Icarus Trophy 2018 - Meet the Pilots

Ladies, gentlemen and all those in between. We present to you the brave pilots of the first-ever African Icarus Trophy. In their own words, here are a few of the chaps in the 2018 lineup.

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Eugene Cussons - South Africa

I was a TV presenter for Animal Planet USA for 5 years doing rescue missions on great apes in Africa. I started using Fixed Wing aircraft as a means to get in and out of tough places. After 10 years of being a Fixed Wing PPL pilot and sky diver and was introduced to paramotors. From there I developed the tech for long range flying to assist conservation entities. I’d like to say its all about the work but I’d be lying. I’m a total addict to flying dangerous game country and I’m fortunate to have 270 flyable days per year. Mountainous regions are my speciality, though I do a few hundred hours per year in the flat, hot terrain of the Kruger National Park. My skill bends towards active piloting in difficult conditions and what should be considered ‘Bush Pilot’ flying with hilltop and tight landings being a focused skill set. My approach is less ‘Cowboy’ as I like to bring the experience of Fixed Wing flying to my PPG flying with less reliance on the contingencies that PPG offers.

Division: Race

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Andy Place - United Kingdom

Erm, I don't really have much flying experience. I did a 15 minute tandem paragliding flight in Peru a few years back. Does that count?

To quote the Icarus Trophy website, "Can't fly yet? No problems - you can be ready for the Icarus in a season." so I guess I'll be the test of that.

I don't want to be too busy racing to have an actual adventure. If the Mongol Rally or Rickshaw Run taught me anything, rushing to get anywhere gets in the way of those incredible, spontaneous travelling experiences.

That's what I'm telling people at least, but basically I'll be too crap a pilot for Race Class.

Division: Adventure

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Seth Royce - South Africa

Took part in the very first Icarus Trophy supporting my brother, Cayle Royce, in his race across America. Got into flying through Flying 4 Heroes, a trip across Kenya in Paratrikes supported by Help For Heroes. We took 10 Wounded, Injured or Sick servicemen across some of the most epic terrain in Africa covering a thousand kilometers and opening my eyes to the benefits of these ridiculous flying contraptions.

Progressed to becoming an instructor and ran a school in Oman for a season. Now retired from instructing after losing all my hair due to stress and fly only for fun.

Race Class has no appeal as there isn’t enough beer involved. My brother is repaying the favour and bringing the support wagon with the help of one of my friends from my time in the Royal Marines. (Cayle don’t drive to good with his lack of legs). Although we have fast wings and a lot of miles behind us, we see this as a chance to take part in something fun more than something serious.

Division: Adventure

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Matt Rutherford - United Kingdom

Heard about Icarus whilst straddled on a monkey bike high in the Atlas Mountains during the Monkey Run Morocco last April, thanks to Kester Haynes.

Looked ridiculous so I was in.

I started training three months ago. My main aim is getting to Victoria Falls with all limbs intact and underwear (relatively) unsoiled.

Flying a Parajet V3, with blue/green Ozone Roadster2 wing.

Division: Adventure

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Pavel Bresina - Czech Republic

51 old, married, daughter Zuzana, son Michal. Pilot paragliding since  1987 (1800 hours), powered paraglider since 1994 (1800 hours). Ultralight aircraft pilot since 2000 (400 hours), gyrocopter pilot since 2011 (2800 hours)

Flying inspector paraglidisng, powered paragliding, gyrocopter.

Technical inspector paragliding, powered paragliding, gyrocopter

Powered paragliding test pilot and tandem pilot

Gyrocopter test pilot 

Companies: Nirvana systems (paramotor production) , AGN systems (gyrocopter production), Flyway (gyrocopter school). All in Prerov airfield.

Division: TBC

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David Hardingham - United Kingdom

Learnt to fly 7 years ago with my late friend Deano Eldridge.

In the early days I mixed in paragliding but lately purely paramotoring. I fly whenever possible around southern England, often with my friends at Parajet. I have also flown a little in South Africa and Botswana.

I have owned a Parajet V1, V2 and now a Zenith with Moster engine and I use a Paramania GTX 22 wing.

