Photos: Marina Statsenko
"Flying In The Crimea"
In July this year I decided to look for somewhere different to go paragliding for my annual holidays, I had flown in some of the more popular parts of Europe before like Greece, Spain and the French Alps. But I remembered a rather pleasant flying trip I had in Russia in 2000 where I flew in the southern Caucuses, in a popular holiday destination for Russians called Krasnaya-Polyana, not far from the Black Sea resort of Sochi. I remembered having a pleasant stay there, so I decided to look east again this year.
I began by looking at an atlas to find somewhere with a coastline and some mountains, I had heard about the Crimea before so I thought I would see what it looked like in my atlas, then when I saw a diamond shaped peninsula sitting in the Black Sea south of the Ukraine I instantly realised the potential for nice smooth sea breeze flying, relaxed flying, with the possibility of some good XC’s on the internal regions of the Crimean peninsula. So my next step was to find some local pilots or clubs who flew in the Crimea. I logged on to the i-net and found Vadim & Marina Statsenkos website, I sent them a brief description of who I was, where I was from, and what I wanted to do, they e-mailed me back almost immediately, and said that every sort of flying from coastal breeze soaring to thermal XC flying was available in the Crimea. On that e-mail I had made up my mind to go!
To get there I had flown from my home city of Birmingham, I had to catch three planes and pass through four airports! So my route was Birmingham - Amsterdam - Kiev - Simferopol. I was met by Vadim & Marina at Simferopol airport, we introduced ourselves, and I was surprised to find that both Marina & Dima both spoke rather good English, but with Dima he told me to speak "Slowly, and in small sentences!" But as my stay with them went on, we started understand each other very well, I even began remembering some Russian phrases I had picked up on my last trip to Russia! That evening we got to know each other in the traditional Russian way, over a bottle of Vodka, but instead we all drank a bottle of Glenffidich whiskey I had bought for them as a gift from duty free, and the bottle was dry the next morning!
The following morning, "with mild hangovers!" we went to a town called Balaklava, to try some sea breeze coastal flying, this was the first time I had actually seen the stunning rocky coast line of the Crimea, and it was a beautiful site to fly. Both Dima & Marina are very experienced pilots, Marina being a former competition pilot and Dima flying DHV 3 gliders,“very brave!” But Dima’s knowledge and expertise of all the flying sites around the Crimea seemed to me to be second to none. After flying we went into Balaklava to do some sightseeing. I had not come to the Crimea only to fly, I wanted to see it from the ground as well as the air! After we had something to eat at a café, Marina suggested that we could go for a swim, it was the first time I had swam in the Black Sea, and it has to have been the most calm and cleanest sea I have ever swam in! And from that day I think I swam every day. Fantastic! Flying in the morning, swimming in the afternoon, then a few drinks in the evening. "I was in Paradise!"
During the next following days I flew different coastal sites and swam in the Black Sea and relaxed on the beach, I don’t think I flew the same site twice during my stay in the Crimea, they really are almost spoilt for choice over here, there’s a ridge for all wind directions, provided the winds have favorable speeds. There were, I think, three days when the wind was to strong to fly, but Dima always seemed to find things to do when the wind was to strong to fly. Dima has a very broad knowledge of history of the Crimea, when we were driving to flying sites and towns he would routinely point out land marks and points of interest, and give a brief description of it’s history. If he doesn’t know something about the Crimea, he knows somebody who does! We went to some famous places like the Tsars holiday palace in Yalta, where Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met in 1945 to carve up Europe after the WWII,and I even managed to visit the site of the "Charge of the Light Brigade" near Balaklava, where I first flew.
The Crimea really is a beautiful place to fly and to visit, it’s steeped in history and there’s something here for every type of pilot, from relaxed recreational pilots like myself to hardcore distance hunting XC pilots like Dima!During my stay both Dima and Marina broke two of their distance records, Dima quite possibly may now hold the distance record for the Crimea!
I could not thank Dima and Marina enough for looking after me and showing me their Crimea. It truly is an undiscovered place to go for western pilots wanting somewhere "different" to fly. But just to fly would be a waste of visiting the Crimea, try to take some time out to visit places of interest. There’s also scuba diving and rock climbing available if you wanted to try something else. Dima always knows somebody who can take you on excursions, there really is too much to list for things to do in the Crimea, my only regret is that I didn’t have enough time to truly explore and fly!
I couldn't recommend the Crimea enough!
Thank you Dima, Marina & "Glasha" - Dima's dog (Great Dane) who watched over our gliders whilst we swam!
Duncan Earle Greenfield
Pilot, Birmingham. England