TO FLY A PARAGLIDER IS TO HOLD GOD’S HAND
Seldom has an aero sport competition caught the imagination of people as the AAI Paragliding World Cup has over the past few weeks. With just under three weeks to go for the inauguration of the World Cup, which is the final one of the five on the World Cup Tour for 2015, the preparations are on in full swing for the grand event – right from the participants -- from the 130-odd pilots from about 35 countries -- to refurbishment of technical and civil infrastructure at Bir Billing, where the event will be held.
While Airports Authority of India is the Title sponsor, the State of Himachal Pradesh has been a big supporter of the event and a host of other sponsors have put their weight behind the event, scheduled to be held from October 23 to 31.
Also, infrastructure like the take-off site at Billing, situated at an altitude of almost 2,400 metres, has been refurbished to enable 15 to 50 gliders to take off simultaneously, as is required for a World Cup. Also, the landing site at Bir, at 1,360 metres, has been expanded to ensure safer landings.
Mr. R K Srivastava, Chairman, Airports Authority of India, said, “We are extremely pleased to be associated with the Paragliding World Cup. For quite some time we were looking for a sport that was in sync with our specialization, which is aviation. And Paragliding fits perfectly with that. Also Adventure Sports has become hugely popular among youth. We plan to start with Paragliding and then take Adventure Sports in India to a new level.”
AAI has been supporting almost a dozen different disciplines with many of their athletes/ sportspersons having won medals at the Asian and International level, but this association with Adventure Sports and Paragliding will herald a new chapter.
As Sudhir Sharma, President of Billing Paragliidng Association, and the Minister for Housing, Urban Development and Town & Country Planning, Himachal Pradesh said, “It will be the first-ever World Cup of Paragliding in India and we want to make it a Festival of Aero Sports with a lot of activities planned around it. Apart from the competitive element there should also be fun elements to attract those who are not tuned in to something like Paragliding.”
He added, “The state government has developed world-class infrastructure in and around Bir-billing by re-doing take-off and landing sites and ensuring state-ofthe-art facilities for the paragliders, officials and spectators. This is because we feel that an event like this can be used to promote Tourism and also boost the local economy. When you have such large numbers of foreign visitors and also Indians, the local are going to benefit from this.”
In terms of participation, the AAI Paragliding World Cup will see the best of pilots from across the world. With three of the Top-4 and six of the Top-10 sending their entries, besides one the world’s best pilots also confirming participation, it will be a veritable feast for the followers of Paragliding and Aero Sports.
The big names include Frenchman Maxime Pinot, winner of the Super Cup in 2014 and Julien Wirtz, also a Frenchman, one of the most successful pilots in recent years, who has been World No. 1 for 20 of the last 25 months. Germany’s Torsten Siegel, France’s Clement Latour, besides another German, Andreas Malecki, and Jurij Vidic from Slovenia, will also be
there. Among women, the list includes Klaudia Bulgakow, who interestingly participated in India in the 2013 Pre World Cup and is well versed with Indian conditions.
The maximum pilots are from Britain, followed by Russia, France, Germany and Switzerland.
The event can accommodate at best around 130 pilots, who are chosen on the basis of their world ranking from the internationally ranked pilots.
Interestingly, this World Cup will also see a very high participation of Indian pilots as around seven pilots have qualified for the World Cup with the possibility of that number going up by one more.
The top Indian stars will include Gurpreet Dhindsa and Adie Kumar among others. Indians have also been taking part in World Cups outside India and this will be the first time they will get a chance to perform in home conditions and in front of their local followers.
India’s success in International competitions includes two medals at the Asian Paragliding Championships in 2010 and 2012.
RESCUE AND RETRIEVAL OPERATIONS
As preparations gather momentum for the conduct of the first-ever AAI Paragliding World Cup 2015, another set of preparations have already been set in motion for “Rescue and Retrieval” operations in case of any emergences during the event.
With more than 130 of the world’s Paragliding Pilots coming over and another 400-500 free fliers expected during the period, the “Rescue and Retrieval” systems have, as expected, been given top priority for the event.
The preparations include setting up of a large number of rescue and retrieval teams and all Rescue Teams will be equipped with Communications devices like Radios and GPS.
Repeaters for a good signal system and a Live tracking equipment with GPS; Helicopters, moveable base sets, large number of ambulances, Trauma Van and a lot else has been made ready.
There will be 20 vehicles for Rescue teams, 10 vehicles for Retrieval teams; six Moveable Base Sets; a dozen ambulances at various crucial points and a Trauma Van, which will be available all the time. In addition, there will be one Chopper with winch and one standby Chopper for Rescue Operations near the Landing field.
According to Mr. Rajesh Srivastava, Sr. Vice President of BPA, “There will be rescue reams in Control Room for back-up and each team has six members and stretcher carriers. Each Rescue Team consists of four Mountaineering Instructors, two trained Marshals, one Paramedic and one policeman. And, each Retrieval Team consists of two trained Marshals, one policeman equipped with radio Set and mobile communication and each Rescue team is equipped with full mountain climb/ rescue gear equipment and hard stretchers.”
MORE THAN A WORLD CUP OF PARAGLIDING
The AAI Paragliding World Cup 2015 is going to be more than just a world-class competition for the Star pilots. It will also provide an opportunity for Children with Special Needs to learn to fly and experience the joy of flying in Tandem flights with some experienced pilots. With the Chief Minister, Virbhadra Singh, expressing a desire to do something for Children with Special Needs, the association is going to designate a special day during the World Cup only for children. Normally Tandem flights, where an experienced pilot takes with him a ‘novice’ or a ‘visitor’ can cost anything from Rs. 4,000 upwards, but the children will be given free flights courtesy the Organisers.
With Adventure Sports becoming the buzzword and the Airports Authority of India itself wishing to become the biggest supporter of Adventure Sports, which is in tune with its own responsibility of taking care of aviation in India, Aero Sports in general and Paragliding in particular, is in for a big boost in the immediate future with the AAI Paragliding World Cup being the first step in that direction.