World’s First: Hang Gliding Over Mount Everest

Imagine: you’re scaling the northeast peak of Mount Everest along with an Italian expedition. Suddenly, a dark shadow catches your eye and a large bird-like contraption is drifting without a sound in the sky above you. It’s not a plane, nor a bird. Suddenly you notice there’s a man attached to it and he’s waving at you. From over 30,000 feet.

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Angelo d’Arrigo - Hang Gliding Over Mount Everest© More photos »

Everest climbers during the 2004 season bore witness to such an event. The man, known as the “Human Condor”, was Angelo d’Arrigo – an Italian aviator and apparent madman with testicles the likes of which this world has never known. That season, he had succeeded in flying the first hang glider over the summit of the tallest mountain on Earth.

His flight was documented in the film “Flying Over Everest”, in which he recollects the key moment of his journey:

The flight was extraordinary. I took off from the Khumbu Valley and flew over [the peaks of] Namche, Amadablam, Nuptse and Lotse until I reached Everest, where I saw the Italian expedition climbing the northeast peak, and they saw me too.

South of Everest and close to the peak, we ran into a gigantic area of rotor turbulence, which dragged the microlight violently downwards, projecting me in the hang glider upwards at the same time.

We were at a height of about 9000 meters; I was 500 meters south of Everest, about 150 meters over the peak… This was the moment, flying over Everest! I had succeeded in the attempt to fly my hang glider over the highest mountain in the world.

Angelo died in March of last year during a tragic air show accident, however his website lives on in his memory and details much of his fascinating journeys and life’s work.

Founding Editor
  1. While my intent here is not to disparage the recently deceased pilot mentioned in this article, your title and the recording of the “World’s First: Hang Gliding Over Mount Everest” wasn’t… gliding that is.

    His glider was towed to within a few hundred yards adjacent to and slight above Mount Everest when the tow vehicle jettisoned the towed glider to coast over the peak.

    Now, had you said the World’s First Towed Hang glider over ME”, you would be absolutely correct. In this case, with no lift to work his way to the top, the pilot resorted to being towed up there. Where’s the challenge in hanging on to a tow vehicle?

    Since it was a NON-FLIGHT, it explains why nobody in the HG / PG flying community didn’t count it as a serious accomplishment.

    For example, Mike Barber’s world record longest flight of 438 miles is truly a great feat.

    But to have someone strapped into a Hang Glider, and then “TOWED” 440 miles and then released to coast another few miles beyond a legitimate record is not only rejected by any record keeping organizations, including US and Europe and elsewhere (Italy), but it is not worth the video memory to record such an event.

    A non-pilot might have thought this was a great success story… until he analyzes or hears from other pilots that the stunt was just that.

    A stunt. Nothing more.


  2. I disagree with Gene hugely. The achievement was huge. Sure it was assisted hugely but nonetheless both pilots operated dangerous aircraft under significant stress.
    I am in the free flying community have flown unassisted to over 7000m many times and have never heard heard anything so disparaging before. I hope Gene has done or will do something remarkable in his life so he can be able to criticise others so freely and Inappropriately

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