A PARAGLIDER’S DNATIM BOLLINGER
When did you start paragliding?
I started paragliding at the age of 3, so one can say paragliding is part of my DNA.
When I was a kid, my father built me a modified kite prototype to make me believe I could fly. For about 2 seconds I thought I was flying, as I ran up and down the small slope in our backyard. Since the prototype glider was too unsafe for me, my dad asked Gin Gliders to build me a smaller and more adapted one.
The first time I flew was when I had gone inflating gliders at Chasseral and my dad wasn’t watching. My first long flight was from Chasseral to Nods when I was only seven years old!
When did you begin testing gliders for Gin Gliders?
Ever since I was a child, I watched my father receive prototypes, tune them, perfect them and test them. I was absolutely fascinated by this whole process. In 2012, after completing a course, I finally became a test pilot for Gin Gliders myself.
What does being a test pilot for Gin Gliders entail?
Being handsome and strong is mandatory! (laughs) In reality, all you need is an ability to identify the qualities and defects of a prototype, until it meets a certain category and specific desired criteria.
Throughout the process, you test the gliders in flight, test the landing, and adjust accordingly. You sometimes need to go to the workshop if the glider is not yet perfect in order to make changes until it is perfect.
As part of our series of tests, we also perform certification maneuvers such as collapses or tricks to test the glider in its entirety.
Did you ever experience any scary moments while testing a glider?
Not really. Performing certification maneuvers in the air is not always fun; sometimes everything goes wrong.
When testing a kite, do you go by your feelings or by your past experience?
You can see straight away what the kite looks like when inflated on land.
As long as the sail is seaworthy, you can go on the water. Of course you must have a certain feeling to understand what is right and what is wrong, what needs to be changed and what should not be changed.
We heard you will be competing this year in several paragliding competitions. Could you tell us what a paragliding competition is like?
Usually, paragliding competitions last from four to fifteen days. The length of the course depends on the weather. If the weather is bad, the course will be shorter, and if it is good, the course will be longer. The course is programmed with a GPS and the buoys are similar to boat buoys, except that they are virtual (cylinders). Whoever crosses the finish line first wins.
How is it to work alongside your father on the ram air kites? Does your experience with gliders help him with the kites?
Since kites originally come from the paragliding world, the construction is very similar. So I would say that we are both able to learn from each other’s experiences, and the outcome is always valuable.
Can you tell us what makes the Chasseral your favorite playground and what do you do there that makes it special for you?
When proximity flying, the Chasseral is an excellent mountain to fly over, since you can keep your height while flying very close to the ground. I have always loved flying close to the ground, and the Chasseral particularly allows for this kind of flight on the north and south sides.
It also allows me to practice all the sports I enjoy the most, such as paragliding, kiting, speed flying and biking.
What is your favorite Swiss expression and what does it mean?
“T’as où les vaches?”, which is another way of asking “On which alpage do your cows graze?”. People from the canton of Valais living above 800m cannot grow vines. So it is basically the mountain way of saying “T’as où les vignes?”.