Gliding over greens, into the blue skies on a wing and a parachute

  • | Sunday | 26th November, 2023

Pune: It needs the courage of Daedalus to take off and soar and paragliders as young as 20 are taking to the skies from centres in Kamshet near Lonavla about 45km from Pune.At least three centres are busier now than they were five years ago with people from all walks of life keen on the adventurous activity. Owners said the number of amateur flyers has increased from 120 to 130 in a week this year against 40 to 50 in 2018. A tandem sortie, driven by a pilot, lasts 10 to 15 minutes, but it is enough for an adrenalin rush, participants said. We have seen a sudden uptick in paragliding post-Covid as people want to try something different. Although most do it with a pilot, some take up basic courses to learn more. Its a good sign for our business, Sanjay Rao, who has run Fly Nirvana, the paragliding school in Kamshet for 27 years, said. People from Pune, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Hyderabad and other cities visit Kamshet mostly on weekends for the sport. Raos centre was where Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and his six friends did a couple of sorties and completed a three-day course in January 2008. Santosh Mhaske has gone paragliding a couple of times in the last few years. Every jump gives me a different experience. Its liberating and I feel stress-free at the end of it. So, I do it once a year, he added. Santosh Kulkarni from Pimpri said he had never participated in or experienced any adventure activities before he chose paragliding. I found it worthwhile and a unique experience, he added.Locals get moneyParagliding is done with permission from the Pune Air Force station and has become a good income source for trained pilots from the nearby villages. Pankaj Gugale, a resident of Govitri village, told TOI, I worked with instructors for years before starting to fly. It has become my main business now. I do hundreds of jumps annually and earn about Rs 3 to 4 lakhs which is a big help. The investment is the equipment kit which includes a parachute. We use a kit for three seasons for the safety of flyers. We cannot use it beyond that as it may result in accidents. Our priority is safe flying, Ganesh Shinde, another local pilot, said. Locals earn a livelihood by arranging for transport for visitors and providing food and logistics. Landowners whose plots are earmarked for landing get money from the local pilots.Kamshet is just right Kamshets beauty, surrounded by hills and historic places, including forts and its elevation at 2,000 feet above sea level, offer a natural conducive environment for paragliding. Sites in nearby villages are perfect for the operation. Karanjgaon and Govitri villages have sites and hills, from where pilots take off with flyers. Also, Kamshet is on the Pune-Mumbai old highway and has road connectivity to the site. There are adequate fields for landing operations. Hence, many flyers enjoy joy rides safely at this place.There are three earmarked sites from where the flying operation is usually conducted. They have also selected landing ranges for safety reasons. Pilots are acquainted with the geographical conditions and can make safe landings, Rao said. How it startedWhen Rao bought land in 1994 in Kamshet to build his holiday home, paragliding was not even on his mind. It changed at a weekend gathering with a group of friends and a chance meeting with two foreign paragliding pilots in 1997. He began to look at Kamshet as a paragliding destination. I ended up taking them to Kamshet as they were looking for hills. They found a takeoff point and flew. I was in a tandem flight with them and it felt amazing. I wanted more, Rao recalled. In 1998, two people inquired about paragliding and he decided to set up a full-fledged training centre. He named the flying sites within a few km of his location suitable for safe training at Kamshet.I didnt have money then. I borrowed from my family and friends and established the centre with a modest beginning. We started with small rooms and a kitchen with basic facilities. And it grew over the years. After two decades, the sport has given the area another identity. It is most satisfying to see the growth of the local community due to the sport, he said.Now several centres offer paragliding courses and joyrides in Kamshet.Air traffic control clearanceAny air activity in and around Pune cannot be done without statutory sanction from the Pune Air Force Station Lohegaons air traffic control. So, all the paragliding centres operating from Kamshet must get permission to fly. Rao said, We take flying slots from the AFS in advance. We get intimation if there is low flying for military purposes drills or any other activities. Ravi Shelar, who has been into paragliding for 23 years, told TOI, Safe flying is the distinct character of Kamshet paragliding centres. No untoward incident has taken place in the last two decades here. That is why people from across the country come here. The flying season begins in the first week of November and usually ends before the monsoon.

If You Like This Story, Support NYOOOZ



Your support to NYOOOZ will help us to continue create and publish news for and from smaller cities, which also need equal voice as much as citizens living in bigger cities have through mainstream media organizations.

Stay updated with all the Pune Latest News headlines here. For more exclusive & live news updates from all around India, stay connected with NYOOOZ.

Related Articles