Flying in and around Quito


grafik_inca grafik_inca Quito, capital of Ecuador was founded in preinca times by the Quitu-culture around 1000 AD and conquered just a couple of decades before the spanish conquista by the Inca under Tupac Yupanqui.
Principal flying spots:
1) Puengasi, directly at the highway Nueva Oriental in southern Quito at 3000 m. Nice launch and landing facilities, height difference 300 m to the valle, flight thermal
2) Pichincha, flight from 4000 m to the east over Quito. Nice launch and landing facilities, height difference 1000 m, flight mostly downwards. At my time only by foot, today comfortably by cable car.
3) Atacazo, flight from 4000 m to the east over Quito. Only possible with a longer walk, a little bit more demanding than the flight from the Pichincha.

Helpful emails:
Enrique Castro, escuela Pichincha in Quito:
Juan Carrasco, escuela Pichincha in Quito:
Henry Leduc, Aero Pasión in Quito
Jorge Mora Araña, guide:


Puengasi (fotos Kai Laufen)

In the morning hours starting from 10 o'clock reliable thermals appear, so the Quiteños come here every weekend. During the week it's rather calm here. After the launch one usually soars 200 m above in the upwinds over the southern parts of the city, which in this view is situated in the back of the observer. Flights of three hours or more are not a problem. More difficult however is it to move away from the 1-2 km long edge. The hill in the center of the pic is the former volcano Ilalo only approx.. 5 km away but almost unreachable due to lacking thermals and since it lies directly in the approach corridor of the jumbo jets on the way to the airport. I do not know of anyone who dared to cross over. Cross flights are rare. Toplanding possible, but not altogether simple, the launching/landing spot is limited on one side by trees, on another by electric lines and the heighway and on the other roadside there is power line which already caused severe accidents. It is a question of ambition and expenses, since one needs to take a bus or a taxi after the more comfortable landings in the valley, in order to come up again.


The Pichincha, the city's domestic volcano

Our motorized colleagues get quite close to us here. Its highest summit (not visibly from Quito) is the Guagua Pichincha 4780 m with its active, smoking crater. The last eruption, which shocked the 1.5 mill inhabitants was 1999.

The launch is much below the summit at 4000 m, close to an array of antennas (in the photo the area above the cockpit). A couple of paragliders launches at this very moment, however almost impossible to recognize on the photo. Just as little recognizable is the fact that during the moment, where I take the photograph and observe my friends someone sneaking behind me slits my backpack with my paraglider inside open, using a razor blade. I immediately turn around (in South America the spinal nerves grow extensions right into the backpack), but nobody really remarkable in the proximity, only innocent pedestrians. Nevertheless the cut is clearly visible...


View down on Quito from the launch at the Pichincha at 4000 m.

One sees the northern half of the city. It's a little more than 1000 meters down to the landing in the park Altamira. Launch easy, with lots of space in the soft Ichu grass. Even if overregional strong southeast wind prevails, in the high valley of Quito arises usually a moderate north wind in the afternoon (sometimes recognizable by the change of the takeoff and landing direction of the jumbo jets at the airport). This should be taken into account, when approaching the densely populated Quito from above. I never measured stronger winds than 25 km/h in the high valley though at normal wheather conditions.

Three times we were up at the Pichincha, all three time not without some sort of rain. The first time we walked all the way up, the second time engineers who worked on the antennas gave us a ride, the third time we went with other parapilots of Quito that took some tandem passengers with them. The problem of the ascent is that the area below 4000 m is private property and pilots without extra authorization even when walking may not pass. Another problem are the notorious assaults. We were fortunately exempted from those. Most of them occur in another area more to the south. Nevertheless even Jorgito a native was never completely calm.

All flights from the Pichincha that I know of are pure downward flights, sometimes with a little bit of thermals, sometimes unexpected rain. We terminated our last rain flight with a nice picnic fire in the park.
In spite of all this it is a splendid feeling to float for awhile above this huge city and first world cultural heritage.


View from the Atacazo down to the south of Quito

The Atacazo is the second volcano that limits Quitos urban area. In contrast to its northern brother it is no longer active, but exactly like the Pichincha it is covered with antennas so there are good roads upwards. Very pretty is the ascent starting at Chillogallo from the north along the west side with view down onto the west slope of the Andes. Before both flights at the end of July it rained above 4000 m while it was completely dry in the city. The rainy season is longtime over in July, but the volcano summits always create their own weather. Therefore a long waiting with the paraglider in a small ichu shelter built by campesinos for the harvest time.


Just before six o'clock it stops raining at last. And a meadow fit for launch is found on the way down. A curious horse dances constantly around my paraglider. Close to the equator the darkness arrives within minutes. Those are exactly the minutes I need to arrange my harness and sort the lines. When finally I am ready for launch, the city below is already lost in darkness.


Night flight over Quito.

"The whole earth was overwoven by greetings of light, each house ignited its star against the infinite night" (Saint Exupéry, vol de nuit). Above the city slight upwinds that allow for a calm soaring without elevation change. Landing on a small vacant surface in the district Cutuglagua in complete darkness.



The old Quito at night.





----------------------------------------------- With a paraglider above the Inca roads -----------------------------------------------