A Russian paraglider’s first Himalayan flight could well have been his last after he collided with a griffon vulture mid-air and his canopy became tangled. Luckily, he managed to open the emergency parachute and land safely. But what about the bird?
Paravoffka – the nickname of the survivor in the paragliding community – gained control of the deadly situation, which saved not only his life, but that of the bird as well.
“I didn’t even have time to get scared as I realized that my life depended on my actions,” he told RT.
“I tried to fight with the paraglide, but that was useless, so I had to use the emergency parachute. There was a problem with it at first, too. Because of the collision its handle had moved and was 15 centimeters from where I expected to find it.”
The fact that he landed without any injury was a real miracle, as landing with an emergency parachute is highly dangerous as one can strike against rocks or fall into a tree.
“I was frightened when I was about to land. I was preparing myself for broken legs as I was falling onto the rocks. It was just a miracle that I fell on a bush that softened the fall,” the paraglider said
Seconds after the successful landing, the pilot called his friends on his walkie-talkie and then made an attempt to free the bird, no-less-frightened than himself. That was not an easy task to do as its claws were tightly tangled in the canopy. But finally the bird was freed and flew away.
The dangerous flight was caught on video, with the number of views skyrocketing hour after hour. The survivor says all paragliders are afraid of griffon vultures after his accident.
The Himalayas are one of the most popular sites among paragliders, seen as ideal for high and scenic flights. In mid and late autumn, hundreds flock there from all over the world.
Griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) are in fact common companions during paraglider exercises in the air: they help people see the currents of air in which the paraglider is ascending, Paravoffka explains.
“Normally griffons and other birds pay no attention to paragliders. They don’t care about us, but birds are good indicators of air flows for us – just as we are for them. If I see a carousel of birds flying up but not using their wings, this indicates a rising current. And vice versa, if the bird sees a paraglide rising, it will head towards this zone. But sometimes they get interested in paraglides and get close to its front.”
This time one of the three griffons seemed distracted and, as the pilot says, was not looking where it was flying, which resulted in the accident.
“There have been no similar cases before – to be more exact, none have been known in the paraglider community. This one is the first registered – the first caught on camera. But in my view, the griffon vulture flies in a very clumsy way!”
The sportsman says that according to his observations, when flying the griffon hardly every looks down or right and left.
“This time he must have been chasing fowl or involved in a mating game. As for me, well, it’s hard for the human eye to spot a flying strap which is just 20 cm wide and is moving at a speed of 100 km per hour, and also the paraglide cannot change direction fast. A second away from my scream on the video I saw the birds, but the distance was already too little. I was absolutely sure they would avoid the collision, but the upper griffon suddenly headed towards the paraglide wing – I just don’t know why. So I wasn’t even a bit scared as I was 100% sure they’d evade me.”
Of course, the man couldn’t help but be shocked – but, no doubt, so was the bird. If you are worried whether it got over it or is it still suffering from psychological trauma, lying depressed somewhere in the bushes – calm down, he is not.
“As for my griffon, I can say that he is getting on well,” the lucky survivor has even labeled the bird as “my”.
“I met him about four days ago. The three of them fly close to the site of our descent – they must have their nest somewhere near there. I even have a video of how we were in one and the same current, but this time the birds and I worked as a team, by common rules!”
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