Well a little further than that actually – 176.8 km! Debu Choudhury talks Hugh Miller through his new Indian distance record set from Bir on 31 March.
You were in the taxi up to launch pretty early weren’t you?
Yep. I got a taxi up on my own because I knew no one else would be up! I didn’t check the forecast. You just look out of the window and know. When I got up to launch there weren’t many clouds, so I took off at 10:55. I got into a climb straight away up to 3000 m.
And was it a fairly straight forward punt to Dharamsala?
Yep, I’ve done that route 30 times or more so I know it well, you’re basically gliding 4 or 5 ks, hitting a spur, climbing out at 3-6 m/s, and pushing on again. I had an easterly tailwind so it was quite easy going.
Jim Mallinson and I were flying and it was fairly full combat for us – big surges, and a couple of Russians smacking in. How was it on your Mercury?
Fairly full combat too. It was a pretty strong day. There was some north wind, and the thermals were quite one-sided, strong on one side.
When did you get to Dharamsala?
At about 12:30. I’d planned to go beyond Dharamsala all along, I’d been past once but that was on the back with a very high base. I was aiming to go 70 km out and turn back. The terrain is similar but the main road diverts to the plains, and the hills are more broken up and smaller with way less landing options. I turned round at 1:30 pm near the border with Kashmir. Beyond, there’s a lot of terrorism with all the Kashmiri militants. Actually I nearly lost it – I got distracted taking pictures of a couple of big vultures in front of the 6000 metre Pir Panjal mountains beyond the Chumba valley.
Did you take the same route back?
On the way back I pushed deeper into higher terrain. The base had risen on the next range back but when I got there it got scary. I hit an 11 m/s climb, the clouds were OD’ing so I pushed forward again. I’ve spiralled out of cloud and hit a mountain before so I’m quite cautious about them. Once I’d passed take off at Bir, I got up higher and straight-lined the clouds to my second turnpoint just past Jhatingri.
Did you know you had it in the bag at that point?
I wanted to do 180 km and I’d only done 19 km past Bir, which wasn’t enough. But high cirrus was flooding in and I was worried the day would shut down, but I was wrong. I landed at 5 pm and there was still another hour in the day. But I was pretty chuffed. This was my longest flight by 40 km.
Is this the best O/R area in the world?
Slovenia’s good too, but yes most of the flights here are O/Rs. I think you could do 250 km on the right day, flying from 10 am to 6pm. In May it goes up everywhere, you could probably straight line it. Xavier Remond did his record O/R flight in May. Apparently he was just speed barring up and down in front of the clouds.
Never mind the distances, how many pees did you have?