A South Korean national died in the last week of January when he fell off while enjoying paragliding in Pokhara. A glider from Romania lost his life in a similar manner a few days later. These incidents show paragliding accidents is on the rise in the lake city. People involved in the business say the number of accidents is increasing as learners, solo flyers and professional tandem pilots use the same airspace.
Paragliding pilots say that chances of accident are high in peak tourist season when crowded airspace makes them difficult to conduct flight. The chances of collision are high in peak season as the number of gliders is increasing with every passing year, they added.
Sano Babu Sunuwar, a paragliding pilot, said the risk of collision has increased as the government allows learners, solo flyers and professional tandem pilots to use the same airspace. “We have to be very careful while flying as the sky is very crowded during peak season,” he added.
To become a professional pilot, one needs to complete 1,200 flying hours. That is why learners keep flying for the whole day. Similarly, many companies in Pokhara are giving paragliding training to local youth as it is expensive to hire foreign pilots.
Accidents also happen because foreigners, who take permission from Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) for solo flights, are not aware of the crowded Pokhara sky, according to pilots.
“It is high time the government allocated a different spot for learners and solo flyers,” said Sunuwar. The number of paragliding companies in Pokhara has reached 22. Of them 19 take off from Sarangkot and remaining three operate from Torepani. October-November and February-April are regarded as the peak season for paragliding in Pokhara.
In these months, as many as 300 flights are conducted on a daily basis. Sobit Baniya, vice president of Nepal Air Sports Association, said risk of accident is increasing as Pokhara sky is getting crowded with every passing day. “We are having talks with government officials to shift solo flyers and learners to a different place,” he said, adding, “Paragliding companies should also realize that learners have increased risk of accidents.”