This video, this single video, describes in absolute brief what we do, and what we face everyday. We hope to take-off at a designated time, but the winds do not always stand in our favour, making us not fly all our plans. When this video starts, you will see Nikolai explaining to the Deputy Commissioner, Bijapur, why the planned 7:00AM flight around Bijapur did not happen: he was very uncomfortable with the winds. The winds were anything but steady, and were pure crosswinds to the length of the field we hoped to use for takeoff. Wind speeds touched 20km/h, gusting. For the Powered Para Glider, which lacks a rigid wing and cruises at between 40-50km/h airspeed, such winds are anything but comfortable to fly with a trike, passenger, and a non-aerobatic para-gliding wing.
The video shows the windsock, and how it lacked direction, and was inconstant with winds experienced just 100 meters away. We also witnessed a dust-devil which (very hilariously, I must say), Nikolai verbally reacted to. Finally in the evening, when things appeared to be comparatively relaxed, but still turbulent, Nikolai took up in his aircraft his crew member, who had with him a bag full of pamphlets printed by the Election Commission, to drop from the air. Attached to Nikolai’s glide was a banner, with words in Kannada urging people to vote.
The takeoff was a close shave, as Nikolai struggled with the uncooperative winds, which forced him to use the width of the field as opposed to the length. Notice how close the powered para glider came to the football goal post and proximate trees, before climbing out to between 200 and 300ft AGL. Nikolai still had to struggle with gusts in flight!
The highlight of the day was the flight around the Gol-Gumbaz, which was requested by the Chief Election Officer at Bijapur. The Flying Engineer planned the flight, and the result is absolutely fantastic! We have the sky-down and the ground-up shots, and these make the whole day worth it. Absolutely worth the heat, the wait, the hours of disappointment, for an evening shot of the Gol Gumbaz, Bijapur! (The Gol Gumbaz (Persian گل گنبذ Gol Gombadh meaning “rose dome”) has the world’s second largest dome, after St. Peter’s Basilica. The Gol Gumbaz is the mausoleum of Mohammed Adil Shah, Sultan of Bijapur, and was completed in the year 1656 AD.)
This kind of flying is absolutely off-beat, with a non-rigid wing, low flying, and an “open" aircraft. The flights (weather permitting), co-ordination, and conduct are absolutely satisfying at the end. What finally brings a smile to us is the crowd, that cheer and look up at the aircraft. In one shot, the whole city or town is abuzz with excitement, while we drop the pamphlets, attaining our goal of effectively reaching out to almost every eligible voter in the most unexpected of ways: from the skies above.
Ah! Raw flying, and raw failures, call for raw repairs! Read how we brought a Lynx Headset to lie, overnight, in the midst of hectic flying for the Election Commission! Click HERE, or click on the image above to direct you to the “project”!
We had two: a great flier, and a great machine. I, the third, captured this amazing man and his beautiful machine in action, at Jakkur airfield.
Nikolai Singh runs the Meghalaya Paragliders Association, and he is the only paraglider pilot recognized by the Indian DGCA. He has a quality important for an aviator: He longs to leave the ground, yet knows his limits. He is constantly aware of what’s important, always keeping safety in mind. Rarely does he say, “let’s push it”, and when he says that, he more than knows what he is doing.
Nikolai has done some amazing work for brands such a Coca Cola, Vodafone (and a lot others; I will need to spend a week with him to document the “Chronicles of Nikolai”), and has had the Election Commission as a client many a time. Laser Flying, Projector Flying, Aerial Surveys, Videography: name it, and he’s done it, all with legal permits that he diligently keeps a record of!
Here are some photos (and a video at the end of this photo-entry) capturing what takes place, in brief, before a non-rigid wings takes you to the skies. Preparation is key; safety is paramount; everything else comes much later down the line. Which is why I felt absolutely comfortable and safe flying with him.
Nikolai runs his Cruiser Powered Paraglider (PPG), minus the wing, on the runway, making sure everything is right.
Once satisfied that all’s well, he positions the not-so-heavy Cruiser on the centreline. Honestly speaking, he doesn’t need a runway: he can take off from almost anywhere that satisfies his safety criteria.
His boys help him with the “de-flated” glider wing, securing the strings to the Cruiser. Nikolai checks every tie, to make sure all is in order.
Nikolai gets in, and straps himself in place. He’s checked everything, and knows he can assure his passenger’s safety.
Nik, strapped in, grabs the stings that he plays with. By deforming the wing, he achieves roll, yaw, and aerodynamic braking.
With the sun, and people he trusts behind him, he ensures the strings are free and good.
The non-rigid para-glider wing is actually more like a “biplane”. The ducts between the upper and the lower surface are responsible for the non-rigid wing to inflate and take shape, when sufficient airflow is available. By kick starting the engines, and applying take off power, the wing inflates, and rises. After that, it is sheer skill and experienced timing that ensures the wing remains up and inflated!
With sufficient airspeed and a well controlled wing, Nikolai takes us up, up and away, flying at between 40-50km/h!
Although the winds were significant, making Nikolai cut short the flight, the ride was smooth! One of the most comfortable air rides I’ve ever had, more comfortable and a lot more fun than that in a jetliner!
Banner, Paraglider, and Motor! Done by Nik for a Vodafone campaign!
I met a dynamic person today, Nikolai. You would find him ordinary at first. Simple, unassuming, humble. But tomorrow, he is going to pull off a feat over Bangalore: flying only 200ft off the ground in his motorized tricycle-cage suspended from a paraglider!
With all the permissions in place, and in radio contact with Bangalore HAL Radar (127.7Mhz), he will be flying with a banner: “Hurry – April 7 is the last day for enrolling to vote". His services are being used by the Election Commission, to increase awareness amongst the city’s stubborn voters.
Imagine: 200ft of pure freedom: the closest you can get to being a bird! All permissions in place!
Tomorrow (April 7th, 2013) morning’s pattern: (takeoff at 07:00 local from Jakkur), head over the flyover in front of Jakkur, to the Chinnaswamy stadium, over M.G. Road, Election Commission Office, over Majestic, City Railway Station, Back on M.G. Road, to Hennur Cross Road, and landing back at Jakkur. The flight will last for between 2 to 3 hours.
The evening flight pattern is yet to be finalised. The day after (April 8th) will see him fly out of Bangalore HAL airport. The pattern remains undecided.
200ft over a city: That’s how it’ll appear to him tomorrow when he flies over Bangalore!
So, get out for a not-so-normal Sunday, to spot an aviator: Nik from the Meghalaya Paragliding Association! A flight was planned today evening, but HAL issued a weather forecast that Nik laughed at! Nik has landed and taken off in crazy winds: significant crosswinds, which most turn white-knuckled in, but he confidently flies into!
He will not be foot launching, but will be flying in a Cruiser Powered Para Glider (similar to the one in the image on the left)
*Full width images from the Meghalaya Paragliding Association, thumbnail photo shows Nik (right) with Radio One RJ Prithvi (Left).