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Mastery Tips

Hang Gliding in the Outer Banks, NC…

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Regular sports are all fine and dandy as far as they take you, but every now and then I get the feel for something a little more “on the edge”, or even “over the top”! Staying active should be an important part of everyone’s daily regime, and whether it’s the gym, running, or mountain biking, working on staying physical is always a good plan!  Sometimes an extra hard mountain biking ride is just the thing needed to get that blood pumping again, and other times you may need something with a little more adrenalin…

Hang gliding is just one of those sports or activities, and if you haven’t had the chance yet to try it I highly suggest that you give it a go at least once! I took a trip up to the North Carolina Outer Banks a few years ago and experienced a tandem hang glide up to about 2,000 feet, and it was the most intense experience ever!  The Outer Banks are a great location to learn how to hang glide, because of the high sand dunes located on the beaches, and most people come here to learn on these first to experience a little wind action.  In fact, this is one of the main reasons that Wilbur and Orville Wright used the Outer Banks as their take off point for the world’s first airplane!  It was only airborne a short time, but because of the high wind conditions they were able to get it off the ground and prove that heavier than air flight was possible…   That first flight took place in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in the Outer Banks.

 

If you’ve never been to the Outer Banks, I really recommend that you visit because it’s one of the most relaxed and secluded places in the continental U.S. and the shore fishing is great! You’ll need a 4 wheel drive vehicle to get out onto the good fishing beaches to set up your poles, but you may meet a new friend or two that have the same idea.  Just watch out for those tides, because they can sneak up on you fast!

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When you’ve had your fill of the sand dune hang gliding that is provided at the local school in Kitty Hawk, you may be up to trying the high altitude ultralight towed tandem hang glider at the local airport. This is really an intense experience, and I can guarantee that you’ll either love it or hate it!  You’ll meet your pilot at the small airport, and they will have the hang glider attached by cable to a very small 2 seater airplane called an ultralight.  After you are all strapped in either right next to the hang glider pilot or directly underneath him, the ultralight pilot will commence his takeoff and tow you behind him up to the 2,000 feet level before your tandem instructor releases the cable and you start flying independently.

The first 500 feet after takeoff are the roughest stretch normally because the air is less stable in that area, so be prepared for some turbulence! After that, you start getting used to the conditions and the ride will smooth out somewhat as the ultralight pilot begins to circle around on his way up to altitude.  Usually, the instructor next to you will give you a few pointers on how to control the hang glider and maneuver it around for position.  It’s actually a relatively easy contraption to fly; all you are doing is moving a bar in front of you either in or out, and left or right.  It can be unsettling though, being so high up in the air with no engine!

Probably the most intense part of the whole flight is when the instructor releases the cable from the ultralight once altitude is reached. Wow, what a rush!  Because the forward momentum has been decreased due to the release, you’ll drop about 100 feet or more right away, and the feeling is incredible!  Then the glider will start flying normally with the wind and depending on the thermals you can actually gain altitude or descend down to the airport strip below.  We took off on a grass strip at the tiny airport, and we were going to land in the same area so we always kept it in sight.  The whole descent down takes about 20 minutes or so usually, and it’s a very enjoyable experience.  If you are interested in learning how to work the controls yourself, the instructor will hand over control to you, and if not then you can just kick back and enjoy the ride!  They usually will have a camera positioned out on the wing so that they can take pictures of you to be able to sell you later.

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The thermal conditions are usually located near mountains or cliffs, and are very popular with gliding enthusiasts. One of the best locations for these thermals is Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Tennessee.  They have a fantastic facility where you can learn everything there is know about hang gliding from towing to mountain takeoffs, and become a very advanced soloist in a fairly short period of time.  There is an incredible mountain takeoff ramp located high above the landing strip below, and a visit here is high on the list of things not to miss!  There are usually several people preparing for takeoff, and when they do they almost immediately start catching thermals for an even further lift high into the air above.  It takes a certain type of person to do this type of sport, but the freedom and excitement of being up in the air gliding along like a bird is amazing.  Just be sure to have your insurance all paid up first!

If you are in the Orlando area, there is also a great hang gliding school and strip located there that is highly recommended. It’s called the Wallaby Ranch, and is popular for first timers visiting Orlando and its many theme parks trying to get their first taste of real adventure!  There may even be a hang glider school or facility near you if you can’t make it to one of these training or tandem experiences.  If you have a real taste for something new and unusual, and are ready to get that adrenalin and blood pumping, then give this sport a try!  You never know, you may just like it…






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