Division: Race

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Alard Hufner - South Africa

Age: 43
From: Johannesburg

I have been flying on and off for 8 years, a bit of paragliding, but mostly PPG.


I had a lot of fun on the Icarus X (which he won - well played that man - Editor), and recently flew 95% around the border of Lesotho over 5 Days.


Im looking forward to the challenge of the Icarus Race division.

Division: Race

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Hendrik Theron - South Africa

Started flying paragliders in 2004. Converted to powered paragliding (PF1) in 2006 and then to PL1 in 2008.

Participated in the 2008 Boogie close to Pietermaritzburg (RSA).

FAI world record (16267), "Distance in a straight line with limited fuel", 26 Jun 2011.

FAI world record (16302), "Distance over a closed circuit without landing ", 27 Aug 2011.

Pyramid (Barberton) PPG competition, PL1, 2nd. 2012 World Paramotoring Championships, Marugan Spain, PL1, 11th.

Cross country flights in RSA, Namibia, Mozambique.

Division: Race

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James Pitman - South Africa

 I’m a farm boy from KwaZulu Natal, now I live in Johannesburg. My flying background is mixed and reasonably wide, but very thin on PPG. I’m the co-owner of a business called “The Airplane Factory”, which is the developer and manufacturer of the Sling range of aircraft. I’ve flown Slings around the world three times and participated in lots of African flying adventures. So I’m an experienced pilot, but not at all experienced under a paraglider wing! A keen adventurer, I’ve done quite a bit of rock climbing, motorcycling, paddling and camping. Check out the promo for a recent flying adventure HERE. Or an earlier one, flying around the world HERE. I’ve loved aeroplanes since I was a child and the Icarus Trophy, especially here in South Africa, just seemed too good to pass up.

I plan to fly race class. I’ll convert to Adventure if I feel I need for more luxury along the way!

Division: Race

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Simon Ryf - Switzerland

In beautiful Switzerland for me using a paramotor is a bit like going to Dubai to learn skiing (paramotoring is illegal in Switzerland - Editor). I started paragliding on and off well over 10 years ago and finally got my license in early 2015. I didn’t really record all my flights, but I made well over 200, probably more. Because of the Icarus trophy I started to learn PPM in February this year. First with an electric powered engine and later with a two-stroke engine. Until now I have 43 flights and I love it. Being able to fly over flats far away from mountains has its very own charm and since I live close to the German and French border it doesn’t feel like skiing in Dubai anymore :-)

For me it’s all about having fun, overcoming obstacles, improvising and reaching the finish line. Preferably with 2 arms and 2 legs. It’s an adventure so I’m doing the Adventure Class :-)

Division: Adventure

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Mike Lambarri - Mexico

Adventurist by definition, ironman finisher (just because someone dared me to), mountain biker, enduro motorcycle weekend warrior, mountain climber, offroad racer and amateur cook with restauranteur aspirations and a bourbon & mezcal aficionado. Beginner pilot at best.

After some years pursuing free flight, ended up learning PPG a year ago for last year's Icarus as it seemed a kickass challenge, but had to postpone behind a bad ankle and some other matters. Retook flying this year and have been flying quite a lot lately to be completely ready. When it was announced that Africa was the next destination, it was very clear that the adventure would be much bigger and much better.

Won't be rushing it, better to enjoy the other side of the world.

Some other details:
- Fly Products Thrust w/ Vitto 185 Classic. No clutch, going old school
- Apco Karisma 29m, going beginner
- 16l on main tank, 15l on bladders if needed

Division: Adventure

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Ashley Nel - South Africa

Around 9 years ago, I spotted a crazy looking machine in the second hand classifieds of the newspaper, it was love at first sight.

My best friend and I then started to pursue this incredible sport and have since found ourselves completely addicted. We have met some interesting friends along the way and with them have been flying together through Africa’s vast beauty, from adventures across country with Charley Boorman, soaring over some of Africa’s very own big five, as well as having the privilege of flying down the Limpopo River. Looking forward to this new crazy adventure the Icarus Trophy!

