A Beginner’s Guide to Hang Gliding – in Florida!
Florida is probably best known for it’s beaches, theme parks and natural wetlands. It is not known for it’s stunning mountains and cliffs – which is why I was quite confused when fellow travel blogger and friend RoriTravel (you can read her perspective on the day here) invited me to Quest Air Hang Gliding* to go hang gliding in Central Florida. Wh-wh-what? Here are 6 surprises I discovered as you think about having your own hang gliding adventure.
1. You Can Hang Glide in Florida!
Quest Air Hang Gliding is located in Groveland, Florida at the Groveland Airport. It’s about an hour’s drive west of Orlando. This grass field primarily serves hang gliders. Obviously you don’t need to jump off a mountain in order to hang glide. This little plane above tows you up to altitude. The pilot of the glider releases the tow cable and poof! You’re flying.
Who would have thought Florida could be this exciting?!
2. Hang Gliding is Safer Than You Think
It’s tough to believe that these oversize kites are capable of keep one (let alone two) people afloat – but they can, and do! Yes any adventure sport carries a level of risk associated with it, but the Sport of Hang Gliding isn’t as precarious as you’d think. Here are just a few safety mechanisms to put you at ease:
- Gliders must be inspected pre-flight, just like any airplane
- Pilots and passengers wear helmets
- Gliders are capable of self-correcting (in certain conditions) so the glider doesn’t stall
- You’re firmly attached to the glider
- In the rare emergency, you have a parachute to get you to safety
And in the case of my visit with Quest Air, they shared with me their extra-conservatism in evaluating flight conditions. Strong winds and storms are the main culprit of turning a pleasant flight into a scary one, so they don’t fly if there’s any shadow of a doubt.
3. Take-Off is Quick; Like a Kite
Remember when you were a kid and ran real fast to make your kite fly? That’s essentially how the glider lifts off. It rolls on the ground for a few feet, but then you just pop up. Blink your eyes and you’re already off the ground. Physics is great. It takes only a few minutes to reach altitude – in this case, 2,500 feet. A quick release of the tow cable and we were on our own.
4. Simple Enough for Your Grandma
Let me clarify for a moment. From the companion’s perspective, hang gliding is easy. All I had to to is hang there. My pilot Lauren, on the other hand, did all the work. She had the tough job. After reaching altitude she showed me how to fly the glider and I did just that! By adjusting your weight, you can make the glider go up and down. Leaning left and right will turn the glider around. If you find the right thermal lifts, you can fly for hours. Our introductory flight was 15 minutes.
Virtually anyone can take one of these tandem flights. Lauren shared that she has taken the very young, and young-at-heart on hang gliding trips above Florida. You don’t need to worry about anything, Lauren and her colleagues will take care of you every step of the way. Take a look in this YouTube video from Rori:
5. Hang Gliding is Magic
Hang Gliding is the closet thing to flying with wings you’ll ever feel. It’s peaceful, elegant, slow and breathtaking. You’re literally flying with the birds.
There’s no motor, no free fall, no tether, no nothing. It’s just you… soaring high above the ground in one of the most unique of sensations.
6. Landing is the Best Part
Eventually, all good things must come to an end. The landing approach is fast. Just a few feet below your body are the wheels of the glider. You have one chance to line up and make your landing perfect. Fortunately for me, Lauren is a silver-medal championship pilot with years of experience. We hit our mark spot on and rolled to a stop.
Quest Air Hang Gliding offers discovery flights seven days a week. A 15-minute flight at 2,500 feet will cost $125, which is about on par with other helicopter and hot air balloon excursions I’ve done. It’s a great surprise gift for that special someone. And if they become hooked, they can take lessons and earn their own pilot wings.
You can view more photos of my Hang Gliding adventure on my Facebook Fan Page.
My pilot, Lauren Tjaden, is also works as the Beaches & Adventure Insider for VISIT Florida. Be sure to follow her for more great activities in Florida. You can find Lauren online at: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |
Have you ever been hang gliding? What was the experience like? Share by commenting.
I’ll see you out there…!
*In exchange for coverage on this travel blog, Quest Air Hang Gliding provided 1 complimentary ride.