Queenstown paraglider sets flight record

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A Queenstown paraglider is crediting a farmer driving a tractor with helping him set the New Zealand record for the longest straight-line flight on a paraglider.

Coronet Peak Tandems owner and chief pilot Angus Tapper flew 170.4km from the Coronet Peak skifield to a point between Mt Cook airport and Mt Cook Village late last month.

The 45-year-old says he did not plan to break the record - he was trying a new paraglider which had been sitting in his office for about two months.

“This was my first flight using the glider. I got airborne and it felt comfortable and I thought I would just see if I could try to fly it through to Wanaka. Then I thought I would see if I could get across to Hawea Flat.”

Eight hours later, he was at Mt Cook.

During his flight, he reached an altitude of 2900m and dropped to about 100m near Hawea Flat.

At that point, he thought his flight was over, but he came across a tractor working in a paddock.

“The tractor was cutting hay and you could smell the grass.

“I was hoping the guy wouldn’t see me and stop the tractor because it would have stopped the heat release.

“The tractor was going around in circles so it looked like I was chasing this tractor around the paddock.

“With all the hot air coming of it, I was able to slowly climb up again.

“You’re always looking for anything that can be a heat release, like a hay paddock that’s browned off or a little ridge line.

“The tractor really helped me out there.”

Tapper has 27 years’ experience in the aviation industry. He has been New Zealand Paragliding Champion four times, was runner-up at the 2010 New Zealand Hang Gliding Championships, and eighth in the world in 2001.

Until recently, he held the record for the longest paragliding flight by a New Zealand pilot after he flew 231km in Australia.

So what happens now for Tapper?

“I can sit back and watch the other paragliders and see if they can beat it. I might try something with a hang-glider now.”

john.lewis@odt.co.nz