New possibilities for modern paragliders


Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau –
the panorama’s perfect, the weather too. Instructor Hanspeter Michel and his
colleague have earned their flight. They’ve hiked up to the take-off point
high above Interlaken. Hike and fly –
a test for the pilots. It definitely requires more experience
than if you fly just a little. You have to know a lot about weather
and how strong the wind is, you have to factor in
whether you’re allowed to fly, whether there’s an airspace ban
for certain areas. That calls for
good preparation. Great, isn’t it? I had to take
a photo too. The ibex are not disturbed
by anything here. They seem to be used to hikers. But that would be different
in a wildlife reserve. The duo would not be
allowed to take off there. And:
The paraglider pilots don’t just have to pay attention to ibex
and chamois, there’s other wildlife here too,
such as the golden eagle. A little further along this rock face,
where there’s a crevice, that’s the Rotenfluh. The game warden always tells us if the eagle’s breeding
there or not. If it isn’t, we can fly, if it is,
we have to stick to the rules. That’s often the case
in spring. There are no figures for this trend. But:
the number of paraglider pilots has increased steadily
over the last decade. This and in particular
the trend known as hike and fly is observed critically
by the wildlife specialist at the Federal Office for the Environment. That’s something
we’re concerned about. With the lightweight paragliders
that are available nowadays, up the mountain on foot, open the
glider and fly down into the valley – and especially at times
when it’s normally quiet in these areas – that’s
problematic for the wildlife. The hang gliding association
is aware of the problem, says President Urs Frei. But the
situation isn’t critical yet: We realize that
we have to be considerate. Because the
paraglider pilots no longer stick to
clearly defined areas with clearly defined
take-off and landing places, but simply climb
a mountain, and although it’s a trend, the numbers are still
relatively small, and they usually fly directly
down into the valley, we don’t think it’s
a really big problem. If I go somewhere
I’m not familiar with, I certainly have to get some information. The Swiss Hang Gliding Association
has a platform where you can see which areas
you can’t or shouldn’t fly into such as the no-hunting area
back by the Augstmatthorn. We wouldn’t be allowed to fly there. All the equipment fits
into the compact rucksacks. I’m now packing everything
I carried up, in my harness, the reversible harness,
and then we spread out the paraglider. Then we check
that everything’s OK and that we’re OK to take off –
and then we can fly. This new form of freedom on the mountain
shouldn’t come at the wildlife’s expense. The government, the game wardens and the
paraglider pilots all agree on that. And they rely on
local restrictions. There are likely to be more
of these in future.

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