experience) only with engine noise.
Oisín is making the trip in aid of Gorta – Self Help Africa, and is hoping to raise thousands of euro in the process.
“I’ve been flying actively for about ten years,” he tells TheJournal.ie.
I’ve flown through America, Portugal, Spain, but never this kind of distance flying. So that’s the challenge really.
Flying a paramotor (known as a ‘wing’ to those who practice the sport) is “one of the simplest forms of powered aviation available to humankind” according to Oisín.
Essentially, it involves having a two-stroke engine connected to a fan (with roughly the same power as a lawnmower) strapped to your back via a rucksack-style harness, with a parachute trailing behind.
Once airborne you can fly at about 60 km/h for between 150 and 200 kilometres at a time, at a minimum of 500 feet (for most of Oisín’s 3,000 km trip he’ll be at a height of 1,500 feet, and in some cases – such as when traversing the Pyrenees mountains – much, much higher).
This kind of flying is intensely dependent on the weather (“too warm, too windy, or too wet and you just can’t fly”). Oisín thinks it’ll take him about a month, leaving in August.
“There’s a lot of planning to a trip like this,” says Oisín.
Between the air corridors I’m to take, whose airspace I’ll be in, and all along the way I need a backup of people on the ground, fellow paramotorists who know what I’m doing and will be able to help should anything go wrong.
Flying one of these remarkable machines is “an addictive experience” according to Creagh.
“You’re in your own zone, and totally in control of your climbing. It’s a very hospitable sport,” he says.
His route will take him from Ireland across to Wales, then England, France, Spain, and finally North Africa.
Along the way he’ll be stopping at places that interest him, such as abandoned airfields, and, in one case, a former zeppelin base. He makes the whole thing sound very relaxing.
“Basically, if you like looking out of a plane’s window, you’ll like paramotoring.
You can read more about Oisín Creagh’s expedition to Africa here.