Hanging at the Ranch: Lisa's First Hang Glider Flight
Not far from the theme parks of Orlando, Fla. is an aviators oasis unlike any I've seen. To describe it in words is difficult, but to experience it is nothing short of magical.
Wallaby Ranch is a hang glider paradise nestled in a 500 acre sanctuary. There are no defined runways. One hundred acres of grass allow you to take off and land in any direction. Wooden swings hang under the tree canopies near various launching sites. Besides the gentle breeze the only sounds that might be heard is the hum of the engine on the Dragonfly towplane.
Malcolm Jones is the founder and owner of Wallaby Ranch and as been flying hang gliders since he was a teenager. He learned to fly by being towed up behind a boat while flying the glider solo. When he started Wallaby Ranch in the early 1990s he embraced aerotowing and pioneered flight training using two-place hang gliders outfitted with landing gear. Through the years Malcolm has trained countless pilots and holds the unofficial world record with over 38,000 tandem fights under his belt.
On a recent trip to Florida I joined up with fellow Featured Contributor Lisa Ruedy and her husband Nate. We visited Wallaby Ranch to see what its all about and to maybe go for a flight. We pulled in first thing in the morning and got right to it. Rain clouds were on the way so we sent Lisa up first. She is a grassroots GA pilots and airline captain, but has never been up in a hang glider before. Watch the video below to see how she did. The giggles should explain it all.
After the flights we headed to "The Barn" for debrief and breakfast. That's right. Breakfast. Malcolm has a cook on his staff that provides a full meal for anyone and everyone on the Ranch that's hungry. Just before the food is served Malcolm walks to the bell tower and rings the big bell to call in the stragglers. No one left with an empty stomach and many of us were too full, and content, to move.
If you find yourself in Florida looking for a change of pace I highly recommend a visit to Wallaby Ranch. Malcolm and his crew will make you feel right at home. And their experience combined with their stellar safety record will give you a very memorable flying experience. Who knows, maybe you'll stay a bit longer than planned to get certified to fly hang gliders on your own. No reason not to, right?
Wonder how they launch hang gliders in Florida? Check out my story on aerotowing hang gliders at Wallaby Ranch.
Want to give hang gliding a try? Visit: www.wallaby.com