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Wind beneath my wings


We've heard of men who love to live on the edge. Here's someone who jumps off it! Having trained enthusiasts for the last twenty-three years, Pune’s wingman,Lt.Col.Mundkur finds a place in the Limca Book of records for being a pioneer avaitor to build a glider and fly it without outside help.Lt. Colonel Mundkur’s tryst with flying began when he accidentally came across a set of drawings in the popular science magazine. Fascinated by the prospect of owning his own set of wings, he decided to build his own. Six months later, when he found no takers, he decided with the very basic instructions to fly it on his own. As he now recollects, it was a surefire way to commit suicide. His first trial was on a small hill in Dighi, Alandi. "Surrounded by a couple of friends and chanting those flight instructions like a mantra.

I pointed the nose of the glider so that it was directly facing the wind and I ran down the hill as soon as I could. The upward pull increased and I was airborne. I kept moving straight and thanked my lucky stars when I made a landing on the ground, albeit undignified."

Wit those few moments in the air spurring him on, he carried on testing different heights. Luckily for him, the Army Generals showed a keen interest in the sport of hand gliding and dispatched him to the U.K. for a six week course in 1979. That’s how the Corps of engineering gliding club at the CME came up. " We not only trained plenty of people in this dare devil sport, but also fabricated a lot of gliders from indigenous material. Most of these gliders were taken away by enthusiasts who started flying clubs all over the country. Having trained pilots in Pune, Bangalore and Bombay Lt. Colonel Mundkur realised that hang gliding was ready to move on to the realm of popular sport. Suddenly the city was bitten by the adventure bug. Ask Yohann Poonawalla who enjoyed his lessons with this birdman tremendously.

Till the mid-eighties life was hunky-dory. However When the Generals who encouraged his talent retired, a dissapointed Mundkur was quickly shifted to Assam. After having maintained an unparalled zero-accident record, he could only be a silent spectator as he watched many a fatal accident. With fly-by-night operators trying to soar above the clouds, there were many accidents taking place in the Army and the civilian clubs. Though initially hushed up, the Director General Civil Aviation ( DCGA) came out with stringent rules. Eventually the Army imposed a ban on hang gliding.

In a bid to revive the sport that he had pioneered fifteen years ago, Lt.Col. Mundkur has set up an adventure school where he has been teaching hang-gliding, wind surfing and sailing. With a powered hand glider (Ultra lite) fitted with a propeller, Lt.Col. Mundarkur has helped many a student experience the real highs of flying. Essentially, since twenty flying hours are required to acquire the essence of flying, Lt.Col. Mundkur takes the interested student out for a trial lesson to check his aptitude and interest. And now this is one way of breaking the barriers of the mind , with people wanting to live life on the edge, hang-gliding promises to provide all the spills, chills and thrills at your wingtips.

Having trained enthusiasts for the last twenty-three years, Pune’s wingman says, "The scary part about hand-gliding is the unpredictable wind conditions and the absolute lack of controls on the glider once he is airborne. The moment the student has taken off, there is absolutely no control on his movements. And with every tilt of the plane, my heart misses a beat."


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