The pecking order in the air goes bird, glider, paraglider, according to Pemberton Soaring Pilot, Rudy Rozsypalek
One of only two commercial gliding operators in Canada, the 17 year old Pemberton Soaring operation provided 1400 gliding experiences during the flying season (Apr-Sept) 2009.
In clear weather, with good thermal lift, the glider can go to 10,000 ft, from where passengers can see the Pemberton Ice-cap, Whistler, Black Tusk, the Tantalus Range, the North Shore mountains, as far as Mt Baker.
Pilot Rudy Rozsypalek had been gliding since he was 14 – it’s a popular sport in Europe, and his home region in the Czech republic has a long history of manufacturing gliders and aircraft, instilling a love for flying into the cultural DNA.
This ‘cultural DNA’ is what he brought with him to Canada when he escaped communist Czechoslovakia in 1989, age 26, with a few words of English and US$5 to his name.
By spring of 1990, he was hiking up to Joffre Lake on a day-trip out of the city, and caught a glimpse of the Pemberton air-strip, thinking, ‘that would be a nice place to fly.’ Three years later, he bought a glider and a towplane and he and his wife Tracey, after a scouting mission around BC, moved to Pemberton and started Pemberton Soaring.
Rudy estimates there are probably only 250 licensed glider pilots in BC, less than half of whom would be active. “The paragliders learn from us, and we learn from the birds,” he says. “We’ve met up with eagles up there in the thermals.” Because the glider is so silent, birds and other wildlife aren’t scared away by engine or propeller noise. “In the fall, I flew a lady from New York and she wanted to see a bear, and as we were coming back over the airport, over the Industrial park, I spotted a bear fishing for salmon in the river.”