La Coupe Icare: Thousands gather for flying festival in the French Alps

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By Rhal Ssan
Euronews' Rhal Ssan reporting on the festivities from the sky
Euronews' Rhal Ssan reporting on the festivities from the sky   -   Copyright  n/a   -  

Hang gliders, paragliders and wingsuits were all on display for six days at La Coupe Icare free-flying festival in the small town of Saint-Hilaire du Touvet, nestled in the Chartreuse Mountains in the French Prealps.

Other motorised forms of flight were also shown, such as acrobatic propeller airplanes and paramotors, or powered paragliders.

The main attraction on display is the carnival, where pilots try to outdo each other by wearing the most colourful, creative and ultimately wacky costumes possible. At the end of the competition, a panel of judges decided who should win a range of prizes.

Pilots wore creative costumes as part of the festival's carnaval

One of the most eye-catching events was a large mockup of the F14 Tomcat fighter jet from the movie "Top Gun", made by one of the favourites and previous winners of the competition — the duo of Rémi Bahuchet and Nicholas Pelard.

“Goose is here and he will pilot, while I, Mavrick, will chill out and watch some of the countryside”, Pelard tells us, referring to the film's characters.

“The goal isn’t to win, we’re just trying to make a beautiful structure, make the kids laugh and make the elderly people dream.”

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Rémi Bahuchet and Nicholas Pelard as Goose and Maverick from Top GunN/A

While the weather wasn’t great at times, with rainy spells and low-hanging clouds closing the takeoff area for periods of time, organisers managed to get all of the contestants off on the first day.

Over the duration of the festival, many stalls were set up, selling a range of local products, including food and memorabilia. Dozens of free-flight companies were also present, organising a large trade exposition, keen to showcase their wares to pilots.

Managed by an army of volunteers, concerts were organised most nights, continuing into the early morning hours on Friday and Saturday.

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A man tries out a paragliding harness at the expositionn/a

According to Thibaut Lajugie, co-president of la Coupe Icare, it's an important economic boost to the region, which suffered for two years due to coronavirus restrictions.

“Yeah it’s a big added value for tourism, the impact on all of the traders who are here, the paragliding schools, the restaurant industry... it has a significant impact all year round."

In its 49th year, la Coupe Icare didn’t fail to disappoint, with pilots and spectators from around the world seeing out the last summer sun, dressed in style.