Spread Your Wings One of two hang gliding operations in North Carolina, Thermal Valley offers tandem aerotow flights (meaning a light aircraft pulls the glider into the air) from the Foothills Regional Airport in Morganton.
My nervous tension begins to ease and a wide permanent grin settles on my face as I take in the rose gold-tinted surroundings.
Prepare for Takeoff Assisted by a small ground crew, the ultralight plane, piloted by Larry Falls, tows Craig Pearson and his tandem passenger into the air.
Easy Ascent Aerotowing is one method of takeoff. Others include scooter towing and foot launch. Ideal wind conditions for takeoff and landings are between five to 20 miles per hour.
View from Above The ultralight plane is merely a frame with wings and an engine, offering gripping views of what lies below. The tandem flights offered by Thermal Valley fly at altitudes between 1,500 and 2,500 feet, though hang gliders can reach heights of well over 18,000 feet.
Joy Ride Hang gliders can fly at any time of the day, so long as the wind and weather conditions are appropriate, though sunset offers some of the most majestic views.
In the Wind Solo piloting takes hours of training and a solid understanding of meteorological conditions. The ability to read weather patterns is essential.