By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
In the midst of his flight around the world, Slovene pilot Matevz Lenarcic took his Pipistrel Virus to 29,344 feet above the Himalayas -- not directly overflying the summit of Mt. Everest, but reaching an altitude about 300 feet above that highest peak. "There were a lot of trouble getting the permits to fly over the Everest (the Nepali permit got cancelled right before the flight)," according to Pipistrel's news release, "but Matevz did it anyway, so the news were only released a day later to prevent him from having any trouble with Nepal authorities." Matevz is now "already safely in India," the company said.
The Virus SW 914 Turbo was modified with an Intercooler unit for the flight. Matevz's track took him to the east of the Everest peak, on the Nepali side of the mountain. On his way to the mountain, Matevz reported on his blog that "visibility was again very poor, mountains were hiding in the clouds, heavy traffic in the air and bad communication was present." Finding a weather window for the Everest flight was challenging. "If it is clear they are high winds and severe turbulence which can easily destroy aircraft, in more calm days the clouds with snow could come over the Himalaya." After the flight, he wrote that "the weather was very beautiful, relatively good temperature, only minus-27-Celsius, north westerly wind of 40 knots and from time to time turbulence. The Pipistrel Virus was performing perfectly, also MH oxygen mask." Pipistrel said the flight was a first for a Slovenia-built aircraft.