Matthieu de Quillacq told us Monday at Oshkosh that he is “a lucky man” and not because he survived his trip to Oshkosh from the south of France in his Italian-made Kompress CH-7 very light helicopter. Long before the weeklong trip that brought Quillacq to AirVenture Oshkosh 2010, Quillacq won a timed point-to-point navigation contest (no GPS allowed) when he flew the CH-7 against big-name turbine-driven competitors. Before working for Kompress, Quillacq competed in hang gliders and also flew paragliders, honing his airmanship and eyesight navigation. For Kompress customers, he’s delivered (flown) a helicopter to Africa and he’s flown another over China’s Great Wall. On his trip to Oshkosh, Quillacq spent some long lonely hours over cold open water. He described the early, long overwater leg between Faroe Island and Iceland: “It’s funny because your head starts to think differently … you feel you are nothing and you try to find God everywhere.”
Quillacq’s nearly 5,000-mile trip from Barcelonnette, France, to Oshkosh, Wis., took him about eight days, aided by longer daylight hours in the far north. His route took him through the UK, Iceland, Greenland, Baffin Island and through Canada across the cold Labrador Sea. He hopes to continue on through the U.S. and Canada, through Russia and on home. The Kompress CH-7, as tiny as it is, is a two-place helicopter, but isn’t built for such long trips. Quillacq fitted the back seat with a 40-ish gallon fuel tank he fabricated from carbon fiber. The tank gave Quillacq a range of more than 900 miles. And the Rotax 914 turbocharged engine gave him the flexibility of using unleaded fuel supplied by any outpost he could find along the way. He was performing routine maintenance on the helicopter when we found him at Oshkosh.