If you want a fusion of great heights and open spaces try paragliding! Flying in the serene skies you are bound to feel like a bird!
If boarding a plane has become boring now or even if it hasn’t, you ought to try your hand at this way of sailing the skies. Paragliding! It is something which makes you feel like a true bird in the open skies, free to get your loved one some dew drops from the clouds. The essence of freedom and also a chance to see the world from where God made it in its purest and most beautiful form.
A recreational and competitive flying sport, paragliding is apparently one of the more recently developed sports. A foot-launched aircraft, a paraglider falls in the category of un-powered fixed-wing aircraft. All that makes up the paraglider is an arc of nylon cloth shaped aerodynamically. The pilot has to sit in a harness suspended below a fabric wing. The suspension lines and air pressure entering the vents in front of the wing help form its shape.
The pilot after going through pre-flight checks begins running down a slope. The cloth canopy gets inflated and comes overhead and in few more steps the pilot becomes air borne. The glider is controlled by manipulating the control lines.
Paragliding is relatively new to India but it is quickly catching the attention of a lot of people which can be corroborated by the presence of professional training in India and the publicity of areas as paragliding havens.
Paragliding & Parasailing
Paragliding and parasailing are not very different from each other. The only difference being the fact that parasailing is carried out on a beach and the parachute is attached to a tug boat which pulls it. Unlike parasailing where you are just being dragged along, paragliding makes you feel more like a pilot where you are in control of your flight.
Often viewed as a higher-risk sport than it actually is, paragliding is like any other adventure sport where you feel the rush of adrenalin and the element of risk is not any more than probably swimming. There is still a great potential for injury if you happen to be reckless. Compared to any of the other dangerous ground-based adventure sports, one needs to be a tad more careful considering that one is in the air. A pilot attitude and good judgmental skill are of paramount importance to ensure safety.
The equipment is built so that it will almost never fail. For example, a paraglider happens to have 30 suspension lines, each one strong enough to individually support the full weight of a pilot. Safety precautions include helmets, harnesses with back protection, reserve parachutes, and other pre-flight checks. In addition to this, simple measures like keeping an eye out for the weather to see if it is conducive for a safe flight, absence of any form of turbulence, excessive wind speeds, overcast conditions indicating atmospheric instability always come in handy. Still, a great amount of caution needs to be observed as you are thousands of feet in the air and a minor glitch can result in terrible consequences.
Pre-requisites to sitting in a Paraglider
One can start by enrolling into an introductory course which is designed to give a taste of flying. Basic information about the paraglider and its controls will be taught. One can practice assisted take-off, landing on flat grounds and maneuvering using the controls.
Many paragliding schools in India offer basic courses. Most have a similar fee structure and training. A list of the most popular paragliding schools and clubs is given at the bottom.
The essential equipment consists of a glider and a harness that attaches the paraglider firmly and safely to the pilot. Additionally you will require a helmet specially made for gliding (light and sturdy), shoes & gloves, a reserve parachute and a variometer (may or maynot contain a GPS) to gauge the ascent or descent of the glider.
You can fit the entire paragliding set (wing, harness, and helmet) into a backpack and it weighs less than fifteen kilos.
Paragliding schools provide all the necessary equipments and safety kit for learning. However, if you want to fly regularly and own one, here are the approximate cost of equipments in India:
• Glider (Canopy): Rs 80,000 - 1,20,000.
• Harness: Rs 10,000 - 30,000
• Helmet: Rs. 1,000 - 13,000
• Reserve Parachute (Must have): Rs 20,000 - 30,000
You can enjoy paragliding without taking a course. Most paragliding schools offer Tandem flights where an experienced pilot does all the flying and you just sit and enjoy. The cost of Tandem flights is between Rs 1500 and 2500 per flight of around 10 minutes to half an hour.
Usually, the paragliding schools in India are offering following courses:
P1 Level Paragliding Course (Beginners)
Basic paragliding course, where you learn some safety, theory and ground handling. Usually, a three to four days basic course. It costs around Rs. 8000-12,000. In this course, you fly under the direct supervision of your instructors (on radio).
P2 Level Paragliding Course (Novice)
After P1 course, you can start a P2 level course. A little more advanced takeoff and flying techniques like reverse launch are taught and it includes more flying time. You also learn some practice maneuvers, altitude judgments and ridge aoring. This is a 4 to 5 day course, which also costs approximately Rs. 8000-12,000.
P3 Level Paragliding Course (Intermediate)
Upon completion of 25 or more logged flights, you are ready to take your P3 level paragliding course. This course teaches you more advanced techniques of flying like thermal soaring, cross country, and other such more advanced maneuvers. It is a 3 to 4 day course and costs approximately Rs 8000 - 12,000.
Paragliding havens in India
Some ideal gliding sites include Billing (near Palampur) for the panoramic views of the Dhauladhar ranges, Solang valley (near Manali), Bijli Bandla ridge, near Bilaspur, Intkali in Pabbar valley, Shimla, and Dyar and Bijli Mahadev in the Kullu Valley. Some other paragliding sites are located in the Trans-Himalayan region of Himachal such as Lahaul & Spiti, Arhaul-Anu near Rohru and Garhalla Talab in Chopal in Shimla district.
Garhwal region is a para gliders paradise. Some ideal gliding sites include Naukutchiyatal in Nainital, Dayara Bugyal (Uttarkashi-Gangotri road), Pratap Nagar, Dhanolti Ridge in Garhwal and Bedni Bugyal in Kumaon (all near Rishikesh).
The open countryside of Rajasthan offers gliding opportunites. These include Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Bikaner and Kota.
The flying in Maharashtra is along the Western Ghat hill range. Popular flying areas, include Maharashtra: Matheran (near Mumbai), Deolali (near Mumbai), Mahabaleshwar (near Pune), Singhgad (near Pune), Panchgani (near Pune) and Kamshet which is a very scenic hill area approximately 12 Km away from Khandala & Lonavala.
Blue Mountains in Ooty, Karnataka, Munnar & Elavizha Poonchira, near Varkala Beach, Kerala, Vaggamon in Kerala, and Kodaikanal in Karnataka.