The Red Bull X-Alps has a lot to answer for. However weekend warriors who don't fancy two weeks hoofing around the Alps might like to consider the "wimp's version" - the X-Scotia.
It's organised by the Scottish Hang-gliding and Paragliding Federation and will take place… when it's worth doing! The event will see 50 of the UK's most determined paraglider pilots tackle a 70km race around three mountain peaks during a 36-hour window. Starting at Lochearnhead, just south of Loch Tay, competitors will have to make three turnpoints on the surrounding summits of Ben Vorlich (985m), Ben More (1,174m) and Meall nan Tarmachan (1,043m) before crossing the finish line back at Lochearnhead.
Competitors must travel the route unassisted and self-contained, hiking and/or flying around the turnpoints to the finish line before the event closes. The race will be a continuous challenge involving route selection, weather evaluation and timing decisions. When not flying, pilots must carry all their equipment at all times.
The X-Scotia will be held on the first good flying weekend between April 19th - 20th and May 17th - 18th as Scottish weather can be a bit fickle. Entry is limited to the first 50 registrations (BHPA Pilot rating is the minimum standard). More details and full regulations will be available soon - start training (and paring your gear down) now! To register contact Cliff Smith at email@example.com.
In a bold move, Mark Leavesley of Leavesley Aviation is hosting a free-flight festival at Walcot Hall just south of Bishop's Castle in Shropshire on June 20th - 22nd.
The event will be sponsored by the Three Tuns brewery, source of XXX beer. Already certain to attend are Airways, UK Airsports, Firebird UK, Northern Paragliding, Gradient, Digifly, Niviuk, Beyond Extreme, Paraventure, Red Dragon Paragliding, Speedfly Junkies, XTC Paragliding and XC Magazine, and the BHPA will also be in attendance.
Attractions will include world acro champion (and Niviuk test pilot) Raul Rodriguez, rigid wings, model jets and helicopters, kites, an equipment boot sale, rock bands, displays, etc. The Shropshire Star newspaper and Midlands Today TV news are also involved. Tickets cost £40 for the whole weekend including camping, or £15 per day. Details are emerging daily at www.leavesleyaviation.com for trade enquiries contact markleavesley@btinternet. Hats off to Mark for this great initiative. Watch these pages for more info.
Gréolières, in the far south-eastern corner of France, is already recognised as one of the most beautiful - and reliable - flying sites in Europe. This year it will host its own fun flying festival on the vast landing area beside the medieval village. The organisers are hoping to create a convivial atmosphere for low-experience pilots, partners and children alike.
The festival will run from a Thursday afternoon until the following Sunday evening at the end of August. There will be live music on site and a dance session (provided by Bob Drury if available). A light-hearted flying task will be set each day, with prizes. Gréolières is ideal for the rest of the family too and activities will be arranged for children while their parents fly (or lie) around in the sun.
The village authorities have promised their support; they are donating a temporary campsite at the forest's edge and have promised to lay on a new water supply for showers and toilets (but don't expect four-star facilities!), and will be setting up a beer tent. The festival will be able to cater for around 100 pilots along with along with their friends and families. It is hoped that, if successful, and if local sensitivities are respected, the festival will become firmly established as an annual event. The Greoval website is currently under construction but details can be obtained from Ben Moss at www.giteinthesun.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Royal Aero Club Trust has opened its bursary scheme for young people for the 2008 season. Each bursary, of up to £500, is available to anyone between 16 and 21 years of age wishing to progress their interest in either air sports or aviation.
The RAeC Trust has been running the programme for eight years and a wide range of bursaries has been awarded. Activities available include gliding, ballooning, paragliding, hang gliding, parachuting, flying microlights, motor gliders, light aeroplanes and helicopters, and building and flying model aircraft. A young BHPA member has already benefited from further training through this scheme. Applicants must be resident UK citizens; training and flying must be conducted at UK training establishments. Free flight applications must arrive at the Trust by March 31st and be submitted by post through the BHPA. Full details are at www.royalaeroclubtrust.org.
Film buffs may be interested in visiting the international festival of the Air Film at Châteauroux in France on May 14th - 28th. The programme includes films of civil, military and sport aviation, plus meetings, entertainment, competitions, exhibitions and workshops for children. Details are at www.fifac.net.
Montenegro Adventure Centre
Montenegro, the world's newest country, now it has its first dedicated paragliding centre. The centre, which also offers rafting, canyoning, trekking and mountain biking, is run by Robin Brown, formerly CFI at Airtopia. Montenegro is said to have great coastal and inland sites suitable for types of pilots and flying. Details are at www.montenegrofly.com.
For further information about the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association and skywings magazine, please visit our about the BHPA and Skywings magazine pages on this website.