Friday, June 21, 2013
Quest Air Hang Gliding
|Pilot readies glider|
Normally when I think of hang gliding I think of non-power assisted launches off of cliffs; at Quest Air, in the flat lands of central Florida, the hand gliders are launched via aerotow. Aerotow launch is accomplished with the aid of an ultra-light airplane which tows the hang glider to altitude and releases.
Quest Air is situated at a large grass runway airport servicing only hang gliders. When I arrived, there were two gliders airborne and an ultra-light tow-plane in the process of landing. Everyone was dressed in shorts and t-shirts; a group was in the process of preparing a meal on a barbeque grill, others were sitting around waiting on their turn to launch private gliders or take a tandem flight.
I signed my life away with multiple release forms and waivers, got a 30-second safety brief and “how-to” slide show, was issued a helmet, and then introduced to my pilot/instructor for the tandem flight. I have since learned that hang gliding is somewhat dangerous with Quest Air being the site of four deaths over a fifteen-year period, the most recent in February of this year (I guess ignorance is bliss in this case).
Within seconds we were airborne and gaining altitude. The ultra-light flew in wide circles bringing us to altitude; due to windy conditions the ride was a little bumpy. Spinner released the tow rope at approximately 2,700-ft, and the tow plane veered off to return to the airfield.
Spinner immediately started searching for a thermal updraft to help us maintain altitude. The variometer/altimeter attached to the airframe of the glider would begin a series of beeps when it detected lift and was ascending. Having located a thermal, a glider pilot will circle within the area of rising air to gain height. By shifting his weight right, left and forward, the pilot controls the direction of flight.
The staff was friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating. The atmosphere was extremely laidback. I would recommend the experience to anyone interested in experiencing hang-gliding.