- Highlights Tourism
Yukesh Gurung is the youngest paragliding pilot in Nepal who had won a silver medal for Nepal in paragliding sports during the 18th South Asian Games. Pilot Gurung, who is just 19 years old now had started learning about paragliding stealthily when he was just 9 years old.
He had become a Solo pilot at the age of 12. He had obtained formal basic training in paragliding in 2013 after which he got his paragliding license and now he has been paragliding in Nepal for almost 8 years. The Creative Editor of Highlights Tourism, Anita Gurung recently interviewed pilot Gurung. The excerpt of the interview is as follows:
What inspired you to become a paragliding pilot?
It was my home environment. The paragliding landing site was near my home. All pilots used to come to my house and take snacks there. Besides, my father was a pilot. I touched the paragliding equipment when I was just 9 years old. I used to learn about basic training in ground handling of paragliding after school hours. I did ground handling very secretly. Then my father enrolled me in paragliding training.
At that time, I thought of just flying without caring much for my safety. Now I realize that had I made a single mistake at that time, I would not have come to this place.
What is the difference between Tandem and Solo flight?
Solo is a free flight. But Tandem flight requires the safety of passengers and it is a professional flight, while in a solo flight the pilot can do anything. The equipment is the main thing for paragliding as well as the pilot’s attitude and his skill.
Can you tell us about your experience during the 18th South Asian Games?
At that time, we went to Indonesia and started practice. We won the silver medal in the cross country race. We just lost to Japan by only a few points and got the silver medal. When we returned home we were welcomed by all and we felt proud of ourselves.
What are you planning to do next?
I am aiming to go for one of the toughest paragliding competitions known as “Red Bull X-Alps” where around 30 athletes participate from all over the world. This event starts from a place known as Salzburg of Austria and finishes in Monaco. This involves hiking and flying in the Alps in Europe covering more than 1000 km.
What is the prospect of paragliding in Nepal?
For Tandem flight, the main thing is that all pilots should be united. My pilot number is 300. There are more than 350 pilots currently and the number of pilots should be limited and managed well after the international airport comes into existence in Pokhara.
What is your passion?
My interest in Tandem flight is for money, while my passion is for solo paragliding. Therefore, cross country and doing solo flight is in my blood. My passion is for solo paragliding. I have already done solo flights in Dharan, Bandipur, and Syangja. I have done solo flights in India, Korea, China, and Indonesia as well.
What are the challenges of being the youngest pilot?
There are no such major challenges for me. However, since this is a form of recreational sports, sometimes I have to deal with senior passengers. But I know how to convince them about my skill. So far I have flown over 500 passengers. I have flown younger passengers except for a few older ones. They trust me when they know about my Asian Games achievement.
What were your most challenging moment and the happiest moment in paragliding?
The final of the Asian Games was the most challenging moment where I found myself in decreased altitude and it was difficult to gain altitude. I regretted my mistake at that time. That was the best and worst moment for me because I immediately gained control over myself. For me, the Bandipur flight was the happiest one as I got to see a beautiful sunset while flying.
During a Tandem flight, what do you have to be aware of the most?
In a Tandem flight, we have to see the safety and health condition of the passenger. We have to make the passenger more comfortable. The main priority for us is the safety of the passenger.
What about your study?
I continue my study in the morning time in class 12. I have classes till 10:30 am and after classes are over, I go to do my Tandem flight and then go for a solo flight. I have already appeared in the final examination of class 12. I will soon join a university to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
Can people make a living through paragliding?
Paragliding can be a survival profession. But it is not like the previous flights done earlier. One flight can fetch you Rs. 2000 per flight and hardly two flights in a day can make you earn Rs. 4000 in a day. It means around one hundred thousand rupees can be earned in a month. The number of pilots is growing as the number of paragliding companies has grown and this has brought in more unfair competition. There is a lot of politics in paragliding and no one cares about others. There is a policy but no one cares about the policy and no one implements the right policy.
What is your advice to aspiring paragliding pilots?
This line of the job has its sorts of difficulties. If you wish to do solo flights, you can find more joy than struggles. But if you are aspiring to become a Tandem pilot, you need to be ready to face struggles and put in the dedicated effort.
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