Microlight Conquers Everest

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A Wing, Plenty Of Prayers?...

So, what would you do if the turbo-intercooled Rotax 914 engine powering your Pegasus Quantum trike, flying under a Pegasus XL wing, was so hard to start that it flattened two batteries before finally catching? Perhaps they were mildly hypoxic, but Angelo D'Arrigo and Richard Meredith-Hardy chose to fly that engine (typically capable of 115 hp) over the world's highest mountain -- towing a hang glider (a rigid-wing ATOS 2 from ICARO 2000) for good measure. In Tibet on Sunday, microlight pilot Meredith-Hardy hauled hang glider pilot D'Arrigo to the rarified air of Mount Everest and put on what must have appeared to be the world's highest air show for a group of climbers tackling the peak through the more conventional method -- on foot. But it's a show that almost didn't get off the ground, according to Meredith-Hardy's account of the adventure. Weather is almost always the limiting factor on Everest but on Sunday the conditions were as good as they ever get: clear skies and almost no wind. Meredith-Hardy said the engine on the aircraft always starts on the first try but it wouldn't catch on Sunday. It wasn't until repeated attempts almost killed the on-board battery that they remembered that a plastic bag had been put over the air cleaner to keep dust out. All those air-less aspirations had flooded the engine and it took a second battery to get the engine going.