By piloting his hang-glider to the rarefied air of 9,100 metres (29,850 feet) above sea level, Italy’s Angelo d’Arrigo established a new world record for non-motorised altitude in 2005. Catching thermals rolling up from South America’s Andes Mountains, he exceeded by a full 100 metres the old mark, which he also held when he flew above Mt. Everest in 2004.
The history-making excursion came just days after d’Arrigo achieved the first ever free flight across the Andean Cordillera. D’Arrigo has flown all over the world throughout his career at the highest international level of competitive flying. He has flown across seas, deserts, volcanoes, glaciers and mountain chains in some of the remotest parts of the planet, flying with eagles and a wide variety of birds of prey.
In 2001, d’Arrigo became the first man to cross the Sahara and the Mediterranean in free flight without using an engine, following the route of migratory desert hawks. In 2002, he led a flock of Siberian cranes, a species born in captivity and facing extinction, for 5,300 kilometres with the support of Russian and American biologists. He flew in his hang-glider from the ice-cap in the Arctic Circle to the Caspian Sea on the Iranian plateau with the aim of reintroducing the cranes to their natural habitat.
Next he plans on flying above Antarctica’s summit. D 'Arrigo has flown for hours in temperatures lower than –40° C, and at speeds well over 130 kmh (81 mph) “In those conditions even my tears froze, and I couldn’t close my eyelids,” he said.