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Death-defying German Paraglider Pilot Reaches For The Sky Again

The Age

Thursday March 1, 2007

Stephen Moynihan

TWO WEEKS ago German paraglider Ewa Wisnierska defied death when she flew higher than Mount Everest. Yesterday she was back in the air.

Ms Wisnierska, the world's No. 1 female paraglider, competed in the Paragliding World Championships, for which she was practising when sucked up into a storm to an altitude shared by jets. It was her fourth flight since her brush with death.

Event organiser Godfrey Wenness said Ms Wisnierska showed no signs of nerves and was eager to compete.

In her death-defying flight, Ms Wisnierska was sucked into a storm cell above Manilla, NSW and propelled to the cruising altitude of a Boeing 747. She spent 40 minutes unconscious while being carried to 9946 metres. The previous record for a surviving paraglider was 7380 metres.

She was pounded by hail the size of melons, narrowly avoided lightning, endured temperatures as low as minus 50 and was covered in ice.

A Chinese paraglider with 10 years flying experience, Zhongpin He, was sucked into the same storm cell and died.

Ms Wisnierska, covered in ice and suffering from frostbite, was found 60 kilometres from her starting position atop Mount Borah, 50 kilometres north of Tamworth.

Mr Wenness said Ms Wisnierska flew a tactical race yesterday and remained with the top pilots in a large group of more than 50.

"They didn't have enough time to finish the 46 kilometre course and landed around 10 kilometres short of goal," Mr Wenness said.

Ms Wisnierska finished 94th out of 150 pilots.

© 2007 The Age

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