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Motorized paragliders provide thrills on ride across Okinawa

Date Posted: 2007-12-28

Seven friends hitched themselves into their motorized paragliders for the flight of their lives, traveling from Okinawa’s northern tip, Cape Hedo, to Cape Kyan on the southern tip of the island.

The 120 kilometer flight took the group 2˝ hours. “It was very nice weather, and it’s a great view to see Higashi Village from the sky,” said one of the adventurers. “From the southernmost part of Okinawa, Cape Kyan, we could see both edges of Okinawa,” said another. “It was a fantastic view. We thought we were like birds, flying so high.”

The motorized paragliders have a small motor installed in traditional paragliding equipment. Paragliders can take off and land from flat ground, and can fly much longer and farther than the half-hour unpowered paragliders can achieve. The technique, said one of the group leaders, requires very high skills.

“We chose northern Okinawa because we need to fly very high places, 1,000 meters high, and in the southern part of the island we drop down to 200 meters.” Tsutomu Ashimine, who owns a paragliding school, says “we fly when American military planes are not flying, and when the wind blows behind us.”

The group is training for the flight of their lives next year, when they want to take their motorized paragliders from Yonaguni Island to Taiwan, a distance of 157 kilometers. “We visited our sister city, Karen, and met with the mayor, Tsui Chiri,” said Ashimine. “He, the mayor, said we are most welcome, and will be waiting at the landing area.” Karen and Okinawa’s Yonaguni Town are sister cities.

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