First Indian flying festival gives Punekars a taste of adventure

The young and old queued up at the first-of-its-kind festival that offered airplane rides, paragliding and other flying experiences; the festival came to a close yesterday

For many Maharashtrians, their dreams of flying have come true for the first time, at what is being reported as the nation’s first flying festival being held at Solapur Airport. Titled Zep – The Flying Festival, the event has allowed many people from Solapur and other places, including Pune and Baramati, to take to the skies in their first brush with flying.

Solapur Airport
High spirits: Children enjoy the first-of-its-kind flying festival at Solapur Airport

With several activities on offer, such as airplane rides, paragliding, paramotor gliding, parasailing, aeromodelling and more, it’s no surprise that both the young and old thronged to the airport.

Age certainly didn’t hold 82-year-old Mandakini Dastane back, and she returned from her airplane ride thrilled with the experience. “It was the best moment of my life, I was really very excited and happy about the ride. I saw the Tulja Bhavani temple from above, which made me very happy. Sitting next to the pilot was one of the best parts, as he explained everything about where we were, and how we were flying.”

Senior citizens Solapur
Sky is the limit: Senior citizens seemed just as keen for adventure as they queued up to buy airplane tickets

Those who opted for the Rs 2,500 plane rides had a clear view of the ground below, as the two and four-seater planes were flying quite low. The flights mainly took passengers through three routes – Solapur city, Solapur-Tulajapur, Solapur-Tuljapur-Naldugha fort-Alkalkot, and Solapur-Pandharpur-Ujani dam backwaters.

Archana Dethe, a 12-year-old who also enjoyed the airplane ride, said, “It was a memorable day for me. I enjoyed it a lot and really want to thank my parents, as well as the pilot for this experience.”

Pune-based skydiver, Sheetal Mahajan said the festival was an opportunity for those who had never gone flying before and wished to try it at least once. By the end of the first day of the festival, more than 300 people had gone on the airplane rides, and many more had tried their hands at paragliding and parasailing, which cost Rs 500.

Vishnu Mondhe, one of the festival organisers, said, “It was a great pleasure to see the happiness in the eyes of people at the end of their rides. There were senior citizens who were crying after the experience of seeing their city from above.”

Apart from the rides and adventure activities, the festival also includes an exhibition of flying machines, seminars on aviation and job opportunities in the field. The event has been organised by the Solapur Adweep Flying Association and the Rotary Club of Solapur North East, with the support of the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association, Baramati-based Carver Aviation, and Mondhe Automobiles.

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