Hang gliding photo

Craig Pearson takes a client on a hang gliding experience.

Have you ever wanted to experience what a hawk or eagle experiences when it is flying on the wind currents? Have you ever seen a flock of birds circling lazily overhead and wondered what it would feel like to do that?

Now you can. Visit www.thermalvalley.net and learn more about how you can soar like a bird and experience free flight.

Thermal Valley operates from Foothill’s Regional Airport located off Highway 18 between Lenoir and Morganton, just a short drive down the mountain. Owners, Laura and Craig, will facilitate your free flight experience.

“When you fly with us, you will be immersed in the atmosphere and experience the most bird like flight man has invented,” Craig Pearson said. “While flying, your USHPA certified tandem aero tow instructor will teach you basic hang-gliding flying skills and actually let you fly!”

Who can fly?

Pearson said that anyone weighing between 95 and 235 pounds can fly. “My youngest flyer was 8 and my oldest was 83 so far,” Craig said. Anyone under 18 takes a simple “Maturity Test,” which tests abilities to follow directions. Parents or guardians will have to sign for them.

What to expect?

Participants come to the airfield, receive orientation and ground school where they are briefed on their flight and told what to expect. “Our ground crew have all flown and strive to make our students as knowledgeable about hang gliding as time allows before their flight,” Laura said.

After the orientation, students are helped into the harness attached to the tandem hang glider. The glider is rigged with landing gear just like a regular aircraft. After a series of safety checks the tow pilot is signaled to take off then the glider is towed to a pre-determined altitude above the ground. Thermal Valley’s lowest flights are to 1500 feet and go up to a mile high.

Once the tow plane and glider reach their release altitude, the glider releases from the plane and free flight begins. Your instructor will begin teaching you basic flying skills and let you fly when you are ready.

While you are in the air, you can see Grandfather, Table Rock and Hawks bill mountains.

Witness the Catawba river meandering its way towards Charlotte. On a clear day, you will be able to see into Virginia and even see the Charlotte skyline (more than 100 miles away).

Students experience a peaceful and tranquil flight and the instructor can spice it up for them if they want to experience “the roller coaster ride.” The glider glides back to the grass airstrip where your instructor touches down gently and rolls to a stop. When the flight is over, the ground crew assists with getting the student out of the harness and return them to the hang shack.

How do students react?

“My wife says I live for glider eyes,” Craig said. Student’s eyes get really big and they have a huge grin. “Man, woman and child have all hugged me after their flight and some even tell us we have changed their lives,” Pearson said. Thermal Valley has a five-star rating and have been featured twice in North Carolina’s “Our State” magazine.

Thermal Valley is family owned and operated: “Our family flying yours” is their motto.

How to reserve a flight?

Thermal Valley operates by appointment only and participants can reserve their flight online at www.thermalvalley.net. Click on the “book now” button or call (828) 292-7473.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.