Sunday, November 3, 2013

When Dreams took Wings

March 3rd, 2013 - the day I can't forget in my life.

That day, I flew a paraglider solo first time, on the third day of my P1 course!!

It all started when I visited Nepal with my family about 3 years back. We went Paragliding in Pokhara. (video here) A pilot carries you in his glider, called tandem flight. I learnt from him that he can navigate the glider to where he wants, soar higher than from where he took off, cover long distances on the glider, even do some acrobatics! That itself was very wonderful and I was talking about it all the time to my friends. Then I started looking if any tandem flights were available in India.

And it turned out that there were a few people offering paragliding training in India, and that, it's actually quite easy! I narrowed in on one school Temple Pilots, who looked good. I later learned that they are the best in the country. I still took one year to summon courage, convince family and get a mate (Lakshman) to join me to the course. Finally landed in Talegaon on March 1st this year, with Lakshman.

I had already watched a few videos and read about paragliding, but on site, on the first day, it looked quite terrifying. We had to do some ground runs carrying the glider. The glider seemed to pull heavily on us, we couldn't control it, we'll fall to our side, the glider will drag us on ground, heads got banged on rocks (of course protected by helmet). To top it, one of the guys who was doing hopping flights had a fall and injured his knees. That night when we sat around, Lakshman said he'll never attempt to fly solo, and he told the Temple Pilots guys so, and that he wanted them to just carry him on a tandem flight to show to his friends back home.

my hopping flight
Second day, again some ground runs, now we seemed to get the hook of controlling the glider, and we could run longer and rather than end up falling, could stop and deflate the glider. We started enjoying the runs, it was beautiful, glider will carry us over small dips on the ground, the legs won't go down into them. Our trainers will give us instructions over radio, to which we now got accustomed, which actually we couldn't listen and obey on the first day, due to the nervousness. Towards the end of the day, they made us fly hopping flights, from a small height, which itself was quite exhilarating.  That night when we sat down, we were really happy, and were looking forward to our last day, when we'll be taken for solo flights, from the top of the hill!

On the final day, I did 4 solo flights. It was beyond words. When I got to top of the hill first time, it was actually terrifying again, the top was just a narrow ridge, with strong winds. We knew from our theory classes that, on the other side of the hill, that's the leeward side of the hill, there are going to be rotors and eddies which is dangerous and no-go for paragliding. It was with heavily beating hearts that we inflated our gliders, assisted by Ankush, our trainer, and then took off. Once in the air, wow, it was amazing, I was flying by myself!!. Ganpath the trainer with radio on ground gave instructions, and I took my turns, reached landing site, did the final flare, and landed on my feet! The flight lasted about one and half minute. But it was wonderful. I had three more flights, and after each flight, was racing back to the top of the 200 feet hill, for a chance at it again.

But the man who enjoyed the most on the day was Lakshman, who on first day said he'll never do solo flight. His first attempt at inflation failed and he fell down, which further scared him. He actually backed out of further attempts but Ankush didnt release him from the glider, quickly inflated it, and sent him off. After landing, he was laughing so much and jumping around, more than all others who did solo.

So, now, we are P1 certified pilots. it doesn't actually mean much. There's so much more to learn, proper launch technics, soaring, thermalling etc. But it all looks exciting and we are determined to carry on ahead with P2, certification course and beyond. It's said that paragliding is initially 90% physical and 10% mental, but later, 10% physical and 90% mental. It already looks to be true, and we are least worried now and quite excited.

Laksman doing solo

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