Strengthening National Aerosports
The year beginning saw the government take a major step forward in keeping with its Khelo India programme to revive the sports culture in India and make it a great sporting nation, by announcing on January One the National Aerosports Policy (NAP).
The draft policy had been on the drawing board for a year, and the policy paper says that it aims to make India one of the top air sports nations by 203O.
Though a new sport in the country, Aero sports is gaining popularity as it has a special appeal for those who want to experience the joy of flying and the country offers excellent locations for all types of flying sports such as paragliding, hang gliding and ballooning.
As an official of the Civil Aviation Ministry which will be the nodal ministry for this sport said “to make air sports affordable to the common public, the government will request the GST Council to consider rationalising the GST rate on air sports equipment to 5% or less. The vision is to make India one of the top air sports nations by 2030 (through) a safe, affordable, accessible, enjoyable and sustainable air sports ecosystem.”
Elaborating further, the official said fixed locations for air sports can be declared as a ‘control zone’ with necessary permissions from (authorities including) local air traffic control. This will enable hassle-free flying by air sports enthusiasts in such control zones without creating any risk to national security or safety of other manned aircraft.
As part of the move to boost Aerosport in the country, the policy paper said that an Air Sports Federation of India (ASFI) will be established as the apex governing body.
In keeping with the move to encourage Aerosports, an airspace map of India has been published on DGCA’s DigitalSky Platform (https://digitalsky.dgca.gov.in) segregating the entire airspace of India into red, yellow and green zones.
As officials said that “air sports practitioners may rely on this easily accessible map for guidance. Operation in red and yellow zones requires permission from central government and the concerned ATC authority respectively. Operation in green zones for aircraft with all-up weight up to 500 kg does not require any permission.”
The policy covers a wide range of air sports activities such as air-racing, aerobatics, aeromodelling, hang gliding, paragliding, paramotoring, vintage aircraft, ballooning, drones and skydiving.
According to the draft policy, other than the direct revenue from air sports activities, the multiplier benefits in terms of growth of travel, tourism, infrastructure and local employment, especially in hilly areas of the country, are much greater.
It said that that the creation of air sports hubs across the country will bring in air sports professionals and tourists from across the world.
Hang gliding is a simple and popular air sport which is both recreational and competitive closely related to paragliding but using a much simpler and less expensive craft consisting of an aluminum- or composite-framed fabric wing, with the pilot mounted on a harness hanging from the wing frame and exercising control by shifting body weight.
The objective is always to stay airborne in lifting currents of air and – for many – to undertake long cross country flights.
The recreational flying sport, paragliding is a fun, thrill and safe way to experience flight in its simplest form.
There are two types of paragliding: single and tandem, with tandem paragliding one can enjoy the thrill of flying without learning how to paraglide. Many schools and flying clubs in India offer courses in paragliding. The main destinations for paragliding in India range from hilly to coastal regions and from planes to desert regions.
Hot air ballooning has been in the country for sometime and the attraction of it is that it is quiet and gives a bird’s eye view of the countryside.
Although hot air balloons had been experimented since 1700s but the modern hot air balloons, with an onboard heat source, were developed by Ed Yost, beginning during the 1950s. His work resulted in his first successful flight on October 22, 1960. The first modern hot air balloon to be made in the United Kingdom (UK) was the Bristol Belle, built in 1967. Presently, hot air balloons are used primarily for recreation.
Hot air balloons are able to fly to extremely high altitudes. On November 26, 2005 Vijaypat Singhania set the world altitude record for highest hot air balloon flight, reaching 21,027 m (68,986 ft). He took off from downtown Mumbai, India, and landed 240 km (150 mi) south in Panchale. The previous record of 19,811 m (64,997 ft) had been set by Per Lindstrand on June 6, 1988, in Plano, Texas.
A rapidly developing aerosport which brings the dream of personal flight to everyone is Para Motoring.
Paramotoring or “Powered Paragliding” (PPG) is the latest in foot-launched ultralight aircraft. Around since the early 1980s, Paramotoring has its origins in hang gliding and is an evolution of paragliding.
In Paramotoring the pilot wears a motor on their back (a paramotor) which provides enough thrust to take off using an adapted paraglider or paramotor wing. It can be launched in still air, and on level ground, by the pilot alone — no assistance is required.
A Paramotor is a fair weather machine and has a fuel duration of up to 3.5 hours, making cross-country flying a possibility.
Parachuting, or skydiving, is a method of transiting from a high point to Earth with the aid of gravity, involving the control of speed during the descent with the use of a parachute. Skydiving is kind of a sport involving a skydiver to jump down from an airplane while it is flying and parachuting to the ground.
As air sports by their very nature involve a higher level of risk than flying a regular aircraft, NASP 2022 places strong focus on ensuring international best practices in safety.
To ensure that best practices and safety standards are adhered to, the policy document has recommended the establishment of Air Sports Federation of India (ASFI).
This body would ensure that inability of air sports associations to enforce safety standards may lead to penal action by the ASFI against such association including financial penalties, suspension or dismissal, said the draft document which has been placed in the public domain to seek feedback.
Associations for each air sport will handle day-to-day activities. For instance, the Paragliding Association of India will manage sports within its ambit.
The air sports associations shall be accountable to ASFI with respect to the regulatory oversight and for providing safe, affordable, accessible, enjoyable and sustainable conduct of their respective air sport, the draft policy stated. ASFI will represent India at Federation Aronautique Internationale (FAI) and other global platforms related to air sports, the policy paper said.
The FAI, headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, is the world governing body for air sports. All competitions in India will be conducted as per the guidelines laid down by the FAI, the draft NASP noted.
This initiative will facilitate greater participation and success of Indians in global air sporting events. Schools, colleges and universities will be encouraged to include air sports in their curriculum.
Domestic design, development and manufacturing of air sports equipment will be promoted in line with the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan.
All persons and entities providing air sports services will be required to register as members of the respective air sports associations, the paper said. Key equipment used for air sports shall be registered with the respective air sports association, till such equipment is decommissioned, damaged beyond repair or lost.
The Paper said that long term funding for the development of air sports in India should come from corporate investors, sponsors, membership fees, events and media rights. ASFI may seek financial support from the Government of India for the promotion of air sports, especially in the initial years.
As peak winters in Europe and North American leads to air sports being drastically reduced, the draft policy said ASFI and the air sports associations will work towards developing a hassle-free process to enable their movement to India.
This will enable Indian air sports enthusiasts to learn from the experience of the visiting professionals, get exposed to global best practices and create opportunities to host global competitions in India, the draft said.
The draft policy document says that all people and entities providing air sports services should register as members of the respective air sports associations. They will also have to register the key equipment used for air sports with the respective air sports association.
By Sri Krishna