Brazilian flatland expert Olympio Faissol, interviewed in Cross Country issue 138 (Nov/Dec 2011), reveals his favourite places to fly in his home country. Read the full interview in the magazine online or subscribe for the print copy
Flying seasons in Brazil can be divided into three periods:
1. December through March
Well known sites such as Governador Valadares and Castelo are a good alternative in the summer (rainy season), but for XC southern Brazil is the best region, with less incidence of rain: both Tangará (Santa Catarina state) and Cerro Angelica (Rio Grande do Sul) have local bests of more than 250km. As the south of the country is farther away from the Equator, days are longer and allow for more airtime.
Santa Teresinha in Bahia can also work well during summer months, albeit with the possibility of thunderstorms, similarly to GV and Castelo.
Olympio shows us how it’s done in Brazil’s heartland
2. April through October
The southeast and, above all, the centre-west of Brazil work best.
Well known take-offs are Andradas, Araxá, Brasília and Jaraguá, but there are plenty of others.
The region around Brasilia, where I live, is very flat and thermals are abundant. It´s located on the central plateau of Brazil, at about 1000m ASL.
Take-off is just north of Brasilia (about 80km) at around 500m AGL on a cliff that descends from the flats of the Brazilian Central Plateau into the Paranã Valley, a beautiful rural region with rivers, waterfalls and dirt roads.
At the height of the season we get relative air humidity of less than 10% and cloudbase reaches more than 4500m ASL on good days. We have flown in almost all directions from this take-off.
A Hang Gliding Worlds was held here in 2003 and every year the hang gliding Nationals take place in August. Hang glider pilots from all over the world who have flown here are well aware of the supreme thermal quality of the site. PG local best is 250km and HG local best 257km.
Paragliding at the XCerrado 2011, Jaraguá. Video: Gustavo Russi
Jaraguá, just a two hour drive from Brasilia, is an XC paradise, with easier retrieve than Brasília (lots of paved roads and towns along the flying route) and the possibility of taking off earlier. Wind is not as strong as in Brasília. The town of Jaraguá has good infrastructure and there is a yearly XC competition in the end of July. Local PG best is 250km, but there is potential for at least 300 km.
The centre-west region has other excellent take-offs. In 2010, I crossed the entire state of Goiás on a bivouac trip, flying 640km in four flights (connecting all four take-offs) and reaching the beautiful Araguaia river on the border with Mato Grosso state. There is the possibility of doing around 1000km on a PG bivouac trip in this region using just five take-offs.
The southeast of Brazil has many good sites. The state of Minas Gerais is huge and provides excellent XC flying too. Belo Horizonte has a local best of 280km and Araxá of 250km. Andradas is well known for its competitions and is great for triangles. The southeast works best in September and October.
Paragliding in Brasilia, April 2011. Video: Guilherme Ferreira
3. October and November
This is the big distance season and it takes place in the northeast of Brazil, where it is possible to take off at 7AM (or before that) and fly for more than 10 hours.
Quixadá (Ceará), Tacima and Patu (Rio Grande do Norte) are the most used take-offs. Due to the strong winds and long flying hours it is best to be fit both physically and mentally to fly in these places.
Thermals are not as strong as at the height of the season in Brasília, but take off can be critical. A good retrieve scheme is also helpful as the distances flown and driven are rather big and the terrain can be harsh. Usually after a big flight, the following day is used as a rest day.
Truth is we don´t yet fully understand the patterns of the flying seasons in Quixadá. In some years the height of the season is delayed, and in others it is anticipated.
The local club will be installing a meteorological station on launch this year, which hopefully will help. All we know is that in between very good days there is usually an interim of about 2-3 less than optimal days.
Also, the quality of each season may vary widely. 2007, for instance, was an excellent year. The world record was broken by the SOL team (461km). I flew 360km on an Omega 7 that year.
Last year I was back in Quixadá but it was very poor, with the wind dying down after midday and rotating along the route. Even on a poor day, it is possible to fly more than 300km. But with low winds it can be very tiring.
The beauty of flatland XC is strong and aligned wind along the entire route and day. At the same time, being too selective could cause you to lose a great flight as we have also experienced days that started out poorly and developed positively. One should look at the forecasts, but ultimately it´s a matter of trial and error really.
Tacima has been flown mostly by hangliders because wind at take-off is even more extreme than in Quixadá. But I believe it may be a site for world records in both PG and HG. Hang gliders have flown more than 400km from there in not so special days.
I believe Brazil is the best place on earth to fly cross-country in terms of the abundance of good days. Perhaps places such as Texas, South Africa and Argentina have a longer flying window (almost 12 hours) and stronger and more aligned winds (and for that reason may eventually register the biggest flights in XC history) but consistency and availability of good XC days is nowhere near as in Brazil.
One setback is that infrastructure and public transportation in Brazil is not as developed as in Europe or the USA and distances are big. For the budget traveler this may imply more difficult retrieves following long flights. But this is more than compensated for by the friendliness and willingness to help of the locals.
There is a saying in Brazil, a cliché, which says that God is Brazilian. We were given everything that´s good in abundance. I believe the XC gods are Brazilian too.
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