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Special Interview : Paragliding – Glide Across the Heavens

By: Atika Denan Lee | Images By: Tamuasia/Orkid Jamilah Awang

Recently TamuAsia met with a couple who run the Paragliding Flight Park in Jugra, Banting, Selangor since the past few years. Husband and wife team Capt (Rtd) Mohd Ikhwan Azilah and Orkid Jamilah Awang are true adventure enthusiasts. They spent many years and money gaining experience, and even travelled to Indonesia and New Zealand to attain internationally recognised certifications in paragliding.

The last brief instructions, a run, then the big jump…!

Capt. Ikhwan is a confident man with an infectious passion for paragliding. He does not just do it on the weekends or when he has the opportunity to go on holiday. No, he is a Professional Paragliding Pilot who runs this full off-the-side Flight Park in the foothills of Jugra every day as a passionate job.

When it comes to paragliding, many people think first of a resort-like setting. However, for this interview, we headed to the innovatively modified and comfy container houses park where Capt. Ikhwan and his wife Orkid work every day, which is at the forefront of the trend for air adventure sport activities in Malaysia.

Considering the fact that Capt. Ikhwan spends every day jumping off the side, I expected him to be hyper; however, he was calm and relaxed as we sat down for drinks and question time. To know more about paragliding with Capt. (Rtd) Ikhwan, read on for our interview with the person himself.

What is Paragliding?

Paragliding is described as the 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.

Paragliding is seen as quite a dangerous sport. How can people ensure that they are safe when they go up in the air for the first time?  In short, is paragliding safe?

Well, actually, Paragliding is one of the safest sports in the world. The only thing that can go wrong is human error. Every time my crew or I set off into the air for a tandem ride with customers, we find out exactly what the predicted weather and wind speeds for that day will be.

We know the environment and layout of the land like the back of our hands. We have already tripled checked all the equipment and briefed the customers on all dos-and-don’ts. Once the customers are kitted up in the safety gear, we complete the last check.

Our Professional Paragliding Pilots have more than 15 years combined experience in paragliding so our confidence and expert knowledge helps to calm down nervous customers. There are simple rules and if you obey them every single time, nothing should go wrong.

What are the main components of paraglider equipment and how does it fly?

A paraglider is an advanced evolutionary aircraft that can go places and do things unlike any other vehicle. The entire basic paragliding set – wing, harness and helmet weighs less than fifteen kilos and easily fits into a backpack.

With training, it is easy to transport, easy to launch, and easy to land. The paraglider itself is constructed of rip-stop nylon from which the pilot is suspended by sturdy Kevlar/dynema lines. All paragliders are shock and load tested for safety. The pilot is seated in the harness and connected to the glider in a sitting position. The pilot can choose the sitting inclination for maximum comfort as desired.

How does a paraglider launch?

To fly a paraglider properly, you must understand not only how the equipment works, but how the wind works as well. But first, perform a safety equipment check. Are you strapped in tight to your harness? Does your helmet fit snugly on your head? Is your canopy properly laid out and are you properly attached to it?

Of course, you can’t start flying until you figure out how to get off the ground. We call this the launch. Face up to the wind and run or walk confidently forward. Pull on the wing, which will cause it to start filling with air. Soon, the wing will transform from a piece of fabric dragging behind you on the ground into an inflated canopy rising over your head. The term for inflating the wing while you’re on the ground is kiting.

At this point, the wing is getting above you and catching some airflow. Use the brakes to retain control of the wing and do an overhead check to ensure the wing is fully inflated and no lines are tangled. Now it’s time for the final phase. Run down your designated slope to work up to flying speed. Sometimes all you need here is a brisk walking pace. Your wing rises and gently picks you up with it. You look down and your feet are no longer touching the ground. You’re flying!

“Siti Bahijah, flight solo for 6 months now, she loves being up in the air where she can fly freely, forget about work for a while and enjoy the breathtaking view of Jugra. Her advice to our readers out there, challenge yourself, conquer any fear, come and try paragliding, it is safe and fun”.

 

TamuAsia reader Ahmad Nazhan Najib at 8 years old the youngest to try paragliding at Jugra Hill.

How long does a paraglider flight last?

Despite not using an engine, if desired, paraglider flights 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 recreational norm. By skillful exploitation of sources of lift, the pilot may gain height, often climbing to altitudes of a few thousand meters.

Is it a sport for women?

Yes! In Malaysia maybe not that many try, but in the rest of the world, some women have won world championships.

What about Fitness? Do you have to be super fit?

Certainly not, you don’t have to be fighting fit or be a runner and such. If you can run a few yards without becoming exhausted, you can fly.

Do you have any advice for those interested to try paragliding?

Yes. Trust your pilot! If you want to try paragliding, try it with your Certified Instructor/Pilot. For those who dream of soaring like a bird, paragliding is the simplest way to get into the air.  The whole aircraft is foot launched and highly manoeuvrable to allow the pilots to make the most of the natural rising currents of air which are their only source of lift.  No noise or pollution is involved – these are truly environmentally friendly sports, entirely powered by the sun via its effect on air movement.  Expert pilots who know how to exploit these natural phenomena can practically travel incredible distances.

The interview with Capt. Ikhwan taught me a lot about paragliding… However, the prize of the day was to actually Tandem Paraglide with the Pilot himself and yes: that was exhilaratingly fun! The thrilling flying experience will leave you wanting more. A big thank you to Capt. (Rtd) Ikhwan Azilah and his lovely wife Kak Orkid for having us, TamuAsia at the most relaxed and cosy place – the container house here at Jugra Hill.

About The Association

As the first pioneers of paragliding in Malaysia, their exciting journey towards professionalism began a few years ago and since then they have fully registered a body with the Ministry of Youth and Sport Malaysia as Persatuan Luncur Udara Malaysia or in short PLUM.

For those interested to try Paragliding, please contact the Paragliding Flight Park at

Tel: +60193564061 or email: plummalaysia@yahoo.com

 

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