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Hang Gliders Ride the Wind From Bliss to ‘Sheer Terror’

  • Jay Whitehair, of Norwich, Vt., launches off of a 450-foot hill with his hang glider on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, at Morningside Flight Park in Charlestown, N.H. Whitehair said he has been flying on and off for about 12 years. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Heath Woods, manager at Morningside Flight Park, talks to paramotor students about a flight plan during a classroom session on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, at the flight park in Charlestown, N.H. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Tanyel Yildirok, a resident instructor at Morningside Flight Park, briefs two new hang gliding students about the parts and operation of a hang glider on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, at the flight park in Charlestown, N.H. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jessica Pearson, of Boston, holds her hang glider in place while taking a ride up a hill on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, at Morningside Flight Park in Charlestown, N.H. Depending on skill levels, pilots can choose to fly from elevations of 50 feet to 450 feet at the flight park. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Beth Meese, of Isle La Motte, Vt., rides a tandem hang glider with Thor Froh, a resident instructor at Morningside Flight Park, on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, at the flight park in Charlestown, N.H. "It was exhilarating, terrifying but relaxing," Meese said. "There is a point where you have to surrender and trust the instructor and equipment." (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • During a rainy, non-flyable day, David Miller, a property manager and pilot living at Morningside Flight Park, grills onions and green peppers for Philly cheese steaks on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, at the flight park in Charlestown, N.H. "Ninety-percent of the sport is waiting for the weather," said Thor Froh, a tandem hang gliding instructor at Morningside. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Paul Harrison, of Davenport, Fla., takes a break with his guitar in front of the camper he is staying in while working as a tug pilot for the season on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, at Morningside Flight Park in Charlestown, N.H. Harrison said he has been visiting Morningside for about 12 years and that it is his first year working as a tug pilot there. Instructors and students often stay and camp at the site. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Craig Rinder, of Putney, Vt., walks his hang glider down a 150-foot hill on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, at Morningside Flight Park in Charlestown, N.H. Rinder said he has been flying since June. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



STORY BY LIZ SAUCHELLI
Saturday, October 14, 2017

Charlestown — Norwich resident Jay Whitehair describes hang gliding like this: “I think of it as a roller coaster you can steer precisely that drops and rises for thousands of feet and you can ride it for hours on end.”

He also tells people that hang gliding provides “extended hours of blissful flying interrupted by moments of sheer terror.”

Whitehair is one of many who take advantage of the activities offered at Morningside Flight Park in Charlestown. He has flown on and off for the last 35 years, returning to Morningside recently to get recertified.

“When you fly, if you take a long break, it’s good to go back to the training hills,” Whitehair said. “We’re actually fortunate to have a place like Morningside right in our backyard.”

There has been an increase in people who want to learn how to paraglide, said Dillon Woods, who works at Morningside. “It’s part of the freedom of being in control,” Woods said. “Every flight you take is a solo flight. It’s that level of freedom associated with traveling, making your own decisions.”

That’s what appeals to Whitehair, as well.

“Most people think of hang gliding as an extreme sport, but I look at it as a kind of Zen,” he said. “To me, it’s the ultimate freedom. Flying is the ultimate freedom.”

And while flying may be intimidating at first, it is worth it.

“The first few lessons can be hard,” Woods said. “It’s a lot of new information to take in. Stick with it.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221. Charles Hatcher can be reached at photo@vnews.com or 603-727-3230.