Mon, 25 Dec 2000

The joy of soaring like an eagle


Young executives in Jakarta have turned their attention to more challenging sports in which to spend their spare time. They need more than just playing golf, tennis or squash.

Speeding on jetskis, watching the blue sky in a glider, paragliding from the Gunung Mas area in Puncak, whitewater rafting in several rivers in Gunung Halimun West Java or playing paintball war have become the latest trend.

For some its the thrill of trying something new while for others these adventure sports are a relief from stress.

The Jakarta Post's Ivy Susanti and Novan Iman Santosa look into this new trend. -------------------------------------------------------------------------

JAKARTA (JP): Centuries ago Leonardo da Vinci shocked people with his statement that people could fly. His work and belief in this concept has encouraged people to find ways of how to fly.

Nowadays, flying in the sky is no longer a dream. And you can do it right here in Greater Jakarta.

There are numerous varieties of aerosports, all under the supervision of the Indonesian Aerosport Federation (FASI), -- parachuting, paragliding, parasailing, gantole, gliding, ultra light and aeromodelling.

If you want to fly high like a bird, then it is time to try gliding and paragliding (some call it hang-gliding) and fulfill your dream.

Gliding is basically flying with a non-powered airplane or the glider. To take off, it has to be towed by another airplane up to a certain altitude before being released to fly on its own.

Paragliding is so called as it combines a parachute with gliding by using a special type of parachute to enable the participant to soar high.

Both of these aerosports take full advantage of a thermal or hot air to keep them aloft. The best time to do these sports is during the dry season when the sun shines brightly.

The Pondok Cabe airfield in Ciputat has been the home for several aerosports, such as free-fall parachuting, glider, home-made airplanes, trike and ultralight flying but many people would be unaware of the airfields existence.

Gliding basic

Wiwin Anggono, a senior pilot who started flying in 1976, told of the feeling of peace he has as well as the challenge he experiences when flying gliders.

"When flying gliders, we must fully utilize the atmospherics to stay aloft. The challenge is how to find a thermal to keep us aloft. Once we take off, our altitude will determine the distance we can glide and you need the help of thermal for this," he said.

"That's why it's important to have weather forecasts before taking off to get information such as cloud formation and ground heating. Otherwise, we'll have to land soon", he added.

Another challenge is finding a safe place to land. That's why a glider pilot keeps looking down while flying.

It is forbidden for glider pilots to enter cloud formations as it is hazardous.

"When entering a cloud formation, you lose your visual orientation which is very dangerous. A further danger is that cloud formations have suction power which glider craft are unable to cope with or adjust to because it doesn't have an engine", Wiwin said.

Wiwin, while claiming to be a week-end pilot, holds the national record for cross country flying which he achieved at the 2000 National Games in East Java. He glided a distance of some 172 kilometers from Malang to Cepu. Gliding has been incorporated in the Games since 1969 and also for a seventh time at the Games in Surabaya.

Another senior pilot, Bob Gondokusumo, said it does not take much to be a glider pilot.

"All you need is perseverance and seriousness. There is no complicated test at all as long as you have a healthy body."

Bob, who operates a flying school, said that if students have a lesson every weekend, they can finish the course in three months.

Asked how much one has to pay, Bob merely said "it is expensive."

Modern glider costs some US$80,000, dual-seat trainer costs between $100,000 and $125,000 while towing aircraft single-engine Husky costs $100,000.


If you want direct contact with cold thin air, then you should try paragliding. One of the best places for this aerosport is at the Gunung Mas area in the Puncak resort, West Java.

This area is also known for another aerosport: gantole.

One of senior paragliders, Gendon Soebandono, said paragliders are more like pilots than freefall parachutists.

"We enjoy every time we're in the sky, starting from when we take off. Unlike parachutists, we are trying to keep a loft as long as possible."

"In paragliding, the goal is to reach the farthest distance or the highest altitude with the help of a thermal", he said.

Another paraglider, Munir, said that when he was paragliding in the air he felt closer to God.

"You put yourself in the hands of God because nature plays a great role in paragliding. You'll realize how insignificant and small you are as soon as you take off."

"But then when you land, you'll turn into your Dajjal (demonic) same old self as usual," he said jokingly.

Munir recounted an experience he had in 1998 when another paraglider collided into his parachute. He was spiraling out of control for about 300 meters before being saved by a tree.

There are so many good locations in Indonesia suitable for paragliding, besides the one in the Puncak area.

"The Songgoriti area of Malang in East Java is another good site for paragliding as well as the Timbris area of Nusa Dua Beach in Bali. In Timbris you can stay aloft from 9 a.m. until about 9 p.m. nonstop because the weather is very good there," said Munir.

"And if you're hungry, you just have to come down and hover close enough to the ground so as your friends can give you a snack and then up you go again."

Other good places include Parangtritis in Yogyakarta, Maninjau Lake in West Sumatra, Toba Lake in North Sumatra, and Palu in Southeast Sulawesi.

It doesn't really take long to become a paraglider, said Gendon.

"New pilots can take eight days for their first training session and should do two days consecutively while the rest can be done anytime," he said.

Ideally though a student should do the training for the eight straight days, which cost Rp 1.5 million.

However, if you want to have your own parachute you have to pay more.

"And it's quite expensive. It costs some $2,000 to $3,000." Up, up and away, see you in the clouds.