Hang gliding is the closest a human can get to soaring, bird-like flight. It is flying without a motor; a quiet, simple, and beautiful experience. The hang glider itself is a non-motorized wing that can be foot launched or towed aloft. The glider has a rigid anodized aluminum frame that maintains the shape of the wing. The wing is constructed out of sailcloth, mylar, and dacron.
Hang gliding is as safe as the individual makes it. Like any form of sport aviation, hang gliding requires careful training and execution. Hang gliding can be dangerous if pursued carelessly. Lookout Mountain Flight Park (LMFP) has been in operation for over 30 years and in the interest of safety, we provide you with the best equipment, a comprehensive training program, a highly experienced staff, and back up systems. According to the latest United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association statistics, hang gliding is safer than a 25 year old man driving a car. You take more risk on the road than in the air.
Simply stated, hang gliders are controlled by weight shift. This means that a rated pilot (pilots are trained and rated by an accredited school) shifts their weight to one side or another to turn the glider and contols the speed of the glider by moving their weight forward and back. Just a bit more technically speaking: by moving forward and backward and side to side, the pilot alters the center of gravity of the glider. This then causes the glider to pitch or roll in the direction of the pilot’s motion and thus allows both speed control and turning.
Pilots are suspended from their hang glider by a harness and hang strap system. You don’t have to hold yourself up.
The trim speed of a hang glider is about 18-20 mph. Trim speed is defined as the speed a glider is flying when the pilot is flying hands off. Most gliders stall at around 15 mph, are towed at about 33-35 mph, and reach top speeds of 45-65 mph (depending upon glider model).
This depends a lot on the conditions in which they are flown, but flights in excess of 400 miles in length and flying to altitudes of 17,999 feet above sea level have been recorded. Pilots have flown over 100 miles from Lookout’s mountain launch.
While there are many sources of upwardly moving air or “lift”, the most commonly used by hang gliders are ridge lift and thermal lift. Ridge lift occurs when horizontal wind hits an obstruction (like a ridge, for instance) and is deflected upward. Here at Lookout Mountain we have a long, straight ridge that stretches from Chattanooga down into Alabama. On days when the wind is out of the northwest, pilots will fly in this “lift band” for hours. Thermal lift occurs when terrain is heated by the sun and transfers this heat to the surrounding air – which then rises. Thermal lift usually starts at some local “trigger point” on the ground and then rises as a column or bubble of air. To get up in a thermal, pilots will fly in circles within this column of rising air. This is just what you see soaring birds do.
The length of a flight also depends on conditions. Sled runs, launching and landing without gaining any altitude, are about five minutes long and soaring flights can last for hours.
It’s easy. Just dial 706-398-3541 to talk to the friendly staff at Lookout Mountain Flight Park (LMFP). We can answer any of your questions and get you set up with your flight lessons. You will love it! Flying is not something that just other people do, you can do it too! To get more information visit LMFP’s flight training page. Most students choose to take the integrated approach to learning to fly with training hill lessons and aerotow tandems.
Unlike the rigid airframe that shapes the wing of a hang glider, a paragliding wing is maintained only by air pressure. This means that the hang glider wing is more stable and can be flown at higher speeds and in a larger range of wind conditions. Paraglider pilots fly in a supine or seated position unlike hang glider pilots who fly in prone (laying down).
We have taught men and women as young as 13 and into their 70’s to learn to fly. Because hang gliding is such a pure way to fly and is one of the most economical ways to get in the air, there are folks from all walks of life in our community of pilots – artists, doctors, waiters, carpenters, moms, dads, teenagers, airline pilots, grandmothers, parapelegics. All it takes is the desire. Check out the training section of our website to see how you can make it happen.
Technically hang gliding falls under Federal Air Regulations Part 103, however, the FAA allows hang glider pilots to be self governed through the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA). We use a rating system to determine the skill level of pilots, the weather conditions and the skill level needed to fly a particular flying site. While it is not against the law to fly without being a rated pilot, LMFP (and all other flying sites/flying clubs) only allow rated pilots to fly. An untrained person who hurts themselves trying to fly hurts the entire sport. No pilot will allow it. LMFP recommends/requires that you must be trained by an accredited instructor to fly a hang glider. Attempting flying without training will cause injury or death.
Hang gliders break down into a tube like shape that is around 15 feet long and 1.5 feet wide and can be transported on any car. Car rack systems are available for everything from a Honda Civic to a Winnebago. We even have pilots who transport their glider on their Mazda Miata convertible. Pilots can store their gliders at home in their garage, in PVC tubes under the house, or other creative spots. LMFP also offers glider storage for pilots who would rather keep their glider at their flying site.
