Outdoors, action, adventure

Category: Aviation

'Jetman' Yves Rossy completes Grand Canyon flight

Swiss daredevil "Jetman" Yves Rossy successfully completed his flight along the Grand Canyon in his jet-propelled wingsuit on Saturday.

Swissinfo reports that Rossy, 51, launched from the side of a helicopter at about 8,000 feet and, flying at speeds of up to 190 mph, remained airborne 200 feet above the rim of Grand Canyon West for more than eight minutes before deploying his parachute and safely descending to the canyon floor.

This was the first U.S. flight for Rossy, who had previously completed flights over the Swiss Alps and the English Channel. Originally planned for Friday, the Grand Canyon flight was postponed because of issues with Federal Aviation Administration permissions.

"My first flight in the U.S. is sure to be one of the most memorable experiences in my life. Not only for the sheer beauty of the Grand Canyon but the honor to fly in sacred Native American lands." Rossy said in a press release. "Thank you Mother Nature and the Hualapai Tribe for making my lifelong dreams come true."

-- Kelly Burgess


Video: Swiss "Jetman" flies over Grand Canyon. Credit: YouTube

Remains of U.S. balloonists missing over Adriatic Sea since September are found

Balloonists Carol Rymer Davis, left, and Richard Abruzzo launch for the Gordon Bennett balloon race at Bristol, England. An Italian fishing boat pulled the remains of the two Americans from the Adriatic Sea on Monday, ending a two-month hunt for the pair's bodies. The remains of two American balloonists who disappeared over the Adriatic Sea while participating in September's Gordon Bennett International Gas Balloon Race have been found.

Associated Press reports that the Italian fishing vessel "Sharon" pulled the remains of Richard Abruzzo, 47, of Albuquerque, and Carol Rymer Davis, 65, of Denver, from the Adriatic Sea on Monday, ending a two-month hunt for the pair's bodies.

The boat hauled in the balloon and its gondola with the bodies still inside while it was out fishing 11 miles north of Vieste, Italy, before dawn, said Cmdr. Guido Limongelli of the Vieste port, located on Italy's eastern Adriatic coast. He said that documents found in the gondola confirmed the identities as those of the missing balloonists.

As soon as those aboard the fishing boat discovered what was in its nets, it alerted Vieste port officials, who sent out a patrol boat to escort the vessel back to port, Limongelli said. A coroner was performing an autopsy and officials were investigating to determine what might have caused the balloon to crash.

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American adventurer crosses English Channel using balloons & a chair

American cluster balloonist Jonathan Trappe holds onto his balloons after landing on farmland in Dunkirk, France. Trappe became the first person to cross the English Channel in a chair attached to helium balloon.

In a stunt that definitely qualifies for the "Don't try this at home" category, American adventurer Jonathan Trappe crossed the English Channel on Friday in a chair attached to a cluster of helium balloons, touching down safely in a French field.

Trappe, 36, of Raleigh, N.C., was strapped in a specially equipped chair below a bright bundle of balloons when he lifted off early Friday from Kent Gliding Club in Challock, England. Hours later, he lowered himself into a cabbage patch in Dunkirk, France, by cutting away some of the balloons. "It was just an exceptional, quiet, peaceful experience," the cluster balloonist told Sky News Television, which tracked the adventurer.

When asked what had inspired him to make the journey, Trappe replied, "Didn't you have this dream, grabbing onto a bunch of toy balloons and floating off? I think it's something that's shared across cultures and across borders -- just this wonderful fantasy of grabbing onto toy balloons and floating into open space."

Trappe had been planning the flight for several months after setting a world record in April for the longest free-floating balloon flight, covering 109 miles in 14 hours in the skies above North Carolina.

The English Channel stunt had several potential dangers, including a risk of drowning if he came down in water, or hitting power lines during his descent.

"There are risks, and we work methodically to reduce the risks so we can have a safe and fun flight," said Trappe, who is certified for balloon flight by the Federal Aviation Administration. "Because really, it's only about dreams and enjoying an adventure, and that's only enjoyable when it is safe."

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: American cluster balloonist Jonathan Trappe holds onto his balloons after landing on farmland in Dunkirk, France. Trappe became the first person to cross the English Channel in a chair attached to helium balloon. Credit: Gareth Fuller / Associated Press

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Waterfowl survey plane crash kills two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists

Waterfowl survey plane in flight with Vernon Ray Bentley and David Sherwood Pitkin inside.

Two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists were killed Sunday when their survey plane crashed in Oregon.

Biologist David Sherwood Pitkin, 49, from Bandon, Ore., and pilot-biologist Vernon Ray Bentley, 52, from Blodgett, Ore., were returning from an aerial survey of estuaries along the Oregon coast, where they were counting geese, swans and ducks for the Service's annual mid-winter waterfowl assessment.

