Soaring to new heights at Harris Hill

Local News

BIG FLATS. N.Y. (WETM) – In the Twin Tiers, there are a few key signs that spring is in the air: local ice cream shops open up, temperatures begin to get warmer from the frigid winter, and glider rides resume at Harris Hill in Big Flats.

The “Soaring Capitol of America” is back in action and the Hill is welcoming riders to experience the thrill of gliding through the sky.

“It’s fantastic. It’s thrilling,” student pilot Deb Reitter said.

“It’s like something you want to go back to,” commercial pilot John Fessenden added.

April marks the beginning of soaring season when glider flights resume in the Twin Tiers. It is a long winter from the end of October when the flights end to early April.

For one pilot, he was inspired to do this from an early age.

“I grew up locally and I was infatuated with them. I learned about the junior program here on the Hill, which still exists today,” Fessenden continued.

He still loves the sky and looks forward to opening weekend every year.

Before taking flight, pilots go through the pre-flight checklist just like larger aircrafts. Then, the glider is attached to the tow plane and you take off.

“With the plane pulling us, we will tow anywhere from one to two to three thousand feet,” Fessenden said.

After the glider is towed to the cruising altitude, the plane is released and gliding begins.

“On certain days when we can pick up air currents, we can stay up a lot longer and climb a lot higher,” Fessenden continued.

Gliding in the air is calm and peaceful with the only noising coming from the air over the wings. Pilots monitor the altitude and speed to determine the air currents.

If you are a little bit nervous to head to Big Flats to try it for yourself, the professionals have some advice.

“If you’ve ever flown in a light airplane before, it’s very similar. You can feel the air currents, it’s quieter, it’s nicer, it’s smoother and you can get a better view,” Fessenden concluded.

For more information about flights, visit the Harris Hill Soaring Museum website.

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