Vermont State Paragliding Distance Record
Calef Letorney writes:
After a half dozen years trying, yesterday I set the Vermont State
Paragliding Distance Record at 120.9km with a 5:10 flight. When I first set my
sights on it, the record was only 65km. It's been broken a handful of times
since and I was always just behind the new record. The record has been held by
pilot friends from the UK, Massachusetts, Mexico, Germany, and Russia and
secretly the local pilots mused that a Vermonter needs to set the Vermont record
at least once.
The flight was an emotional roller coaster as I landed thinking I had it, but 15
minutes later I learned Andrey Kuznetsov, the Cosmonaut (previous record holder
at 110km), had gone further, landing 40 miles East. So close, but at least I had
smashed my personal record.
It was not until midnight that Andrey loaded his track log and messaged to
congratulate me. He had broken his record and gone 116km, but 30 minutes after
he landed I landed at 120.9 km. The record is mine (for now).
What a wild day. I've never seen so many pilots at Burke. We were SUPER excited
to have Isabella Messenger and Jamie Messenger flying tandems for Paraglide New
England for the first time. So honored to have these pros on the team.
They took a bunch of my new solo students out flying to introduce them to the
mountains and teach them further about paragliding. Later in the day they had a
"little glass off flight" of 50km.
And, of course, Andrey Kuznetsov did a morning tandem too before his big flight.
On the mid day flight, I had a tricky start and missed the first wave of pilots
leaving XC. Then 25 KM in I was in PERFECT position with Bianca Heinrich,
Eduardo Garza, Tim Coleman, and Dan Deleo, the gaggle I wanted to be team flying
with when I rushed off and made a mistake.
All of a sudden I was alone in 700fpm sink scrambling for a landing zone. Womp,
womp. The gaggle (correctly) left me for dead (metaphorically speaking), but I
fought back up wind to spot where I thought I might find a thermal and got a
save below 1,000'.
It took 2 tries and 30 minutes of patience to get up and out again. By then I
was all alone, so I just took my time and stayed high for the next 100km.
High and slow is fast.
Throughout the whole flight I knew if I wanted a record, I had to go west of the
Class D airspace around Hartford, NH, so I was always pushing west every chance
I could get. In the end, all that working west (into the west component of the
northwest wind) paid off as I was in perfect position to get around the airspace
and get the record.
We had 7 pilots break 100 km yesterday, all of which would have been a record
three months ago: Eduardo, Tom, Bianca, Tim, Andrey, Taru Fly, and I. What a
And it would not have been possible without the community effort. This route has
a big class E extension to class D airspace sticking out into it, which we
previously thought we could not go through. But Bianca, Tom, and Alek Jadkowski
did a bunch of research which I pushed up to USHPA and Martin Palmaz got
clarification from the FAA that a Drone exception also applies to us.
The last piece of the puzzle was Steve Kroop at Flytec USA (Naviter importer)
worked with Naviter to get their Oudie instrument updated to show the airspaces
all correctly, so we confidently plowed through the class E and I dodged around
the much smaller Class D airspace at the end with 180 meters to spare (The Oudie
4 instrument displays this all so well) before blasting downwind on final glide.
Of course, the flight is only half the adventure as getting home is the other
half. I landed with mild hypothermia, 2+ hours drive from my car.
I jogged a bit with all my layers on to warm up and get to a busy road where I
pulled out my trusty "glider pilot landed, needs ride" sign and quickly got a
ride to the highway. There the signs worked again and Liviu Victor Rusu picked
me up as he just happened to be on his way home from Morningside Flight Park. He
was headed to a Tesla charger in the right direction and he was super kind to
treat me to sushi and hot tea while the dead batteries charged. From there
Bianca and Eduardo picked me up and got me north to Saint J, where I met the
real heroes of the day, Sarah Robinson and Petunia who I'd abandoned with the
truck and completely unpacked adventure trailer on top of Burke.
Big thanks to AJ Siebel who had earlier gone back up the mountain to help
helping Sarah hook up the trailer and do a bit of 4x4 to get back to the road.
Super happy to be flying that Gin Camino! What a lovely wing! And that was my
3rd flight on the new Woody Valley GTO Light 2 harness. Love it, she's a keeper.
Photos by Sarah Robinson, Tim Coleman, and Taru, because I was too cold to take
my hands off the controls and take photos.