The plane went down west of Philomath, though the exact location of the crash is not being disclosed, pending an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

"It is with great sadness I am confirming that we have lost a valuable part of our Migratory Bird Program and members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service family," agency director Sam Hamilton said in a news release.

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Idaho Fish and Game biologists survive helicopter crash

On the heels of the tragic helicopter crash last Tuesday that killed three California Department of Fish and Game biologists and the pilot, Idaho Fish and Game reports that a helicopter carrying two of their department biologists went down Friday.

Luckily, none of the those onboard, including the pilot, sustained life-threatening injuries.

The Idaho Statesman reports that biologists George Pauley, of Kamiah, and Craig White, of Boise, suffered back and rib injuries, and that pilot Rick Swisher, of Fairbanks, Alaska, has back and arm injuries.

The biologists were flying along the North Fork of the Clearwater River in northeastern Idaho, attempting to dart wolves, moose and elk so that the animals could be radio-collared for a research project on wolf predation.

Idaho Fish and Game Deputy Director Jim Unsworth said that it was unclear what caused the crash. The agency suspended all flights until today to review safety procedures.

-- Kelly Burgess

Memorial fund created for families of DFG biologists killed in helicopter crash

DFG logo The California Assn. of Professional Scientists has created a memorial fund for the families of the three Department of Fish and Game biologists and the pilot killed in a helicopter crash Tuesday.

DFG Director John McCamman has also brought in critical incident counseling teams to help staff members deal with the loss of their co-workers.

"Fish and Game employees are very much like a big family and this is a tremendous loss to our team," McCamman said in a news release. "We will continue to do everything we can to help the victims' families and our employees during this difficult time."

Interested donors can contribute to the fund by mailing checks to:

State Biologists Memorial Fund, c/o CAPS, 455 Capitol Mall, Suite 500, Sacramento, CA 95814.

The Fish and Game Department identified the employees killed as associate biologist Clu Cotter, 48; senior biologist Kevin O'Connor, 40; and scientific aide Tom Stolberg, 31. All were Fresno residents.

The pilot was identified by the agency as Dennis "Mike" Donovan, contracted from Landells Aviation.

The biologists were on a routine aerial deer survey when the crash occurred in a remote section of Madera County. DFG has grounded all helicopter surveys until further notice.

-- Kelly Burgess

Department of Fish and Game logo courtesy of DFG

United Airlines changes its 'no antler' policy

Caribou antlers in the snow.

In response to numerous complaints and feedback received, United Airlines has changed its policy of not allowing antlers to be checked as baggage and will now accept them, with some restrictions.

The new policy will allow passengers to check one set of antlers or animal horns per ticketed customer, at a cost of $175. There are certain linear dimension restrictions that must be met, and the antler tips and skull must be wrapped and properly protected.

United had implemented the ban because of the damage antler and horn tips were causing to the cargo section of aircraft as well as to other passenger luggage. However, this left some hunters who flew the airline to other states or countries to hunt unable to transport their trophy racks back home.

As previously reported on Outposts, the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and other hunting advocacy groups posted information about the banning of antlers on the carrier, and suggested that hunters contact airline officials voicing their displeasure.

Thankfully, United execs were willing to rethink things and come up with a solution that will hopefully please all parties.

--Kelly Burgess

Photo: Caribou antlers in the snow. Credit: Jo Goldmann / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Alaska's Mt. Redoubt volcano has remained conspicuously quiet

A steam plume rises above the cooling lava dome at Mt. Redoubt on Sept. 18, as viewed from near Homer, Alaska, on the Kenai Peninsula.

What a beautiful photo of Alaska's Mt. Redoubt volcano, which is restless but not threatening to erupt as it did many times during the spring

There was genuine concern after a lengthy series of violent eruptions that Redoubt's tempestuousness would last through the summer and spoil the fishing business on and near the Kenai Peninsula, east of Redoubt across the Cook Inlet.

In fact, with the peak July and August seasons behind, resort and fleet operators can say they dodged a bullet. Redoubt, which in 1989 and 1990 erupted sporadically over a period of seven months, remained on an yellow alert code throughout the summer.

The yellow code means a volcano is exhibiting signs of elevated unrest. An orange code means a major eruption is imminent, suspected or underway but poses a limited hazard to aviation because of insignificant volcanic ash emissions. A red code is used when a major eruption is imminent, underway or suspected with hazardous activity on the ground and in the air.

Presently, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory, the cautionary advisory remains in effect: "In the unlikely event of a major dome collapse, significant ash production, hot block-and-ash flows and flooding in the Drift River valley could all result."

If Redoubt erupts, Outposts will post the news. Meanwhile, I just wanted to share the image, one of many posted on the observatory website.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: A steam plume rises above the cooling lava dome at Mt. Redoubt on Sept. 18, as viewed from near Homer, Alaska, on the Kenai Peninsula. Credit: Dennis Anderson / Night Trax Photography

Alaska's Mt. Redoubt volcano: Will it disrupt salmon-fishing season?


