Veske is a confident man with an addictive passion for paragliding in Turkey. He does not just do it at the weekends or when he has opportunity to go on holiday. No, he is a professional paragliding pilot who runs off the side of a mountain every day of his working week.
Veske first jumped out of an airplane with a parachute when he was 16 years old, later he worked as a paragliding instructor for the Turkish military. Talking to him 23 years later, it is obvious that he still has the passion and spirit of adventure that first sent him on this course in life.
You may assume that he is an adrenaline junkie with a death wish
Quite the contrary, as a professional paragliding pilot he has completed over 6,000 flights as well as 1,350 skydiving jumps which shows he is serious about what he does for a living.
So why did I start this article by introducing readers to Veske?
Well, you can normally guarantee that every year, there is a story in the newspapers about holiday makers who unfortunately end up having an accident while paragliding in Turkey.
Hurriyet News- 2011 – Experts raise concerns over paragliding accidents in Turkey
Daily Mail – 2010 – Pensioner clings to cliff ledge for 14 hours after paragliding accident
Fethiye Times – Paragliding Pilot faces court action after client falls 700 metres to his death
Some people have died, others have suffered injuries. Some companies have tarnished their public reputations while their workers face investigation by the Turkish authorities for murder or manslaughter.
I wanted to speak to a professional pilot to find out whether paragliding in Turkey is a sport that people can do on their holidays without any fears about safety. I also wanted to look behind the scenes at what the job of a paragliding pilot entails. The expert that I found with a perfect safety record was Veske and he was quite happy to show me the ropes.
When it comes to paragliding in Turkey, most people think first of the resort of Olu Deniz. However, for the interview, I headed to the coastal resort of Kas where Veske works every day for Bougainville Travel, which are at the forefront of the trend for adventure sport activities in Turkey.
Considering the fact that Veske spends every day jumping off the side of a mountain, I expected him to be hyper; however, he was calm and relaxed as we sat down for coffee and question time.
Paragliding in Turkey Interview
Me : Hi Veske. Thanks for agreeing to the interview. Paragliding is quite a dangerous sport. How can people ensure that they are safe when they go up in the air for the first time?
Veske : Well actually, paragliding is one of the safest sports in the world. The only thing that can go wrong is human error. Every time my staff or I set off into the air for a tandem ride with customers, we know exactly what the predicted weather and wind speeds for that day will be.
We know the environment and layout of the land like the back of our hands. We have already triple checked all the equipment and briefed the customers on what to do. Once the customers are kitted up in the safety gear, we complete the last check.
Between the three professional paragliding pilots who work for Bougainville Travel, we have over 43 years combined experience of paragliding so our confidence and expert knowledge helps to calm down nervous customers. There are simple rules and if you obey them every single time, nothing can go wrong.
Me: So considering the accidents of paragliding in Turkey in recent years of which some have resulted in deaths, do you think it is the fault of the companies running the paragliding tours?
Veske : I cannot say whether it was the fault of the companies or not as I do not know the specifics of each incident. We do have to remember as well, the ratio of accidents to the number of successful flights that take place every year in Turkey. This ratio is very small.
Generally though, inexperienced pilots or those who have become complacent are often the cause of accidents in paragliding, anywhere in the world. It is not enough just be licensed. Safety checks and rules must be obeyed at all times and then the flying experience will end up a brilliant one.
If a holiday maker wants to paraglide in Turkey, the best question they can ask their pilot is how many hours of paragliding they have done and are they familiar with the layout of the land.
Me: Have you ever had to turn away holiday makers who wanted to tandem paraglide with you?
Veske : Yes, as a professional paragliding pilot, I pay great attention to the mindset of people before they take off. Nerves can be controlled and after setting off, anyone who is nervous will often be calm as they experience the thrill.
Panic is a different matter, if we feel that the person will panic in midair, then I will not fly with them. We have also had some people who have been intoxicated, are missing a limb or appeared to suffer a form of mental illness, in which case, this would put too much responsibility on the pilot.
Me: Be honest and tell me if there is anything about being a professional paragliding pilot that you do not like.
Veske : A lot of the time, experienced solo pilots will come to Kas and ask me for directions of the takeoff and landing points. The only landing point in Kas is the harbour upon which the paragliders of Bougainville travel are very experienced at landing.
Unfortunately, solo pilots with no knowledge of the area, often end up getting it wrong. I would like the local council to build a designated area of landing for paragliders who are not local and then there is less chance of the independent paragliders suffering accidents.
The interview with Veske taught me a lot about paragliding in Turkey; however, the prize of the day was to actually watch him in action.
Veske did offer to Tandem paraglide with me but my fear of heights stopped me from saying yes! Instead I jumped in the company van with customers and we drove 20 minutes up winding mountain roads until we reached the takeoff point.
I watched eagerly behind the lens of my camera as the customers were fitted out with their safety gear and given safety briefings. Veske was still relaxed and confident leading to a calming effect on the customers who at this point were looking rather nervous.
One by one, I watched as Veske waited for the right wind speed and then upon his signal, instructed the tandem pilot and customer to start running. A helper pulled them towards the edge to assist the chute in filling up with air.
They then soared into the sky and out of sight behind the mountain.
I was desperate to get back down to the harbor to watch them land and to speak to the customers of their experience. I made it just as the last person was landing. He had unfortunately thrown up upon landing but the other two customers were full of high spirits and a confident sense of achievement. I asked them if they would do it again and the answer was definitely!
About this interview – Many thanks to Bougainville Travel for giving me a behind the scenes look at their travel excursions. If you want to experience paragliding in Turkey, head to the Bougainville Travel office in Kas and speak to professional paragliding pilot Veske, whose motto is
“If you do anything once in life, it should always be to fly”
Have you been paragliding? If so, did you have any concerns about safety?