ST. PAUL, MINN. — I recently paid a visit to Lookout Mountain Flight Park. What changes! Back in the early ’80s, I ran a flight shop and school called Crystal Air Sports. I’d been at it five or six years when Matt Taber came to Chattanooga. He took over the already-well-known site at Lookout and quickly proved to be a worthy competitor. Eighteen years after his arrival, his business shows the results of long hours and hard work. Its a sprawling, ambitious enterprise of million-dollar proportions. ••• Recently, Wallaby Ranch’s David Glover jumped tracks and took employment from Lookout after several years with Malcolm Jones’ operation in Florida. On my visit, Glover had logged a couple months in north Georgia and was becoming quite comfortable with his new digs. He and Taber gave me the royal tour of the place, although they couldn’t produce quite the right conditions for me to sample some of the park’s flight toys. • To cover it all would take too much space, but highlights are the flight park and mountain launch with a large shop plus manufacturing, repair, and storage facilities, sales of gear and accessories, the aero tow operation, manufacturing of the Xtreme hang glider and Freedom Machine soaring trike, capped off with truly impressive lodging facilities. • As Glover cleverly puts it, "We’ve got 50 working bathrooms in the landing field." He doesn’t mean a large bathhouse — though one is available with generous facilities for day visitors. No, what David refers to is the combination of dwelling units, Taber’s and other’s. Lookout rents six slick units which are planned to grow to more than 20 in the months ahead. • On the other end of the field is Greg Glover’s operation (no relation to David). The Landing boasts several rows of tastefully appointed trailer sites, plus a dozen or so private cabins. In front is a huge wing-shaped building that houses a wide, glassed-in common room with a magnificent view of the entire half-mile LZ and airstrip. Behind the common room are some 40 bunks for overnight accommodations. Privacy is in short supply but the cost is low and the capacity should handle even big events. • Besides the Landings clubroom, Taber is just finishing his own large clubhouse, right at show center and right beside the landing zone parking lot. I can only guesstimate the investment that Taber, Glover, and others have made to bring Lookout Mountain Flight Park to its present state, but visitors certainly enjoy its appeal. Lots of pilots keep a regular dwelling for their flying enjoyment. • None of the real estate development crowds the flying. For aerotowing or trike flying, Lookout boasts a 2,600 foot strip that must be close to a thousand feet wide. Though the site is known for turbulent conditions at times, it offers flying in many conditions common to the area. ••• I’ve never seen any airpark taken this far. Nope, not Kitty Hawk, Wallaby, Quest, anywhere out west, or anyplace I’ve visited in Europe. If a more developed flight park exists, I’m not aware of it. A "Good Job!" is due to Taber, Glover, and their staffers. ••• While Robert Combs and his Watergliders operation gets up to speed (see article in this issue), another fellow is making progress in delivering hang glider-like flight to tourists. Thanks to American Airlines’ on-board magazine I discovered Brock Meadows (no relation to Yoo-shga prez, GW). Brock runs Splash Water Sports on St. Thomas, USVI employing an Italian Polaris (brand) dinghy-trike. This is a regular powered ultralight trike fitted with a small rubber pontoon boat as its landing gear. A single surface wing assures a good weight shift feel. Splash gets $60 for a 15-minute flight near the tropical Caribbean islands of St. Thomas and St. John. Passengers can take the control bar with his supervision. True, many HG purists don’t think powered trike flying is hang gliding… and it isn’t. But it’s closer than most aircraft, and tourists can get a good taste of the excitement we all feel. Headed south for the winter? Info: 340-715-3122. ••• Of course, you true Sky Gods probably don’t want to go trike flying. Maybe you’ll want some silent soaring south of the border? Last time I mentioned Jeff Hunt’s GO Hang Gliding. His Flymexico group has put together a full line of Wills Wing hang gliders for your to use in Valle de Bravo, that premier site frequented by north of the border Yankees. Longtimer Ole Olson is helping Flymexico organize tour groups for February and March. But you should check soon as good time slots were already filling up a month ago. "We are seeing lots of interest from the UK," reports Hunt. Various packages are available. Info: 800-861-7198 or check www.flymexico.com. ••• We’ll close another year with good news from Wills Wing. The American giant has again reduced prices on their top-of-the-line Fusion topless model. You must order from inventory, which means no custom colors but lots of choice otherwise. If you go for it soon — the deal expires December 15th — you can buy a Fusion for under five grand: $4,975 to be exact. Custom colors add $300 and a folding speedbar adds $85 (a non-folding speed bar is standard). WW and their dealers are earning less to give wintertime buyers a good deal. • In a related statement, Wills said their 141 Fusion is now in production. • They also reminded dealers that when designer Steve Pearson won the annual glide angle competition at Morningside Flight Park, they’d taken the seminal event 3 of the last 4 years! Pearson clocked a glide of over 14 to 1. Wow! ••• So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118. Vmail & faxes to 651-450-0930. Send e-mail to CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine