25 April 2016

St. John´s River with Sherry and Joe Kittinger

On my short trip to Orlando, I had the best tour guides you can imagine - Sherry and Joe Kittinger invited me to an airboat trip along the St. John´s river, Florida´s longest river! It is always a joy for me to meet them. Joe hasn´t only helped Felix Baumgartner to beat his own record of the highest skydive jump ever, which Joe had already set in the 60ies - but Joe had also flown almost every wing that exists during his time at the airforce! 
Aerophile as I am, I keep bugging him about stories of his time as a pilot, and he patiently never gets tired to tell me more. And this time he didn´t only tell some stories - they got me speechless when they showed me an original F4 jet, actually one that Joe had flown himself! It´s set up in Joe´s memorial park. Sure it was for very serious reasons when Joe flew that jet, but I had to ask him what it was like to fly that wing. He smiled and said that it was one of the finest planes that he ever flew.
Of course Sherry and Joe know how curious I am about local wild life, so they thought it´s a good idea to take me out and see some alligators. And we saw plenty of those amazing creatures, any size! Our very knowledgeable guide Joe blasted with us to the top spots for seeing all different types of birds and gators. 
I had no idea that you can actually cross soil as well as water in such a boat, it was almost like a hovercraft. Really fun! The guys in Florida never get snow to skid and spin their cars around, so instead they do it in airboats on the water! Quite exciting with lots of hungry eyes sitting in the water expecting a snack ;)
I was also introduced to the original orange tree that was still one complete tree, before they had started grafting them. Thankfully Sherry and Joe warned me that it is a very sour and bitter orange. And so it was - but as I don´t like wasting food, I finished the whole sour orange, pulling funny faces much to the delight of Joe and Sherry. Oh Joe would get along very well with Bill Moyes, pulling jokes on "tourists" :) 
Hard to believe I had barely 24 hours in Orlando - it was filled with an amazing trip, great stories and the best company you can possibly ask for! If you want to know more about Joe´s life, I can recommend his autobiography to you: "Come up and get me" - he has an extraordinary humor, and if you like flying, well - to me Joe left an important footstep in aviation history, in a very modest way. 
I can´t wait to get back and meet these fantastic, lovely people again! Thanks heaps, Sherry and Joe, you really made my day!

13 April 2016

Support me at the Wings for Life World Run!

On May 8th, join the Wings for Life World Run and race to support a good cause: finding a cure for spinal cord injuries! Who of us hasn´t had a close call, some minor or major injuries, having seen "the dark side" of not having a fully functional body? Here you can donate and support all our friends who haven´t been able to recover yet!
You can run in many cities world wide, or you can selfie run if you can´t join an event, or you can donate to help - anything counts and will be highly appreciated!

03 April 2016

From Rio to Denver

After a week of flying in the heat of Rio, the cold rain in Frankfurt welcomed me home for a short stop. Right on the next day I left for a work flight to Denver, Colorado. High cloud base, strong wind and some last specs of snow greeted us on the high plains of Colorado. Except for the Rockies in the background, it kind of looked like Forbes, just maybe 30 C colder ;)
The city is mainly flat, perfect to go around on inline skates. Except for the wind - but that counts as training.
The constant smell of marihuana in the city irritated me - I learnt that for people over 21, in Colorado it´s legal to smoke it not just for medical reasons, but also recreationally.
After a short stop, it´s already time to pack my suitcase again and head home. Let´s see if spring has already arrived in Germany!

