Over 170 pilots to fly in Himachal skies for title

Over 170 pilots from 20 countries have registered for the seven-day 2018 Indian Open to be held in the mighty Dhauladhar range, considered one of the world’s finest aero sports sites, in Himachal Pradesh from Sunday, organisers said on Saturday.

The event, organised by the state’s Tourism Department, has been recognised by the world air sports federation the Federation Aeronautique Internationale and the Aero Club of India.

“After screening nearly 100 pilots holding world-card ranking would be allowed to participate in the championship that will conclude on November 3,” event organiser Vikas Shukla told IANS.

Before the start of official competitions, a handgliding show will be held of Bir-Billing in Kangra district, some 300 km from the state capital.

Sheltered by mountains and surrounded by rolling tea gardens, Bir-Billing is considered one of the finest aero sports sites.

Event organisers said the take-off site at Billing, situated at a height of 2,325 metres, has been refurbished. The landing site at Bir, located at 1,360 metres height, has also been developed for safe landing.

Bir, also home to Tibetan refugees and Buddhist monasteries, and the take-off point of Billing are separated by 14 km.

The top scorers of the 2018 Indian Open will qualify for the Paragliding World Cup to be held next year in Brazil.

In Bir-Billing, initially hand-gliding was started in 1984 by Israeli pilots. Thereafter, paragliding was started in 1992 by French pilots.

The state government hosted the Paragliding Pre-World Cup from 2002 to 2007 at Bir-Billing.

Then Paragliding Category-II and national championships were started by the state Youth Services and Sports Department.

In the past five years, local club the Billing Paragliding Association organised the event.

With the mighty Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas in its backdrop, Bir-Billing’s name has also been included in international circuits for steady thermals.