Division: Race

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Francois Theron - South Africa

Started Flying in March 2017 and have, to date, done 164 flights. I love the freedom of flying but never wanted the responsibility of flying a plane. It all started whilst Scuba Diving in 1999. I loved the feeling of floating without gravity, just like flying. I could imagine how it would be to fly but not in a cockpit. I always dreamed I could take to the air  like Superman but that sadly never materialized! When My friend Eugene Cussons started PPG it was, for me, a way to finally fly like a bird, so I also started flying PPG. Ever since the day my feet left the ground for the first time I just want to leave this earth and spend time in the air. Doing this Icarus is a dream come true and can't wait to fly over Africa.

I want to do Race Division because I like to push myself and see what I can do. I love the rush and love adrenaline.

Division: Race

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Sebastian van Heerden - South Africa

I have been obsessively flying paramotors for 8 years now. Learned to fly on a 55 kg paramotor. That weight practice should come in handy for the race. I am also a full time paramotor instructor and currently the national training and safety officer for South Africa. I run paramotor tours in Africa www.paramotorafrica.com, so those wanting to fly with African wildlife can contact me anytime after the race.

I also trained students full time at Aviator Ppg in Florida where I had the privilege of working with some of the best pilots in the world including the paramotor 'pornstar' Tucker Gott.

Running into the sky with my butt-fan is the most fun I can have with my clothes on.

Flying a Tornado 280 with lots of Gas.

Division: Race

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Nic Petropoulos - South Africa

Commercial pilot and instructor fix wing since 1996 - can't navigate for shit according to girlfriend.
Have been para-motoring and paragliding for over 10 years. Para motor instructor 3 years.
Current occupation - corporate jet pilot and owner of air charter company. Parajet distributor

-weight: 106kg
- paramotor: parajet maveric - moster factory engine
- wing: ozone freeride 23
- fuel carried: 22L (+10L)

Took part in Icarus X 2018 SA - I was doing a sterling job way up in the lead until I got caught in a thunderstorm, got my wing pissed on and shock cooled my stylish titanium exhaust (the only one in Africa) causing it to crack in half, ruining my shot at glory.

Fun fact: experienced years of boredom flying around the cabbage patch on his paramotor until he met Mr. Tom on his crazy balloon expedition.

Sponsors: Parajet Africa

Division: Race 

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Mark Perrow - South Africa

53 year old on a sabbatical living on the beach in Ballito, SA.

Well I would have to say that I am a fish out of water, never mind up in the air. I have competed internationally in canoeing races having completed 30 Duzi Canoe Marathons as well as the Raid Gauloises and am a keen kayak fisherman.

My mate James Pitman got me involved in this crazy race. It sounded like a fun adventure.

I have very limited microlight and light sport aircraft flying hours and even less PPG hours.

I have started out on 5 cross country PPG flights and have yet to complete one of the trips in the required time without breaking anything (limbs or equipment). 

Desperate to finish last in the race division.

Division: Race

 He's the one on the left, in case you were worried.

He's the one on the left, in case you were worried.

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Gerrie du Plessis - South Africa

I started flying PPG back in 2014.

I travel and fly all over South Africa as part of the regular Flyers crew. I've been part of a patrol doing anti-rhino poaching in game reserves and private game farms.

Recently completed my sport licence.

Division: Race

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Kevin Mihalik - USA

My name is Kevin but for the Icarus I’ll be call sign Maverick. As much as he hates to admit it, Austin Peik (Goose) is MY wingman. He can deny it all he wants but Maverick is definitely the main character of Top Gun.

We have been flying for 3 months and know this race will push us to our limits. However, we are relying on teamwork and traces of common sense to get us through.

Plus, I’m a little less worried knowing I can fly better and run faster than Austin.

Division: Adventure

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Austin Peik - USA

My wingman Kevin Mihalik and I have been flying for about 3 months now solely with the goal to complete the Icarus. I did the Rickshaw Run and we both did the Kraken Cup last year, but this is the adventure that excites/terrifies us the most.

