It was a life changing experience for me, no doubt about that.
I got in touch with the Temple Pilots Paragliding institute, Pune, for the first time in 2016 but could not do a course due to some personal reasons. I got interested again in 2017, but the greatest disaster of my life, so far, happened to me in Italy so I could not fly in 2017 too. Coming out of the Italy misfortune took some time but I was dying to fly. Finally, this year in March, I completed my APPI (based in Switzerland) certified 10 days’ Adventure Pilot (Level 2) course from Temple Pilots, the number one paragliding institute in India. One of my dreams came true.
My day 1 training started at the Shinde Hill but from day 2 till day 10 the training site was at the Pawna Hill (Located by the Pawna Lake, Elevation – 400 ft).
I must say that the training was rigorous. A normal training day started with breakfast, followed by the debriefing session by the instructors about the last day’s practical session. Next, we had to attend theoretical classes and some simulator training. After lunch we used to take a short nap and then around 2:30 pm we had to ride a bus which took us to the flying site. On the exam (written & verbal) day, we had to write a paper in the morning in addition to the other morning activities. I had to give a total of three verbal exams and three written exams to get qualified for the APPI 2 level, i.e. the adventure pilot level.
All the trainers were awesome – Ganpat Sir, Sachin Sir, Ankush Sir, Jitu Sir(Jets), Gasnesh Sir, Vikas Sir, Santosh Sir, Sagar Sir, Akash Sir and everybody else. I will be grateful to all of them for their sincere and passionate guidance.
On day two, after doing some ‘Hopping Run’ on the ground the instructors told me that I am ready for my first solo flight. Ganpat Sir asked me are you nervous? I just shook my head to say no, looking at the endless sky in front of me and the beautiful Pawna Lake from the 400 ft Pawna Hill top, however inside me, my heart was beating faster.
I did my first solo flight and most certainly it was a simple top-down flight – Taking off , flying straight and landing. I was listening to the instructors so intensely over the radio that I could not enjoy or concentrate on the landscapes at all. My first priority was to fly safe and land safely and I did it.
From day three I slowly learnt to do ‘Hands free’ flying which gave me the ultimate confidence on my glider. With my elevated confidence level, I was able to do several practical tasks such as the Ridge Soaring, Active Piloting, 360 degree turns, Big Air and so on and so forth. The more I flew, the more I felt my glider and the more fun I got.
From day five to day ten I was given enough freedom to fly independently although, occasionally, the instructors rightly pointed out my mistakes and I corrected them immediately. The sky was mine. The hills, the trails, the lovely Pawna Lake, the rivers, the roads, the Sunset everything was getting captured into my memory through my eyes for ever. I realized that indeed, life is a gift.
I made friendship with so many people – starting from the retired paratrooper from the Indian Army to the one of the famous music directors of Bollywood at present. I miss all of them now, I really do.
I became very emotional on my last day. Suddenly I realized that my ten days are over and now I have to leave. I bid good buy to all my friends and to all the landscapes with a promise to come back soon.
Picture courtesy – Neenad Joseph Arul