These paragliding pilots came all the way from Europe, but they could not fly

Published On: November 1, 2022 07:35 PM NPT By: Santosh Pokharel

POKHARA, Nov 1: A paragliding pilot from Spain stayed at the office of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) in Pokhara for three hours a few days ago. The reason the foreigner spent three hours at the authority was to get permission for paragliding.

However, the authority has now stopped solo paragliding flights in the Sarangkot area. At present, the authority has given permission only for tandem (commercial) paragliding flights in the skies here.

The pilot returned disappointed after not getting the permission to fly. Now that the authority has stopped solo paragliding flights in the skies here, many pilots like the Spanish pilot are in trouble at present. Many foreign pilots who came from Europe to fly in the skies of Pokhara have now stopped in Pokhara, according to the tourism entrepreneurs here.

The regulatory body of Nepal's aviation sector has banned paragliding flights except for commercial ones in the skies of Sarangkot. After the paragliding accident in Sarangkot on October 16, which resulted in human casualty, the authority has allowed the use of the skies of Sarangkot for commercial flights only. However, foreign pilots who have come from Europe with their own gliders to fly in the skies of Pokhara are forced to return empty-handed.

“Some 10-12 foreign pilots have come to fly solo in the skies of Pokhara. However, they have not been able to fly," said Nepal's first paragliding pilot, Rajesh Bamjan, "They came from Europe to fly and are waiting. However, the authority has not given permission to them. The flight permission of some of them has been canceled as well.”

According to Bamjan, Pokhara has become just a transit for guests in recent times. However,  paragliding pilots are long-term guests. They stay in the lake city for at least two weeks to two months. When they fly, they pay taxes to the government as well as spend in restaurants and hotels. “As solo paragliding flights are being stopped without alternatives, tourism entrepreneurs in Pokhara are at a loss,” he said.

Similarly, he said that while the skies of Toripani and Sarangkot are used for commercial flights, the nearby Mandredhunga and Dhikidanda are suitable for solo paragliding flights. “These places are suitable as one can fly for a long time. We should study it immediately and open the flight for solo paragliding," said Pilot Club President Bimal Pahari. "We should not disappoint the guests who came to fly in the skies of Pokhara all the way fromEurope. Foreigners who have returned without flying now may not come back in the future. This will further damage Nepal's tourism.”

According to Krishan Bhandari, the outgoing president of Nepal Air Sports Association (NAA), the umbrella organization of paragliding professionals, the authority will designate a place for solo flights on the recommendation of the professionals. He said that a place for solo flights should be found in the area near Pokhara. He said that airspace will be allocated for solo flights within December. “Solo paragliding is what made Pokhara paragliding famous. Now there is no place for it," Bhandari said, "Therefore, management is needed immediately as this is the time for foreign pilots to come to fly.” 


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