VIDEO ALERT: Acro paragliding duo take off together but land apart

Courtesy of Red Bull Media Service Team

Russian paragliders Posohkin and Nikulin perform spectacular aerobatic flight.

Russian acro-pilot Egor Posokhin battled tricky weather conditions to perform an unusual tandem flight with Yaroslav Nikulin in Sochi on May 16.

The 30-year-old from Norilsk above the Arctic Circle grew up learning from his paragliding instructor father and – after serving in the army then working as a crane operator, fireman and down a mine – decided to fully focus on his aerobatic paragliding skills.

Here is what Posokhin had to say about this audacious project and his life story:

Please tell us about the story of this project…

On May 16, together with Yaroslav Nikulin, we loaded an air wing with two people, reaching a total of 240 kg.

It took us a long time to prepare for the flight. First of all, we were not completely sure whether the equipment would hold up. Calculations without real practice do not give confidence and we knew that, if something went wrong, we wouldn’t be able to land safely together.

The second and most difficult fear was taking off. The more you load the aircraft, the faster it flies. Acro-wings are already very fast: you have to run as fast as you can at the start. But if you load the wing with two heavy men, the speed becomes unrealistic. Only a strong headwind could help us. Therefore, Yaroslav and I carefully selected a place where all the factors we need would converge. To find the perfect place, several test ascents and flights were made separately from each other. It took about a week and a half.

On the day of the flight, the weather forecast promised to be perfect, but in fact it turned out otherwise. We had to change the starting points, and the flight plan changed accordingly – we were not sure that it would take place.

We climbed to an altitude of 2,320m above sea level, passing a drop of 1,500m. We stood for 50 minutes strapped to each other in all our gear, in absolute calm and without being able to move or sit down properly. We were about to begin the flight when a light gust of wind hit us in the face and we decided to take a risk.

The wind was low, so I had to run fast to gain speed to take off. Yaroslav was wearing a tracksuit and could not do it – he fell during take-off and was dragged along the ground 70 metres, at a great speed. It was scary until we separated from each other. From that point onwards, we were in our element.

So tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from?

I am from Norilsk, but I have been living, training, and working as an acropilot in Krasnaya Polyana for three years now. I am an acropilot; I perform stunts on a paraglider.

Norilsk is a city beyond the Arctic Circle. You can only get there by plane. In the winter, there is a polar night, and in the summer the sun never sets because it’s the polar day. Snow is almost always there, and in the colder months the temperature drops to minus 60. But this is a great place: for thousands of kilometres around you are only tundra and mountains – there is no one as if it is a separate planet.

How did you get into paragliding?

My Dad and Mum used to fly on paragliders. I grew up watching them travel the mountains and fly, and they always took me with them. When I was 12, I saw a helicopter drop the parachutists and immediately wanted to try it. That’s what I did after getting my passport – I started skydiving at 14.

I got acquainted with acrobatics by accident when I was 16. My parents were watching a video of a French pilot performing stunts in the sky. I had no idea this was even possible.

My father was the first one to bring a paraglider to Norilsk. He was the director of the Delta paragliding club where you could get the training equipment. He taught me, my mother, and my younger brother to fly. Gradually, I began to fly by myself and performed my first maneuvres. I also read books on aerodynamics, aerology, and meteorology. But it was difficult where we lived – I once flew in minus 35 degrees Celsius in Norilsk, with very harsh winds too. While I was flying, my hands froze, even though I was wearing the gloves you would climb Everest in!

When did you first realise it was more than a hobby?

This came later, around 22. I went to an air incident simulation course with my father and that’s where I realised I wanted to succeed in that field and get into acro-piloting.

I worked at the local mine and had a good schedule that could be combined with training. But the mines never stop: the drilling machine must be kept working. I worked in a special unit that maintained the working condition of the infrastructure and quickly repaired breakdowns. Our mine was three times bigger than the Moscow metro.

I had a good relationship with the management at the mine, but I knew I couldn’t get a vacation every summer to go training in Turkey or Spain like I’d have needed to. So I quit, bought all the equipment, and went on to earn my living by paragliding.

By the time I moved to the Caucasus Mountains, in Krasnaya Polyana, I had had a lot of different jobs. I’d worked on a construction site, as a fireman, on the installation of tower cranes, and I’d been working in mines for six years. I now live and work in Krasnaya Polyana as an aerobatic paraglider.

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