March 12, 2014
More than 60 years after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzin Norgay first ascended Mount Everest, Klaus Ohlmann set his own record on the world’s tallest mountain.
On Feb. 1, Ohlmann became the first to fly a glider over Everest, which stands 29,035 feet above sea level, setting a new landmark for aviation history.
Ohlmann, 61, took off from the expedition base camp at Pokhara airport in Nepal in a Stemme S10-VT motorglider for a study on meteorological turbulence as part of a scientific environmental research program on pollution and glacier monitoring. His high-resolution images will be the basis for a new 3D model of the region for the Mountain Wave Project and the German Aerospace Center.
He turned off the engine near Lukla at an altitude of around 19,700 feet above sea level and surfed along the lower parts of the Everest ridge in weak thermals. Climbing slowly to around 24,000 feet, Ohlmann found more lift, and a sudden turbulence over the Khumbu Icefalls took him into the laminar flow of a wave of air mass flowing in a light storm of 62 mph winds over the crest of Everest.
“The conditions were ideal, despite the wind speeds at the summit of Everest,” Ohlmann said. “The almost turbulence-free slope updrafts helped us ascend quickly.”
You can watch a video of his flight highlights on YouTube.
“I’m delighted to be the first glider pilot to have soared over the mighty Everest,” said Ohlmann, the holder of 52 world-gliding records. “The view from the top of the world was stunning and breath-taking. But more than that, we have begun an era of scientific exploration to study the climatic conditions that affect the Himalayas and other mountainous regions of the world – and to see how this affects the health of our planet.”
Ohlmann later acknowledged to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the flight was extremely dangerous, in part because of extreme cold conditions of minus 35 degrees and knowing that oscillations could, in fact, break the aircraft. Even the 3D special camera had to be mounted in a specially made pressure-free container, the FAZ reported, because of the low air pressure and the extreme cold.
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