UP, UP & away
Suspended more than 500 feet above land, strapped to a para-motor, an epiphany forces itself into your consciousness; man was never meant to fly. Peering down at the tiny dots which were previously people, the feeling of isolation sinks in. There's also ample fear because at the moment your only saving grace is the experienced pilot behind you. Around you swirls a chilling breeze; a sombre reminder of the presence of the literal winds of fate. Your adrenaline levels soar and every minute lasts an eternity making you experience trepidation and thrill in equal measures. Welcome to the world of para-motoring, an offshoot of paragliding.
An initiative of Major Maaz, this para-motor experience is the first of its kind in Bangladesh. Sky Raptor, the company that offers the services, provides an opportunity for one to soar over Dhaka's Mawa Ghat and areas in Cox's bazaar. A 15-minute ride costs 50 dollars and although it sounds steeps, it's worth every penny. Para-motoring, if you have never done it, is an unforgettable experience. Under the watchful eye of Major Maaz and his brigade of former commandos, safety is assured. And safety is indeed one of Sky Raptor's most important concerns. “Before flying, we check the weather, wind conditions and always ensure we have clearance to fly from relevant authorities,” Major Maaz informed. During times of rain or when winds hit more than 10 km/h, Major Maaz prefers not to take off. “It can be done but why take the risk?,” the former 11th Long Course Commando, Sky-Diver and Jumpmaster said.
Having been fully trained in Malaysia, Major Maaz has then passed on his knowledge to the three sergeants under his tutelage. Together, they make up the Sky Raptor team. Using third-generation trykes imported from France for their paragliding services, Sky Raptor has only begun their soft launch. Currently flying near Mawa Ghat, Sky Raptor is already a much-talked-about subject for locals in the area. After all, it's a flying tri-cycle and that's not something you see everyday. The tri-cycle seats two -- the pilot at the back and the passenger. The pilot navigates the tryke, while the passenger takes in the scenery. Although a license is not required to operate the machinery, the pilot must have a pilot licence. The tryke can carry a maximum limit of 200 kg, another rule that is strictly adhered to. Proper distance is also maintained from the nearest airports and other bodies are informed of the use of the airspace.
There are plans to take the venture to Cox's Bazaar and other feasible areas in the near future. Given the lack of advertising, many people are yet to hear about this venture and thus Sky Raptors hasn't picked up enough steam. However, those who have partaken can tell you without looking away that it could be one of their most unforgettable experiences ever. “I have a plan to open a flying school in the near future,” Major Maaz said. Clearly a fan of the winged, Major Maaz's love affair with the sky is best understood when in the air with him. An animated and informed individual, Major Maaz remains a constant companion in your first voyage and he walks you through the most difficult. It is as easy as it sounds.
When you find yourself drifting higher than the birds, amidst the clouds, the feeling and the view makes it all seem even more surreal. A silence, both calm and ominous, coupled with the weightlessness makes paragliding a dream-like activity. This is the Sky Raptor experience and it's possibly the most unforgettable experience you will ever have. For those who wish to indulge, contact Major Maaz at 01713040084 and make an appointment.
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Special thanks to Major Maaz and the Sky Raptor team