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Phuket Lifestyle: The sky’s the limit for Les

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Lifestyle: The sky’s the limit for Les | The Thaiger

PHUKET: One of the undisputed highlights during the recent Phuket Airshow and Family Picnic charity event was a series of spectacular acrobatic performances by Les Vorosmarthy, the internationally famous stunt pilot originally from Budapest, Hungary.


Highlights, including Les, from the recent Family Picnic charity event. Video: Phuket Today

The Phuket Gazette caught up with Les at the Phuket Airpark shortly before his fifth and final show on Sunday afternoon.

“I have been flying aerobatics since 1988, when I was 29 years old. It started as a hobby. I wanted to fly gliders when I was as young as 14, but my parents forbid me,” said the 54-year-old.

But there is nothing they can do about it now,” he added, with a laugh.

Les’ relationship with Phuket Airpark began when owner Suchart Raksangop contacted him for the exotically entitled “Bikini Fly-In” event, held there four years ago.

Married to a mainland Chinese woman from Beijing, Les has three children – 14, 17 and 19 – and all study Chinese at the family’s home in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lampur.

“We didn’t want to live in China because for me in China there is nothing to do because I don’t speak or read the language. I would end up in an expat society somewhere. This way I can live with the locals in Malaysia. Everyone speaks English and it’s a very nice place.”

Les comes to Phuket two or three times a year and also has business interests in the US state of California, where he runs a Santa Barbara-based company that manufactures a device used to facilitate doctors conducting cataract surgery. But his real passion is flying.

“I flew two times yesterday, two more today and have one more to go,” he said.

Asked about motivation and mindset while flying stunts, he said there is an element of, quite literally, “winging it” involved.

“I put together a routine, which is based on several elements. Each maneuver is an element, basically. Each of these maneuvers I have flown hundreds of times. So depending on my speed and altitude I decide what I am going to do next.”

Les uses an Extra 300 aircraft, which is a German-manufactured plane designed by award-winning stunt pilot Walter Extra.

“This is a standard. This model is one of the very few planes in the world that can do unlimited, top-level aerobatics,” said Les. In one of his most remarkable stunts, the “tail-slide”, Les lets the engine idle and the craft go into a backwards freefall.

I go vertically up, and then when I reach a certain altitude that is safe for me to recover from, I pull back to idle. Then the plane just falls, backwards, until it reaches a certain speed when the air hits the tail in one direction and you flip over,” he said.

Asked how he developed these skills, he said: “I did a basic aerobatic training, which includes rolls, loops, spins – a few things. Then, in 1995, I started flying in aerobatic competitions. There are different categories, and as you move up through the categories more and more maneuvers are involved, and the complexity increases.

The categories are Basic, Sportsman, Intermediate, Advanced and then finally, Unlimited. This is organized in the US by the International Aerobatics Club, which has from five to ten contests yearly in my area. So I went all the way to the top level of competition, Unlimited.”

However, the pinnacle of his competitive career came in 1998, when he had a chance to represent Hungary in the World Championships held in Trencin, Slovakia.

Asked if aerobatics was as dangerous as it appeared, he said flatly: “It is dangerous. I have lost quite a few friends.”

One of the most dangerous parts of aerobatics is the unnatural stress it puts on the human body. Commonly known as “pulling Gs”, Unlimited acrobatic pilots sometimes expose themselves to a perceived weight of as much as eight times the normal gravitational (8G) force we all feel as weight at ground level.

Some other air shows have ended in tragedy when a stunt pilot pushed this envelope too far, passed out and crashed. Les is very familiar with the dangers of the so-called G forces, but is also very experienced in how to deal with them safely.

“You can get a blackout or, more commonly, what we call a greyout, which is when you don’t see anymore, but it is only temporary. When you pull Gs you get tunnel vision first. Then the colors go away. Then you see only the outlines of things. Then no picture. If there is no picture you have to immediately release; you need to stop pulling, otherwise you will lose consciousness,” he explained.

