Why I Fly

Catherine
Catherine launching off of Lookout Mountain.

Catherine and Steve.
Catherine and Steve at a launch on the St. Lawrence.
Catherine Gagnon, Going on 30!, Financial Advisor, ER and Outpost Nurse, Nurse Practitioner Student
 
How long have you been flying?
Since fall 2006.

What made you get involved in hang gliding?
I was 8 yrs old when I asked my folks to buy me a hang glider! I always had the dream of flying. Shortly after a life event where I had to take an uneasy decision, I found a website of a very small HG school just an hour away from my place. I took this life sign seriously, called and started the next week. That day I understood how my uneasy decision had literally given me wings! I had closed a door and opened another one filled with freedom and infinite possibilities.

Why do you fly?
I have been flying in my dreams at night for as long as I can remember! Flying is therapeutic, it’s a way to be fully in the present moment, like a meditation almost. Because every step taken on the ground or in the air requires my full attention, there’s no room for any other type of thoughts and when I land after a flight I feel sharper mentally, cleansed spiritually on top of having had a blast!

What are some of the things that you love about flying?
The biggest thing for me is the feeling of freedom I get when I’m up there alone under my wing. But then I realize I am not alone at all! This world I see from above, those beautiful trees whose heads I finally get to see, the people, the animals, I realize I am part of all of that. It gives me another perspective to life that perhaps on the ground I don’t see so easily. I also really enjoy meeting with amazingly wonderful people in the different flying communities I’ve visited.
Stacy.
Stacy on launch.
Stacy Murdoch, 34, Financial Advisor, mom to three, grandmom to one
 
How long have you been flying?
I’ve been flying since January 2001, still amazes me I do it considering my fear of high places.

Why do you fly?
My husband has been a pilot for 27 years and when we met he of course took me to watch. Flying was his thing, so if I were to see him weekends I better learn too. Flying seems to counter the stress that I have, being a financial advisor creates a good bit at times. When we come to Lookout that stress diminishes, then disappears when I’m flying and several days after.

What are some of the things that you love about flying?
I love the sights when you’re in the air, the swooshing sound of the wind, and most importantly, the friendships you develop while training and hanging out at launch.
Scotty.
Scott on a beautiful day!
Scott Schneider, 44 years young, Artist
 
How long have you been flying?
First solo mountain flight…September 5, 1997.

What made you get involved in hang gliding and why do you fly?
WHY I FLY? Because I can!!! When I was a wee lad of, I don’t know, maybe 9 or 10 I was at my family cabin on a lake in N.C. when a boat passed with the ski rope being pulled into the air by a giant kite with a person hanging from it! (Dad, Mom, I just saw the COOLEST THING EVER) A few years later I witnessed this fantastic event again at a waterski show. These images never left my mind, and knew that one day that person would be me. As life continued, and the realities of this world began beating me into a useful member of society, I saw this magic again! It was here (LMFP) on a weekend escape. I started asking all those questions. Is it hard? Is it expensive? Where do you land? how do you get back up here?… I was a woofoe, and it was awsome!!! I had been riding motorcycles for years, and hit by cars twice, and decided this was going to be my new addiction. and maybe not as dangerous. I started saving money and signed up for the Mountain package. I talked my lil’ brother into joining me and the adventure began!

What are some of the things that you love about flying?
I travel to work, so it took me a bit to get off the hills. Then it happened! I ran off the side of the mountain. September 5, 1997. I will never forget the feeling of total and complete freedom. Heck yea, it was nerve filled adrenalin pumping through my whole body, and it was AWESOME!!! The adventure has never ended. This Sport, this place, these people. It has changed my life, and maybe saved it. I’ve had the chance to fly other sites, meet other pilots, and everywhere I have flown, (or wanted to fly) I have always been welcomed like a family member. I became an instructor in ’02 so I could share this with others and be there when THE MAGIC happens for them. It is truly one of the best things I’ve ever been a part of ! I learned to fly paragliders in ’03 and have been accepted by both sides of the family. I have lived in the landing field here at Lookout for 10 years. This is my home. These people are my family. I plan on being in this sport until… forever. We are some of the luckiest people in the world and life is good when you learn to spread your wings and take to the air!!! Hope to see you at cloudbase.
Erik Graper stinkin' high.
Erik, stinkin’ high!
Erik Graper, 34, Hang Gliding Tandem Instructor
 
How long have you been flying?
This will make ten years.

What made you get involved in hang gliding?
Desire to fly, now normal people can be superman….er ehhhmm superhuman.

Why do you fly?
That’s what I do.

What are some of the things that you love about flying?
Be the bird. Get stinking high. See the world the way it should be seen. Go far. Live free. See the raptors up close and personal. Oh, the glory rings and sunsets. A few thousand other things. And it’s just the most FUN to be had. So.. why DON’T you fly?? Now that’s a good question.
Leigh setting up.
Leigh setting up.

