On Aug. 12 to 14, a flock of strange but beautifully colored birds was spotted in the sky near Clearwater.
These were not outer space specimens. It was the weekend of the annual El Nido Fly-In. Since 2008 Willy Rens and his wife Sigi have organised a meeting for paragliders and hang gliders.
A paraglider is a parachute where the pilot is hanging in a harness on thin lines, connected to the wing. A hang glider is a metal triangle with canvas over it making a solid wing . These pilots are hanging in a harness under the triangle and are holding on to a bar to steer the glider.
The whole weekend was blessed with nice weather and little fluffy clouds – perfect conditions to fly.
Pilots from different corners in Canada and even some Belgian pilots, got in the air for the El Nido take-off. This flying site was constructed by Willy and Sigi, with the help from neighbours and a local logging company. If you drive just past Birch Island, you can see the start place high up the hill.
With a paraglider or hang glider, you can fly up to more than 100 km, if the conditions are good. This weekend, some pilots made flights between 20 to 50 km, going up to 3,100 meter.
Johan Van Brussel from Belgium flew the best distance on a paraglider with a 29 km triangle while the best hang glider distance went to former Canadian national champion John Theoret from Saskatchewan with a triangle of 45 km.
There was a spot landing contest with participants landing on a two-by-two meter tarp. This was won by local Sigi Vermeulen, Belgian visitor Ils VD Weygaert and Kamloops pilot Dale Schneider.
It might have been possible that you have found someone landing close to your backyard or near the grocery store. The ones that were less adventures landed safely in the big field at Birch Island, in front of Dee’s General Store who are very supportive of the air sport. The organizers and participants appreciate the hospitality and support from the owner of the landing zone.
If you think that flying is only for the happy few, you’re wrong. Thanks to modern technology and research, you can easily learn to fly. The best way to learn what paragliding is all about is going for a tandem flight … visualize yourself in the sky and ‘be that bird’.
Believe me, once you’ve done it, you will know why birds are singing!