TO FLY A PARAGLIDER IS TO HOLD GOD’S HAND

Airports India - - ODISHA - Text: V. Kr­ish­naswamy

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.”

WORLD-CLASS PAR­TIC­I­PA­TION

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.

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