Hanggliding in Rio

Back in June 2015 we received an email from Mark asking for some advice about fulfilling his ambition to fly a tandem hangglider while he was on his holiday in Rio de Janeiro. We put him in touch with Judy Leden at Airways Airsports to give him some advice and information about what might be required.

Mark’s account of his flight is below along with part of his initial email which explains his disability.

Mark preparing to launch from the ramp in Rio

Mark preparing to launch from the ramp in Rio

I’ve been back from Brazil for a week already (where does the time go?!) and so it’s about time I wrote to let you know that I did manage to go hang gliding and it was fantastic! Thank you so much for your help and encouragement, it hardly seems real now that I achieved such a long held ambition! It wasn’t quite “in the shadow of the statue of Christ The Redeemer” as I’d pictured it for all these years, in fact I couldn’t quite make out the statue at all (but it was there, somewhere!) but it was nevertheless a stunningly beautiful location to hang glide. Launching from a cliff high in the Tijuca rainforest, you glide over the forest and past mountains, over favelas and well heeled villas with private pools, before heading out over the dazzling blue sea and finally down to land on a beautiful golden beach (Praia do Pepino, Cucumber Beach), an experience I will never forget!

Mark flying over Rio with control of the hangglider

Mark flying over Rio with control of the hangglider. Flying so well his pilot has fallen asleep!

We had initially scheduled for the morning of Thursday 20th August, my first day in Rio but despite the beautiful blue sky and sunshine that greeted us as we emerged from our hotel near Copacabana beach, the conditions weren’t right at the launch/landing site and so we rescheduled for Saturday. The instructor, Paulo Celani of Just Fly Rio was fantastic. I chose him for his vast experience and good reviews and never regretted my choice for a moment. From his reply to the very first email I sent, it was clear that he listening to what I was saying and taking on board my ‘special’ circumstances, giving me absolute confidence that he understood my needs from the start. He shared my “where there’s a will there’s a way” attitude but was certainly taking no risks and although I didn’t actually fly with him, I felt that he was looking out for me all the way, hand picked the right instructor for me and made absolutely sure that everything was right before he allowed me to fly. His English was great too which obviously helped and I can’t really thank him enough, or Zero of course, the instructor who actually took me flying (whose English was not very good but was clearly very competent and loved his job to bits – why wouldn’t you?!).

I have spared you the hundreds of photos (and the 2 videos which I haven’t even watched myself yet) and attached a few in a zip file which hopefully show that in spite of a mild hangover (I was on holiday and this is Rio!), I was enjoying myself (Zero too, I’ve no idea how many times he has flown but his grin was at least as big as mine!). I’d be grateful if you could pass this on to┬áJudy Leden too who I also spoke to a couple of months ago after you put me in contact.


It’s a slightly strange one in that I have always wanted to try hang gliding and for as long as I can remember, I’ve had an ambition to do that in Rio de Janeiro! I am actually visiting Rio in August and so I’m hoping I might finally be able to realise that ambition!

I am disabled, however, and so need to do a little research beforehand rather than expecting to be able to just turn up somewhere in Rio and do it. My disability is a congenital bone deformity which affects all of my bones and soft tissues, probably the most relevant manifestations being that my hands are small and my digits stiff and inflexible meaning that I can’t grip very well, and I have one leg shorter than the other meaning that I wear a fairly substantial (nearly 4 inch) raise on my right show.