Aerobatic hang glider Jon Durand has seen things few other people have – and done what no others have done. He has pulled off loop-the-loop aerobatics on the leading edge of the Morning Glory, a rarely spotted 2km-high tube cloud phenomenon that roars across the Australian Northern Territory gulf country at up to 90kph. He has clocked over 10,000 hours in the air, seen the world stretched flat against the horizon, and had vicious fistfights with birds. Wait, what?
"Yeah, they attack us!" he says. "The eagles are the worst – the wedge-tailed eagles. In the springtime, they put big tears in our gliders and everything.”
Jonny ‘Jon Junior’ Durand was born to fly. The Queensland aviator started out on tandem hang gliders with his father at the age of nine before achieving his first solo flight at 14. His first big record came in March 2008, when he took off from a launch site beside his house and flew 517km inland over nearly 10 hours, and breaking the Australian hang-gliding distance record in the process.
Jon has been Australia’s number one hang-glider pilot since 2002. He was rated number one in the world in 2006; runner-up in the bi-annual 2009 World Championships in France; pioneered and conquered the unique Morning Glory in 2009; and he is a grand champion at real life Angry Birds.
In 2014, Jon set out for project Boomerang, and managed to set two world records – the quickest 300km out-and-return distance and the quickest 100km out-and-return – in one day.
Jon's latest challenge came in 2016, when he and Dustin Martin, with whom he has a friendly rivalry, travelled to Zapata, Texas, to take on the world record for the longest hang-gliding flight. Jon managed to break the record and cover 761km, but Dustin went 3km further and set a new record himself. Jon might have missed out on the record, but he's undeterred, and will be making another attempt at the record in the near future.Read more