Floating through the skies on currents of air is the realization of an age old dream. Those with the skills to pilot hang gliders can now say they fly like the birds.
One of the best places to fly like a bird is right here in Idaho. There are few places with more ideal conditions for soaring than King Mountain at the southern end of the Lost River Range. It’s is one of the nation’s premiere hang gliding sites.
For a dozen years pilots from around country have been gathering in Moore, Idaho for the King Mountain Hang Gliding Championships. Lisa Tate is the meet director.
It’s actually the largest foot launched hang gliding event in the United States and they come to this little town of Moore, Idaho just to fly this great scenery and these mountains. The flying conditions here are just really conducive to great soaring and long flights of great distances but there’s also spectacular scenery. This place is just incredibly beautiful flying.
Heather Stoddard is one of the few female pilots with the skills to take on a location as challenging as King Mountain. Here pilots reach elevations of ten to twenty thousand feet and higher and cover distances of over a hundred miles. This sport is not for the faint of heart but for Heather it is exhilarating.
It’s just pure joy of flying. Sometimes I’ll put my hands out in front of my control bar and I’ll just kind of do the superman thing and it’s kind of like, I’m flying. I mean, it’s just amazing, it’s just that feeling is the best way to explain it. I love it.
The pilots are well prepared for the extreme elevations and long distances they cover. They not only wear warm clothes and carry oxygen; they also pack ham radios, parachutes and gps locators. It’s all part of a high tech package that continues to progress as the sport reaches new heights.
Alan Paylor moved to Idaho primarily for the hang gliding at King Mountain. He now runs the only full time glider shop in the state. Paylor knows how far the sport has come in a short time.”
In the very beginning of hang gliding in the 70s it was just take off from the sand dune and go straight, it was a beach activity. And then they realized, oh we can turn, oh we can stay up. And now it has evolved with new materials and the high tech design of the aircraft and the equipment. We do go great distances and we have some great altitude gains. For instance here at King Mountain we have permission from the FAA under certain conditions to get up to twenty-three thousand feet above sea level.
John Kangas is the weatherman for the King Mountain Championships and he’s also a hang glider pilot. While he has an aviation background that includes flying jets for the airlines and small planes in the backcountry, he says gliding is his passion.
To fly with no engine, to sustain your flight based on your feel, your knowledge of the sky, what you observe, what you’ve learned before and being able to apply it and continue to grow is…I think that’s a dream come true for people who have a passion for flying. And if you ever get a chance to experience it, it’s something you really never ever forget. We’re doing something man has dream doing for thousands and thousands of years.