India is all set to host its first AAI Paragliding World Cup 2015 to be held in Himachal Pradesh's Bir-Billing from October 24. This area of Himachal Pradesh (40 km from Kangra town) is a popular site for paraglider pilots, both Indians as well as visitors from all over the world.
The paragliding launch site is in the meadow at Billing (14 km north of Bir), at an elevation of 2400 metres, while the landing site at Bir is located at 1360 metres.
Sudhir Sharma, president of the Billing Paragliding Association, the event organising club, said a total of 130 paragliders from 35 countries have confirmed their participation. Eights pilots are from India. They include Ajay Kumar and Gurpreet Dhindsa — the best pilots in the country.
A French contingent with 13 pilots will showcase their skills in the event. The top-ranking pilots who have confirmed their participation in the event are Julien Wirtz of France, who is ranked World No. 1, Vidic Jurij of Slovenia and Torsten Siegel of Germany. Jurij, Wirtz and Siegel hold the second, third and fourth spots, respectively, in the world and also in Europe.
Andreas Malecki of Germany, who held the World No.1 rank from September 2011 to February 2012, and Maxine Pinot of France, World No. 8 and winner of 2014 Super Cup in Turkey, are also among the top participants. The paragliders also include about 12 women, including former World No. 1 Klaudia Bulgakow of Poland, who also won the 2013 Pre-World Cup at Bir-Billing.
While the state government and the Billing Paragliding Association would jointly organise the event from October 24 to 31, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) would be the title sponsor.
The first four Paragliding World Cup this year were held in Baixu Guandu in Brazil (April); Montalegre in Portugal (July); Disentis in Switzerland (August) and Ager in Spain (August).
The World Cups are followed by an annual Super Cup, which will be held in January next year in Valle de Bravo in Mexico.
The Billing Paragliding Association has been entrusted with the responsibility of conducting the World Cup with the help of the Paragliding World Cup's apex body based in France.
The association is affiliated to the Aero Club of India, which is recognized by Federation Aeronatique International, the world body which was set up in 1905.
The AAI Paragliding World Cup would have the highly endangered snow leopard as the mascot.
The world record of an out-and-return flight of 132.5 km was set in Bir-Billing in 1992. "We will soon set up a national institute to promote Aero sports in Bir-Billing," Mr. Singh said.
(With inputs from IANS)