Leigh launching.
Leigh launching from LMFP ramp.
Leigh Sheridan, 37, Veterinarian, veterinary acupuncturist, hazmat first responder, tai chi student
 
How long have you been flying?
10 years

What made you get involved in hang gliding?
As a kid I used to just love that old Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum commercial, the one with the hang glider pilot on the snowy mountain top who stuck a piece of gum in his mouth and launched his glider from an insanely high cliff (without a helmet, natch, these were the 70′s!). I grew up loving my flying dreams and watching birds.
When I was in school at the University of Georgia, I was on my way to the gym one day and saw a notice about the Adventure Club going to Lookout to take tandem hang gliding flights. The notice advertised a door prize for anyone who attended the organizational meeting for the trip–a drawing for a free tandem. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I went to the meeting…and won the tandem! Maybe it was meant to be.
So on October 16, 1999, a spectacular fall day with a sky full of colorful hang gliders, I took my tandem with Jim Prahl. It was exactly what I wanted it to be…and immediately upon landing, I bought a package of hang gliding lessons. I wouldn’t do it differently for anything. Ten years later, I’m still flying!

Why do you fly?
I enjoy not only the raw sensation of free flight, but also the effort I must make to overcome fear each and every time I launch. It is a real accomplishment for me to make a flight despite my weak knees and the butterflies in my stomach as I walk out on launch. Once I get past all that and finally go running off that perfectly good mountain, the feeling of happiness, freedom, and pride is just indescribable. And then, on a good day, when I get to go up instead of down…oh, boy….

What are some of the things that you love about flying?
In addition to how happy the sensation of flight makes me, I just love the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made. Hang glider pilots are the most interesting, friendliest, smartest, best people in the world, and the community of pilots where ever I go fly is amazing.
Aileen hang-waiting.
Aileen hang-waiting on that perfect cycle.
 
Aileen Musco, 50+, Seamstress, saleswoman, web designer
 
How long have you been flying?
Since 1985.

What made you get involved in hang gliding?
I’ve always dreamed of flying, since I was three years old. Hang-gliding was affordable compared to any other kind of flying and had the appeal of being “superman-style” like my dreams.

Why do you fly?
It makes me feel alive, free, part of the sky. It’s always fresh. Nothing else compares.

What are some of the things that you love about flying?
The feel of launching as the ground drops away,the kick of soaring over things that are always taller than me on the ground, the feeling of riding the air and carving out turns in it or catching a thermal and climbing like a bird… The way the world looks when I see trees from above, the feel of that fast steep curve onto final approach, the thrill of flaring and landing on my feet (when I pull it off!)
Denny relaxing..
Denny relaxing with his Sport 2.
Denny Pistoll, 68, Retired airline pilot, author, paddler
 
How long have you been flying?
I’ve been flying hang gliders for five years.

What made you get involved in hang gliding?
My first glimpse of this sport occurred back in the early ’70′s when we were living in Hawaii. Back then hang gliding was in its infancy but watching the gliders plying the mountain ridges high above Makapuu Beach was a stirring spectacle.
In those days, hang gliding had the label of extreme and, at the time, deservedly so as the people flying then were pioneers in the truest sense of the word. Regrettably, I wasn’t one of them. Due to other pressing matters I back-burnered my desires and involvement but promised myself that after retiring I would look into this fascinating activity in earnest. 35 years later I did exactly that.
Fast forward to 2004: Wow, the changes that had taken place were nothing short of amazing! And the changes were not only in the quality of equipment but in the way new pilots were trained, licensed and monitored. There was a national organization, gliders became certified aircraft, and the various flying sites now had rules and protocols – all of this, and its practitioners, were laser focused on safety. The sport had matured and though perhaps not a “mainline” activity in the classic sense, it had journeyed very far from a pursuit reserved for extremists and was now a sport in which anyone of average abilities and keen interest could participate.
In my research for where the best place to learn and train I discovered Lookout Mountain Flight Park. Living in Pennsylvania this was certainly not the most convenient… but I felt, hands down, the best place to begin my journey. The decision was easy. The professional training and follow-on help I received at Lookout rivaled the very best military and civilian aviation schools I’ve had the opportunity to attend, and the entire experience completely validated my initial conclusions.

Why do you fly?
Why I fly and why people take this up is hard to quantify; like grasping mercury, the solution seems to branch in all directions and, I’m sure, means something different for each individual. For my part, brief visits into the realm of unpowered flight is a magical experience… every time. However brief or long a flight is, the absolute freedom one feels riding a silent ribbon of air and harnessing the elements of nature to remain aloft is exhilarating in the sense that you are living the stuff of dreams – dreams that only a century ago mankind could only gaze skyward and imagine the awe associated with such an experience.

What are some of the things that you love about flying?
My logbook is choked to the brim with ‘sled runs’ and though I’ve managed some long flights as well, I can say, unequivocally, that my short flights were every bit as rewarding. It the process of this unique mode of flight that captured my heart, and it is that process which has held me in thrall since my very first mountain launch.
Through my career I’ve been privileged to fly some really great equipment along with missions and trips that were extraordinarily fulfilling. Nevertheless, I would say that the process of launching, executing an approach and making a good landing in a hang glider is as rewarding and self-actualizing an activity as anything I’ve ever done.