“Crazy but possible ….and a beautiful and wonderful idea.”
When Sacha Dench first suggested the idea of flying across the Russian tundra in a paramotor as part of Flight of the Swans, it was helicopter pilot Vladislav Vyucheyskiy who was the first of the NarYan Mar locals to offer his support.
“I was sitting in a room full of men talking about the idea of me flying a paramotor across some of the least inhabitated places on earth”, says Sacha, “and it was Vlad who was the first to stop pointing out all the obvious reasons why it wasn’t a sensible thing for a foreign female pilot to attempt – the villages being mostly deserted, wild bears, no petrol stations etc. Vlad walked over with a pencil and started drawing crosses and symbols on my map.”
A paramotor can only carry enough fuel to fly for three hours at a time. So one of the biggest challenges is how to refuel during the 1000km crossing of the desolate Russian arctic. It’s a vast wilderness inhabited primarily by the occasional small nomadic community.
But Vlad came to our rescue. With many of the towns and villages in the area long abandoned, Vlad was marking a network of small hunting huts across the region, not marked on maps. Flying his helicopter, Vlad was offering to use them to make regular fuel drops – in effect a lifeline for Sacha to use across the tundra.
Invaluable help, but that’s not all he could offer. As chairman of the Nenets Reindeer breeders union, Vlad has has also been able to connect us with reindeer herders in the region, and arrange survival training with them. They will be able to provide vital backup if Sacha needs any help or support during this early part of her mission, or a place to stay with decent food.
So what does Vlad think about Flight of the Swans? He made this video for us:
Q What was your first reaction when you heard about the plan to fly the whole migration route of the Bewick’s swans from the Russian arctic to the UK?
I really wanted to be part of the expedition and share the beauty of my land with the followers of Flight of the Swans.
Q The project will highlight how important it is for countries right across Europe and Russia to collaborate. How do you think the flight of people along with the long migration of Bewick’s swans, will help grab the attention of the Russian people?
I am hoping that Flight of the Swans will focus attention on how we can preserve biodiversity and manage the impacts of climate change. I want people to sit up and pay attention to the changes already taking place across the animal kingdom.
Q How do you think it will help raise interest amongst Russians?
I believe this will help draw public attention to the importance of conservation and to the importance of respecting the environment in our industrial age.
Q What are the challenges of flying in your country?
We will be flying over a variety of different landscapes and each one can present its only special flying and weather conditions. We also have to be aware of some of the administrative difficulties connected with restrictions on freedom of movement in Russia.
Q Can you describe the landscapes that we will cross?
We will be flying over tundra, forest and beautiful rivers. We will also be meeting the amazing people who live in the Nenets area. This is the bit of the expedition that I am most excited about.
Q Why have you offered to help out with the Flight of the Swans project?
This is a very interesting project for me as it is related to the conservation of nature and its biodiversity.