Our team name is from the 1980’s classic Top Gun. We know all know what happens to Goose (me) in that version. Well, our plot has an alternate ending where everyone lives happily ever after. Plus, I’m a little less worried knowing I can fly better and run faster than Kevin.

Division: Adventure

 Austin is definitely one of these, we're just not sure which.

Austin is definitely one of these, we're just not sure which.

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Jean Francois - France

I learned to fly about 2 years ago in the USA even though I’m originally from France.
I've not flown too much (about 115 flights) but have always been interested in real adventure flying.

Africa is the one.

I've done some unsupported long distance flying, but weight is the issue. Always hoping to not miss the first launch because resetting is a bitch. Trust me, I know.

Decided to enter the Race Division knowing that it doesn’t take much to downgrade if needs be, it'll be fine. Safety first.

Flying a Scout Paramotor and Ozone Roadster 24, a good combination of comfort and overall acceptable speed with easy to launch wing. Wish me luck!

Division: Race

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Marcus Deglos - UK

This one's being written by us - Editor

Mr Marcus has carved his name into the wall of legendary here at Adventurists HQ.

Over the years he's tackled six events, all with a certain style. He even managed to finish one of them. He braved the Mongol Rally in a Ferrari, that didn't go to well. Then he tried to tackle the Kraken Cup solo, that went even worse.


He's back for his second bite at the Icarus apple and we'll all be cheering him on here.

Division: Probably Race, because...Marcus.

 

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Stephan Hodgson - France

Aviation and adventure has been part of me for my entire life. I was born in France and flew as a six month old baby on my father's lap in his Piper single engined airplane from Europe to South Africa. I grew up only 10km from OR Tambo International airport and jets flew over my house every day. Naturally I studied engineering and worked in the aeronautical industry building helicopters and then jet turbines until I realized that I would never earn enough money that way to actually fly. After that I got into mining and my flying adventures took off.  

I have been flying single engined airplanes for 18 years and own a Piper Comanche. I have been flying paramotors for 6 years and since then I have used my Comanche to get me to interesting places where I can paramotor.  

I am a South African Frenchman and have been living in Madagascar for the last 9 years, which is a quarter of my life, so I could probably say that I'm a bit Malagasy too. I will be flying a green white and red paraglider representing the Madagascar national flag.

Madagascar is the ultimate adventure destination and have really enjoyed living there. The paramotoring has been absolutely epic.  

I couldn't pass on the opportunity to fly the Icarus Trophy. I will be in Adventure class and enjoying the best Africa has to offer. To get to the start line I packed all of my stuff into my Comanche and flew from Madagascar. That was a good way to start the adventure.  

Paraglider - Ozone Freeride 23 with modified tip steering system. Paramotor - Parajet Maverick with Moster 185Fuel - 2 x 10 litre bladders with own design easy fill system . 

Key modification - installation of a toilet roll on the frame. At least I will always know where to find toilet paper in the event of an emergency and no-one will be able to steal it!

Division: Adventure

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Matt Robain - UK

33, Captain, founder and oldest member of the Cougar Riders. Callsign RAT.

Flying Paramotors: 1.5years

Home Club: Hillesley IPA PPG

Occupation: Airline Pilot

Other interests: 4x4s - in particulars Land Rovers

Paramotor: Scout

Wing: Niviuk Kougar2 20m

Division: Adventure

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Andy May

32, Vice Captain and youngest member of the Cougar Riders. Callsign 70.

Flying Paramotors: 3 years

Home Club: Finmere Flyers

Occupation: Airline Pilot

Other interests: La La Land, Drive, A place beyond the pines, blade runner, the notebook.

Paramotor: Scout

Wing: Niviuk Kougar2 20m

Division: Adventure

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Dane Dickinson

32, Assistant Vice Captain and second youngest member of the Cougar Riders. Callsign A8.

Flying Paramotors: 3 years

Home Club: None

Occupation: Never had a job

Other interest: Soil and Carbon

Paramotor: Scout

Wing: Niviuk Kougar2 20m

Division: Adventure

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Gentlemen, the absolute best of luck to each and every one of you.
The Adventurists salute you.

Track the adventure live

HERE