Yes. You must be at least ten years old to to participate in hang gliding. Minors (under 18 years) must have a parent or legal guardian with them to sign release waivers.
LMFP flies thousands of tandems every year without incident. Our tandem pilots have hundreds of hours (that’s a lot in non motorized flight) before they ever fly their first tandem, and tandem pilots go through a rigorous training program before they are ever rated to fly a tandem with you.
At Lookout, all of our tandems are towed up behind an ultralight airplane that was designed specifically for towing hang gliders. This means that your tandem flight will launch and land on wheels. Both you and your tandem pilot will be flying, launching, and landing in a prone, lying down, position. No running involved.
Yes,it is very important to make a reservation. Our lessons and discovery tandems are flown on a reservation system. So please call 1-706-398-3541 to set up your time with us. Without reservations and a full schedule, you would be unable to fly. If you are on a lesson package with us and you don’t schedule, you run the risk of the class being full or showing up when no instructor has been scheduled.
Yes. Our weight limit is 250 pounds. Customers over 230 pounds need special weather conditions.
Don’t assume that the weather is going to be bad and that you won’t get to fly. Forecasts are generic, and can be inaccurate. There are days when the forecast doesn’t look favorable, but we have great tandem flights and lessons. We have a lot of experience judging the “flyability” of the weather and in the event of high winds and rain, we make every attempt to contact you ahead of time with weather information. However, we aren’t always able to give you prior notification about adverse weather conditions.
You can not bring your camera with you on the flight. We can not risk the possibility of you dropping or damaging your camera. Instead just enjoy your flight – check out the beautiful view, learn how to steer the glider. We can take the pictures for you. We have a camera mounted on the wing of the glider. Your instructor will take 50-80 pictures of you in flight for $29, or have a DVD of you in flight for $50. Or, get both the photos and the DVD for only $69. The photos and DVD’s turn out great!
You will not need any special equipment to fly tandem. You will want to dress for the weather and wear sunglasses. If you are flying in cooler temperatures you should dress in layers and bring gloves and a hat.
The non-flying members of your group will definitely enjoy watching you fly. They can also bring a picnic lunch, throw a Frisbee, and sit by the pool. Check out our tour page to find out information about our landing zone.
We do offer gift certificates for tandem flights, flight lessons, and in any monetary denominations. Call 1-800-688-5637 or 706-398-3541 and we can set you up with a gift certificate. All gift certificates are good for two years and the recipient can schedule their flights at their convenience.
The cost of equipment varies greatly. Cost is dependent upon the models of equipment purchased and whether you buy used or new equipment. There is nothing wrong with buying used equipment from a reputable dealer. It is imperative to have any used equipment inspected by an experienced glider mechanic. Costs vary a lot, but as of 2012 figure on: training through the Novice level: $699 – $1699 Beginner/Novice glider: $2000-3000(used) $3700 – $4700 (new) Harness $200 – $700 (used) $400 – $1000 (new) Parachute $350 – $550 (used) $650 – $850 (new) Helmet $100 – $300. Remember that you can purchase your equipment in stages.
LMFP provides all of the equipment you need for training. However, students over 250 pounds will need to purchase some of their own equipment for lessons on the training hills. After becoming a novice pilot, most pilots purchase their own equipment. LMFP can train you to use your new equipment.
Everyone is different and it depends on which training package you choose. Most people can complete their training in a week to ten days. Please visit our training pages to see what your options are.
Dress for the weather and if it’s cooler out, dress in layers (bring gloves and a hat for the hills and the tandems). Either gym shoes or hiking boots and long pants are appropriate for the training hills. Also bring a change of pants, shoes and socks for after your training hill class. The grass is dewy and your feet may get wet. You should bring water, sunscreen, and a smile. Remember, this is fun! For more student information, visit our New Student Info page.
Yes, you will fly in your first lesson. During day one of your training hill lessons you will start to move your way up our small training hill and get a few feet off of the ground. During your first tandem lesson you will get to 1800’ off of the ground!
Yes, you can learn to be a solo aerotow pilot (aerotowing is being towed to altitude behind an ultralight aeroplane and is also how we fly our tandems). The training method is instructional tandems. Once you are a solo pilot, aerotows are $25 each. You can also buy 10 solos and get 1 free, or a 30 pack of solo tows is $600.