I’ve discussed before that I don’t like heights or airplanes. Logically it follows that I decide to cope with these fears by strapping myself to a giant kite. I’ve been trying to teach myself to not let my fears stand in my way. I’m ok with the idea of heights in concept, but when I actually find myself inches from confronting the situation, panic sets in. For example, when I went skydiving a few months ago I was fine with the idea of jumping out of an airplane until the door of the plane opened. Then, terror. But there is something about the terror that fuels me.
My friend Jamie and I decided to have a girls trip to Chattanooga for a day of soaring through the air. I adore Jamie, she is essentially a giggle in human form and I was excited to have her go with me.
We went to Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee. When I first looked into hang gliding, I thought we’d be running and jumping off of the side of the mountain. I was incredibly excited about the liberating feeling we’d get from it.
However, when I saw the launching point my immediate reaction was:
Fortunately, we began our flight from the ground tethered behind a light-weight airplane. I was incredibly excited about this, because I didn’t have to be in the airplane. This should demonstrate the extent of my fear or flying, I’d much rather be dragged behind an airplane than in one. I wonder if Southwest can adopt a program like this.
I was the first one up. My instructor, Ozzy, strapped me into my harness and secured me to the glider. He pointed out a few safety features to demonstrate that that I wouldn’t plummet to the ground mid-flight. However, I was so ready to start that I don’t think I paid attention to anything he said.
The takeoff happened a lot faster than I expected.
We were in the air within seconds of the plane moving down the field, and it didn’t take long to reach full altitude. As soon as we were off the ground I started screaming with joy.
Usually, takeoff is my least favorite part of any ride, but apparently things are a lot smoother when you are outside of the plane. I kept waiting for turbulence to toss us around like rag dolls, but we barely experienced any bumps.
After we reached altitude, Ozzy released the tether and we were on our own. With the plane gone, it was practically silent and utterly peaceful. It felt like I was getting a glimpse of what it was like to fly like a bird.
Since the flight was technically a lesson, Ozzy turned control of the glider over to me.
In concept, controlling the glider was really simple. Lean left to go left, lean right to go right, pull back to go faster. Ozzy told me that I shouldn’t fly the way an old woman drives a car and that white knuckles wouldn’t look good in the photographs. Apparently, I was a little more tense than I thought; I was actually having a blast!
The view was absolutely gorgeous. We could see for miles and the changing leaves peppered the ground with beautiful red and gold hues.
Finally, Ozzy retook control of the glider and we did a few tricks before we landed. We took a couple of steep turns before buzzing the heads of everyone on the ground and eventually came in for a soft landing.
Hang gliding had all of the awesome parts of skydiving, yet none of the terrifying parts. Jamie and I had an incredible time and are looking forward to trying hang gliding or even paragliding again. We are now members of the U.S. Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association, so we almost feel obligated to.
Stay tuned for a video of my flight!