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Dublin: 13 °C Monday 14 October, 2019
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One man's dream project to fly from Ireland to Africa by lawnmower gets under way this week

Yes lawnmower. Or paramotor to give it its proper title. Oisín Creagh’s peculiar journey should take about a month.

photo-4568 Oisín Creagh

A FEW MONTHS back, we brought you the story of 52-year-old Oisín Creagh – the Dublin-born, Cork-based architect with a slightly-odd project on the go.

Yes, Oisín is a paramotorist – a form of aviation basically involving the equivalent of a lawnmower engine and a parachute and precious little else. He’s planning to fly one of these things to north Africa, a trip-distance of 3,000 kilometres, to raise money for Gorta-Self Help Africa and its operations in drought-ravaged Ethiopia.

And it all kicks off this week.

Oisín is set to fly his ‘wing’ (as a paramotor is known within the sport) across the English channel before turning south and heading across the Straits of Gibraltar to Africa.

The entire trip should take him a month, flying at an average of 1,500 feet, in three-hour, 150 km bursts. If you want an idea of what the experience is like check out this video, which is by equal turns terrifying and exhilarating:

Source: James Allred/YouTube

And one more to give you an idea of the logistics of taking off (hint – there aren’t many):

Source: Dell Schanze/YouTube

If flying to Africa solo in a lawnmower sounds like a bit of a lonely experience, never fear, for Oisín will be in a position to take phone calls mid-flight via a bluetooth receiver clipped to his helmet.

So it’s all systems go. The journey was supposed to kick off today but has been put back until the end of this week due to adverse weather conditions. “I might as well take a few days and get everything well-sorted here, rather than getting stuck in Scotland,” he tells TheJournal.ie.

Oisín got in some last-minute preparation for his journey by going through a day of forced marine crash landings at Ringaskiddy in Cork last week.

safe1 Sea survival training at the National Maritime College of Ireland last week Source: NMCI

safe2 Source: NMCI

That in itself sounds terrifying. “It’s not too bad, my background more than anything would be water-sports,” says Oisín.

We were just testing out different combinations of flotation devices and disciplines of jumping in the water, getting slightly submerged, air pockets, that kind of thing. The real challenge is to prepare for the wing landing on you, and keeping cool if that happens.
I’m flying in an immersion dry-suit, so I’d be fairly confident if I did end up in the water.

But how reliable is the equipment?

photo-4569 Oisín Creagh

photo-4570

“It’s not frequent, but they do give difficulty,” Oisín admits. “But if you do have any trouble we have a very good glide ratio – you can drift without the motor for about six kilometres,” Oisín says.

We tend to fly at a height appropriate depending on what’s below us, with an eye to where we might land if need be.

It sounds like he has it all in hand.

“At this stage, I’m just keen to get going,” he says.

You can learn more about Oisín’s trip, or donate to Gorta Self-Help Africa, here.

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