(MountEverest.net) On the last day of 2005, Italian Angelo dArrigo fulfilled his dream of flying over Aconcagua. It was magnificent, he told journalists upon landing. There were no clouds; I saw the majestic glaciers in the distance, and had a very fast flight.
I have been a condor, he said.<cutoff>
<b>The first flight</b>
The plan was for two hang glider flights: First to soar over the highest point of South America; then, in a second flight, towed in a micro light just like on Everest, to reach 10,000m over sea level.
Before his flight, Angelo had plans to acclimatize by climbing Aconcagua. But poor conditions prevented him from getting very far. Instead, Angelo prepared by enduring strong winds and bitter cold in BC (4300m) for five days.
By Dec 20th, 2005, conditions had improved significantly. He was ready for his first flight. While Angelo would have wanted to fly at a higher altitude, forecasts were most favourable for a free-flight in the lower Horcones Valley. He jumped from the highest point above Plaza de Mulas.
The strong thermic currents hitting Aconcaguas West face quickly lifted him over Nido de Cóndores and brought him face to face with the mountain. Angelo reached 5700m before turning back.
The team then returned to Mendoza for some further tests. Pilot Richard Meredith checked the bubble-like fold they would use during the Aconcagua flight, a specifically-designed aerodynamic frame the team calls Bullet della Woody Valley.
<b>Richard: It was a perfect flight"</b>
By Christmas, the team had made its way back to Nido de Condores for some reconnaissance flights. There they waited for the right day to get over the roof of America. And it just so happens to have fallen on the last day of the year - a perfect farewell to 2005.
In his condor-shaped hang-glider, Angelo was towed by a micro- light piloted by Richard Meredith - the very same who helped the Italian in his 2004 flight over Everest.
At around 7000m, Angelo broke free from the tow and kept ascending thanks to some strong thermic currents.
Richard Meredith was the first to land. It was a perfect flight, with no turbulence, he said. Less dangerous than Everest, since the wind was on our side this time.
<b>Angelo: Hard landing</b>
About 1.5hrs later, Angelo reappeared from behind the mountains and touched down at Nido de Cóndores (Condors nest) airstrip. Several onlookers and fans gasped when one of the hang glider's wheels got stuck in some cracks. Angelos body hit the ground several times until the hang glider finally came to a complete stop. His wife, Laura, ran to help, but DArrigo quickly gave the crowd a thumbs up.
Apparently, Angelo has not beaten his altitude record (set in 2004 flying over 8848ms Everest). It is unclear if he will be returning home now, or willl attempt further flights. His flying permit for the region expires January, 13th of this year.
<i>In 2001, Angelo guided a migratory eagle over the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea, completing the first free flight Sahara crossing in hang-gliding history. The event caught the attention of many scientists.
Russian biologist Alexander Sorokin invited Angelo to work on his Siberian Cranes Project and one year later they were defining strategies for a sort of migratory birds flying school. Flying in his hang-glider, Angelo would teach these birds the ways of migration.
Supported by Moscows ARRINP (All Russian Research Institute for Nature and Protection) and Washingtons ICF (International Crane Foundation), they guided a flock of cranes across Siberia from the Arctic Circle. Besides being a huge advancement in science, it was also the longest free flight ever performed at the time.
With Flying Over Everest in 2004, Angelo fulfilled a dream that was four years in the making. He prepared extensively for the project by working in hypobaric chambers and testing gear in a wind tunnel. Angelo became the first man ever to fly over the summit of Everest on a hang glider. During this same project, Angelo also released a Himalayan eagle in Everest National Park.
Angelo has been training in Italys Etna region for his flight over Aconcagua, where he also cares for and gives flying lessons to his 'adopted' condor chicks. Next year, the condors will be released into their natural environment, in Peruvian Andes.
On Aconcagua, Angelo is fulfilling the first of two expeditions that together will make up d'Arrigo's "Wings of Condor" project (National Geographic will be shooting a documentary on both). Both expeditions will be linked with d'Arrigo's Condor Research Project. </i>
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