Himachal revokes ban on para-gliding as CWG ends


Shimla : The Himachal Pradesh government Friday revoked the suspension of aero-sports in the state imposed as a security measure for the duration of the Commonwealth Games, bringing cheer to paragliding enthusiasts.

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K.K. Saroch, sub-divisional magistrate of Baijnath (Kangra district), told IANS: “Hang-gliders and micro-light aeroplanes have been allowed to operate in Bir-Billing area. We started issuing flier cards to pilots Friday morning.”

The civil aviation ministry had imposed restrictions on aero-sports activities in the state Oct 1 in view of the security for the Games.

“Initially, the ban was to be enforced till Oct 20. Later, the state government reduced the duration after consulting the ministry,” he added.

Stephen Purdie, a flying instructor from the Airworks Paragliding Centre in Britain, told IANS on phone, “It’s great to be allowed to fly again. I will try to make optimum use of my remaining flying hours.”

He wrote a missive to government functionaries, demanding the ban be lifted.

“The irony is that it was a sporting event that caused so much distress to a large number of sportsmen and women who have saved all year, in terms of both leave and money, to come to India to fly,” he wrote in his letter.

Local Billing Paragliding Association vice-president Suresh Thakur said 85 foreign paragliders, mainly from the US, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada and Britain, were waiting for the ban to be lifted.

He said the ban was imposed without giving any notice in advance. “More than 40 pilots have already left till now,” he added.

Sheltered by mountains and surrounded by rolling tea gardens, Bir-Billing, situated at a height of 2,290 metres, is considered to be one of the finest aero-sports sites in the world.

The state government is organising a four-day Himalayan Open Paragliding Championship at Bir-Billing from Oct 29.

The Aero Club of India is providing technical support to the event.

Pilots can log on to http://himachal.gov.in/yss/ to get more information about the championship.