People are naturally drawn to the idea of flying in the sky. For many people who have experienced recreational air sports, they become “addicted” to them after the first try out. Gliding, paragliding, hot air balloons are some of the ways that allow people acend and fly in the air. As China’s consumption power rises, more and more people are now trying out these recreational activities.
In this issue of Photo Gallery, we are visiting Xujiaya Air Camp, which is one of the very first 15 pilot air camps in China. The camp situates in Linyi City, Shandong province, and attracts air sports lovers all around the country.
September 27t 2017, at Xujiaya Air Camp. An air sports lover was gliding in the air via a hang glider.
Xujiaya Air Camp has a hangar (left), a control tower, and a take-off runway. The camp is located at the west of Xujiaya reservoir, covering an area of 4,000 mu. It’s one of the 15 earliest pilot air camps in China and has an approved airspace of 1,000 kilometers.
Xujiaya Air Camp’s control tower, demonstration center, and spectator stand. The control tower was set up to dispatch aircrafts from different air clubs at the camp and serves as a command and dispatch center during major events. “We would start to attract renowned air clubs from both home and abroad once operation starts,” the camp’s director said.
The construction of the camp is expected to finish within a month, as the construction of the hangar and runway is coming to an end. The hangar covers an area of 1,500 kilometers while the main runway is 600-meter long and 80-meter wide. That said, the camp meets the take-off standards of fixed wing aircrafts, powered parachutes, and powered paragliders etc.
Powered parachutes in the temporary hangar. Powered parachutes take up a rather small space and don't require a long runway to take off. In theory, the cruising speed can reach 60km/h, which is very suitable for field operation.
A powered paraglider in the temporary hangar. This paraglider can reach a cruising speed of 100km/h and it’s mainly used for aviation training, touristic use, aerial photography, and forest protection etc. Its lowest flying height can be as low as one meter while the highest can be 5,000 meters.
Peng Jianping, the pilot from Zhongti, was checking the powered paraglider in the hangar. Peng Jianping was once a pilot of a plane manufacturer. With over 20 years of experience in the aviation industry, Peng is obsessed with engines. As the pilot at the air camp, his main responsibility is maintaining the aircrafts. “It’s mainly about the engines. I need to maintain the engines strictly in accordance with the maintenance schedule provided by the manufacturers,” Peng told TMTPost. Before and after the aircrafts are put into use, Peng would surveil the operation of the aircrafts in order to control the risks.
Fan Xiaowei, a flying instructor from Zhongti, was observing the brakes of a powered paraglider. The fan is a seasoned certified instructor with 30 years of experience in the industry. He had previously participated in the drafting of several national flying standards and national flying competitions. “Air sports are not really about adventures and fun. They require detailed planning and practices. It’s not something that you can jump into it with only passion,” Fan Xiaowei said, who has witnessed the development of this particular sports genre. “Air sports are just beginning to be included in the regulation in China and it’s starting to become standardized. A healthy developmental system is in the making. Once this market booms while there is a lack of proper rules and regulations, major issues will occur.”
Gao Xing (left) is an experienced coach from Zhongti’s flying team. Gao has been in this circle for nearly three decades. He is a member of the first national paragliding team of China, and a well-known figure in the Chinese air sports circle. Ever since Zhongti and Fei county’s local government initiated this air camp project, Gao has always been in Xujiaya supervising the construction of the camp and the teaching activities within the camp. He is responsible for implementing the details and making the visions in plan become a reality.
“China doesn’t have a large base of air sports lovers yet, but the country has great potential,” Gao told TMTPost. According to official statistics, there are less than 10,000 registered air sports participants in China, less than 1,000 of which fly regularly. “The number of certified paraglider coaches registered under the sports bureau is merely 62. The number of powered air trike coaches is even less, which is 20,” he explained. Right now, Xujiaya camp offers training on powered parachuting, paragliding, air triking etc., with students from all over China.
The air town in construction. The town has over 50 guest rooms serving as accommodation for students at the camp and guests that have come for extra curriculum activities or outdoor sports. It’s only one kilometer away from the flying zone.
These three air sports lovers came from Xinjiang, Jiangxi, and Shandong province. They drove all the way to Xujiaya camp to do air triking. They were picking up the air tirke they stored here.
For them, this sport is like opium. “You do it once and you fall in love with it. Then you become addicted,” one of them said. Their passion for this sport had driven all the way from afar to here.
The camp is located on a mountain at an altitude of 220 meters. If the wind direction and air flow condition are suitable, paragliders would be able to cruise in the air for two or three hours after taking off from here. But still, the weather is essential to air sports as the aircrafts can only take off when the weather condition is suitable. Air sports lovers from all over China here would come to observe the weather at the take-off point with Zhongti’s coaches. Once they find the wind direction has changed, they would need to wait for it to change back in their favor.
The mobile APP displays the regional weather changes. Gao stated that air sports might seem to be adventurous and exciting, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not dangerous. All flying activities follow safety procedures. Only when the weather is great, the ground condition is suitable, and the people are in good condition, would the sports activities happen.
The wind direction and air flow condition were great. The paraglider started to take off from the hill.
After a few minutes, the aircraft landed safely on the ground. These air sports lovers came to experience these couple of minutes’ excitement. More and more young people are attracted to this “blue temptation”. Paragliding, for instance, its elementary training alone costs ￥9,000, while a complete set of basic paragliding equipment would cost between ￥30,000 to ￥40,000. As for the charge of powered aircrafts, it starts from￥50,000. If they want to upgrade their equipment and have a higher level of training, the cost would climb up. Besides financial cost, the time cost is also evident.
Even so, air sports are like the irresistible blue opium for the air sports lovers, because humans are naturally drawn to the sky.
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Translated by Garrett Lee (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.