Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hang Gliding Discovery Flight at Wallaby Ranch

Wallaby Ranch is located off a country road just off of I-4 in Davenport Florida, just a few miles from the Sun N Fun Campus in Lakeland and Kermit Weeks famous Fantasy of Flight.  They specialize in hang gliding and promote a great family, club type atmosphere that draws hang gliders from all parts of the world.  They tug everyone from hang gliding experts to students to those who just want a discovery flight to have the experience of flying a weight shift wing (with a lot of help from their experienced pilots)  
Malcom Jones, owner and founder of Wallaby Ranch (in green) has flown over 30,000 flights from the ranch. I had the opportunity of flying with Malcom.  At 2,000 feet and just being released from the tug, Malcom said "this is my office.  This is where I am every morning at 8:00".  How horrible is that?!!
The tug or "aerotow" was a bar bones ultralight.  I am not sure what the make was but it resembled a single seat Kolb type airframe.  Malcom did say it was powered by a Rotax 582.  We had a fairly strong head wind and a thin cloud layer at approx 1000'.  The tug up was a little bumpy until we cleared the thin cloud layer.  After we cleared that layer the air became smooth but a steady wind made forward progress negligible.  We released the glider from the tug at approx 2000' AGL and began our descent.  
My "most experienced brother Terry" prepares to land with his instructor.  Notice the BRS chute mounted on the airframe and tail wheel that keeps riders feet from becoming the first point of contact when landing.
Brother Tim, slightly more experienced than me but not quite as experienced as brother Terry, and his instructor just after landing their wing!  Even the instructor has a smile that can only come from enjoying what he just experienced, a view of our creation in a very beautiful part of the world and having just shared it with someone for the first time.
This is the classroom at Wallaby Ranch.  What a neat place to experience a ground school or share stories with new friends. 
After the flight(s) all flyers are welcomed to share breakfast.  Malcom, his staff, customers and folks staying in cabins all gather to share a meal, stories and just enjoy their time and experience.  It is a neat, unique atmosphere.  For those of us who remember the "hippie era" there is a slight feeling of that life style, maybe a little more than a slight feeling.
Brother Terry gets a ride back to the launch area, post flight, with the wing in tow.  From the time you land until the next student is harnessed and towed into the air is less than 5 minutes.  The gang at the ranch are very efficient and get as many people in the air as quickly and safely as possible.  Conditions this day quickly deteriorated and the flights were stopped due to wind before everyone got a chance to fly.  Safety is their first consideration.
After the 2012 event at Sun N Fun I had a chance to fly a Piper Cub on floats at Jack Browns Sea Plane Base.  That was a blast and something very memorable.  This year I had the special opportunity to fly with my brothers at Wallaby Ranch in a hang glider.  This will be a memory of a lifetime for sure. $175 bucks gets you an intro.flight and $30 bucks gets you a record of your flight on an SD card with video captured by a Go Pro camera. Next year during Sun N Fun week, my most experienced brother thinks we should sky dive.  Well..........bring it on, but I am jumping last!!!

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