My first ever trip to Turkey was to fly tandems for the 15th International Olu Deniz Air Games, dropping base jumpers off over the beach.
The Air Games have been running every year since 2000. Spectators on the beach see displays from everything from paragliders and speed flyers to base jumpers and the Turkish Air Force.
While I was there I took the opportunity to chat to Kadri Tuglu, owner of Cloud 9 Bar in Olu Deniz and organiser of the Air Games.
Kadri explained the background to the games: “I realised there was no regular event for the town and the area so I proposed this to the officials and it was accepted.
“We’ve sometimes had acro and XC competitions in the past. But in the last six years, we decided this was too serious. So now we’ve changed it to be an open meeting for people of all levels and from all over the world. The event is mostly for paragliding acro, but enriched by other sports too – paramotors, base jumpers, balloons, delta, fast jets, speed flying…
“The Olu Deniz Airgames is one of the few shows that has run for 15 years without interruption. Every other year we work on upgrading and improving all the details. Now it’s become a meeting where acro pilots and other people have to be!
The Turkish Stars. Photo by Haluk Gulerer
“The International Airgames is a brand of Cloud 9 bar. But we can’t do it alone! We have back up from the local officials, the mayor, local businesses and the ministry of tourism.”
For me, the highlight of this year’s show wasn’t the paragliding and speedflying displays, but the Turkish Stars display from the air force – the Turkish equivalent of the Red Arrows.
Kadri agreed: “Having the Turkish Airforce take part again was a highlight. This is the fourth year they’ve been here. It’s actually a very expensive show! The airforce actually sets up a base in Dalaman Airport with over 50 officers. They did three shows this year – one in Olu Deniz and two in Fethiye to extend the reach to a wider area.
“This was also the first year I’ve invited international tandem pilots to team up with international base jumpers. This was also a highlight as it gets more people involved and meeting. That really helps the spirit of the open meeting.”
Kadri and the team are always working on ways to build on the games – although with over 150 people already invited including volunteers, marshalls, pilots and base jumpers, he needs to do this without having too many more people.
“This is about the limit – with free flyers and local tandems, any more would be too chaotic. We’re thinking about paramotor slalom and just after the games having an accuracy landing meeting from the 300m take-off.
“We’re also planning to bring the other supreme show of the Turkish Airforce – the SoloTurk F16 display.”
While it was busy at times during the games, it was nowhere near as hectic as I expected. It’s a big sky and you only have to fight with the crowds if you want to land right in the middle of everything. Within a week, there were only 20 or so visiting pilots remaining in the resort. We had the whole 2,000m mountain to ourselves. With the sunshine and thermal flying lasting well into November this year, I can see why they’re keen to try and extend the season.
While the weather for this year’s games was less than perfect, we’ll be back next year! The dates will be October 20 to 24 2015 and the Babadag management has already declared a 40% discount on the national park entry fee from 1 November 2015.
By all accounts, the flying scene in Babadag Olu Deniz has seen a few changes in recent years:
- Road to all take-offs now paved
- 1,700m take-off now fully paved
- Ambulance and staffed rescue station on the main 1,700m take-off
- Air ambulance on call at Dalaman Airport
- New take-off built at 1,200m for when the top is in cloud or blown out.
- Personalised magnetic card to enter the national park, reducing the time taken to get to take-off
- 40% reduction on the 17 Lira entry fee to the national park from 1 November 2015