Friday, 15 August 2008

Tip to Tip Success

Paramotor Expedition

Sony provided us with their new range of cameras for what was to be an extreme road-test on this shoot.

On the 16th day of this '8 day expedition', a solitary pilot gradually inched his way, hugging the ground through buffeting northerly winds, to finally land at John O'Groats - the most northerly tip of Britain. The ordeal had taken a heavy toll. A thousand miles further south at Land's End, six confident pilots set out on this ambitious project, a journey into the unknown. Each one brought to the team a range of different skills and flying experience. But none had experienced the full range of terrain and conditions that the British landscape and climate can throw at you.

A solitary paramotor approaches John O'Groats

Whitters 'recovering'

The next 16 days was a wake-up call.

One by one the pilots encountered their own personal disasters. Crashes. Engines exploding in the sky. Wings being sucked into the propeller. Collapsed wings. 1,000 foot free-fall out of a thermal...

50 miles from the finish and there were two pilots left in the game, plus our arial cameraman, Dan Burton. 30 miles from the finish disaster struck and Simon crashed out using up the third of his 9 lives in as many days. Richard (Whitters), the air ambulance paramedic was the sole survivor, and he continued northwards with Dan.

8 miles from the finish and we were filming Richard from the roof of our camera vehicle. On the telephone to Norman, the logistics guru, and we were as close to slapping each other on the back as it is possible to be over the telephone. Then suddenly Richard was thrown through the air like a rag doll. Next moment witnessed an emergency landing in a field. 7 miles to go. Last day of the expedition and the northerly wind had blasted through.

The whole team were booked to return south in 4 hours. How can you fly over a thousand miles, and then give up and go home just 7 miles short of your objective? After a two hour wait their was a slight lull in the ferocity of the wind. Still it was the worst take off conditions of the whole expedition. But Richard (Whitters) tentatively embraced a new safety threshold. A fresh intake of pain killers to dumb the pain from an earlier crash. Standing in the field for an age waiting for a slight lull in the elements to give him a chance to take off.

And finally Richard was in the air. Going nowhere. These paramotors fly at about 28 miles per hour. Into a wind of 28 miles per hour you make no ground. Early in the trip with a tail wind they had exceeded 70. But now Whitters was buffeted left toward power cables, then rightwards out to the North Sea. He didn't move forward, but gradually he gained height. Eventually upwards motion changed to forwards motion, and the film crew charged to the top of the last hill to film the arrival.

It was an emotional event. An achievement every bit as impressive as the world class climbing that Hot Aches are more accustomed to filming.

Celebrations at journey's end

So we have a third DVD that will be coming out this Autumn. I hope this will have whetted your appetite.

Dave / Lynwen

Monday, 11 August 2008

Tip to Tip Reaches Scotland

Tip to Tip Expedition Reaches Scotland

photo copyright Dan Burton Photography

It is 14 days since a team of 6 pilots left Land's End en route to John O'Groats. Flying paramotors is normally very weather dependant, similar to paragliding. Good wind conditions are essential for safe flying. But on this epic journey the weather conditions have necessitated countless marginal take-offs, and flying in apalling conditions.

As I write, the team are at Dalwhinney in the highlands of Scotland after the two surviving pilots plus our ariel cameraman hit freak conditions had to make emergency landings. The last 24 hours have been tough. Dan the cameraman went into freefall for 1,000ft when he exited a thermal. Again that forced emergency landings, with the pilots scattered across the Scottish hill sides.

Surprisied golfers on the edge of Dartmoor. Simon Payne during take off. Hot Aches Images

150 miles lie ahead. Time is running out. The 8 day plan has so far taken 14. One more day of reasonable weather remains.

We hope they make it to the end. As well as being the material for an amazing film, the expedition is raising money for the Air Ambulance services and the Forces Children's Trust. I must admit to surprise when I first learned that air ambulances were funded by voluntary donations. Why is such an essential service reliant on charity? But after filming some of the paramedics and pilots, I think that it is probably better not to be NHS funded, else it would be an easy target for cost savings.

dave b.