An Irish adventurer hopes to become the first person to fly from Ireland to Africa using a lawnmower-like engine strapped to his back.
Self-employed Cork-based architect, Oisín Creagh, will use a paramotor — a back-mounted two-stroke engine-powered propeller and a parachute-style wing — to complete the epic 3,000km journey and hopefully fly into the record books.
The unsupported journey over open seas and soaring mountain ranges will be one of the longest paramotor expeditions ever undertaken.
Departing from Cushedun in Co Antrim in August, his flight-path will take him 22km across the north Irish Sea to the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland.
He will then pilot his craft in stages through England, avoiding controlled airspace around airports, over 15km of open water between Dover and Calais, before routing south through France and Spain, crossing the Straits of Gibraltar, to arrive in north Africa about a month later.
The adventurer hopes to raise funds for and awareness of the Irish-based international development organisation, Gorta-Self Help Africa, which is working in drought-stricken Ethiopia, where crop failures have ravaged the food supplies of 20 million people this year.
Mr Creagh, who got involved in the paramotoring almost a decade ago, is one of a handful of the sport’s enthusiasts in Ireland and one of the country’s most experienced paramotor pilots.
He has racked up almost 1,000 flights in Ireland, US, France, Spain and Portugal over the years, and is also an experienced sailor and scuba diver.
But he describes paramotoring as his passion.
“It is one of the simplest forms of powered aviation available to humankind,” he said.
With the propeller on his back, he will steer the wing by using a combination of toggles and a hand-held throttle to control its pitch and roll.
Most of the flights will be at an altitude of about 1,500ft, and a little higher while crossing the Irish Sea, the English Channel and the Straits of Gibraltar.
But he will need to soar to more than 6,000ft to clear the Pyrenees mountain range between France and Spain.
The flights will take place mostly in the mornings and late afternoons to avoid the “active” and potentially turbulent winds prevalent around midday, which could cause his wing to collapse or blow him off course.
Mr Creagh hopes to cover up to 200km of the trip at up to 60km an hour and reckons the entire journey will take about a month, depending on the weather .
“Too warm, too windy or too wet and you just can’t fly,” he said.
He is now in detailed discussions with the Irish Aviation Authority, and their international counterparts who control the airspace through which he will travel.
“Because paramotoring is a relatively new sport and a very different kind of flying, there are differing regulations on it in different jurisdictions,” he said.
“I have been a good while planning the route, and am addressing the varying rules and issues as they arise.”
Mr Creagh said he hopes to raise thousands of euro to support the work of Gorta-Self Help Africa.
“They are making a real difference to the lives of some of the very poorest and most disadvantaged people in the world,” he said.
“In a region of the world where up to 70% of people rely on small plots of land for their very survival, it is only by improving farm production that millions of people will be able to work their way out of poverty.”
You can donate by visiting www.flyafrica.ie.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved