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Posted at: Nov 4, 2018, 12:18 AM; last updated: Nov 4, 2018, 12:18 AM (IST)

Safety check for errors

Gurpreet Dhindsa

Bir-Billing is an open valley and lets a paraglider cover long distances. However, thermals in high mountains such as the Himalayas can sometimes be threatening and, at times, fatal. This has been the case recently, with two persons losing their lives and four others getting injured. Navigating the thermals is a major challenge for paragliders and that is where the inexperienced flyers fail. The other reason is delay in rescue of the victims.

When paragliding in the mountains, inexperienced flyers should follow the buddy system, something most countries abroad do. In this system, paragliders who do not have much experience fly with at least two buddies. These buddies are generally experienced paragliders who stay in the vicinity of the amateurs and keep guiding them in the air. In case of an accident, the buddies can inform the authorities about the location and also land in the same area to provide physical help. The same approach is followed when introducing newcomers to scuba diving.

Another important aspect of rescue services is a helicopter. Authorities need to have one handy for carrying out rescue operations. To manage the cost, the organisers could charge paragliders coming to Bir-Billing anything between Rs 1,000 and Rs 3,000. The money could be paid to an insurance firm or an aviation company in lieu of a helicopter stationed here permanently. Training the locals for rescue would be a big advantage, both from safety point of view as that of employment. Training would make youth eligible to get jobs in other parts of the country or in foreign companies in case they are certified as rescuers for paragliding.

As the Army was involved even in the first hang gliding world cup at Bir-Billing, the state can request the armed forces to help in case paragliders are trapped in difficult situations in the mountains. However, a decision regarding this can only be taken with active involvement from the Union ministry. Himachal Pradesh government should encourage paragliders of international repute to start instruction schools in the sport in the region. This can attract students and tourists from across the world to the area.

(Certified by the British Hang-gliding and Paragliding Association, Dhindsa is one of India’s best paragliders)  

— As told to Lalit Mohan


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