4-10 October 2013 #676

Empty sky

Stephen Shrestha, 35, Nepal’s pioneer sports aviation entrepreneur and pilot died Thursday morning when an Aeroprakt light aircraft he was flying crashed near the Peace Stupa in Pokhara. A Chinese passenger was also killed. Shrestha was reluctant to fly because of bad weather, but was persuaded by passengers who said they had waited a long time for a flight.

With his Russian mother, Shrestha had established Avia Club Nepal based in Pokhara in 2001. He was interested in sports and aviation from a young age and friends and colleagues remember him as a professional and perfectionist when it came to flying and maintaining his planes. He trained as a pilot in Arizona and returned to Nepal to set up a flying club and aviation school amidst Pokhara’s dramatic scenery.

Shrestha did not let bureaucratic hurdles, which were many, deter him from his ambition. He had also pioneered cross country ultra-light rallies from Pokhara to Chitwan and Kathmandu. The blue Ukrainian-built Aeroprakt was one of two in the Avia Club fleet which also has four ultralights.

Shrestha had told Nepali Times three years ago: “I have flown in various parts of the world in various aircraft, but nothing can beat the view from the open cockpit of an ultralight on bright clear mornings flying past Annapurna.”

It is an enduring tribute to Shrestha and Avia Club that every brochure and poster for Nepal’s tourism includes a picture of an ultralight flying in front of Machapuchre.

Kunda Dixit

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