Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Paragliding Off a Hot Air Balloon: Raising the Level of Air Sports in the Philippines

Wazzup Pilipinas!

Air Sports in the Philippines is evolving. Paragliding is the up and coming new airsport which will hopefully be included in the SEA Games 2017 Malaysia, Asian Games 2018 Indonesia, 2019 SEA GMAES Philippines, 2020, Olympic Games Japan. Many countries are asking the NOC and IOC to include it.

For those who are unaware what paragliding is, Wikipedia explains paragliding as "a recreational and competitive adventure sport of flying paragliders: lightweight, free-flying, foot-launched glider aircraft with no rigid primary structure. The pilot sits in a harness suspended below a fabric wing comprising a large number of interconnected baffled cells. Wing shape is maintained by the suspension lines, the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing, and the aerodynamic forces of the air flowing over the outside.

Despite not using an engine, paragliders flight can last many hours and cover many hundreds of kilometers, though flights of one to two hours and covering some tens of kilometers are more the norm. By skillful exploitation of sources of lift, the pilot may gain height, often climbing to altitudes of a few thousand meters."

For 20 years at the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, this is the first time that a paragliding was included. Paragliding is free flying, without any motor, usually foot launched from a cliff. The Balloon fest is done in the Clark airport so since it’s flatland, paragliding is not usually included during this event.

This year was different. For the first time, PPHGA (Philippine Paragliding and Hang Gliding Association) was responsible for the segment of paragliding in the balloon fest in Clark, Pampanga. 
With the assistance of a tow winch to hoist the pilots up to the air so they can glide down, paragliding became a part of the balloon fest. Twins Anthony and Timothy Green, acrobatic champions from Annecy France, were invited to the Philippines to do acrobatic paragliding exhibition as part of the air show. Being very experienced with air shows, they were able to convince the organisers of the balloon festival to allow them to paraglide starting with a roll over from the Hot air balloon. This was never done in the Philippines. 

But this year, after seeing the credentials, the sample of what was to be done, and the safety equipment, the twins were allowed to do it. This raised the level of the air sports in the Philippines. Together with towing paragliders up to about 1500ft, before releasing to glide down, paragliding in the Philippines, has definitely reached a level that is equal to and maybe better than some of our SEA neighbours. 

Whats next for PPHGA? PPHGA will be training their pilots and hosting paragliding accuracy competitions to prepare the pilots and events venue for the SEA games, ASIAN Games and hopefully Olympics. Already a recognised organisation by the Federation Aeronautique International (FAI) through the NAC Philippines (National Airports Control), Philippine pilots can join international events and get international points in paragliding accuracy and cross country, the 2 events included in the games.

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