Ever wanted to fly like a bird and see the world from 3,000 feet? Hang gliding is the perfect way to see life from a whole new perspective while feeling the wind in your hair and a little bit of an adrenaline rush. Want to give hang gliding a try? Keep reading to see how you can fly, too!
Located just half an hour from downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee, Lookout Mountain Flight Park is a world renowned hang gliding school that trains more pilots than any other school in the USA. With mild weather years around and views spanning across Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, Lookout Mountain Flight Park is the ideal place to learn to fly!
For years my (Sara’s) dad took me on top of Lookout Mountain from time to time to watch hang glider pilots jump off the mountain and soar across sky the before landing in the valley below. My dad taught me an appreciation for aviation at an early age and we both dreamed of being one of those people we saw soaring across the skies like a human kite.
So why didn’t we give hang gliding a try before now?
Well, while hang gliding is safe, my dad always said that once he married off all three daughters he’d finally give hang gliding a try.
Well, it just so happens that within 2 weeks my dad married off his last daughter, turned 60 years old, and retired, so of course we had to celebrate all of those major milestones by going hang gliding!
While we recommend Lookout Mountain Flight Park because of its reputation, there are other flight parks to give hang gliding a try at all around the country. However, we can’t vouch for those since we’ve never flown there. We can say that we loved our time with the team at Lookout Mountain and would recommend it to our friends. It was a safe, informative, fun, and stress free experience.
If you’re interested in giving hang gliding a try, Lookout Mountain Flight Park offers two different options for tandem flights: 1500 feet and 3000 feet. If you’re already sold on committing to hang gliding, you can hop right into lessons by purchasing one of their lesson packages. While we think you will love hang gliding, we’d still recommend a tandem flight to get your feet wet and be sure you want to commit to a full lesson package.
The idea of hanging from a kite at 3000 feet by nothing more than a couple of carabiners can be pretty daunting. However, hang gliding is actually incredibly safe!
Going into hang gliding I suppose I expected it to be a major adrenaline rush (similar to what I would expect skydiving is like). There is an adrenaline rush (especially if you’re nervous) but truthfully it’s so calm and relaxing the entire time that all you can do is sit back and appreciate the beauty of the world around you.
The best way to describe hang gliding is really to say it’s similar to flying like a bird. Since there’s no engine propelling you across the skies, the only noise around is the wind. There are no sudden drops or turns (unless you want there to be!), it’s mostly just smooth and relaxing as you ride the winds.
Most people don’t realize you can give hang gliding a try before fully committing to the full lesson packages. Lookout Mountain Flight Park offers tandem sessions from 1500 feet and 3000 feet above the ground that will give you a chance to experience flying as a student pilot.
If you’re interested in flying tandem with an instructor, you can reserve a flight time with an instructor anytime of year thanks to Lookout Mountain’s moderate climate. For more information and to book your own tandem flight you can visit their website HERE.
If you decide you want to take to the skies like a bird but you’re a unsure what to expect, here’s what you should know. This is all based on what my personal experience was like tandem hang gliding as of June 2020.
To begin your hang gliding adventure you’ll need to drive to the top of Lookout Mountain to Lookout Mountain Flight Park’s main office to sign waivers and release forms. While hang gliding is safe, these types of forms are standard and required of all who decide to fly tandem.
While you’re on top of the mountain, take in the views of the valley below. If you’re lucky you’ll even get to see some experienced, trained pilots take off from the top of the mountain by jumping off the side. If the pros aren’t jumping while you’re there, it’s worth driving back up the mountain to witness another day!
Once you’ve taken care of the paperwork and enjoyed the views for a few minutes, you’ll need to hop back in the car and drive down the western side of Lookout Mountain via Burkhalter Gap Road. It’s a steep, quick 8 minute drive down the mountain to get to the field where you’ll be taking off and landing during your tandem flight.
For directions from the mountain top office to the take off/landing location in the valley click HERE.
Once you arrive down at the field for takeoff, you’ll head straight for the wooden gazebo. (Note: there’s a wooden gazebo at the north end and one at the south end, they’ll tell you which one to drive to when you’re at the top of the mountain.)
At the gazebo you’ll turn your attention to the video on the TV to watch a brief introductory video about what to expect when flying. Pay attention because this video will cover the basics about how you’ll get to help control the glider and get the most out of your flying experience.
During the video you’ll also need to fill out one final paper which essentially is just you checking boxes to agree that you understand the basics of hang gliding.
After the video finishes you’ll head down the steps to get all geared up for flight. Harness, helmet, and sunglasses are just about all you’ll need to put on before flight. The employees will help you get fitted and geared up properly to ensure a safe flight.
Once you’re all dressed in your new, fancy hang gliding gear, you’re ready to go flying. You pilot and glider will meet you on the grass to get you all hooked up and ready to go.
Your pilot will be responsible for ensuring your properly hooked into the glider and connected to him or her as well. (Your instructor is the one wearing the parachute so that’s why it’s important for you two to be hooked together.) Once you’re all hooked up your pilot will tell you to drop down to “hang” and hold onto the glider bar.
Once you and your pilot are hanging side by side on the glider, the pilot will signal to the tow plane that you’re all good to go in the back and the plane engine will begin to pull you. Because the glider picks up air so quickly, it’ll only take a few seconds for you to leave the ground so get ready!
Once you reach your determined altitude (1500 or 3000 feet depending on which package you chose) the tow plane will release the glider and you’ll instantly feel the glider take on its own flight path. It’ll get much quieter as the tow plane flies away and leaves you and your pilot alone to ride the wind.
If you’re like me, the first few moments of flight are a little bit intimidating. It’s a weird feeling to be hanging by what’s essentially a human kit thousands of feet above the earth. Once you get past the initial thoughts of “what the heck am I doing?!” and start to look up and around you, you start to enjoy the flight a whole lot more!
Take it in, look up, and enjoy the moment!
Hang gliding is truly a one of a kind experience. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a bird or have ever wondered what the Wright brothers felt at Kitty Hawk many years ago, this is probably the closest you’ll ever get to either of those experiences. It’s both a rush and relaxing all at the same time. Truthfully it’s kind of hard to explain, so you should probably just go try it for yourself. :)
As always, if you have any questions drop it in the comments below and we’ll answer them ASAP. Happy flying, y’all!