Adventure of flying over Ranjit Sagar Dam

Sanjeev K Sharma
Phurthoo is a lesser known small place near Basoli town which the locals often call as ‘Mini-Goa’. Even the landing of a chopper here used to trigger excitement and attracted crowd to witness the flying machine from a close but these days Phurthoo is busy with daily sorties by a ‘Para-Motor’.
The activity started recently by a retired young army-man after securing green signal from the district administration of Kathua under adventure tourism category is the first of its kind in Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory.
With his flying machine called ‘Para-Motor’, Mahinder Singh-the pilot, who served the mighty Indian army as elite NSG Commando, carries the adventure lovers for a ride after taking-off from the sprawling plains on the bank of Ranjit Sagar Dam which presently has taken the looks of a big lake with the waters of mighty river Raavi which flows to the neighbouring Punjab after coming from mountainous Himachal Pradesh and ultimately enters Pakistan.
During the ride of 10-13 minutes an adventure lover remains in the air and also hovers over the deep-blue waters of Ranjit Sagar Dam.
Started hardly a week back, the lovers for this adventure ride are increasing with every passing day.
During an interaction with Daily Excelsior (DE), Mahinder Singh (MS) informed more about his extraordinary start-up.
Excerpts from the interview:
DE: When did you start this para-motoring start-up and how many flying machines you have?
MS: I started it a week back with only one flying machine and I run my venture under the name of ‘Udaan Adventures’.
DE: What are your working hours and how many days in a week you work?
MS: I start daily at 10 am and carry the adventure lovers for rides till 5 pm and offer these services for all the seven days of a week without any break.
DE: How many people visit you daily for rides and how much you charge from them?
MS: About 6-7 people daily visit me to enjoy the ride which lasts for 10-13 minutes for which I charge Rs. 3000 from them and we fly up-to 500 feet only as for moving above that permission from Air Traffic Control is mandatory.
DE: How many people can your machine carry during a ride and what safety system you have in place?
MS: Apart from me as a pilot, one more person sits in the flying machine and to ensure safety, the flier wears a life jacket and helmet as we have to hover over the waters of Ranjit Sagar Dam also. I am army trained in first aid and I also carry first aid medicines with me for use in case of some mishap, chances of which are almost nil, while immediate landing is done if some rider feels uneasy during the flight.
DE: How you check fitness of riders before taking them for the adventure ride and what age people are fit for these rides?
MS: I enquire from the riders if they are scared of heights. However, age is no problem but still I avoid the people over 65 years of age and those over 90 kg of weight.
DE: From where you got the training for running this flying machine?
MS: I am a retired army-man and in army itself I got the training of a Para-Motor Pilot. After retirement I started working as the same pilot with a company at Delhi, Pondicherry and Jaisalmer.
DE: How you started this venture here?
MS: After retirement from army I talked with officers of Tourism Department in Basoli and showed them my plan along with my documents. In the meantime, I also met DC Kathua who gave me permission for going ahead with my start-up.
DE: What is the weight of your flying machine and at what price you purchased it?
MS: I purchased my flying machine from Bangalore for Rs. 17 lakh and it has a weight of 70 kg. There are also big flying machines available in the market for Rs. 25 lakh with a weight of 130 kg and such machines are more powerful than mine.
DE: Which fuel is used in your flying machine and from where you get it?
MS: I use XP-95 petrol along with 2T oil in my flying-machine which I bring from Pathankot (Punjab).
DE: How many people have so far enjoyed a ride on your flying-machine and what was their response?
MS: So far about 100 people have enjoyed the ride on my flying machine and they also include some bigwigs like officers of different government departments and all had good response. Basoli people are also feeling good that such a venture has started in their area. I am also receiving calls from adventure lovers from far off places expressing wish to visit here for a ride.
DE: Can your flying-machine go for large distance?
MS: For travelling large distances apart from the permission from concerned authorities a big machine is needed which can carry 650 kg of weight. The machine with me can carry only 450 kg weight and has own weight of 70 kg in addition to weight of 15 litre petrol filled in it and it carries a pilot and a passenger and this small flying machine can go up to 70 kms after which it needs refilling. In army we used the same flying machines to travel from Kashmir to Kanyakumari during certain camps.