German tourist Gerry Mayr Wednesday became the first person to fly a powered paraglider over New Zealand's tallest mountain, Mount Cook — surviving severe turbulence on the downward leg.
Mayr's paraglider feat went well on the upward leg, peaking at about 13,000 feet, well above the 12,316-foot mountain.
But wind turbulence on the way down caused the flimsy craft to fall several hundred yards before he managed to stabilize it, the experienced paraglider told local media after the flight.
"It was dangerous because I was going down with no air in the (glider) wing. It was like a bungee jump ... falling 30 meters (100 feet) a second," he said.
Mayr said the midair plummet was frightening.
"It was like a hand throwing you down to earth," he said, "and this was a very big hand with a long movement, so I went whoosh!"
After the wing stabilized, he was able to land easily at Mt. Cook airfield about 1:20 p.m. local time after the 2-hour-20-minute flight from the other side of the mountain. The flight was delayed for several hours by strong early morning wind.
"I shut the engine off over the airfield and there was no gasoline left when I finished," he said.
Mayr, 42, who runs a motorcycle shop in his home town of Konstanz, said he felt a range of emotions during the flight, from fear while in the uncontrolled descent to the delight of observing Mt. Cook close up.
"It was really, really unbelievable. You feel you are a really small person when you are up there, like you are almost nothing," he said.
Mayr, who described himself as an adventure enthusiast, said he got the idea for the flight while at home looking at photos of mountain scenery in New Zealand.