The Slovenia Times

A life of adventures in the sky



The beginnings: An aviation crazy kid grows into a student, who in 1973 and by some coincidence read a German Stern magazine that included an article on paragliding in the USA. What he read there, totally captured his imagination. Based on the photographs in the magazine, he began constructing a glider from pipes and the linen commonly used for umbrellas, which was available in his local store. He tested the prototype in the December, but it didnot fly. After some improvements were implemented the device finally lifted off in the following spring. Maybe he was not the only one solitary Icarus in the country, who experimented that way, but in the case of Stane, this was only the first step in a life of adventure beneath the clouds. He also made an example and became a sort of a guru for many flying idealists. Over the course of the next ten years, the Slovenian sky was full of home constructed hang-gliders. These 'skeletons' were made of irrigation pipes, which, so he says, were even better than the material that the Americans used for the same purpose. The glider was covered with sailboat linen, available from the nautical stores in Trieste.

He views these times as a sort of renaissance, that was linked to individualism, and was reflected in American 'hippie' movement and surfing mania.

While in the western world, access to the joys of flying mainly depended on the financial status and the socialist states that offered the same in exchange for dedicated contribution to aero-clubs or youth-cultivating organisations. Stane didnot fit into any of these options, so he went his own way. Actually, as he points out, there were small workshops everywhere in the world. Everyone invented and experimented. The innovation potential of these enthusiasts were in certain aspects surpassing NASA with its unlimited resources.

Getting to the business

By the end of the eighties, hang gliders surrendered to paragliders. These were easier to transport and store. They became the new obsession for flying enthusiasts. Stane was no exception. Together with a friend, he immediately moved on to create his own paraglider, then another, and another... His engineering and crafting skills, which had been so far, only available to his friends, started to turn into a business. Within a few years, he had reorganised his production to specialize in emergency parachutes. This didnot last long as his business partner proposed another deal and so those parachutes used for jumping out of the planes landed onto Stane's production line. The drafts for these parachutes were based on a certain American model. Somehow these did not perform well, and so Stane decided to take the matter into his own hands. He attended a parachuting course and everything became clear, after only a few jumps using the problematic chute that he had made,. He then moved on to design his own parachute with many useful improvements which derived from his knowledge of paragliders. His innovative approach resulted in the reduced size of a chute that retained the same falling speed. This parachute model created enough demand to sell a few hundred in the USA and to finally let Stane became totally independent within his business. When asked about the size of his current production, he avoids the quantifiers: "I never wanted a big factory. What matters is that my products are of top quality and that I keep my free time."

A giant leap into the void

As if the fateful Stern magazine was not significant enough, another similar occurrence set another milestone. This time it was a document he received by chance from his German business partner in the early nineties. It presented the so called BASE jumping - which is - jumping off earthly structures. This turned out to be an absolute challenge for his still youthful renegade attitude towards formalities, institutions, licences and flight controllers: "I have my own toy and I want to use it anywhere, according to my own judgement."

Soon he established a contact with a renowned American "baser", who presented him with the secrets of BASE jumping. After only a few jumps, he was ready to create his own BASE parachute. His reputation placed him on the list of few 'jumpers' who were allowed to dive off the magnificent Petronas tower in Kuala Lumpur. The winners of the show, who were rated with the highest aesthetic and measurable criteria, were the two Croatian companions who also used Stane's specialized parachute, which, again captured much attention, and unexpectedly resulted in becoming another regular item on Stane's production line. Apart from Petronas tower, there are now many other BASE trophies in Stane's pocket -the "nine important towers in Frankfurt" as just one example .

The Birdman

Stane had already tested special flying suits when jumping out of aeroplanes in the late nineties. But the ultimate challenge of flying in a winged suit and off a mountain wall, was only a matter of time. This approached slowly but surely. The baptism took place at the steep north face of the Mount Eiger, but the results were not satisfying. So, again, Stane took time to contemplate on the optimal use of the birdman suit. In a short matter of time and with a more attempts he soon had happily established that birdman flying became another ultimate experience for him - with some 200 jumps to date. "It is the most natural way of flying. All you use is your body. Wings like a bird. And you have to learn it, the same as birds. It is relatively difficult to establish the best wing angles and body position." A bird man can reach up to 2,7 glide ratio - meaning it progresses 2,7 units forwards while loosing 1 unit of altitude and at a speed at around 150 km/h. The flight takes one to two minutes. The lift-off demands a high amount of concentration, while the rest of the flight leaves one enough time to say to himself: "What a lucky man I am. Out of billions of humans, there are only some twenty to thirty of us in the whole world who can do it." The birdman lands with a parachute, which is sometimes opened at no more than 50 metres above the ground.

On the edge

Stane response to the question, 'Is it dangerous?' was "Every year there is a funeral. For the last three consecutive years these were in Austria." The last one was of a friend, who I instructed in birdman flying. Jumping off the balloon, he somehow turned around, with his back towards the ground, panicked, and opened the parachute at a high altitude and got himself caught in the strings.'

He cannot recall any near-fatal situations himself, but at the same time he does admit that a healthy amount of fear and cautiousness are a constant companion, especially when he is at a new place. "You should visualize the entire jump. During the ascent I already estimate where to jump, which direction to fly, where to pull the parachute... Eliminate all the possible surprises. Experience helps a lot. All my previous sports contributed to it. Along with personality you grow beside."

He fears especially for the young guys around 25, who are physically at their peak, but lack maturity. He feels responsible for educating them, but since this is not an organized or regulated activity, the only way to do it, is to present them with an example.

What comes next...

It is a reasonable question for a man who has gone all the way from home constructed hang gliders to a flying suit. Stane explains that there are two elements which drive his imagination: the technical knowledge and his practical skills in flying. What a rare combination. In most cases it is either a constructor or an user. With BASE jumping as the favourite, he combines all the flying methods he has experienced so far. Of course, the components of his hang glider are no longer borrowed from farmers and sailors, but is now a high-end carbon made flying machine. In his workshop another project awaits completion - an ultra light two-winged glider based on a model from the seventies.

After thirty five years of flying, three children - one of these following his steps - and four grand children, he considers himself a man who still lives his dream. He has seen much of the world, only to establish that Slovenia is a miniature BASE jumper's paradise. He maintains a circle of friends from all over the world, many of them renown alpinists of parachutists. Despite his flying inventions ranked as the world's best, he has received only one award, that was conferred by a Swedish club. This also reflects a non-competitive characteristic of sky adventurers like himself. This is probably why he does not understand the exhibitionist logic of popular air shows. He enjoys books and poetry, and is currently on Chomsky. He still winds up his gramophone to play some old Pink Floyd albums in his apartment above the workshop. He regrets that contemporary society gives so little attention to encourage technical innovations, educate engineers and physicists. Finally, he has at last fulfilled his personal wish of owning a fast sports car. It is not Ford GT40 of the dreams of his youth, but the amazing Opel speedster.

BASE jumping
employs a parachute or the sequenced use of a wingsuit and parachute to jump from fixed objects, with the parachute unopened at the jump. BASE is an acronym for the four categories of fixed objects from which one can jump: buildings, antennas, spans, earth. The expression was made up by film-maker Carl Boenish, who in 1978 filmed the first BASE jumps to be made using ram-air parachutes and the freefall tracking technique from El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. The firs BASE jump in history is considererd a 1912 Frederick Law's jump from the Statue of Liberty.


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