'So crazy, it just might actually work.' That's the only thing we can imagine was going through Horacio Llorens and Hernan Pitocco's heads when they dreamed up this slingshot stunt. After a rather creative exit from a hot-air balloon at nearly 5,000m, the pair (who were harnessed to each other in a tandem paraglider) started an infinity tumble – a high-G inverted manoeuvre, repeated multiple times. Then, they slingshotted themselves away from the paragalider to skydive down to earth at a ski resort high in the Pyrenees.
Watch the incredible slingshot video below
While the idea is simple, the execution wasn't. The team started with training – while both experienced BASE jumpers, they consider themselves pilots first. That meant seven-hours for each of them training in a wind tunnel, and quite a few jumps so that they could get comfortable in the air. But there was more to it than flying – there was ejecting.
Check out the hot-air balloon exit
"To do it safely, we both needed to release from the glider together, at a very precise moment, to ensure we wouldn't fall into the glider," says Lorens. The challenge of releasing at the same time was solved with engineering. A custom-made harness release allowed Llorens to steer, while Pitocco would time the exit – still a crucial part of the equation. A badly-timed released would mean falling into the glider. That would impede the release of their parachutes, making for a dangerous situation.
Check out Horacio's other flights around the world
And on the first attempt, that's exactly what happened. The pilots planned to release at the apex of the jump, with the glider being blown away by the wind underneath them. The release system worked, but Pitocco fell directly on to the glider. Thankfully, he has able to clear the canopy away from his body and then throw his BASE rig. "We realised we had to release while we were still moving forward," says Llorens.
1... 2... 3... release!
Attempt number two went much smoother. "We took the hot air balloon to about 4,500m, and exited by letting the glider hang out of the basket, then tumbling over it," says Llorens. "At 3,900m, we did about 13 revolutions, and then after 13 we released, around 3,400m. Then it was a simple sky-dive to the landing at 2,000m, at the ski resort of La Molina!"
For the athletes, the peak moment of the stunt was literally, at the peak. That's where the slingshot effect from tumbling the paraglider shot them up into the air for a moment of weightlessness.
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As they parachuted down, the glider fell to the earth, almost a kilometre away. On the ground, the two daredevils congratulated each other on the successful 'ejection' from the slingshot. For Llorens – an acro paragliding world champion, the project was quite a thrill. "One of the coolest things I've ever done in my life."