Coupe Icare 2015

2015-09-21 The greatest show above earth for Paraglider Pilots

It's the center of paragliding's universe for four days and it's becoming more the same for paramotoring. The main attraction is a costume party of flight but a lot of folks come for the vendors.

Just getting to the place is cool given that it's the Alps.

Tim and I came to cover the event, see the people, see what's new, get material for a new project and to experience Alpine flying on the side.

We arrived on flood-Thursday when vendors were getting a late start overcoming storm damaged on the infrastructure. What's amazing was to see how the place gets transformed from mucky nothingness to a attractive displays of our goods and services.

There were lots of paramotor vendors including the latest electrics, three to be exact. They're mostly a free flight launch tool but keep making small strides. You can get 10 to 15 minutes of tear-it-up power or 50 minutes of cruising for about $10k and 65 pounds.

1. A remarkable transformation turned this scene into #2.

First Alpine Flight

With 100's of onlookers and pilots vying for a hill position, it's intimidating launching from here. Friday was open flying so we all took the opportunity to give it a go. Calm winds and a late afternoon hour meant it would be a sledder but that would still be fun.

Tim Kaiser and Jeff Jeff Hamann (PPG Bible Cover Jeff) had never done an Apline flight so this was a big deal.

Half the paragliding world queued up for a launch position and organizers doled out spots as pilots launched. Essentially everyone there was a gem but for one remarkably obnoxious a$$ who pushing people aside as he crowded to the front of the line. Wow. It was a long queue, taking at least 30 minutes from line to layout.

Tim and Jeff pulled off their no-wind launch brilliantly. I had already landed and captured their arrival. Nice job.


The Show

Saturday started big gig, a costume parade of paraglider pilots launching from the primary slope. Wow. There is no bad view and some of the best pictures are after they're airborne.

Bad weather played havoc with launching and only a few of the costume flyers made it off. Ideally, winds should be light or out of the south, and presumably they usually are. Not this time. Pilots would set up and wait for a cycle where the wind was either calm or blowing in (up the hill). During those brief periods, organizers would launch pilots as quickly as they safely could. Still, a number of slightly downwind launches were made and a number of them almost made. Inflating downwind is hard, doing it with costume accoutrements? Yeah. That's heroic.



If you weren't launching it was pretty nice excepting the periodic sprinkles and chilly gusts. After only a couple hours of launching, winds blowing down the hill forced them to call it off.

Other Shows

Choices abounded. Of course it all depended on the weather which meant it was easy to miss things. Parabatix, for example, was something I was hoping to see but didn't because the time I went it got blown out. Parabatix is mostly a show with the theme being fun competitions in an small space. Being more show than competition means the pilots don't push so far into deadly limits making it safer. Sponsors pay for the show to be performed like any other show, carnage is not sustainable. Judging from the videos it ought to be a fun watch.

We went to the Movie tent and watched part of a movie but, not surprisingly, it was in French. And this one was about mountain climbing. No doubt there was a flight down at the end but it takes hours to climb and minutes to descend so we headed out again, plus it was in French. We're both sadly mono linguistic with some impatient sprinkled in. And an Alps-full of natural beauty sprawled just outside the tent. We didn't stay for long.

One cool show was about raptors.. A man and woman team worked the crowd showing off their trained birds of prey. You could be forgiven for feeling a bit bad for the birds but they are actually free flying, lured by food. They were all apparently rescued from some natural calamity. They were huge. We see them at a distance, sometimes soaring with them in our craft, but don't appreciate how big they are so seeing them land on a small child is quite impressive.


One of the cooler things was an airshow from above. We're on a mountain, after all. Even for those who aren't much into air shows this was new.


This thing we do is dangerous. That sad truth was displayed viscerally while we lunched next to launch. Chad Bastian and Tim Kaiser watched the last part of a paraglider's last day of life.


Chad says the pilot, was just off the hill, maybe 100 feet up, flying away from the hill and, for whatever reason stalled his glider. Chad saw the trailing edge heavily deflected, then one side went back, spilling the glider into a spin. It recovered in the dive and disappeared behind trees. We can speculate that rocks intervened before any significant level-off occurred.

There's almost certainly video but none has surfaced yet. He fell in a spot that was hard to get to and it took quite a while for a helicopter to show up since the nearest one was apparently already responding to a serious traffic accident (third hand info).

Our thoughts are with those close to this 34 year old Spaniard. Information on his rescue came from here.

Hang Glider

On Sunday a hang glider pilot, who was doing a acro demonstration, crashed and died. He was, apparently, performing a loop when something broke catastrophically. He through his reserve but it got caught up in the wing.


In spite of the limited show due to weather I'm glad I came. It was a bucket list check off worthy of the effort.



42nd running of Coupe Icare, launching from St. Hilaire du Touvet Sept 17 to 20, 2015. Parabatix, Beer, goodies, Radio Control flying demos and other acts play out near the landing zone in Lumbin.



Coupe Icare Accidents

A reminder of what's at stake.

1. While having lunch near the primary launch Chad Bastian watched a takeoff go very badly.

Shortly after launch, the pilot, for unknown reasons, pulled one brake very far and spun his glider from probably 30 feet up. He impacted the ground hard enough to be unconscious for a few minutes and require a helicopter retrieval.

2. On Sunday there was a show pilot flying a hang glider who crashed and died. It was windy, which is why there was no costume flights, but some hang gliders were flying. We have no details on what happened.

2015 Jeff Goin   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!