Here’s why Hannes Arch was an adventure legend

These incredible feats by Hannes Arch will make you see the Red Bull air race pilot in a new light.
© Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool
By Tarquin Cooper

Legend is an over-used word, but in the case of the late Hannes Arch, who has tragically died in a private helicopter accident, it's totally justified. An acro paraglider pilot, pioneering BASE jumper and stunt pilot, Hannes had been pushing the boundaries of what was possible in the air for 25 years. Before that he was a climber and mountain guide who'd made a first ascent in Alaska.

Watch the tribute video below looking back on his achievements to see why he was such a legend. Then scroll down to see some of his most impressive feats.

Landing a paraglider on a hot air balloon

Hannes Arch lands his paraglider successfully on a hot air balloon in 2002.
Landing on top of a balloon © Bernhard Spöttel/Red Bull Content Pool

In 2000, Hannes became the first person to land a paraglider on top of a hot air balloon and then successfully relaunch again. Only someone like him could even think to do something like this. In another stunt, the Austrian surfed off the balloon on a board before freefalling and deploying his chute. Technically this redefined BASE jumping, since a balloon falls outside the traditional BASE definition of building, antenna, span or earth. Either way, the concept was total madness, but executed with total professionalism.

BASE jumping from the Eiger and Matterhorn

© Thomas Ulrich/Red Bull Content Pool

With Ueli Gegenschatz, Hannes become the first man to BASE the notorious North Face of the Eiger in 2000, and then followed this up three years later with a jump from the Matterhorn. This was in the days before the development of aerodynamic wingsuits which actually offer a degree of safety because they let jumpers fly away from the cliff. Hannes and Ueli had just two seconds to open their chutes on the Matterhorn jump.

Acro paraglider pilot

Hannes Arch paragliding in 1997 on the Dachstein mountain in Austria
Hannes Arch paragliding in Austria © Ulrich Grill/Red Bull Content Pool

Hannes Arch started flying young. In fact, he made his first flight in a hang-glider at the age of 15. He took to paragliding as the sport emerged in the 1990s, founding the Red Bull Acro Team before going on to become a champion paragliding aerobatic pilot. This shot shows him doing what he loved best in his native Austria.

Founding the ‘world’s toughest adventure race’

Paul Guschlbauer flies past the Matterhorn during the 2015 Red Bull X-Alps
Hannes Arch founded the Red Bull X-Alps © Sebastian Marko/Red Bull Content Pool

He also founded the Red Bull X-Alps event in 2003, and was thereafter known as the race mastermind. He was attracted to the idea after watching a German TV documentary in which Toni Bender hiked and glided his way across the Alps, and he wanted to create a pure adventure race that would pit man against the elements. "It's about body and soul, not hundreds of rules and regulations," he once said. The same free spirit defined Hannes.

Red Bull Air Race champion

© Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool

Hannes was one of the world's top aerobatic pilots. Within a year of first competing in the Red Bull Air Race World Championships in 2007, he was world champion. Up until the 2015 season he finished first or second overall for the previous four years, making him one of the most successful ever pilots in the series.

He didn't just fly planes; he also flew helicopters. Earlier this year, in a private capacity, he supported charity efforts in Nepal by ferrying supplies by helicopter to remote mountain communities. And it was while ferrying supplies to a mountain hut, this time in his native Austria, that he died, robbing the adventure world of not only a legend – but one of its good guys.

Hannes Arch flies into the sunset in his Red Bull Air Race plane
Hannes Arch flies into the sunset © Marcos Ferro/Red Bull Content Pool
Hannes Arch
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