Hang gliding highly dependent on weather conditions
The Scenic City and surrounding areas are known to be destinations for outdoor enthusiasts.
A variety of activities are offered on land, water, and sky. Hang gliding is a popular one that takes to the air, which is great this time of year with the leaves changing colors.
Both novices and experienced fliers can enjoy the experience, which is like riding a bike in the sky.
At Lookout Mountain Flight Park in Rising Fawn, GA, they perform tandem hang gliding flights. Plus, experts take off solo from the mountain ridge launch pad.
Weather plays an important role in when and where they can fly. Even on a nice day with bright blue sky, conditions may not be ideal for a hang gliding flight.
Employees start evaluating the weather conditions a day or two before booked flights and may reschedule for obviously inclement weather.
"Morning of, we're definitely looking at wind direction, cloud base. We've got a certain clearance underneath clouds and around clouds in order to legally fly," Dave Miller of Lookout Mountain Flight Park said of the in-depth weather examination.
Wind speed on the ground and aloft must also be considered.
A small plane tows tandem hang gliders up from the valley floor to 1500 or 3000 feet, and then the glider is released from its tether to fly back down on its own.
There's also the ridge foot launch, where experienced gliders run and jump off a 2000-foot cliff.
For them, a headwind from the northwest is desired for good lift.
"If the wind's blowing down the valley one way or the other, it's generally pretty smooth. Over the back of the mountain if it's coming from the east, northeast around to southeast, it's going to cause turbulence in the valley," explained Miller.
The turbulence makes flying unsafe from both launch locations.
Also considered for flight plans are the rising thermals of warm air that act like bubbles as the ground heats up in the daytime.
"For the foot launch flights, guys that want to stay up, it's better for them in the afternoon once the ground heats up, convective things are going, thermals are rising," Miller stated
But for the tandem flights, the thermal convection causes more turbulence.
"For us, because we've got to climb out of this field and deal with this turbulence down here. Usually better for us in the morning and late in the afternoon," Miller said of the time of day differences.
A comprehensive harness with shoulder and leg straps, helmet, and glasses are used.
Each glider is pre-flighted every day and a checklist followed before launching.
Straps at the back of the harness are then attached to the hang glider, and the passenger flies in a prone position.
Miller strapped in Channel 3’s Alison Pryor stating, "I've got you hooked into a main and a back up. Those are rated to 4000 pounds each. Your carabiner is closed. It's locked. Wherever this hang glider goes, you are going also."
Tandem flights will last 10 to 20 minutes, and the passenger gets to help fly on the way down.
Passengers are given a lesson on how to steer by pushing and swinging their bodies before take-off.
If you are interested in learning to fly from a tow plane, it will take about 15 training lessons before you can hop on the hang glider by yourself.
For the foot launch off the mountain, they have training hills of 60 and 90 feet to practice successfully running and landing on your feet. Usually, 12 or 14 hours of training are needed before you can launch from the ridge.
More information on Lookout Mountain Flight Park’s schedule and contact can be found here.