Paul, how did you discover your passion for flying? Was there a decisive moment that led you to it?
That was some time ago. Back then, as a mountain bike racer and mountaineer, I saw paragliders flying at altitudes of over 5,000 meters during a vacation in Mexico in the early 2000s. I was hooked! Back in Graz, I discovered Red Bull X-Alps, and taking part in this adventure race gave me the motivation to get my license immediately and practice as much as I could! Back in 2011, my dream came true and since then I have been participating in Red Bull X Alps, the international competition over the Alps, and always end up finishing third (laughs). And it was only recently that I discovered that my main motivation was to make it into that race, even though I hadn’t even paraglided before and I knew it was only for ‘pros’. I wanted to be the first person to take part as a ‘no-name rookie’!
“When determination is combined with team spirit, things become a whole.“
Wow, that sounds like quite a start to your paragliding career! Have you always focused exclusively on non-motorized flying?
No, I quickly realized that I wanted more. Flying combines my love of nature, adventure, sport, and technology in the best way possible. So later I got my private pilot’s license and aerobatic license. I also completed the necessary instrument training to be able to fly safely over long distances internationally.
It sounds like you are also interested in the technology of flying machines.
Yes, absolutely! I’m quite excited about what ERC is developing and how you are driving forward the electrification of aviation; that’s a really exciting topic for me. I’m still a bit more traditional with my propeller plane. In preparation for my “Panamericana Project OVERLAND”, a flight adventure of almost 18,000 kilometers from Alaska to Patagonia along the east coast of the American continents, I’ve been tuning my aircraft at home.
Have you really tuned your propeller plane yourself? How did it go? Tell us more!
For example, I redesigned the panel and installed navigation instruments as I needed them. And I went over every detail of the airframe, wings, and engine. It was important to me to know my machine inside and out, to be able to fix minor issues myself in case there was nobody around. And that really paid off in South America! Then I got all the certificates and permits I needed for the countries I wanted to cross. I also had my paraglider with me, so I could get a closer look at the landscape. It was an amazing experience and a great project.
“Life is not a one-man show – no matter how skilled you are at something.“
I have no doubt about that. What do you think flying has given you since then – what do you take away from all the competitions, adventures, and projects?
Flying – and especially the combination of hiking and flying – has helped me to discover that we will always lose against nature if we think we are superior, or if we try to invent things to allow us to control nature! We need to team up with nature and our surroundings in general, but also with other people. The formula is quite simple: When determination is combined with team spirit, things become a whole. Life is not a one-man show – no matter how good you are at something.
What do you mean exactly?
Well, for one thing, of course, I have to have the courage and a certain egoism to live my dreams and pursue my goals. But I’m unlikely to achieve great things on my own – and wouldn’t want that at all. So I have to be able to build up a powerful team that is just as eager to achieve the goal I’ve set as I am. Not only are my missions #BiggerThanUs, but so are yours. Also, we aviators are very subject to the laws and forces of nature that we simply must accept in order to pursue our dream. Perhaps I am still a little more into the day-to-day flying than you are, but that will also change soon for you, right?
That’s right, our first flight is getting closer. What do you do when you’re not flying? Will flying take up the rest of your life?
Sure. The content of the management seminars and talks I give is based on the insights and experience gained from aviation. The aim is to increase the quality of life, not least by constantly setting ourselves new goals and trying to direct our energies towards them. I get a lot from my work as a coach. I enjoy the analogy between “flying” and “learning from flying for life” very much. The more we tune into what nature provides and shows us, the more we are able to get a sense of what is happening around us – and the more fulfillment we will feel in our lives!
Thank you, Paul, for sharing this with us. It’s incredibly inspiring to see how you and all of us at ERC live out our dream of flying in different ways, yet still, approach it in basically similar ways.
Good luck in the future!
Thank you, I wish you the same – and of course a successful first flight.