So your records are still valid?
Well, they’re over.
But tell us, what are the records recorded in paragliding?
The first record was in speed, i.e. flying on a closed runway essentially to reach the highest possible speed. At that time, which was a year in 2008, it was 63 kilometers. And today, of course, my record was broken several times, because the development is moving forward. And the second record was on the slope, the speed in the ascent of 3000 meters in altitude.
Motor flight is the best in the world in the Czech Republic. Everything is close together and there is a lot to see. It’s not a field, it’s a garden.
Jiří Šrámek, paraglider pilot and vice-world champion since 2007
And in how long did you manage to climb to a height of three kilometers?
It was in about 27 minutes then.
And they overcame it. Otherwise, I must say that you will not brag, but I will be happy to say that you are also the 2007 world vice-champion of China. But tell us what paragliding is. I don’t think many people notice the difference between skydiving and paragliding.
Many people confuse paragliding with skydiving. Skydiving is jumping from an airplane, paragliding is flying. It is a wing that flies. Just a bunch of rags sewn together with strings that creates buoyancy. You can start from the hills and use thermals. Or here in our country, where we do not have such large hills, there is a more advantageous and pleasant variant of paramotor flying. This means hanging the motor on your back and leaving the plane. And he’s on a trip, it’s such a walk in the air.
I remembered the hangover. He was also very popular in our country before. But there is probably a more complex construction.
Exactly. Rogalo is a perfect thing, of course, but it’s a bit more complicated to transport and fold. Today, the rogalists are gradually dying out by switching to paragliding. Because it fits in a backpack, it takes on your back and is much easier to travel. But rogalo is definitely a perfect thing.
Have you ever tried it?
About 20 years ago. (to laugh)
How did you start flying? Probably every boy dreamed of being a pilot of a large plane or a fighter jet.
I remember flying. We emigrated to Austria under the previous regime. I guess it was 1988. And then I saw something strange flying in the mountains. I waited for him to land. I saw a man with a piece of rag and I thought, so this is it, this is what I want. And I’ve been going there ever since.
What made you see a man on a rag?
Just this feeling. It’s an indescribable feeling. It must be tried. It’s a feeling of absolute freedom, these are emotions.
Now I wonder how it works. Because running with a piece of cloth, like you said, cloth sewn behind, it takes courage for that first run.
Rather, you must be mad. (to laugh) But no, the beginnings were difficult, of course, but today it’s quite serious, we already know why and how it must fly. The weather is already known, but we didn’t know much about it at the time. The paraglider is the only flying device that does not have a fixed support surface. It’s really just a piece of rag. It’s actually like an airplane wing. The principle is the same, whether it’s an airplane or a hang glider or a parachute, it’s always the same. It is an airfoil that is sewn from rags, it should inflate with this forward motion and it will go over your head. Because it has the movement that you give it either during or during the propeller, it begins to exert pressure, the upper profile is longer than the lower profile, and so that the air particles come together at the edge of leak, they must be faster. Thus a vacuum is created at the top of the wing and an overpressure is created under the wing. Simply the principle of aerodynamics.
It’s still just a rag. Can’t this break or break somehow?
Breaking is not the right word, the croissant pipes break, but of course it can fail. The air is sometimes bad, it’s not like you’re hanging there, sometimes your hands are busy holding the parachute above your head. In the Alps, for example, the currents are relatively strong. So you have to know there.
Are there good conditions to fly here? Or in the Alps and in those mountainous terrains? Because we don’t have such mountains here.
A distinction must be made between motorized and non-motorized paragliders. They are two completely different things. We don’t have a lot of sliding conditions here, we have few quality slopes compared to the Swiss Alps or Austria, where there are a lot of slopes. In the mountains, better thermals are formed, the updrafts necessary for gliding.
Currents that pull you up.
Gliding is, of course, the realm of the Alps. But motor flight, I must repeat, is the best in the world here in the Czech Republic. And I’m really saying this from my own experience. The Czech Republic is wonderful for flying with a powered parachute, because everything is close here and there is a lot to see. In a small area you can see villages, ponds, woods. As the saying goes, it’s not the earth, it’s the garden.
Where is the most beautiful of Eastern Bohemia like this seen from above?
Everywhere, but for example Bohemian Paradise is beautiful, it is emotions in the heart.
But you’ve also flown a lot in the world.
He flew, so I dare to evaluate him. In Australia, for example, a thousand kilometers away nothing but a bush, scorched earth, you see only a road from one horizon to the other and nothing else. Why? There is no reason to fly there, as there is nothing to see. But there is still something to watch.
But again, it must be beautiful in these Alps, right?
Yeah Al, sounds pretty shitty to me, looks like BT isn’t for me either. First, the defenders of the environment, because it makes noise. In Switzerland, motorized aviation is prohibited in the Alps, as it disturbs game and spreads up the hills. And besides, flying with a heat engine is not necessary at all. Here it is just the opposite. On the contrary, air peace is necessary.
Have you ever had to deal with problems in the air? That you no longer knew what to do and that it seemed dramatic?
So, in these 30 years, we will certainly experience different things. And we were such pioneers of dead ends in the 90s. We didn’t know much about aerodynamics yet. So, of course, various things happened there that are pretty deep in the head.
You may well gain a kind of respect and humility.
Healthy respect and humility, yes, exactly. Here is the magic word. Humility is the most important thing. What paragliding has taught me is healthy respect and humility in the face of nature. Certainly.
How long does it take to learn to fly like you? And does he need a pilot’s license to do that?
No one will learn to fly like me. (to laugh) These are decades. But a normal person only has to start a process that never ends. But you will learn the basics fairly quickly, during a one-week course you will certainly master the basics. But then, if he wants to be good, he has to work on himself.
I envy you those views from above. However, flying is not just a hobby and a pleasure, it may also be an attitude and a philosophy.
Admittedly, free flight is definitely a philosophy of life. If you want to do it, it’s related to traveling and discovering new countries and new interesting people. We get to places he wouldn’t normally go on vacation. And it has a very high added value. Motor flight is truly a leisure pastime. It’s more comfortable than once a week you leave for an hour, two to fly and recharge your flashlights. And it is necessary.
So we wish you, Jiří, how many starts, so many good landings. This is always a wish of pilots, so it certainly applies to paragliding as well. Thanks for an interesting interview.