When conservationist and adventurer Sacha Dench (UK) touched down in Dover, UK, on 5 December 2016, she became the first woman to cross the English Channel by paramotor.
Her wheel-launched paramotor, aka paratrike, is essentially a seat on a wheeled chassis fitted with a parachute wing and a motorized fan that provides propulsion.
Sacha’s journey came more than three decades after the first crossing of the English Channel by paramotor, performed by French pilot and extreme light aircraft pioneer Gérard Feldzer on 13 October 1984.
Setting off at 11 a.m. from Aeroclub du Boulonnais in Saint-Inglevert, France, Sacha (who is a distant relative of world-famous actor Dame Judi Dench) arrived at 12.38 p.m. in Dover, UK, for a total journey time of 1 hour 38 minutes.
This was the penultimate leg of an epic 7,200-km (4,500-mile) trip labelled the "Flight of the Swans" that saw Sacha follow endangered Bewick’s swans (Cygnus columbianus) on their annual winter migration from Arctic Russia to the UK.
The journey was completed with the support of the British charity Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) to raise awareness of the plight of the Bewick’s swans and to better understand the reason for their decline.
The number migrating to the UK has declined rapidly from around 30,000 in 1995 to around 18,000 in 2010.
Departing from Russia on 19 September 2016, Sacha flew her paramotor over 11 different countries, before arriving back at Slimbridge WWT Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire, UK, on 16 December 2016.
Highlights of the trip included flying over the Russian tundra, the taiga forest, the wetlands of northern Europe and, of course, her record-setting crossing of the English Channel.
Sacha has received numerous awards for her epic "Flight of the Swans" expedition, including the Jean Lennox Bird Pendant from the British Women Pilots’ Association in 2017 and a Britannia Trophy from the Royal Aero Club in 2018.
She was also appointed as the UN Ambassador for Migratory Species in February 2020 and was praised for her "creative and daring approach" to raising awareness of the plight of many migratory species.
Sacha is currently planning another potentially record-breaking journey for 2021, with the "Flight of the Osprey", which would follow the endangered osprey’s migration from the UK through Europe and finishing in Ghana.
You find out more about Sacha’s expedition including videos and reports at www.flightoftheswans.org.