16 Februar 2016

The sky above Rio de Janeiro

Arriving in Rio de Janeiro on a work flight the day after Carneval finished, the weather looked dreadful. Showers on approach, strong wind and grey sky. On the way to our hotel, I could see Urubus (Brazilian vultures) sitting on lamp posts, trying to dry their feathers.
Talking to the champion of all Cristo flights, Nader Couri, he wasn´t positive about a chance to get "the flight" any of these days. Even my friend Fabio Thomaz, who is usually super enthusiastic, didn´t sound excited - that´s why I only brought the bare necesseties over this time, my helmet, vario, sunglasses, gloves and a gopro.
After some heavy showers, at least it stayed dry for the rest of Thursday, so I was happy when Leonarda Beltrao offered to pick me up early the next morning to find a glider and harness for me. Well, not just "a" glider, but "the" Gecko, the brand new intermediate wing that had just arrived from Moyes!
We got to the ramp at Pedra Bonita nice and early. When Konrad Heilmann told me that he had tried to fly to Cristo early this morning and turned around half way as he really wanted to get back, I got excited about the day. A flight to Cristo seemed possible, but not easy. The few times I went to Corcovado, it was always soaring with a significant south easterly wind on the ridge. Today there was almost no wind, but really good looking clouds. And a smiling Rui Marra who talked about an epic spread for today :)
It´s not a long flight to Cristo, but it is exciting nevertheless. You don´t have any places to land really, just the trees of the Tijuca national park, some huge Favelas and high rise buildings. The beaches of Ipanema or Copacabana are too far away - and they were also really crowded with umbrellas! The only place to land is at the race track - and many of the paragliders used this option indeed on this day.

Thanks a lot to Chico Santos and all his tandem pilots from the Sao Conrado flight school for their patience! It felt like 50 tandem gliders were lined up, yet they let me move in for take off, two wing men leading me down the ramp! The Gecko was smooth to lift off the edge of the ramp, guess my wing load was really low. I realized after the first turn how easy the handling is and started to play with the VG.

I was super careful to not land out today, and I was happy when I saw Nader Couri cruising along, showing me another time how to do the flight of flights!
When I finally reached Cristo Redentor, I could not stop smiling. What an energy! Flying back to Sao Conrado was easy, so I decided to turn around and visit Cristo a second time.
Going back to take off, it looked tempting to try and soar up the big rock of Pedra da Gavea. Suddenly a thermal took me up and I could fly over to the back of the huge boulder under the cloud. I have never been able to do that before! When I came in for landing after about four hours, I concentrated to finish in style. I had never flown a harness like this before, but it all worked. The Gecko flared easy and seems to have quite a big window for smooth, elegant landings :) sorry that my gopro had already run out of battery!
And so was I - so I put down the new green machine in the shade under a tree and sat down to have açai and fresh coconut water with my friends. We were FOUR hang gliding girls at Sao Conrado on that day, so we took a photo as proof :)
Also a nice surprise to meet my old German friends Egbert von der Höh and Wolf Schneider together with Markus Fiedler here in Rio, also raving about the great flying!
Thanks to all the people who made this awesome flight possible for me - I can´t wait to get back!

31 Januar 2016

Ispo Munich

Always exciting to find and try new gadgets at Europes biggest sports exhibition Ispo in Munich. Here I´m trying some new glasses from adidas, and I can just swap them for the ones I currently have in my Tycane! Can´t wait to try them when flying and see how they work with the visor of my helmet.

It was cool to meet other Red Bull athletes there, like Dominik Gührs (wakeboard) and Florian Neuenschwander (ultra long distance running - he won the Wings for Life World Run in Germany).
Sure the winter sport guys were busy racing in the mountains. 

06 Januar 2016

Mexico, D.F.

It´s always an intense work flight to go to Mexico City, but I can´t help to smile all the way because I like the country so much. Great to dive into the cultures of Toltec, Aztec and Maya history, this time I went to see the pyramids of Teotihuacan again. Very good training to walk up the Sun pyramid, and after that half of the Moon pyramid too!
Of course I like shopping some fresh veggies on the Merced market, some things I can only get here, like blue corn tortillas, nopales, xicama... the list is long :)
I owe all my local knowledge to my wonderful Mexican friends Miguel Gutierrez, Aldo Rohlfs and many others who took me around explaining many secrets that "normal" tourists will never experience, and I am very greatful for that! Also I usually have some new colleagues with me to introduce them to the most interesting sites and flavours of the city, so they will always look forward to their next stay in this amazing place.
How do you like the special Mexican Christmas tree in our hotel, made from all real Christmas star flowers?