Daredevil speed-flyer jumps from Alps into moving cable car at 50mph (VIDEO)
The scene is reminiscent of the outlandish stunts of a James Bond movie. But Longobardi’s death wish makes movie stuntmen look like park rangers.
"It’s the first time I took off, and didn’t really land on Earth,” he told RT after a stunt that was so riddled with uncertainties it was bordering on stupid. “The cable car was moving, so it’s like jumping from one world to another world.”
The sport – akin to the winter sport of speed riding – is all about flying compact parachute-type wing in close proximity to steep slopes. The sports combine elements of both paragliding, parachuting and sometimes skiing, to make for one thrilling, deadly ride.
The online extreme sports portal Epic TV has released footage of Longobardi, which has him leap off a mountain slope and be carried by a strong wind toward a moving cable car just below. The stunt had him reaching a speed of 80 kmph (about 50 mph), before flying straight into the eye of a needle – in this case, the cable car’s open door.
This was all done at an altitude of 3,740 meters in the Alps, and is believed to be the first time anyone has attempted the feat, which has to be seen to be believed.
The 43-year-old had prepared the stunt for a year, while friends and team members worked diligently alongside him to offer backup.
The amazing courage required for the spectacle to work was matched with painstaking precision. The takeoff needed to be timed to the tenth of a second to collide with the cable car at the right moment and angle (a very brief moment had the vessel traveling almost horizontally).
Any mild, unexpected gust of wind from either side could affect both Longobardi and the car and put them out of proximity, which would spell doom for Longobardi and have him crashing into the side of the car, before going into a spin toward the ground.
“I have been thinking about this flight every day for a full year before I did it," he told The Telegraph. "I thought through all the challenges - speed, angle, and height - all the different scenarios from the take-off to the approach to the landing.”
He also told Epic TV about the trickiest part before entry, which was to slow down and line up the trajectory and angle.
“For this to be possible would require the glider to actually stall as I entered the door. At 200 meters from the cable car I was traveling at 80kph. From that point, I had to make a very controlled deceleration to 35 kph – the precise speed where the glider would stall and collapse – at one meter from the cable car and my momentum would carry me in. If I stalled before reaching the door – disaster,” he told the website.
And while the altitude was vomit-inducing as it was, the cable car itself was only 150 meters above the ground, which meant there would be precious little time to deploy a backup parachute: Longobardi would go into a spin and would have to stop it and redeploy at least 80 meters above ground. The whole thing would be happening in a matter of seconds.
“After six months, I finally decided OK, I’ve thought through all the possibilities and there is nothing that can happen during the flight that I haven’t imagined and mentally prepared for. This is doable.”
And Longobardi does not wish to stop there. He told RT he’s got a few even more daring stunts coming up. “Now I’m working on other things… always with a small canopy, like I used with the [cable] car, but at a very high altitude; and for that, I need to study aerodynamics,” he said.
The daredevil’s jump follows in the vein of many who have laughed death in the face before him, but not everyone is lucky to continue doing what they love: recently, a Yosemite National Park base jump ended in tragedy for renowned American jumper and experimental climber, Dean Potter.
Others, however, continue to tempt fate. Numerous recent examples include a sky diver-slash-female model, who descended onto Panama in a winged angel suit, a couple of Russian-Ukrainian climbers braving China’s tallest skyscraper (once finished), the new world record holder for helicopter-jumping into an active volcano (Russia’s free-riding champion Ivan Malakhov) and, of course, Chile’s Sebastian Alvarez, who helicopter-jumped and flew at breakneck speed through a wooden flag of his country that was being held up by two friends standing atop a peak above the city of Santiago.