Lookout Mountain Flight Park sits atop the gaggle.
No one questions it anymore. Lookout Mountain Flight Park-known as LMFP-is the country’s most active hang glider school and hang glider enterprise.
A million-dollar-a-year business that defies the notion that you can’t make money in sport aviation, LMFP has survived and prospered for more than 20 years. In rankings of American schools maintained by the national USHGA club, Lookout Mountain Flight Park consistently ranks as the number one issuer of ratings to beginning pilots. Several other schools aren’t far behind (Wallaby Ranch in Florida and Kitty Hawk Kites in North Carolina), but nobody questions the supremacy of LMFP.
Lookout Mountain is also one of the most popular sport aviation destinations in the world. Pilots from around the world arrive at the Georgia site near Chattanooga, Tennessee, because the flying is so good and the weather so accommodating. Chattanooga is about as far south as you can go in the eastern U.S. and find tall mountains. Ridges run tens of miles and face directly into the prevailing wind-a bonanza for soaring enthusiasts.
Thousands of pilots have made their first significant cross-country flights from LMFP, completing the 25-mile down-and-back ridge run from the launch site to the end of Lookout Mountain overlooking downtown Chattanooga. If the wind favors the site, as it often does, the ocean of air rising up one side of the mountain creates a “baby’s ladder” of upward flowing lift. Basic soaring skills are all one needs to achieve cross-country flight.
Lots of pilots come from afar, but the heart of LMFP’s business is the student traffic. Everyone at the flight school understands the importance of new students.
Plenty To Do Here
Lookout Mountain Flight Park sits atop the Look Mountain ridge that many tourists know well. If you drive from anywhere up north in the eastern half of the country en route to Florida, odds are high that you drive through Chattanooga. The area is said to be within a day’s drive of half the American population.
On a good day, from the I-24 freeway in the valley, you can see up to 100 gliders soaring back and forth in the ridge lift. What you can’t see from the expressway is the landing, area and this is also an impressive development.
Once the business was all located on the top of the mountain at the launch point, but now a sprawling rural development has erupted in the landing zone. The LZ itself has tripled in size since the site opened in the mid *’70s, providing a 2500-foot runway for ultralights and acres of grassy fields for hang glider pilots to touch down.
Because this is where hang glider pilots end their flying for the day, the LZ has become the gathering point for recreational aviators with grins on their faces after a stunning day of soaring.
Many pilots linger and spend the night. Between the units built by Lookout Mountain Flight Park and those of a neighbor business, The Landing, nearly 100 sleeping locations are available, ranging from 22 pull-through RV sites with full hookups, to a bunk house that can sleep nearly 40, to private bungalows able of holding one to several pilots (depending on how friendly they want to be).
The Landing is based on the northern perimeter of the LZ at Lookout Mountain Flight Park while LMFP’s own housing units sit toward the south end. Each organization has a large community room where non-flyers or pilots whose day has ended can sip a cool one with friends.
If your family isn’t into flying, they may still enjoy the trip to Tennessee and Georgia. One can find hiking trails (nearby Cloudland Canyon State Park is particularly beautiful), horseback riding, rock climbing and world-renowned mountain biking trails. You can also be a regular tourist and ride The Incline Railway, visit Rock City, Ruby Falls, the Aquarium, or the IMAX Theater in Chattanooga.
But Flying Is the Magic.
Progressing through training at LMFP, a student can expect to fly off the mountain with an instructor. It is common for a student to start the week on the “bunny hill” and graduate to the mountain at the end of week. You won’t be an expert, but you can continue to learn in the high-thrill way of flying that is hang gliding.
You can sample ultralight flying, tow a hang glider behind a special ultralight tug (with or without an instructor), fly a special soaring trike, or rack up hours of unpowered air time in terrific soaring conditions that prevail regularly. You can buy all forms of flight gear, speak to fellow pilots, ask questions of locals or visiting experts (who frequent the site in droves), and generally have more fun than you thought was legal in these modern times.
Lookout Mountain Flight Park is certainly a special place and the proprietor, genial Matt Taber, welcomes you once or again and again. I’ve spent weeks of my life at LMFP and I recommend it.
To contact Lookout Mountain Flight Park, try these methods:
7201 Scenic Hwy. —
Rising Fawn, GA 30738 —
Phone: 706-398-3541 —
Fax: 706-398-2906 —