In June, the race Gin Czech Open 2021 took place in the Krkonoše Mountains, announced as the Czech XC Paragliding Championship. A total of 70 pilots participated, one of whom represented Team Profinit. Read the interview with Profinit’s Patrik Faistaver.
How did you get into paragliding, and what do you like best about it?
I got into paragliding through a childhood friend who had already been flying for several years when he introduced me to it. I went with him once to a hill to do pick-ups: that’s the one who takes a car and goes for the pilot if they fly to a distant location and don’t return back on their own. At the time, he let me try his paraglider wing with a harness in a meadow, and I tried to lift it above my head in the wind and play with it for a while. I remember that then a short gust of wind came and lifted me momentarily to a height of about three meters. It was a fantastic feeling that made me decide to take a course and start flying. That is one of the feelings I like best in paragliding. You sit/lie alone in a harness, hanging by a few strings under a piece of fabric, hundreds of metres above the earth’s surface, flying across the landscape and enjoying the view. It’s incredible freedom. Another thing I like is that I am not enclosed in a cabin, which would make me feel too isolated from my surroundings, and there is no engine to be heard. Last but not least, I also love how easy it is to pack those strings with a piece of fabric in a backpack and travel with them.
“You sit/lie alone in a harness, hanging by a few strings under a piece of fabric, hundreds of metres above the earth’s surface, flying across the landscape and enjoying the view.” — Patrik Faistaver, Profinit
How often do you fly?
I try to fly at least a few dozen hours a year so that controlling the wing continues to be second nature. However, it depends a lot on weather forecasts and planning. The weather can change in a matter of days or hours relative to the forecast, so sometimes it’s difficult to find time with work and other hobbies, especially if the flight weather changes at the last minute. The place to fly heavily depends on meteorological factors such as wind direction and strength, air pressure and humidity. Furthermore, it’s not possible to take off from just any hill, and different hills have launch sites oriented in different wind directions. Therefore, the more knowledgeable and experienced you are regarding meteorology and the conditions on specific flight terrains, the easier it is to predict whether or not you will be able to fly on a given day.
Is it difficult to juggle paragliding and work?
Before the pandemic, it was a bit more difficult than now because the client I work with wasn’t very keen on letting external workers work from home. Now that I can work from home, even in the Krkonoše Mountains, it takes much less time to get to the hill after work and it’s even possible to fly during business hours. If there is a race or even just a really excellent weather forecast, then I can take a few days off, and I must admit that my client is quite accommodating regarding when I take my days off.
Do you have a favourite location for paragliding?
Since my primary residence is in the Krkonoše Mountains, my favourite hills are here because I know the flight terrain well. There’s Černá Hora, Kozákov u Semil, Zvičina, Žalý and the list goes on. I also really like the Alps. I’ve flown a lot of hours there, and every flight there was amazing. Additionally, weather patterns in the mountains are different from those on the plains (such as those below the Krkonoše Mountains), so it’s an excellent place to perfect your skills and improve your understanding of how weather works in relation to the morphology of the terrain.
Have you had any dangerous experiences?
There have been several. The first one I can recall happened while flying, after taking a break of about two years from when I had last flown. After such a long time, I had almost forgotten how the wing behaves in certain situations, but I still went paragliding at Černá Hora because there were excellent conditions for flying that day. I remember that I entered a thermal about five minutes after I had started and was glad that I was climbing and would gain altitude. However, rising air currents (especially in strong thermals) are sometimes associated with turbulence and sinks nearby. If the pilot does not actively monitor the wing, turbulence can have a negative impact on it and, therefore, also on flight safety. At the time, I didn’t notice the feedback that the wing had given me shortly in advance. I got into mild turbulence, and just over half the wing folded and crumpled in an instant. Then the wing went into a spin and began to fall to the ground. Fortunately, it was a wing with high passive safety, so after a few seconds, it returned to stable flight without me having to intervene. That moment immediately made me aware of what I had done wrong, and there were no problems the rest of the flight (except for the retracted halves).
In paragliding, you can attend Simulated Incident in Flight (SIV) courses over water, where you spend a whole week flying over water and deliberately simulating irregular flight regimes. The pilot crushes the wing in various ways by pulling the lines and steering incorrectly to try to simulate the conditions in strong turbulence in order to get used to such situations and be able to control the wing in them. Pilots who complete SIV courses have much more experience controlling the wing in bad flight conditions. On the other hand, forcibly putting the wing in risky situations several times a day (albeit over water, but at high altitudes) requires a lot of courage and fear management.
Do you have any goals you would like to achieve in paragliding?
I paraglide mainly for the joy and experience of flying. As I’ve already mentioned, there’s no cockpit, no engine, no rigid structure; I can pack it all in a backpack and travel. That’s what has always attracted me to this sport, and I believe it will stay that way. Races and similar events in the paraglider community are just the icing on the cake.