A storm in Ölüdeniz, Turkey hit paraglider pilots on 4 May 2023
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Pilots “super lucky” to survive storm scare in Ölüdeniz

Thursday 4 May, 2023

At least 10 tandem pilots and their passengers plus several solo pilots ended up in hospital today after a storm hit Ölüdeniz in Turkey.

The storm hit Babadag, the flying site above the Mediterranean resort town of Ölüdeniz, at about lunchtime while “20 to 30” tandem and solo pilots were in the air.

According to pilots on the ground winds hit 50-60km/h and pilots flying were sucked into cloud, deployed reserves and scattered across the area. Social media clips showed pilots descending with big ears while flying backwards.

Rain radar over the Turkish Mediterranean at the time of the incident. Image: Windy.com

Rain radar over the Turkish Mediterranean at the time of the incident. Image: Windy.com

Artoosh Bayrak, a former Turkish paragliding champion and current tandem and SIV pilot who lives in Ölüdeniz, worked with local rescue authorities on the ground to help manage the situation and confirmed this evening that all pilots were accounted for.

“They were super lucky. All survived and went to hospital. A few of them have some broken bones but nothing too serious. All solo pilots have been found, and no one has died.”

He said it had been a “regular flying day” in Ölüdeniz but the approaching storm had been visible from early in the day.

“You could see the storm coming from the morning. You could see the rain from far away. In the morning the wind was something like 40km/h, and so we cancelled the day. Then later on the wind dropped and some pilots, I think about 50, flew.

“There were 20 or 30 people in the air when the storm came. We had something like 50-60km/h [wind speed].

“Two pilots deployed their rescue parachutes in the mountains, some came down in the town.”

Ten of the tandem pilots-and-passengers landed in urban areas and were taken to hospital while one tandem pilot needed helicopter rescue from higher in the mountains. For a time four solo pilots were unaccounted for, but they have since been confirmed as safe.

Artoosh explained: “We have an app in Ölüdeniz so when you want to fly you have to use this QR code. So from the QR codes we were trying to find the pilots who had not closed their flight yet.”

The incident comes just four days after a fatal mid-air collision at the site.

According to news reports Orkut Baysal, 30, died in the incident. British national Thomas Aitken, 45, was arrested as part of the investigation.

The flying site of Babdag is a 1,950m mountain flying site next to the sea above the Mediterranean resort of Ölüdeniz. It is one of the world’s busiest tandem flying sites, with hundreds of tourists taking tandem flights each day throughout the season. A new cablecar allows easy access to several well developed launches on the mountain. Landing is usually on the beach down below.

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