Alaska's Mt. Redoubt volcano has been relatively quiet -- it remains at an "orange" watch level instead of a "red" eruption level -- but it's still emitting steam and producing interesting imagery for the region. Redoubt is located about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage and 50 miles west of the Kenai Peninsula.

The question is not if but when the volcano will erupt anew.  According to the Alaska Volcano Observatory, seismicity remains elevated, and numerous small earthquakes are occurring within the peak. With Alaska's lucrative salmon-fishing season set to begin next month, there are a lot of concerned concessionaires, especially on the Kenai.

I've talked to some, who predict the volcano will not have an affect on the fisheries themselves. But any new series of eruptions is sure to affect airline service, and that could be devastating for business. The volcano does not present a safety threat to tourists, aside from diminishing the normally pristine air quality.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Turen Grice / courtesy of the Alaska Volcano Observatory

Alaska's Mt. Redoubt volcano is a sight to behold


It has been a while since Outposts shared images from Alaska's Mt. Redoubt volcano, which continues to rumble and bark and spew steam and ash high and far across a wintry landscape.

The top image was captured Tuesday by Neil Sutton from Cannery Road on the Kenai Peninsula, about 50 miles to the east across the Cook Inlet. The bottom image was captured Thursday by scientist Kristi Wallace. It shows a fellow scientist gathering ash fall and how the ash is discoloring snow.

Meanwhile, Redoubt continues to make breathing uncomfortable for many and to disrupt travel to and from Anchorage on Alaska Airlines (though there are currently normal operations and no ash fall warnings). Also, this weekend, six million gallons of oil at the nearby Drift River terminal will be moved to a safer location.

The volcano's last major eruption was Tuesday and scientists with the Alaska Volcano Observatory say a lava dome is forming. That hardened lava atop the crater might ultimately become unstable and lead to more explosive eruptions. In fact, this tempestuousness might last months, as it did in 1989-90.

No good will come of all of this--the continuous disruption of airline service could be ruinous during the peak summer tourism season--but the images it generates are pretty spectacular.

--Pete Thomas



Alaska's Mt. Redoubt quiets, Alaska Airlines flights resume

Photo of Mt. Redoubt from webcam Monday evening.

Alaska Airlines has resumed flights to and from Alaska after assessing conditions following six volcanic eruptions of the state's 10,200-foot Mt. Redoubt volcano on Sunday and Monday.

It states on the airline's website: "Scheduled service to Bethel, Nome and Kotzebue will operate pending favorable reports that ash clouds have moved out of the area."

In all, 35 flights were canceled because of the explosive eruptions, which sent ash clouds as high as 60,000 feet.

The airline was forced to seal its grounded jets from abrasive ash particles. Redoubt, located 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, has been relatively quiet today but scientists anticipate more violent explosions. The last time Redoubt erupted, in 1989-90, explosions occurred sporadically over a period of five months.

Travelers are encouraged to check Alaska's website and the Alaska Volcano Observatory website in advance of scheduled flights.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo from webcam Monday evening courtesy of Alaska Volcano Observatory/U.S. Geological Survey

Mt. Redoubt volcano's 'unrest' recalls 1989 eruption

Mt. Redoubt during an eruption on April 21, 1990, as viewed from Alaska's Kenai Peninsula.

The latest from the Alaska Volcano Observatory on the status of Mt. Redoubt: "Unrest at Redoubt Volcano continues. Seismic activity remains elevated above background."

Sounds like a broken record, but at least Mt. Redoubt is providing ample warning and has all of Alaska on alert.

Longtime residents surely recall a five-month stretch that began in late 1989 during which the 10,197-foot volcano provided a string of eruptions and a steady outpouring of smoke and ash.

A United Press International article that Dec. 15 featured this initial announcement: "Redoubt Volcano southwest of Anchorage shook with thousands of small earthquakes Thursday, then erupted and shot a cloud of ash seven miles high."

Farther down in the story: "The eruption followed 24 hours of constant warning tremors, which calmed down after the eruption ended, then picked up again.... The ash plume — which shot 35,000 feet above the two-mile-high mountain — was carried toward Anchorage by strong winds... But the ash cloud skirted Anchorage and dusted towns beyond the city."

A day after a second, more violent eruption occurred that Dec. 17, the Associated Press reported: "Haze from the volcano drifted over Anchorage, Alaska's largest city with more than 200,000 people. The debris caused power outages, disrupted air travel and triggered public-health warnings."

But it was Christmas week and the economy was not in shambles. Shoppers, according to the report, filled "the streets and malls over the weekend."

—Pete Thomas

Photo: Mt. Redoubt during an eruption on April 21, 1990, as viewed from Alaska's Kenai Peninsula.

Credit: J. Warren / AVO-USGS Images


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About the Bloggers
Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.