Fortunately, strong monsoonal conditions throughout the weekend of the Air Show had almost no impact on flying conditions, he said.

“I have been lucky. So far I have had no issues with the weather. The only thing I was concerned about yesterday was the presence of some low clouds, but they moved out. Today I actually clipped a cloud with my wing during my performance,” he said.

Les has no plans to stop his aerial performances.

“The main reason is that I enjoy doing it. The people like it and I get invitations from all over the place to fly in shows,” he said.

Asked what he thought of the nickname “The Mad Hungarian” that had been heard at the Airpark over the weekend, he said with a smile: “It’s madness only to the people who don’t know what it is really all about.”

After that, Airshow coordinator Pat James of the US Navy League stopped by to ask if conditions were safe enough for one last show, and with that Les was off once again
to his Extra for the final, thrilling performance of the show.

— Somchai Huasaikul

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Business

Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg

May Taylor

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Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg | The Thaiger

Thai Residents reports that on Sunday, Bloomberg published an article on the world’s best pension systems, using information gathered from the 2019 Melbourne Mercer Global Pensions Index.

The survey looked at the pension systems of 37 countries with metrics including employee rights, savings, the number of homeowners, growth of assets, and growth of the economy. The purpose of the analysis was to determine what was needed to improve state pension systems and to gauge the level of confidence citizens had in their state pension system.

The Netherlands and Denmark were found to have the world’s best state pensions, with Australia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada, and Chile next. Out of all 37 countries, Thailand finished last, with what the report described as an extremely ineffective and ambiguous system.

“Thailand was in the bottom slot and should introduce a minimum level of mandatory retirement savings and increase support for the poorest.”

Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg | News by The Thaiger

Photo: WorkpointNews

Thai Residents states that only those employed within the government system in Thailand are eligible for a pension based on salary. For most Thai citizens, pension amounts vary from 600 baht to 1,000 baht a month, depending on the recipient’s age.

A report carried out by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) advises Thai citizens to have at least 4 million baht saved by the time they retire, but Thai Residents reports that 60% of Thai retirees have less than 1 million baht in savings, with one in three citizens who have reached retirement age are forced to continue working in order to survive.

SOURCE: thairesidents.com

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Bangkok

Tax on salt content being considered

Greeley Pulitzer

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Tax on salt content being considered | The Thaiger

The Excise Department is considering imposing a tax on the salt content of food to encourage food producers to reduce the sodium content of snacks, instant noodles and seasoning cubes.

The director of the Office of Tax Planning said that the department is discussing a limit on the amount of sodium food can contain, in line with the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is 2,000 milligrams of salt per day.

In reality, Thai people consume an average of 1,000 milligrams per meal, making their daily intake well above WHO guidelines, according to the director.

He said any tax imposed would be at a level which would encourage food producers to reduce the sodium in their processed food without being punitive, adding that the proposal isn’t intended to generate more tax revenue, but to help protect the health of consumers. Excessive sodium in the diet can lead to high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Fish sauce, soy sauce and salt would not be taxed.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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News

Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces

Greeley Pulitzer

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Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces | The Thaiger

People living in 22 Thai provinces are being warned to prepare for shortages of drinking water during the upcoming dry season, due to start on November 1st.

The warning was issued by the National Water Resources Office, citing low levels in reservoirs, which are the main sources for tap water production waterworks in 22 provinces.

Areas at risk identified by the office are in northern, north-eastern, eastern and southern provinces.

Measures have been adopted by agencies charged with dealing with water shortages. including dredging water channels to allow greater volumes of water to flow into reservoirs, drilling underground wells, enlarging storage ponds and the purchase of water to supply to those in urgent need.

The Royal Irrigation Department has announced that people should use water sparingly.

There are currently about 6 billion cubic metres of usable water in reservoirs in the affected provinces, with 5 billion cubic metres reserved for consumption and ecological preservation, leaving only 1 billion cubic metres for use in agriculture.

This means farmers in the Chao Phraya river basin may not be able to grow a second crop of rice this year.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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