A man from Florida – enjoying his first day of vacation in Switzerland – was forced to ‘hang on’ to the Hang glider, after the pilot reportedly forgot to attach him to the aircraft. The incident took place during Chris Gursky’s recent trip to Interlaken, a beautiful city in Switzerland.
When the pilot of the Hang glider took off from a mountainside with Chris on his left side, it became clear that the poor passenger wasn’t attached at all, compelling him to clutch onto the glider with his bare hands for more than 2 minutes. He accomplished this feat at 4,000 feet and at 45 mph+ in order to avoid a certain fatal fall. The pilot made a critical error in the pre-flight setup by not attaching Chris to the glider. The pilot did all he could to get Chris down asap, while flying the glider with one hand and grabbing on to Chris’ harness. Even after the mistake, you have to give credit to the pilot for saving Chris’ life by staying calm and putting all his skills to the test.
Chris himself created a video of the scary incident and shared it on Youtube on November 26. He titled the video “Swiss Mishap” and it has since gone viral with over 7 million views. “My first time Hang gliding had an unexpected twist when I left the ground unattached from the glider,” Gursky captioned the clip of his “near death experience.”
“I just glanced down, and said this is it: I am going to fall to my death,” he said on Fox News’ “Sheperd Smith Reporting”. “It wasn’t my time, I was going to hold on as long as I possibly could.” He was confused as to what was going on initially with the takeoff: “Holding on for my life …Losing grip the whole way down.” “For 2 minutes and 14 seconds I had to hang on for my life!” he says about the scary scene, in which he hangs onto the glider as the aircraft soars at top speeds over a picturesque Swiss valley, before the pilot managed to make an emergency landing.
Because of the accident Chris Gursky tore his left bicep tendon in the crash, and had to have surgery on his wrist. Chris is planning to go Hang gliding again though as he did not get to enjoy his first flight. What a hero.
Christian Boppart, director of the Swiss Hang Gliding Association, said he knew who the pilot was but wanted to respect his privacy as the matter is taken up by authorities. “The pilot knew he made a terrible mistake, but afterward he made a good save,” Boppart said. “The first lesson is that you check before starting that everything is good, and that everybody is attached.” Boppart said serious injuries from Hand gliding in Switzerland are rare.
When we see a Hang glider fly in the sky, many people will probably think of flying paperclips with a man attached to it, right? Not quite. Hang gliding is an air sport in which trained pilots fly a glider using only the wind and thermals to stay in the sky. There is no motor involved, not even to get into the air. The glider is fully controllable. Pilots can land where and when they want and travel big distances. Actually, the world record for straight distance – held by Dustin Martin and Jonny Durand – reached an amazing distance of around 473 miles (761 km). The flight reportedly took 11 hours with an average speed of 43 mph (69 km/h) and it took place on July 3, 2012 from Zapata to Lubbock, Texas. It’s probably the closest experience for man to have, to be flying like a bird.
In the very early days of the sport – the early 1970s – pilots would literally hang by their arms onto the base bar of the glider during very short flights from small hills. But the gliders and the sport developed, where the pilots are suspended securely in a harness, although during Chris’ incident this was not the case at all.
Thank God Chris survived to tell his story. Let’s hope this won’t ever happen again. His video shows us once more why a good pre-flight check is so important in the world of aviation.