"Thousands of years ago, people looked up and saw the Northern Lights and thought they were magic," says Horacio Llorens. "It feels like clouds are [right] in front of you, but in reality they're 50,000 feet over your head."
Seeing the Aurora Borealis, commonly known as the Northern Lights, is a rare and unique experience for anyone. Llorens, however, can claim an experience even more rare: seeing them from the sky under his paragliding wing, which was simply stunning.
Watch the beautiful video of Llorens’s world-first flight below:
Battling temperatures near zero on the ground near Trømso, Norway, the Spanish acro pilot donned a wetsuit and battery-heated gloves, powered up his paramotor and flatland-launched himself into the amazing night flight with the ethereal green waves of the Aurora.
If you think the entire project sounds like a mission, you'd be entirely correct. Night flying in cold temperatures is challenge enough, and arranging to do it in front of the Aurora is even more challenging.
"I wanted to make sure I had a very powerful paramotor," says Llorens. "The 200cc machine gave me the chance to climb whenever I wanted — or get out of trouble if I needed to."
And the wetsuit? Most of Llorens' flight was done over water so if something went wrong and he ended up in the drink, the wetsuit would give him 20 minutes or so for rescuers to get to him, rather than the two or three minutes he would have had without it.
The heated gloves kept his fingers warm enough for fine control over the throttle, and battery-powered spotlights lit up his rig against the night sky. The project was also helped by technology on the ground. New, ultra-sensitive camera technology allowed Llorens to be captured flying the under the lights in real-time, rather than in timelapse.
The result? Well, you've seen it above. It's one of the most incredible experiences of Llorens' very adventurous life.
The project had special meaning for Llorens, who dedicated the flight to his cousin, Alejandro Rodríguez, whom he actually considered his brother. Rodríguez passed away in a paragliding accident five years ago. "Flying in the night with the stars, it made me think about him," says Llorens. "I think he is still with us flying when we are up in the air."
And while Llorens' flight looks serene and peaceful, in reality it was anything but. The 37mph-plus headwind from the paramotor, combined with the cold and windy conditions made for chilly and occasionally turbulent flying — and of course, the flights took place anywhere from late evening to 4 a.m.
The toughest part of the project? The waiting game. Predicting the Northern Lights is a highly inexact science. "She’s shy," says Llorens of the Aurora Borealis. "I asked her to dance many times, and she took a while to show up — but when she did, she was a beauty!"