Adventure enthusiasts fell in love with aero sports at Wings 2007, and also contributed to a cause, writes K. JESHI

It is called a zorb. An inflatable, transparent, sphere made from PVC. And, it sends you rolling head over heels downhill. All that is needed is a gentle slope and someone to push the zorb with you safely harnessed inside. Adventure lovers of Coimbatore took a ride to kickstart a weekend packed with adventure, all for a cause.Titled Wings 2007, this annual fundraiser event of Coimbatore Acme Round Table No.133, introduced civilians to the thrills of aero sports and generated funds for building a four-classroom block for the Vadavalli Middle School.

A fundraiser

Zorbing, parasailing, microlight flying, hot air ballooning and a display of aero modelling were all part of the show at the Kari Memorial Race track in Chettipalayam. "We have provided infrastructure in 12 schools in Coimbatore and want to do it for more schools through such annual fundraisers," says Vikram Mohan, convenor. "After rallying and motor sports, we have introduced adventure sports and the response is overwhelming," he adds. Fifty tickets were sold out and, with support from sponsors, Rs. 7 lakh was generated. Experts were roped in to ensure safety. "Adventure sports is as safe as you make them," says Shyamala Jayashankar, who heads the National Adventure Foundation, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry chapter, which provided technical support along with a group of adventure experts and retired service officers.

Like a bird

If the conventional two-seater microlight X-air took them to the skies like a bird, parasailing gave them the joy of being held aloft in the wind. "Microlight flying gives the passenger an absolute cockpit environment feeling and an opportunity to feel the control case (the rudders and ailerons) of an aircraft. In parasailing, the rider is hitched to a parachute and set aloft in the air. And the parachute attached to a long tow rope is pulled along by a speeding vehicle, hoisting the pilot up into the air," says one of the organisers. Parasailing can be done over land as well as water (aqua sailing). "A place like Tirumoorthi dam near Coimbatore is ideal for adventure sports. The Nilgiris is apt for paragliding and water sports. The weather conditions in Coimbatore are suitable for aero sports, especially between November and March," he adds.Awareness on adventure among youth is the key to bringing in more civilian participation. "Zorbing is a good way to start. It removes the fear factor. Though these are low risk sports, one must be physically fit," the experts explain.Pawan Kaula's aerobatics with his long-EZ airplane was an added excitement. "He performed a loop, roll over and low overshoots. Coonoor-based Pawan has sourced the aircraft kit and assembled the micro light aircraft," says Chennai-based retired squadron leader Unni Nair.

Destination South

"The hilly terrain, land and water resources make South India an ultimate adventure destination in aero sports, land sports and water sports," he says. Learning the basics of aeroplane operation is vital to ignite the spirit of adventure in youth, says S. Prakash, aero modelling expert. "In aero modelling, aircraft models are operated through remote control from the ground. Here, one gets to understand the four channels of operation in an aeroplane the elevator (up and down movement) the ailerons (right and left movement) rudders for tracking and some aerobatics and engine controls," he adds.The exposure comes in handy for students wanting to take up careers as pilots. "Apart from training, knowledge of weather and wind conditions also helps explore adventure sports ," he says.

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